I recommend plugins on the basis of excellence of design and implementation, and ease of use. I prefer ones that don’t make you write code, CSS, HTML, or (if they can be avoided) shortcodes, but instead use configuration forms and editor buttons.
Plugins to make it easier to maintain your site.
- Easy Updates Manager by Easy Updates Manager Team: Improves security by keeping your themes and plugins up to date at all times. Once a security issue is found in theme or plugin code, the developers will fix it, but meanwhile hackers will update their bots to exploit that specific vulnerability in sites still using the old code. You must update regularly or you will get hacked eventually.
- Add Descendants As Submenu Items by Alex Mills (Viper007Bond): This lets you automatically construct parts of a menu based on parent-child relationships of pages. You create a top-level menu item, and select a page whose children will appear as submenu items.
- Simple Page Ordering by Jake Goldman, 10up: There are situations where you need to be able to control the order of pages in a list — for instance, when you’re using one of the above plugins to automatically display lists of child pages. These automatic lists generally let you control the sorting either by a pattern — alphabetically, or by date — or arbitrarily. Arbitrary sorting is done by assigning each page a numeric “order” value and then sorting by that number. This plugin makes it simple to reorder pages without having to edit each of them and enter a new number value. You can just go to the Pages list of your dashboard and drag them around.
- Search Exclude by Roman Pronskiy: Some themes include the ability to leave selected pages out of search results. If yours doesn’t, this plugin gives you a way to create pages that people can’t find by searching. For instance, if you have a “thanks for donating” page, you only want people to be able to get to it by donating.
Plugins to help you in editing the content of your pages and posts.
- Forget About Shortcode Buttons by By Designs & Code: Simple way to create “link buttons” in a variety of styles. You can see what the button looks like as you’re editing (as opposed to having a “shortcode” that describes the button with text).
- Minimal Share Buttons by Milen Petrinski – Gonzo: Add social media share buttons to your posts and pages, with no tracking cookies or other such nonsense. Just the basics.
- Sassy Social Share by Team Heateor: Adds share buttons to your posts and pages
- Subscribe / Connect / Follow Widget by Srini G: alternative to Sassy’s “Follow” widget.
- Do not use Shareaholic. They’re very popular, but they will modify parts of your site that have nothing to do with share buttons, insert their own affiliate links wherever you have links, and collect data about your visitors.
Bibliography and Book Pages
- Mooberry Book Manager by Mooberry Dreams: preferred.
- MyBookTable Bookstore by Author Media: alternate.
Word Processing/Page Building
- Classic Editor by WordPress Contributors disables the newer “Gutenberg” page editor in favor of the word-processor-like TinyMCE. At the moment, TinyMCE is the default, but that will change, and meanwhile, this plugin suppresses the banner on your dashboard inviting you to try Gutenberg.
- f(x) Editor by David Chandra Purnama: adds tables, columns, list bullet control, and font size/color. Don’t use tables, though.
- TinyMCE Advanced by Andrew Ozz: many additional word processing controls in the content editor.
- Advanced WP Columns plugin by Vladica Savic: if you need more control of columns than f(x) Editor provides.
- Atomic Blocks by atomicblocks: If you use the Gutenberg editor, this is a set of additional “blocks” you can stick into your pages.
- UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup and Restoration by UpdraftPlus.com et al: automatic site backup.
- All-in-One WP Migration by Yani Iliev et al.: to move your entire site from one server to another, with automatic link conversion if the domain name is different.
- IThemes Security by iThemes: keep the hackers out.
- WPScan by WPScan Team: tells you whether themes and plugins have known security issues.
- Easy Updates Manager (see above).
- Security and Malware Scan by CleanTalk by CleanTalk Security: Scans for and removes known and suspected malware.
- Stop User Enumeration by Fullworks: Prevent hackers from finding out your site administrator username. If you chose a good password, the site will still be secure if they do find it out, but why make it easier for them?
- Username Changer by Daniel J Griffiths: If you believe your username is known to someone trying to break in, this lets you change it.
- Browser Caching with .htaccess by Tobias Merz: sets things up so that browsers keep copies of images and pages from your site, preventing them from having to load fresh copies for each page they visit.
