Moving from Beta Blogger to WordPress, Part 3: Plugins and Little Things

Out of the box, a WordPress install is missing key features that even Beta Blogger had. Things like comment previews. Tag editing. Being able to redirect your site feed to Feedburner. Little things like that.

You could spend hours trying to find all the right plugins.

To keep you from spending time like I did, so that you can get down to the business of blogging in comfort, here’s my suggested list of:

  • 6 Plugins you need
  • 6 Plugins that show off WordPress
  • 6 More plugins

Six Plugins Former Beta Bloggers Need

And other folks, too.

These plugins recapture the best features of Beta Blogger when possible.

1. Batch Categories
Do you have a lot of posts that you want to move to a category, or remove from a category, and don’t feel like going through and clicking “Edit” on every single one? Missing Blogger’s “Apply Label” and “Remove Label” mass operations under “Edit Posts”?

This plugin does it for categories—and also allows you search by tag, which WordPress does not let you do out of the box.

2. FeedBurner FeedSmith
Do you want to redirect your site feed so that when your user hits the “Subscribe” button in their favorite browser, it gets your Feedburner feed and not the default WordPress-generated feed of lame?

This plugin will do what Blogger allowed you to do naturally—redirect your site feed to Feedburner. (Not to another place, though; that would require some other plugin I don’t know of.)

3. Filosofo Comments Preview
There are all sorts of plugins out there to recapture comment previews; some are a bit more complicated than others, depend on more browser support for Javascript than others. Some of them, unfortunately, break in weird ways.

This is the simplest one that gives you the same kind of comment previews as Blogger did, without fuss and without breaking stuff.

4. Full Text Feed
If you use the “extended text” feature of WordPress (aka the “more” tag <!--more-->), then your RSS feeds will be chopped off at that point—even if you enable “Options > Reading > Syndication Feeds > For each article, show: Full text“. Not good for those of us who politely offer our RSS readers a full feed.

You’ll need this plugin to fix it. And yes, this plugin does fix your feed; look at your fixed feed in a real RSS browser—or through Feedburner—and it’ll be fine.

5. Simple Tags
Still missing a lot of the tag management features of Blogger, such as being able to… I don’t know… see all the tags you use and choose amongst them when you make a post?

This is a simple plugin to install, but it does a lot, including mass tag editing, automatic tag completion, tag clouds that can appear in individual pages, auto-tagging based on keywords in your post, and plain old “what tags have I got, I want to rename or delete some”.

6. Theme Test Drive
If you want to change your theme in WordPress, you don’t have the leisure of a harmless preview that doesn’t touch your site while people are reading it; Blogger’s theme preview was very nice in that regard, even allowing you to rearrange plugins in preview mode.

This plugin allows you to “test drive” a theme in isolation from your users; not the most intuitive interface, but not that difficult to figure out. And preferable over torturing your readers while you wander through Sandbox themes.

Six Plugins that Flex WordPress’s Muscles

There in one big thing that WordPress plugins can do, that Blogger plugins can’t: mess with the database. Look things up in the database, query the database, create their own data and tables even. This gives them undeniable power.

Here’s a small taste scattered around really nice plugins.

1. Articles
Allows you to mark certain posts as “article-worthy”, and generates a page of such posts, grouped by category and then ordered by date, descending. This is a great way to keep your pillar articles from becoming archive mulch.

For an example, click on the “Featured” tab at the top of Spontaneous Derivation. Or see this link to same.

Unfortunately, Articles seems to have problems right now with WP 2.3.2 compatibility; there’s an SQL query that’s not quite right. I’ve patched the articles.php file, also adding in another limiter so that only categories are picked up for grouping, not tags. You can download it here; rename to articles.php and follow the installation instructions at the original site.
2. Get Recent Comments
Back in Blogger, the only way to create a “recent comments” plugin was to use a feed to your comments RSS—a method that has a 30-minute to an hour delay between updates.

This WordPress plugin, on the other hand, not only shows new comments immediately, but you can control how they look—how many characters to preview the comment, for instance. It also has a setting where it won’t show the article author’s comments, which I like.

It’s the “Recent Reader Comments” widget in the sidebar at the right.

3. KG Archives
This automatically generates monthly archives that follow Skellie’s suggestions for archives that don’t suck in her article, Archives Suck (and 3 Ways to Save Them). I like this over the SRG Clean Archives plugin because you can set up the archives to show one month at a time. Spontaneous Derivation has something like 50-60 posts per month.
4. Random Posts widget
Creates a little sidebar doodad that displays random posts out of your archive. Blogger can’t do that.

You can see it in action at the right, under “Randomly Out of the Depths of the Archives”.

