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Words on WordPress: Basic Utility Plugins

I wrote an earlier article on good basic plugins that I always use in WordPress sites at Words on WordPress: Basic Plugins for your WordPress Site. Those plugins add security, help with SEO, add a contact form and more. But there is another group of plugins that I use much of the time, and they are utility plugins and work in a utilitarian sense, meaning they help analyze, configure, or maintain WordPress and some functions of your hosting account.

These plugins are a more geeky than the others I mentioned in my previous articles, but they can be very handy if you’re willing to learn how they work and how to use them. These are a few that I use regularly in my own sites and WordPress sites for other people.

(As always, it’s easy to search for and install plugins from the plugin directory at WordPress › WordPress Plugins, or from your dashboard. But if you install a plugin from elsewhere the web, be very careful; there are stories of malicious plugins being distributed from sites other than the official WordPress plugin site.)

Reveal IDs is a very simple plugin does just that: it shows you page, post and media ID numbers in the listings so you can get the ID. The IDs were once included in older versions of WordPress, but were removed to make the interface cleaner. But sometimes you still need to find the page or post ID in order to work with templates and widgets and queries, among other things. So if you need to see and know IDs for posts, pages, comments, try Reveal IDs.

plugin-code

One of my most-used utility plugins is for managing MySQL databases called Adminer. The author of the WordPress plugin took a non-WordPress php utility called Adminer from adminer.org and turned it into a plugin called Adminer. What does Adminer do? WordPress uses MySQL to store the content and settings for your website, and Adminer gives you an easy way to look at the database. With Adminer, you can make changes and manage your MySQL database, such as make manual backups and other functions. It’s a good idea not to make changes to your database with Adminer unless you have experience, because you can very easily damage your database and take your site down. Adminer or a similar MySQL management utility is probably available in your hosting Cpanel, but many times I will use Adminer rather than get into Cpanel for a quick look at the database. Adminer is great for making a quick database dump or backup, too, before making changes to the database.

Do you need to run complex searches of the post, page and comment content of your site? A great plugin is Search Regex. You don’t have to use grep when using Search Regex, but you can. I use this plugin many times when I move a site from one domain to another and need to change URLs of images and other links. Or simply scan for words you nee to replace. Or, worst case, if you’v been hacked, search all content for spam links. Be careful with this plugin, and use Adminer above to make database backups before making major changes to your content.

Redirection is a plugin that manages 301 redirections, but it does much more than that. The plugin also logs 404’s Redirection. I use this plugin on new sites to log 404’s and look for bad links and missing images. I often leave this plugin in place on a site so I can check back in later. Be sure and check all the options for the plugin; one default option I don’t like is URL Monitoring that monitors post and page permalinks for changes. I don’t like that automatic feature and always disable it. And be sure to set the log expiration to just a few days; default is no expiration, and you can end up with huge database tables from logs.

There are a few very small plugins I made for myself. One keeps me logged in for a year into a WordPress site so I don’t have to keep logging in. This is really only good for single user sites and sites I develop on my own servers. And another plugin gives me a system overview of server stats, like uptime, memory usage, php version, and more. For shared hosts, I like to be able to see how long the server has been up without having been restarted, see how much memory WordPress is using, and more.

Below are links to the source code for each plugin. When you click the link, the code will be in a pop-up window. Cut and paste the code into a plain text file and save it with the link title as the file name, i.e. system-overview.php or keep-me-logged-in.php. Drop the php file into your plugins folder (there is no need to put the file into a folder) with FTP and then go into your site and activate it. If you for some reason get a white screen, delete the file via FTP, and be sure you created the file in a plain text editor with a unicode character set.

System Overview: system-overview.php

Keep Me Logged In For a Year: keep-me-logged-in.php

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