- Smush Image Compression and Optimization by WPMU DEV: Compresses images so they take up less space for the same size image — often significantly less.
- Use a CDN — WordPress.com has a free one that you can just activate with the Jetpack plugin. There are other plugins to provide this function without needing the whole huge Jetpack plugin also; not sure whether any are free.
- Yoast SEO by Team Yoast: The basic free SEO tool.
- SumoMe by SumoMe: The best free choice for adding fancy marketing features to your website, such as “call to action” popups.
- Thrive Leads by thrivethemes.com: the best not-free choice for adding fancy marketing features to your website.
- Real-time Visitor Statistics by osamaesh: a simple tool that collects information about your website visitors without using any external service – it doesn’t use Google Analytics, for instance. Privacy FTW!
- Official StatCounter Plugin by Aodhan Cullen: A more sophisticated tool for admins who need a bit more detailed information. This does send information to an outside (free) service, but is designed to be GDPR compliant — any identifiable information is anonymized, for instance.
- Enhanced Media Library by wpUXsolutions: lets you categorize your media uploads, which is very handy once you’ve been blogging for a while and have hundreds of images. Also, lets you define additional media types.
- Display Image Dimensions in Media Library by Mike iLL/mZoo: Width and height in pixels are displayed in the media library list view.
- Fix Image Rotation: You may have images that are on their sides upon upload. This just automatically fixes them. There are no settings to speak of. It depends on images having “EXIF” metadata, which not all images do, so it might not fix all images. You can also manually rotate images in the default WordPress interface by clicking the Edit Image link.
- Fullscreen Galleria: When you use the built-in Gallery feature of WordPress, this makes the gallery into a full screen view of a photo carousel. Several options controlling whether to display descriptions, EXIF metadata (e.g. where and when was the picture taken), etc.
- Regenerate Thumbnails by Alex Mills (Viper007Bond) after changing default image sizes in the Media settings, to re-create scaled-down images in the new size.
- Catch Gallery: Makes the mosaic page of a photo gallery (this one only had one review, but it seems to work like a charm). Reportedly doesn’t work well with Jetpack. I’ll give more detail when I know more. I don’t like Jetpack anyway.
- Antispam Bee by pluginkollektiv: Blocks comment spam with a self-contained algorithm that doesn’t need an outside account and doesn’t send your visitors’ information to outside services. Fast and fairly accurate. Been using it a while, haven’t seen false positives.
- Hide Comment Author Link by Ataul Ghani: A main reason for most spam comments is to take advantage of the URL field that lets them put in a link to their scammy site. This plugin removes that link. If people want to link to something, they can do it in the body of their comments. If they do that, there’s a setting in you dashboard, under Settings > Discussion, to hold link-containing comments for moderation.
- Remove Footer Credit by Macho Themes: helpful for removing the theme identifier from the footer of your site, or if there’s static text elsewhere on the page that you want to change or eliminate.
- Real-Time Find and Replace by Marios Alexandrou: Same as Remove Footer Credit (above) but more versatile because you can define multiple search-and-replace strings.
- Redirection by John Godley: redirect a URL to a different URL. This lets you fix broken links into your site, or put URLs into your MS for pages that don’t yet exist when the book is published (e.g. the Goodreads page for that book).
- Google Maps WordPress Store Locator by Viadat Creations: creates a distance-searchable map of locations (e.g. of stores that carry your work)
- Categories to Tags Converter by wordpress.org: If you’ve got a lot of categories, you’re using categories wrong. Most of them should probably be tags instead. This makes it easy to switch them over without having to manually edit posts.
- Widget Shortcode by Hassan Derakhshandeh: Insert a widget anywhere, for instance in the content of a page. For this to work, the widget must exist in a widget area. The plugin adds an otherwise unused widget area, which doesn’t display anywhere, so that you have a place to put them.
- Better Search Replace by Delicious Brains: Search all your posts and pages — and other database tables, if you like — for a specified string and change it to another string. You’re searching the “raw” HTML of the page/post content, such as you can see using the Text tab of the Classic editor.
- WP Dashboard Notes by Jeroen Sormani: To-do checklists to keep track of work you’re doing on the site. Especially helpful when there are multiple people working on different tasks, to keep track of who needs to do what.