5. WP-Polls
Blogger added poll widgets, but unfortunately you can’t have an archive of them without cluttering up your sidebar. Plus they aren’t the best poll things in the world, though they get the job done.

This plugin does it better—it can remember closed polls without you cluttering up your sidebar. In fact, you don’t HAVE to clutter up your sidebar; you can just include a poll in a post or a page. There’s quite a bit of flexibility with regards to display—or you can just leave it in and let it work.

It can also easily create poll archives.

6. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
Digs up related posts. There are, as the name suggestions, a number of these; this one lets you choose both the maximum number of related posts to show, and the threshold of similarity—so you won’t get posts that are only 0.58 similar showing up (compared to numbers as high as 16+ for similarity).

You can see it action at the bottom of article pages on Spontaneous Derivation, including this one in fact, at the bottom under “You may also like:”.

Six More Plugins for Fun

I like these. You may not particularly have any need for them. But these a) work and b) make me happy and c) made up for the hours of pain I had trying to find out what plugins above worked and how to work them.

1. Compact Monthly Archive
Takes your archive links and turns them into a very compact format, with one year (and all its individual month links) per line.

This is very nice compared to long lists of month/year. See “Deep Archives” in the sidebar at the right.

2. Executable PHP widget
Some of plugins will have functions with output that you want to put on the side, as widgets, but the Text widgets that WordPress natively supports don’t do this.

This plugin will give you PHP widgets that will execute PHP code. This is incredibly useful, flexible, and something that Blogger widgets simply aren’t allowed to do (Blogger’s template language is nearly as strong as PHP, but is very restricted as to when/where it can execute in the rendering process).

Don’t forget, if you’re going to show the output from some function, like Star Rating’s sr_get_reviews, you want the code in the widget to look like this, with the <ul> wrapper:

<ul class="reviews">
<?php sr_getreviews(5,date,DESC,5); ?>
</ul>
3. podPress
Do you podcast?

You need this.

4. Star Rating for Reviews
It generates those stars (full, half, empty) for reviews. This is really convenient, if you do reviews. With an option turned on, it will also get the articles where you’ve used it to generate stars, and list them as reviews.

See the “Recent Reviews” widget at the right, and also this review for a demo of the little stars—and it’s a damned good book too.

Yes, I need to get crackin’ on reviews.

5. Twitter Tools
The definite WordPress plugin for integrating between here and Twitter. This is what I use to send automatic announcements of new blog posts to Twitter, as well as display the “What I’m doing…” widget at the right. You can also have your Twitters appear as posts—the “Twitter digest” settings seem better suited than “one post per Twitter”.

Support for multiple accounts isn’t included. Unfortunately, that’s something I could use. Ah well.

6. WP-Print
Allows you to create a little “Print this” link at the bottom of your posts. Readers clicking the link will get a printable view of your post, without all the stylistic/theme higgery-pokery you’ve been tossing at your site. This is incredibly nice for sites with articles that go on and on and on… like this one….

So What WordPress Plugins Float Your Boat?

What else would you recommend? I’ve heard good things about the All in One SEO pack; if you have that, do you need any Technorati tags plugins?

Photography: Syd P

4 thoughts on “Moving from Beta Blogger to WordPress, Part 3: Plugins and Little Things

  1. While WP-Print is a fine plugin, I find that it’s much easier to simply create a custom print stylesheet for your theme. Then you don’t have any tricks to it whatsoever.

    I can even show you an example. Go to any page on my own site and just do a print preview (or print it, if you feel that you need a hardcopy). Nothing special needs to be done. Like magic, all the stylistic stuff disappears and the post content shows up in a rather nice box.

    More details about how to do this on your site can be found here:
    http://ottodestruct.com/blog/2007/06/22/geekery-and-beer/

  2. Hello Otto!

    Thanks for the tip; the alternate stylesheets trick is a nice one.

    One thing I do like about WP-Print, though, is that it applies to any theme because it uses a PHP filter, rather than relying on a different stylesheet from theme to theme. An actual alternate stylesheet for print, however, is more robust and, indeed, doesn’t require extra “tricks.” Plus providing a mobile version of your site can be a definite plus.

    Much appreciated, Otto!

  3. I’m using All in One SEO and I like how easy and integrated it is, but I don’t know about Technorati tags. I definitely recommend it.

    I was going to recommend Twitterfeed, but it doesn’t have the feature of sending your tweets to your blog. Still, it’s a non-plugin option, which could help speed up your page load?

  4. All in One SEO is a godlike plugin indeed.

    TwitterFeed doesn’t give you a little cached Twitter widget, and affects page load as much as Twitter Tools does (which is to say, not at all).

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