I’d like to conclude my WordPress Plugins for Writers series with a FREE! way to backup your site.
If you use Dropbox, you know that your first 2GB of backup storage are free. Many of you probably pay a pro version to get a lot more than that. If so, you’re paranoid like me and mistrustful of technology.
As described in their marketing materials: Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, and personal cloud services and access. The Dropbox client enables users to drop any file into a designated folder. The file is then automatically uploaded to Dropbox’s cloud-based service and made available to any other of the user’s computers and devices that also have the Dropbox client installed. Users may also upload files manually through the Dropbox web application.
I use the Backup to Dropbox Plugin to sync my site’s files to my Dropbox account once a week. I think it is worth giving you the caveat that I’ve never had to restore my site from backup. This is important because I can’t really tell you how good the plugin is at disaster recovery when disaster actually strikes. I just want to let you know, if you are paying for another solution, that there is a free tool out there.
That brings me to the end of the series. I hope I have shared at least one or two new tools that have excited you and helped you get the most out of your wordpress site. If you have any questions, please contact me.
It might be worth mentioning at this point an important fact about WordPress plugins. If you’ve been following this post series you might be getting excited and carried away by the many possibilities discussed. Keep in the back of your mind that plugins slow your site down. The more you have activated, the slower your site will run.
The reason is that each plugin consists of extra code that must run in order to render the page correctly. If you have twenty plugins activated, then twenty sets of code must run, each plugin demanding its round-robin piece of computation time to make sure it’s performing properly. Whenever you see a plugin advertising itself as “lightweight,” that’s tech speak for very little code, thus very little added load time.
Broken Link Checker
The Broken Link Checker is a great plugin that you can install and run periodically. It will search your site and check every link and report back to you any broken links that need to be repaired or removed.
As you know, it dents your credibility for a link on your site to come up with an error. External links are forgivable, since your reader knows you might have linked some content that has since disappeared through no fault of your own.
If there are any internal broken links, that makes you look much worse. Avoid them all by sweeping for them from time to time and fixing even very old posts. Per the caveat above, this is exactly the kind of plugin that is indispensable, but doesn’t have to be installed and activated 24/7 in order to work for you.
When I first tried to use WordPress, I didn’t get the concept. I’ve worked as a software developer and built my fair share of websites. So the whole “new page,” “new post” GUI made no sense to me.
To me, a “new page” was an empty notepad file and I got to build it from scratch. WordPress asks you to create content in this tiny little box within your page, while it “takes care of” all the functional parts of the site around your content.
This is called a “pass-through” redirect, and it is useful for folding special pages into your site without going through WordPress’s theme. The plugin offers other kinds of redirects as well.
External Link Checker
Every time you create a link in WordPress, there is a checkbox that says “open link in new tab.” SEO considerations aside, the rule of thumb is to open external links in a new tab so that your website stays open in the original tab, thus the user hasn’t truly yet left your site.
For your own internal links, you want the user to transition from page to page without annoying them with an explosion of new tabs each time. What This Amazing Plugin does is search through the hundreds of links on your blog and find any that violate this rule of thumb so that you can fix them.
The only problem is This Amazing Plugin does not exist. I’ve found dozens of plugins that, when activated, scan the page as the user loads it and make this change, but the change is not saved permanently. What I want is a plugin which, like the Broken Link Checker, I can install & run periodically to catch mishaps without having to leave it permanently activated. If you find such a plugin, or decide to make one on this inspiration, please contact me about it!
This is going to be a technical one, but it’s totally worth it in order to use next week’s plugin.
The Media File Manager allows you to move files among the subdirectories of your site. Sound simple? It’s as simple as it should be. One of my biggest complaints about WordPress when I first started using it was the chaotic way in which it stored files in the backend. If I’m leasing server space, and I have access to cPanel’s File Manager, then I should be able to treat it just like I do Dropbox or an external hard drive, and create whatever folder structure makes sense to me for my site.
Suppose, for example, you have several books and you want to store all the book cover images in one place. If you’ve uploaded them all on different days (of course), then wordpress has buried them in a date-based folder scheme such as wp-uploads/2014/08/09/my-cover.jpg.
That makes it nearly impossible to organize yourself later. A year or two down the road, your Media section might contain hundreds of images, from icons to photographs to book covers etc., with no grouping whatsoever.
As this screenshot shows, the Media File Manager plugin allows you to create & delete folders, and move files among them.
Why not do all this from cPanel’s File Manager?
WordPress does not automatically recognize its own subdirectories. If you try to move a file using cPanel you’ll notice that your Media section will act as if nothing happened, and you’ll see an “image not found” error instead of your image. This is because WordPress stores the location of each file in its database. For every change you make in your folder structure, the plugin registers those changes in WordPress’s database behind the scenes.
For example, let’s say down the line you’ve published five books and hired a cover designer to redo each one for a clean, consistent second edition look-and-feel. If all your covers are in one place, then you can use cPanel to upload & overwrite the old with the new and WordPress will never even know you’ve swapped them out.
That’s the non-technical advantage to using technical tools to keep the backend of your site clean and easy to navigate.
Sometimes, you want to embed a PDF file directly into your webpage, the same way you embed images and video. The simply and aptly named Embed PDF plugin allows you to do this.
Here is an example of the plugin in action. As you can see, the page loads the pdf in the page itself. This saves you from the confusing “view vs download” standard of web pages hosting a file directly as a “myawesomesite.com/file.pdf” when you want to present one.
Maybe it’s a freebie or maybe it’s a copy of a brochure or a business card. One way or another, it’s cleaner and simpler to display it in the page surrounded by the rest of your site.
The plugin is powered by Google Docs, so the viewer comes with a zoom feature and a “pop out” feature that will take the user to a new tab if they want to, where they can view or download the file itself in their browser.
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