What are plugins?
WordPress Plugins are PHP scripts that extend the functionality of WordPress. They enhance the features of WordPress, or add entirely new features to your site. Plugins are often developed by volunteers, and are usually free to the public.
Plugins are available via the WordPress Plugin Directory. Although plugins you find here are thoroughly tested and considered safe to use, they are of varying quality and are often works in progress.
How do they relate to WordPress core?
The WordPress content management system software, or WordPress core, provides the primary functionality for publishing content and managing users. Each WordPress plugin is an additional piece of software that can be easily installed to extend the functionality of WordPress core.
This allows you to customize your WordPress site with your desired functionality. Since so much functionality is provided through plugins, WordPress core is full-featured and customizable, without having to include everything for everyone.
What are some examples?
Some of the more popular plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory fall into these categories:
- Spam control
- Data import and export
This is just a small sample. There are thousands of plugins available in the directory, so there’s a good chance you’ll find some that are useful to you.
Finding and Installing Plugins
You can browse and search for plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory. Each plugin listed there is available for download as a zip file you can upload to your WordPress site.
An alternative way to find and install plugins is from within the WordPress admin screens. Navigate to Plugins > Add New, and you can browse and search for plugins from within your dashboard. Each plugin listed there has an “Install Now” button so you can easily add it to your site.
Plugin developers update their plugins occasionally, and those updates will be visible to you on your site’s Plugins page. To find any plugins installed on your site that need to be updated:
- Click the “Plugins” link in the left nav of your site’s dashboard.
- Look down the list of installed plugins for any that include a line reading “There is a new version…”
- Click the “View version…” link in that note to view details about the plugin’s update.
- Click the “update now” link to update the plugin.
If a plugin hasn’t been updated since the most recent update to WordPress core, it may be incompatible, or its compatibility may be unknown. You can view compatibility information about plugins from the Add Plugins page, or from the Installed Plugins list.
Compatibility of New Plugins
To learn about the compatibility of a plugin before you install it, navigate to Plugins > Add New. Each plugin description on this page includes a note that reads “Compatible with your version of WordPress” or “Untested with your version of WordPress.” You can click the “More details” link to see information about this plugin’s compatibility.
Compatibility of Installed Plugins
To learn about the compatibility of plugins you’ve already installed, click the “Plugins” link in the left nav of your site’s dashboard. Each item on this list should contain a “View details” link. Click this to see information about this plugin’s compatibility with different versions of WordPress.
There are 3 ways to install WordPress plugins.
Automatic Plugin Installation. Any plugin available on the WordPress Plugins Directory can be installed via the built-in plugin installer.
Upload via WordPress Admin. You can easily add a new plugin by uploading a zip archive of the plugin from your local computer.
Manual Plugin Installation. In some cases, you may need to manually upload a plugin directly using an SFTP client.
Automatic Plugin Installation
This is the simplest method of installing a plugin. To add a plugin using the built-in plugin installer:
- Navigate to Plugins > Add New.
- Use the search form in the top-right to search by keyword, author or tag.
- On the search results that appear, click a plugin’s title to read more about it. This page may contain installation notes, plugin documentation or other useful information.
- Click the Install Now button to install the plugin.
- Click Activate to activate the plugin.
Manual Upload via WordPress Admin
If you have a copy of the plugin as a zip file, you can manually upload it and install it through the Plugins admin screen.
- Navigate to Plugins > Add New.
- Click the Upload Plugin button at the top of the screen.
- Select the zip file from your local filesystem.
- Click the Install Now button.
- When installation is complete, you’ll see “Plugin installed successfully.” Click the Activate Plugin button at the bottom of the page.
In rare cases, you may need to install a plugin by manually transferring the files onto the server. This is recommended only when absolutely necessary, for example when your server is not configured to allow automatic installations.
This procedure requires you to be familiar with the process of transferring files using an SFTP client.
Warning: this process may put your site at risk if you install a WordPress plugin incompatible with the current version or from an unreliable source. Back up your site completely before proceeding.
- If your plugin is in the form of a zip file, unzip the contents. You should see a single folder named after the plugin.
- Look in the plugin folder for a readme.txt file. Read the file to confirm that this is the correct plugin, and to look for any special instructions.
- Connect to your WordPress server with your SFTP client.
- Copy the plugin folder to the wp-content/plugins folder in your WordPress directory. This installs the plugin to your WordPress site.
- Navigate to your Plugins admin screen and locate the newly uploaded plugin in the list.
- Click the plugin’s “Activate” link.
- If there is one, click the plugin’s “View details” link to learn more about the plugin.