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Lesson 10 – Part 4 – Understanding WordPress Plugins

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What are Plugins and What Do they Do?

Plugins are very similar to widgets in concept. A plugin is a module that adds functionality to your site. It may or may not display something on a page. We have plugins that add contact forms and plugins that add image galleries or photo galleries and plugins that create sitemaps and plugins that help you back your site up.

Plugins are pieces of code that interact with WordPress that add some kind of function to your site. And that function is not always obvious on a page or on the front side of your site. Some plugins work only on the administrative side of your site. So just think of it as an add on to WordPress.

The Plugins Dashboard

So that’s what a plugin is. If we come over and look at our plugins page. You have this whole plugins page and the installed plugins is the page where you have your plugins panel, essentially, similar to this widgets panel.

The plugins dashboard has several elements to it. It has the plugin navigation. And so with plugin navigation, you can see all of your active plugins, all of your inactive plugins, all of your plugins.

Review BYOB Plugins Dashboard

If we come over to my site here and we come down to my plugins for a moment, you’ll also see plugins with updates. And so there are drop in plugins which are a specialized kind of plugin which you probably want to interact with. There are plugins that have updates available so if I click on that, I can see I’ve got these these plugins that need to be updated. I have some plugins that are inactive and then my active plugins and then all my plugins. Okay so that’s your plugin navigation on your plugins dashboard.

Searching for Plugins

You can also search for plugins. If you’ve only got 4 plugins, it doesn’t matter. But you could actually come over here and say… well in fact, I’ll do it for my site and say search for the forum. Now it’s showing two versions of Simple Press and both of them are installed but one of them is active and one of them isn’t. I found that because I used search for plugins and this search for plugins searches all of your plugins for this specific search term.

Bulk Actions

Now besides that, you also have this bulk actions. Bulk actions mean that you can select any number of these things like that and then say, for example, activate and it will automatically activate them. You can do the same thing with deactivate. You can select them all by clicking on that and deactivating them.

This is a very useful feature when you are upgrading WordPress or when you are trying to troubleshoot something. It’s really quick to be able to just select everything and hit deactivate and then go try and figure out any problem.

You can also do the same thing with update and delete. I’m going to not activate Akismet and I’m not going to activate Hello Dolly. But I didn’t say what I wanted to do with them. I did activate so we activate them.

The Difference Between Installed and Activated Plugins

The difference between installed and activated is installed means that the plugin is ready to potentially be used. Activated means that you’re actually using it now, that it’s really available. So really, installing a plugin has two segments to it, installing and then activating it.

You can tell the difference between an active plugin and an inactive plugin by the color. You can see the active plugin has a lighter color and the inactive plugins have the gray color. Active plugins also have the deactivate button but they do not have a delete button. And so you can’t delete an active plugin. You have to deactivate it and then delete it.

Plugin Information

And finally, when you’re looking at each individual plugin, you’ll have the name of the plugin. You’ll have a description of the plugin. You’ll have the activate, edit or delete button. You’ll have the version number, the author link and you’ll have the plugin site. So anytime you want to go to one of these things, you can do that from these links.

Updating plugins is fairly straightforward. We’re going to come back over here to installed plugins and then let’s find one that needs to be updated. Okay, we’ll update Contact Form 7. All you’ll have to do is select it and then you’ll see there is a new version of Contact Form 7 available.

This little signifier here tells you that you’ve got something to update. And if we just select update now, that goes through the process of updating the plugin and re-activating the plugin. It tells you whether or not it worked or if there was a problem.

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