It’s one of those things we do. Some people clip coupons, some collect stamps or dog trinkets. I dig through plugins. Lots of ’em. The most mentionable are listed here in what we like to call The Daily Plugin. While I don’t consider this everyday offering to be a review, it’s certainly a spotlight on what plugins I feel the community can get the most usage out of. Your own circumstances and needs apply. Remember that these plugins are always to be tested on staging and development sites first as to not risk losing data or compromise speed or functionality when used in conjunction with your existing plugin set. OK, Let’s get plugged in!
Similar Sites Menu is an external sites “link menu” that acts as a secondary native menu in your top navigation bar. If you happen to run a sub domain or have sister sites this could be a really good option in which you can promote everything on the top-level. The theme that I tested this on did not play nice with the plugin when it came to CSS styling and matching the overall look and feel of my WordPress installation. However when I tested it on a secondary staging site they work great without any complications. I was able to edit the color scheme to match the site perfectly in just under three minutes. Any theme with a secondary menu could accomplish this task as well, but it’s nice to have another option when you need it.
Random Images shows off the featured images within posts in a nice layout with uniformly sized thumbnails. When a thumbnail is clicked the plugin calls up a lightbox version of the enlarged image is shown with a link to the content item on top of the image. While I found that the functionality and overall design of this plugin was very appealing, the lightbox itself was not the result I was expecting. For the purposes of my own sites and content that resides within them, I would rather see this plugin serve the capacity in showing full post content rather than just images. I’m sure that this could be accomplished with just a bit of code revision, in addition to options of sharing the posts via social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
TSP Featured Posts from The Software People gives you the opportunity to show off your posts in a simple Layout that can be easily managed and manipulated through shortcodes. After installing the plugin you make a determination as to your default thumbnail size and the length of the excerpt of the post that you’d like to display. Once all of those vital statistics have been entered into the system, you simply choose the category you’d like to display, how many posts you like, and the plugin does all the rest. This is a pretty good plugin for people who would like to tweak the themes without having to go through major code overhaul. There are certainly a number of themes that have this functionality built within the framework, but not all of them. I found this to be an excellent first entry from this particular developer and will be highlighting a few more plugins that they have released this week in the days that follow.
CSV to SortTable has been recently updated, and it’s turning into the kind of plugin that may have more usage than the developer even intended. The plugin functions by calling an external CSV file from a URL of your choosing and transforms it into a sortable HTML table. It’s simple to do on a per post basis in the form of an easy shortcode, such as [csv src=http://example.com/myfile.csv], showing the direct path to the file. There are other shortcode options as well, like hiding/showing the top or bottom rows, etc. I tested this on a few different CSV files with great success. The tables all looked great right out of the gate with little modification. So how does this plugin work and what can be expanded from it? Well I tried a few scenarios. The first thing that I did was try to make changes to an already uploaded CSV file to see if it would update on the fly. It did. So we know that it updates the file in real-time. This can be good and bad. Good because it always has the newest data. Bad because it’s always trying to download and convert that file on the fly. The load time wasn’t worth abandoning the plugin over, so I tried a few more “hacks” to see if I could expand the range even further. I took the same CSV file and saved it to a local dropbox folder. Then I went to the Dropbox site to get a private link to the csv file. This worked! I imported straight from Dropbox. The one issue I had is that I then went back and made a few changes to the file and re-saved in Dropbox. Even after editing and re-synching the folder, the new revisions did not “take” with the plugin. It could be a cache issue or something on the end of Dropbox, but it’s a good idea for the developer to think about using services like Google Drive and Dropbox to feed the CSV source path. I would love the ability to edit files on the fly and have them self-update into pricing or product tables in near real-time. It’s almost perfect and certainly works well as intended. It would be nice to connect a few more pipes to it though.
Buddypress Xprofile Custom Fields Type helps to add more user functionality and community within your BuddyPress installation. It allows several custom fields to be used in reference to your users, such as the user’s birthday, email address, custom post type selector results, image fields, check box acceptances (for terms of service or rules acknowledgement) and other custom fields of your choosing. It also provides the user with the option to hide or show selected information on their user profile. All the fields work within the BP Profile Search plugin, so the information becomes completely searchable. I’m relatively new to BuddyPress, having created only a few small-scale private member sites. Any help that can come in the form of easy to configure fields and user options is always a welcome relief. If you are in the same boat that I am regarding editing and managing BuddyPress, you’ll appreciate the flexibility that this plugin provides.
Thank you once again for joining me in another edition of The Daily Plugin. As always you can follow me on twitter @marcuscouch or simply leave your feedback here at WPTavern.
CSV to SortTable
Of course, it’s not yet far enough in the past, PC-wise, to mention that through a big chunk of the history of the Internet, the preferred way to implement web pages was as HTML tables. Tables have huge potential … and they are both mature, and cross-browser-compatible.
Most table-examples you see are simplistic, and do not show the real conditions that arise when trying to do something robust in a table. A realistic table-example is my Palm-models (mobile before Mobile) feature-chart. It doesn’t fit on the screen. Scroll-bars don’t serve as nice for sprawling tables, as they do for long pages or over-sized images.
This plugin advertises itself as a web-interface for a spreadsheet. That’s why it’s constantly trying to update the table. It’s meant to let you continue working real-time in your spreadsheet-program, which is auto-saving to a CSV export-file, which Sortable Tables is using to update a table on your page. (Your spreadsheet might even be auto-editing itself, from various sources online.)
For fast-moving financial information, election-returns etc, the auto-update could be very
handy. Crucial even. For a lot of our normal content, though, this is going to be borderline nuts.
Not every table benefits from being sortable, either. An ‘informed’ ordering by a knowledgeable author can be the ‘right’ order, and value of the content is only degraded by changing it. But the sort-options does give tables some new legs. It can make it easier to find target-features in the Palm-chart.
In an effort to suppress the use of tables for page-presentation, there arose an ‘active’ deprecation-bias of tables, across the board and for any purpose. Tables acquired a whiff of evil, no matter what you were using them for.
But in reality, tables are an extremely adroit tool … and it’s no big surprise that there is a seeming (re)discovery of their power, as we watch a broad rebound of tables.