The Robservatory

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Behind the scenes: plug-ins and widgets

A couple of people emailed me, asking about the collection of widgets and plug-ins I’m using on the site. I’ve also found that the links in the Plugins page of WordPress’ management screen are often incorrect, so documenting the updated URLs seems like a smart thing to do.

So without further ado, you’ll find the list just below the (now expanding-in-place!) jump…

Plug-ins:

  • WordPress Tiger Administration: Using just CSS and some new images, completely changes the look of the WordPress administration screens. The new layout has the main WordPress admin options going down the left side in a frame, and menus within an option going horizontally across the top. I find it a much cleaner and easier-to-use presentation of the admin screens. [Added March 7, 2007]
  • Addicted to Live Search: The top 10 matches for your search terms are now displayed live, as you type. I also modified this plug-in to include a link to additional matches, using those same search terms.
  • Ajax Comment Preview: Implements a true click-to-view comment preview function.
  • Ajaxified Expand Post NOW: Enables the expand-in-place functionality on the “More” links.
  • Dashboard Options: The plug-in lets you disable the RSS feeds that load from WordPress on the main admin page. With the RSS feeds disabled, the main admin page loads instantly.
  • Democracy AJAX Poll: This one’s actually a plug-in and a widget, as it provides both. Democracy allows the easy creation of polls, both within a post and in the sidebar.
  • GetWeather: Retrieve weather conditions and forecasts by zip code. Includes some nice icons and display options. I also installed the widget (listed below) in order to get the weather in the dynamic sidebar.
  • King Widget Framework: A bunch of files and libraries needed for various King Widgets to function. I use the King Login widget (see below), so I need the framework.
  • Sidebar Widgets: The plug-in that enables the whole dynamic sidebar feature. Makes adding and removing items from the sidebar as simple as drag and drop. Themes must be ‘widgetized,’ though, to support this plug-in. Since the stock theme does so, I just modified it to (basically) match the look of the old site. I duplicated the original and worked on a copy, in order to ease recovery from silly mistakes.
  • Simple-cache: This works hand-in-hand with the GetWeather plug-in. When installed, the GetWeather data is cached here for 15 minutes before refreshing. This keeps page loading times low, as there’s no need to constantly collect data from an external server before loading the page.
  • Spam Karma: A useful spam killer for those individuals who are actually taking the time to manually enter spam comments. Yes, even with my (as far as I know) robot-proof anti-spam tool, I get something like 15 to 25 spam comments a day (without the tool, that number was in the hundreds). Spam Karma has done a great job at trapping about 99% of those.

Sidebar widgets:

  • Active Discussions: Groups recent comments together to create a ‘thread-like’ view of recent activity on the site.
  • Category Replacement Widget: A modified category display widget that lets you choose to hide categories that contain no public posts, as well as place the categories in a drop-down.
  • Democracy widget: A widget to display a poll in the sidebar.
  • Drop-down Archive Widget: Converts the list of site archives into a drop-down menu.
  • GetWeather Widget: A widget to display the weather in the sidebar. Requires the GetWeather plug-in linked above.
  • King Login Widget: Places the login fields directly in the sidebar–no more loading another page just to login to the site. Hooray!
  • Linkblock Widget: The stock Links widget is an all-or-none proposition. Once enabled, all links show in the sidebar, and you can’t control the order. The Linkblock Widget lets me decide which categories show, and in what order.

So there you have it. That’s the collection of plug-ins and widgets that I’m presently using here to create everything you see. A few of these programs ask for small donations, which I intend to make next week, as they’ve all let me either do things I couldn’t do myself, or that would require a great deal of my time to accomplish.

Feel free to point out any other plug-ins or widgets that you find useful; WordPress is an amazing platform, and I know there are a wealth of add-ons out there.

Updated: Apr 26 '14 — 6:17 am

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