Review of Popular WordPress Plugins: WP-Cumulus

If you display tags or categories in a sidebar of your WordPress blog, you might like to take a look at the WP-Cumulus plugin. It gets 5 stars by all the reviewers so far and definitely hits the top on the cool factor.

WP-Cumulus displays your tags and/or categories but in a visually-striking way. A rotating cloud of words is presented instead of a plain old list.

Here’s an example of WP-Cumulus in action:

[WP-CUMULUS]

Move your cursor over the display and the rotation will change direction and speed. Click on a word once it has a box around it to get a listing of posts containing that tag or filed in that category. Pretty cool, eh?

The only caution here is that you must be running WP 2.3 or later. WP-Cumulus will not work with earlier versions.

Installation follows the typical plugin format. Simply download the plugin, unpack it, and FTP the plugin folder, called wp-cumulus, to your wp-content/plugins directory.

There are three ways to display your WP-Cumulus cloud:

  • In a page or post like above, using the key [WP-CUMULUS]. Features can be modified under Settings/WP-Cumulus.
  • In your theme anywhere that you insert <?php wp_cumulus_insert(); ?>, probably in a sidebar. Just make sure the sidebar is big enough to display the cloud nicely.
  • As a widget, via ‘Design’->’Widgets’. Edit the widget to modify the size of the cloud and the colors used for the text and background.

Really nice, don’t you think?

Update WordPress to the Latest Version to Secure Your Blog

Aren’t you running the latest version of WordPress? Right now, the WP developers are working on version 2.7 and the latest available non-beta version is 2.6.3.

If you’re not running the latest version of WordPress, why not? There’s no reason not to – in my mind at least. You and your data will be safer when you run the most up-to-date version.

Actually, I did think of one exception and that would be if you use a must-have plugin that isn’t yet updated to run with the latest WordPress, you might want to wait it out for the updated plugin to arrive before updating to the latest WP. I wouldn’t wait too long because it is known that older versions of WP are targets for the dolts out there who are trying to separate you from your money and identity. Check the plugin’s FYI box for version compatibility.

Sometimes your installation of WP won’t be affected by the security or other issues solved in the next release and that depends on the features of WP that you rely upon. For instance, updating from 2.6.2 to 2.6.3 wasn’t necessary for my blogs because I wasn’t using the feature that had a security issue fixed. Not updating to 2.6.3 wasn’t a security risk, so I could put that off because I know another version is on its way shortly.

You can get all the info on the latest updates by scrolling down into your WP Dashboard and reading the WP news links.

Besides being assured that you have the latest and most secure version of WordPress, you’ll get all the tweaks for a smooth ride.

Updating to the next version of WP isn’t that bad. Once you run through it a couple of times updating your software is pretty darn easy.

Here’s the quick steps to a better WordPress experience:

  • Backup your database. You probably should be doing this anyway, right? Did you know that a plugin will automate backing up your WP site? One click backup – how easy can you get?
  • Backup your other pages, those not produced by WordPress, by FTPing a copy somewhere. You do have a place for extra storage, don’t you? If not, try Mozy Online Storage. They’ll give you a few free GB to store anything you like so you don’t glum up your local hard drive.
  • Deactivate all plugins. With the latest versions of WP this is a one-click step.
  • Verify that the first three steps were done successfully.
  • Download the latest WordPress software and unpack the zip file.
  • Delete the old WP pages, EXCEPT wp-config.php, the wp-content folder, the wp-images folder, your .htaccess and robot.txt files.
  • Upload the new WP files. Check if there are plugins or themes that you might use with newer dates in the new wp-content folder. Upload any newer files.
  • Run the upgrade program by visiting http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin/upgrade.php, and clicking on Upgrade.
  • Sign-in to your WP Dashboard and verify the permalinks are set to your liking.
  • Activate plugins, as needed.
  • Feel satisfied that you’re now safely running the latest and greatest WordPress blogging software.

It’s not difficult to run these updates, and you should be backing up your great content anyway, right? To stay on top of the most recent changes in WP, check out the WP news items in your Dashboard.

Review of Popular WordPress Plugins: WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache is a plugin for more advanced WordPress users. Not that running the plugin is difficult, but the installation is a bit different than the typical plugin. If you’re not comfortable with tinkering around the insides of your Apache or PHP code, you will want to learn about that stuff first.

Poke around Apache.com, or better yet, read about Apache mod_rewrites in particular.

Need to learn about PHP? RTFM found online: PHP Manual.

So, why is WP Super Cache so popular? Simply put, it will speed up your blog.

WP Super Cache creates a static html page and serves that up to visitors of your blog instead of the dynamic php pages. Visitors who are logged in to your blog, or who have left a comment, will see the dynamic php pages instead of the static, cached pages. By creating and using a static page that is cached the activity on your server will be reduced and it will run faster.

Installation Tips for WP Super Cache Plugin

  • Assure that the Apache mod mime and mod rewrite modules are installed.
  • WordPress fancy permalinks must be enabled.
  • PHP safe mode should be disabled.
  • Backup your .htaccess before installing the plugin.
  • Upload the WP Super Cache folder to your plugins directory, where it will create a ‘wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/’ directory.
  • Activate “WP Super Cache” on the WP plugins page.
  • Go to Settings->WP Super Cache and enable caching.
  • Visit the installation page for WP Super Cache to assure that the newly created .htaccess files – there are 2 of them! – were created properly.

In my case the .htaccess file in the root directory could not be modified as the permissions on that file were set as read-only. I had to manually add the lines of code from supercache to the existing .htaccess file. The second .htaccess file “wp-content/cache/.htaccess” was created correctly by supercache.

Now, after you’ve installed and activated the WP Super Cache plugin, when your blog gets really popular your server should be able to better handle the influx of new traffic.

Review of Popular WordPress Plugins: All in One SEO Pack

The All in One SEO Pack WordPress Plugin makes it a simple matter to specify the Meta statements for WordPress blog pages. WordPress may produce generic Meta statements for each page without this very useful plugin.

Search engines may or may not consider Meta statements when listing your sites in the search engine results pages, but if they do wouldn’t you want your blog’s meta data to be the best it can be? Since search engines send traffic to your blog, you should be satisfying those search engines by providing them with the most accurate information about your blog.

To be the most effective Meta statements should be page-specific, so that each page has a meta title, meta description and meta keywords that reflect the content of each page. Using the All in One SEO Pack plugin for WordPress blogs simplifies the creation of post- or page-specific Meta statements.

After you have installed and activated the All in One SEO Pack plugin, scan down the write a new post page and look for the All in One SEO Pack feature. Click on the right-pointing triangle to open this feature.

All in One SEO Plugin Feature for WordPress
All in One SEO Plugin Feature for WordPress

Fill in your keyword-laden title and description making sure not to get too wordy. List your keywords for that post separated by commas.

If there is some reason to turn off this plugin, you can do it per post by ticking the box next to “Disable on this page/post”.

One nice thing about using Meta descriptions is that search engines may use your carefully written description in the Meta statement, instead of grabbing the first few words of your post, when describing your site in the search results listings.

Use the All in One SEO Pack plugin to entice new site visitors by writing your own Meta statements instead of leaving it up to chance.