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5.8 – Plugins

Plugins are composed of PHP scripts that extend the functions and features of sites so they can be tailored for specific needs. WordPress plugins are available from the official WordPress repository and from other sites throughout the net such as the WordPress Plugins Directory. In terms of hierarchy a WordPress site with the Genesis parent theme is layered like this:

  • WordPress
  • Genesis
  • Child Theme
  • Plugins

The plugins adds the final layer of PHP script on top of the child theme code.

Navigating to via the Dashboard menu to ‘Plugins’ presents the Plugins > Installed Plugins screen:

installed plugins

Finding Plugins

You can find plugins via the WordPress Plugins Directory and from the Dashboard > Plugins > Add New screen.

add plugins

Plugin Compatibility and Updates

Check the WordPress Plugin listing on the Plugins List on your WordPress site, or on the WordPress Plugins Directory to determine compatibility and if updates are available.

If a plugin update is available, it will be shown on the Dashboard screen, an alert on the Plugin’s menu title, and on the Plugin List. Follow the instructions to update the Plugin.

If a plugin is not compatible or updated for the next release of WordPress, contact the plugin author or it’s support staff directly for information on the next update and compatibility issues.

Installing Plugins

Plugins can be installed automatically and manually.

To install a plugin using the built-in plugin installer:

  • Go to Plugins > Add New.
  • Type in the name of the plugin or descriptive keyword, author, or tag in Search Plugins box or click a tag link below the screen.
  • Find the plugin you wish to install.
  • Click Details for more information about the plugin and instructions you may wish to print or save to help setup the Plugin.
  • Click Install Now to install the plugin.
  • The resulting installation screen will list the installation as successful or note any problems during the install.
  • If successful, click Activate Plugin to activate it, or Return to Plugin Installer for further actions.
  • Some plugins require more steps to customize them. The Details ReadMe file should contain step-by-step instructions. After installation, this information is available on the Plugins Screen for each Plugin.

Installing a plugin manually may be appropriate if the server does not permit automatic installation of a plugin or if the plugin is not in the WordPress Plugins Directory. Installation of a plugin manually requires FTP familiarity and the awareness that you may put your site at risk if you install a plugin incompatible with the current version of WordPress or from an unreliable source. To guard against this backup your site completely before proceeding.

To install a plugin manually:

  • Download the plugin to your desktop.
  • If downloaded as a zip archive, extract the plugin folder to your desktop.
  • Read through the “readme” file thoroughly to ensure you follow the installation instructions.
  • With your FTP program, upload the plugin folder to the wp-content/plugins folder in your WordPress directory online.
  • Go to Plugins screen and find the newly uploaded plugin in the list.
  • Click Activate to activate it.
  • Check the Details readme file for customization and further instructions.

Plugins Editor

The built-in WordPress plugin editor can be used to make changes to any of your plugins’ individual PHP files.

plugins editor

However, plugins updates will overwrite any customizations. Be sure of what you are doing so as not to endanger site functionality or aesthetics.

Troubleshooting

If a plugin does not work as expected or conflicts with another plugin:

  • Check you’ve followed the instructions included with the plugin.
  • Check that the plugin has been activated in your Plugin Screen of your Administration Screens.
  • Deactivate and re-activate the plugin to see if this makes it work.
  • Search the WordPress Support Forums for the name of the Plugin and keywords associated with the problem you are experiencing.
  • Check the WordPress Plugins Directory for the notes on the plugin and links to issues reported in the Forums.
  • Go to the website of the plugin author and check their blog and Plugin page for known issues or advice.
  • Search the web with the name of the plugin and keywords associated with the trouble.
  • If the problem persists and you cannot seem to solve it, check to see if there are any similar WordPress Plugins that you can try instead.

Uninstalling Plugins

To uninstall a plugin:

  • Go to Plugins screen.
  • Find the plugin you wish to deactivate and uninstall.
  • Click Deactivate.
  • The plugin will initiate the deactivation.

Most plugins have an option to completely uninstall them. If you wish to remove a plugin permanently:

  • Check the plugin instructions in the ReadMe file on how to properly uninstall the Plugin.
  • If the plugin required the addition of code to the theme, manually edit the theme files to remove it.
  • Deactivate the plugin and remove it manually through your FTP program.
  • Login to the site via your FTP Program.
  • Go to the WordPress Plugins Directory and find where the Plugin is installed.
  • Delete the plugin folder and/or files from your server.

For further instructions and information on downloading, installing, upgrading, troubleshooting, and managing your WordPress Plugins, see Managing Plugins and the Plugins entries in the WordPress codex which served as the source.

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