Plugging in a Plugin

As we mentioned earlier there are thousands of plugins- some free and some that aren't- that can add features to, and sometimes make big changes to, your site. Some plugins work really well on all browsers; some don't seem to work at all and others [footnote] based on what I have heard [/footnote]can actually mess up your site by slowing things down. There are plugins for turning your WordPress site into a social network with many features that you will recognize from Facebook, plugins for backing up your site, plugins for changing the way that your site displays posts, plugins for photo slideshows; the list seems to be endless.

To get started we are going to download and install a plugin called Google Doc Embedder. This plugin, when it works properly, allows you to display MS Word Docs, Powerpoint and PDF files, directly into a WordPress page. Can you think of any way this may be useful? Your resume perhaps?

A manual plugin installation

Plugins can be downloaded and installed or they can (usually) be installed directly from the add plugin interface after performing a search. The following instructions illustrate how to install a plugin via the download method.

1. Go to http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins and search for the Google Doc Embedder. [footnote] The actual url is  http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-document-embedder/ [/footnote].

2. Click the big red Download button to save the embedder on your computer.

3. Return to the WordPress Dashboard and click on Appearance and then on Plugins. Next click on "add new plugin".[footnote]Screenshot[/footnote]Afterward,  the "upload plugins" button will appear. Click upload and browse until you find a file called "google-document-embedder.zip."

4. Click "Open" and then "Install Now." Because the installer uses ftp [footnote] the same protocol as  cyberduck[/footnote] to upload things you will need to enter the same information as when you use Cyberduck to upload files. Ie, mynmi.net, your user name, and the same password that you use with Cyberduck.

Screenshot

5. Once the file is uploaded click Activate Plugin. The plugin is activated and ready to go. It's time to put it to work.

6. Click the Pages button and then Add New to create a new page. Name the page something like Google Viewer Demo.

7. Add a new paragraph block. Then press your space bar within the block to activate it. Click the three vertical dots and choose edit as HTML. Paste the text below into the HTML editor. Be sure and include the weird back tick characters as well. If you have problems with this exercise, it may be worthwhile to visit the copy code page referenced further below.

`[gview file="http://emuel.mynmi.net/press2/demo.doc" width="600"]`

This code can also be copied at free.mynmi.net/copycode.html.

8. Publish the page and check it out. You should see a Word document that I put online. All you have to do to load in a different Word doc is to upload it to your site and substitute it's URL in place of http://emuel.mynmi.net/press2/demo.doc. Note as well that you can also change the width at which the document displays. 

9. It is also worth noting that my experience with this particular plugin has been mixed. At one point, for example, it never seemed to work properly with the Chrome browser. At the moment (as of 2019) it seems to be well behaved so keep your fingers crossed.

When Plugins Don't Plug In

Sometimes the process of uploading a new plugin goes smoothly but not always. If your plugin stalls out before it is properly installed (ie. fails) here is what to do.

1. Try again. If after 2 or 3 tries you are still unsuccessful there is one failsafe method that always seems to work.

2. Download the plugin from wordpress.org/extend/plugins [footnote] You will have to search to find it [/footnote]

3. Use cyberduck to navigate to the plugins folder. FYI, the plugins folder is inside of the wp-content folder.

4. If you see any vestige of the plugin that you tried to install, delete it.

5. Drag the new plugin into the plugin folder. You can upload the zipped version of the plugin and unzip it with terminal right on the server, or unzip the plugin on your computer and slowly upload that folder.

6. If you upload the zipped version of the plugin and, as you may have done in the wordpress installation, use terminal to find your way to the plugins folder

7. After activating terminal and logging into your account, type cd public_html/press/wp-content/plugins and then press enter

8. Type ls and then enter to double check the name of the zipped plugin.

9. Type unzip whatever_the_name_is.zip

10. Return to the WordPress plugin panel and make sure that it finds the plugin.

11. Activate the new plugin and pat yourself on the back.

Plugging in a Plugin Part 2:  Fast and Secure Contact Form

If you decide to use WordPress as a blog, you can always include the option for users to comment on your blog posts and be notified by email whenever someone actually does comment. Another, more conventional way, to get information from people is via a contact form and there are some pretty fancy ones out there that are available as plugins. For this lesson we used to install a form called Fast and Secure Contact Form. Unfortunately, it seems to have disappeared but, hey, so what? You're creative and skilled, right? So find a contact plugin of your own and make it work!

1. Once again, return to the WordPress Dashboard and click on Appearance-Plugins and then on "add new" plugins. This time use the search window to search for a contact form. Try to find one with LOTS of downloads.

2. Once you find it click "Install Now." Afterward, "Activate Plugin"

3. After the plugin activates you should be looking at a list of all of your plugins. If not, click on "Plugins" again. Find the new plugin and click settings.

4. Hopefully, some options will appear. Your job is to figure them out. Feel free to ask your instructor or one of your classmates if you run into difficulties.

7. Now, click on the Pages button and add a new page. Name the page "Email Me" or something of the sort. Do whatever you have to do to make the plugin work and publish it.

8. Go to your preview tab and check it out by sending yourself an email. Hopefully it works!

9. If you find a plugin that you really like tell your instructor so he or she can suggest it to your classmates. Who knows? You may even get your name into this workbook.

Google Fonts!

You owe it to yourself to install the Google Fonts for WordPress plugin because it provides easy access to Google's entire library of almost 1,000 free fonts. Once you install it, go to settings and explore both basic and advanced settings. Dropdown menus appear that should all you to style all sections of your site with Google fonts instead of the defaults. BTW, the first fonts to appear in the drop down menus are the non-google defaults. You will need to scroll past those to reach a LOOOONG alphabetized list of Google's fonts.  You may even want to visit Google Fonts's site to decide which ones you like beforehand.

If you are not able to apply the fonts to all of your site, there are ways to apply google fonts that you have already connected with the plugin via the 'Additional CSS' editor that we used earlier. Inspect the font that you want to apply to figure out its 'family name,' and then apply the same font-family to another element. Ask if you want to do this and are confused!

There really is a plugin for that. Whatever it is!

So that's the basics of how plugins work. You may have heard the saying there's an app for that. In WordPress world there is almost always a plugin for practically anything you can think of!  One thing worth knowing however, is that too many plugins can slow down your site, so use them sparingly.

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