WordPress is a very powerful platform which is why it is so popular. One reason is the variety of feature-rich plugins available.
What is a plugin?
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that adds features to WordPress. This makes WordPress immensely powerful!
You can get plugins that, once installed and activated, give you the ability to create a newsletter with an email list.
Plugins also allow you to automate things so you don’t have to remember a zillion details every time you create a post. For example, we place an affiliate disclosure that the beginning of every post.
If we did this manually, we might forget. Or accidentally violate a law or rule. Using a plugin removes worrying.
As of this writing, we use the FMTC Affiliate Disclosure plugin to do that for us. It displays an affiliate disclosure at the beginning of each post. If the rules change and we need to modify the affiliate disclosure, we simply go to the Settings of the plugin and make our changes in one place. The change will show up in every post automatically. Easy-peasy.
What is the difference between installing and activating a plugin?
When a plugin is installed it means it is in the plugins folder on your WordPress site. It is listed on the Dashboard under Plugins->Installed Plugins.
You cannot use the plugin until it is activated. It does nothing.
When a plugin is activated,, its features can be used.
Usually, you want to keep your plugin activated.
Where can you get plugins?
WordPress plugins are easy to find. Most of them are free! Many plugin providers have a free version and a paid version. The free version is typically good for most people. For more features, you can pay for the premium version of the theme.
The plugs you can from within WordPress itself are free.
Plugins from WordPress.org are free. Simply go to wordpress.org and click on Plugins. Search for the type of plugin you want. Go to the plugin page. If you like the plugin, simply click the Download button and the plugin will be copied to your computer’s downloads folder.
We often find the plugin we want by simply googling WordPress plugin whatwewanttheplugintodo. Obviously, replace “whatwewanttheplugintodo” with what you are wanting the plugin to do.
For more advanced WordPress users, an inexpensive source of plugins is PluginTheme.net. We highly recommend the Lifetime Membership. There are pros and cons to PluginThemes.net. For example, the plugins may be out of date, there is no technical support nor updates, which are normally available with paid plugins. Maybe someday we will write a review about it. Let us know in the comments below if you want this. We are very happy with the Lifetime Membership and use it regularly.
How to install and activate a plugin.
Time to get down to the nitty-gritty details. Actually, it is very simple.
Go to the Dashboard.
Click on Plugins, then click on Add New.
Search for the plugin you want. If you are not certain, search for the type of plugin you want.
WordPress will show one or many plugins that may be of interest.
Find the plugin you want, and click its Install Now button.
WordPress will attempt to install the plugin. When it succeeds, the Install Now button is replaced with an Activate button.
At this point, the plugin is installed but not active. You need to activate it to use it.
Click the Activate button.
Once the plugin is activated, it is ready to use!
Some plugins require modifying settings to work. This is usually straightforward. The plugin typically has a Settings link inside Installed Plugins. Or you might need to click Settings->plugin name on the Dashboard. Or it might be in the Dashboard notice area.
It sounds complex but the plugins are usually designed to make this process straightforward.
Uploading a plugin.
What if WordPress does not have the plugin you want? This is often the case with purchased plugins.
First get the plugin onto your computer. For example, if you are at the plugin’s page on wordpress.org, clicking the Download button will place the plugin into your downloads folder.
Click on Plugins->Add New in the Dashboard.
Next, go to the top of the Add Plugins page and click the Upload Plugin button exactly once.
A large section opens up and you will see a Choose File button.
If you do not see the Choose File button, click the Upload Plugin button again. It toggles, so be sure to only click it once.
There are two ways to choose your field. The usual way is to click the Choose File button.
Choose the file for the plugin, it will be a .zip file. Then click the Open button.
Alternatively, you can drag and drop the file next to the Choose File button, over “No file chosen”.
An install button will appear. Click it.
WordPress may take a few seconds to install the plugin. When the plugin is successfully installed, it will tell you and will display an Activate Plugin button.
If WordPress cannot install the plugin, it will tell you. Usually this is because the plugin is already installed. Look for it under Installed Plugins. If it is there, it is already installed.
Usually, you will activate the plugin. Click the Activate Plugin button.
The plugin will activate. The plugin will be listed in the Installed Plugins area of the WordPress dashboard.
The uploaded plugin may not be the latest version; WordPress might tell you the plugin needs updating. If it does, click on the Update Now link to update it.
You might prefer to never have to worry about updating plugins ever. If you choose, click the Enable auto-updates link for your plugin.
Usually, at this point, you are finished. If there is further setup, the plugin provider usually makes this clear. If you are not told to change settings, you do not have to.
f instructed to, or if you wish, click on the Settings link for your plugin and make any necessary settings. To do this, click the Settings link.
For some plugins, to change the settings, you click on Settings on the Dashboard and then click on the plugin.
Make the changes needed and then click the Save or Save Changes button to use the new settings.