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Lesson 10 – Part 3 – Understanding WordPress Plugins

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What is a Plugin?

A plugin is a module that adds functionality to your site and it may or may not display something on a page. We’re going to go through this process of adding various plugins to our Genesis theme site. Some of them are going to have widgets that can show up on a page and some of them aren’t.

What do Plugins Do?

They are a way of adding additional function to your Genesis theme site that doesn’t automatically come with WordPress or the Agency Child theme.

The WordPress philosophy is that they want to give you sort of a baseline tool set. These are sets of tools that almost everybody wants to use and any other tools should be added using plugins. That’s the WordPress philosophy and the plugin is created for you to add a specific kind of functionality to your site.

Unlike widgets, plugins do not necessarily display on a page. A plugin may create widgets that can be displayed on a page but it may just do other things on your site that have absolutely nothing to do with the page display.

For example, the membership portion of my site is managed by a membership plugin. There are plugins to sell things and plugins for Sitemaps and there are all kinds of reasons why you might use a plugin that doesn’t result in something specifically being displayed on a page.

The Plugin Dashboard

Just like widgets, plugins have a dashboard. This is the widgets dashboard, if we look over here at the plugins and select plugins, this is the plugins dashboard which also has a specific layout.

Navigation Layout

The first part of the layout is the plugin navigation so you have the ability to cycle through different groupings of plugins. You could look at all the plugins that have updates, the plugins that are inactive, the plugins that are active on the site or you can look at all of your plugins.

Right now, we haven’t really added much in the way of plugins so it’s not that big a deal but if we look at the plugins on my site, I have lots and lots of plugins. If we come over to the plugins section on my site, it shows that I have 51 plugins. I have 3 of them that are inactive and if I select that, I can see those 3 that are inactive and I have 6 plugins that have updates available to them.

I have 48 plugins that are active and on something as complex a site as mine, I could actually search for a plugin. Let’s just say I couldn’t find my calendar plugin. I could search the installed plugins and it would return the calendar plugin that I have. This is your plugin navigation section.

Bulk Actions

The next part is your Bulk Actions section. This is really handy for activating, deactivating, updating or deleting plugins. You can do all that stuff individually on a plugin by plugin basis but if you wanted to deactivate all of your plugins and there are times you want to, you can simply select them all.  You can select them all by clicking that, go to Bulk Actions and hit deactivate and it would deactivate all of the plugins.

The same thing is true for other actions, I could delete them all or I could update them all. I can do all of those things at those Bulk Actions and this will relate to any of these that have a check box beside them. I can check them all, I can check individually or you can do those Bulk Actions individually.

Plugin Status

The next thing you have here is the plugins status. This tells you first, the name of the plugin and it gives you the description of the plugin. Sometimes there are instructions on how to use it. It tells you the version number of the plugin, it gives you the URL of the plugin author and it gives you the URL of the plugin itself so you can look up the author or look up Help from these things.

Action Links

Then it shows you whether or not the plugin is active. If we activate this plugin, notice it changes color, from darker gray to a lighter gray. When it’s active, it says you can deactivate, you can edit or you can go to its settings. These are actually its action links, that’s what these are called.

The only action links that you’re going to be working on are either activate, deactivate, delete or settings. Notice how this activated plugin does not have “Delete”? The reason why it doesn’t have “Delete” is because the only way to delete a plugin is to first deactivate it. Now, it has delete but if it’s activated, it can’t be deleted until it is deactivated first.

How to Update a Plugin

You’ll notice that both of these plugins have updates available. This plugin in particular says that there’s a new version and this is the indication that there is an update, this yellow strip down here. You can update your plugin simply by selecting, “Update Now” which will take you to the update plugin routine and select return to plugins.

Now we have all of our plugins current and up to date for this business/professional Genesis theme website. You can also update them in bulk by selecting all of those that need updating and use that Bulk Actions feature. That is your plugin dashboard.

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