Swift Control Pro Review

Going Beyond the Admin Bar with WP Swift Control

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Table of Contents

Last updated 1-28-2020

There is a new plugin, WP Swift Control Pro.  It caught my attention when I heard about it for two reasons: I am always interested in tools that safe time and make our jobs easier, and it is from the same developer as the Page Builder Framework theme.  The Page Builder Framework is a theme that carefully balances features and performance and avoids unnecessary bloat.  I was given a copy of the Pro version to review and the only instruction was to share my honest impressions.  I do that in this post where I show what the plugin does and point out its strengths and weaknesses.  This is a new plugin, so I also suggest some possible features.

Video Version

There is a Free Version

There is a free version of WP Swift Control in the WordPress plugin directory.

Free Version Of WP Swift Control

I have a test site setup with the Page Builder Framework theme and some demo data. When you install and activate the plugin you get a purple arrow and gear button on the left side of your front pages. This does not show for visitors who are not logged in, so it is safe to have it activated.

Free Version On Front End

When you click on the button it expands out to show a menu of button links. When you hover over a link you see a tooltip. When you click on an icon you follow the link. When you click the purple gear again the menu collapses.

Free Version On Front End Expanded

On the admin side, you get a new settings menu for customizing the plugin. There are several panels:

  • The panel on the top left shows the currently assigned widgets that will show on the front.
  • On the top right are the unassigned widgets that come with the free version.
  • The middle left has the color settings where you can customize the color of the menu widgets.
  • The middle right is a list of some the widgets that come with the Pro version.
  • On the bottom left are some overall settings.
  • And on the bottom right are the export and import options.
Free Version Of Wp Swift Control Admin Page

One cool thing to note is that the widget “Edit {Post_Type}” when clicked on the front-end will automatically take you to the appropriate edit screen. So, for instance, if you are viewing a post then it will take you to the edit screen for the post and if you are viewing a Custom Post Type then it will take you to the edit screen for that post type.

There is a drag handle on the left side of each of the widgets that you can use to reorder them and to drag them between the available and assigned list.

One of the great mysteries of the universe is why there is a link to “Themes” on the top WordPress admin bar, but not a link to “Plugins”? Isn’t the plugin page visited much more often? The first thing I did was drag the Plugins widget into the panel of assigned widgets.

Click on the “Edit” link to open up the editing options. You can also open the edit options by double clicking on the widget. You are able to select a different icon from the Font Awesome icon library. You can change the description text, which is what shows as the tooltip on the front. Also, you can check the box to open the link in a new tab.

Widget Edit View

You will probably want to adjust the color settings to match your theme. I switched the purple for the theme’s aqua blue. A small thing, but I noticed after changing the colors that the changes were not reflected in the admin. I was still left with the purple highlight color.

Wp Swift Control Color Settings

And here is the color change on the front-end.

Color Change On The Front

There are a few settings. You can remove the admin bar from the front-end. You would do that if you have your important links on the Swift Control menu and you don’t want to show the admin bar. There is also the option to not load Font Awesome in case a plugin or your theme already loads it. The option to remove data on uninstall is a nice setting that more plugins should implement.

Settings Menu

If you are using Swift Control on more than one site then you will appreciate the option to export the widgets and settings and import them into another site.

The Pro Version Adds More Features

Switt Control Pro Version

WP Swift Control Pro is not one of those plugins that require the free version to also be present. So, I uninstalled the free version and uploaded and activated the Pro version.

There are two differences on the admin page between the free and Pro versions. There is a light gray plus button for adding custom widgets, and there is an Advanced button that shows some additional available widgets.

Pro Version Of Wp Swift Control Admin Page

Pro Version Adds Custom Widgets

If you click on the gray plus button a new “Custom” widget is added to the control. You can change the icon, the description, and have it open in a new tab. However, custom widgets let you add any URL that you like. This means that you can link to any page in the WordPress admin, any page on the front-end of your site, or even to another site.

Pro Version Custom Widgets

Pro Version Adds Widgets To Create A New Entry For Any Post Type

If you click on the Advanced button, you get widgets to create “New” pages for your Custom Post Types. For example, I have a reviews plugin installed and when I clicked Advanced the “New Review” widget showed. This works the same no matter the Customer Post Type.

Advanced Widgets

Pro Version Adds Page Builder Support

The Pro version of WP Swift Control also has page builder support. When you are on a page and click on the edit widget, the plugin is smart enough to know if the page was created using a page builder, and if it is, it will automatically take you into the page builder’s editor. Currently Brizy, Beaver Builder, Divi, Elementor, and Oxygen are supported.

Deep Dive – Behind the Scenes

Cleanly Coded

I took a look at the plugin source code. The code is logically organized, well formatted, and there are some developer comments. Here are the files on disk:

Swift Control On Disk

Here is a screenshot of the source code:

Swift Control Source Code

Shows Links for Pages the User Cannot See

One thing I noticed when looking at the code was that the control shows on the front-end for Admin users and Editors, but not other logged in users. I tried logging in as a user with the Editor role and took a look at the Swift Control menu.

When Logged In As Editor

I noticed that the icon still showed for the Customizer, but the Editor role doesn’t have permission to use that. This isn’t a security risk because WordPress handles the access, but perhaps widgets when shown on the front-end should be filtered so the user only sees those they have access to?

Permission Denied

Very Performant

I then ran a check of the page size with and without WP Swift Control enabled. While the page size WITH the plugin activated is 29 kilobytes (28,647 bytes) larger, it actually included fewer JavaScript and Image files. WP Swift Control doesn’t load any JavaScript files of its own. Also, with it activated the Admin Toolbar is not loaded, so there are fewer JavaScript files overall. It seems that the plugin adds virtually no load to a front-end page when active.

With Swift Control
With WP Swift Control
Without Swift Control
Without WP Swift Control

WP Swift Control Strengths and Weaknesses

The strengths of the plugin are that it is simple and intuitive to use. It looks stylish and attractive. Automatically taking the user to the correct edit page and loading the page builder, when applicable, is a nice touch. The ability to create custom widgets with your own links is also a strong feature.

Another strength of the WP Swift Control plugin is the focus on performance. Though a page sees a small size increase when it is activated, there are fewer files downloaded, making its use virtually a wash and having no impact on page speed.

The only glitch of any significance I noticed was that when I was logged in with the Editor role I was shown links to pages that I did not have permissions to view. While it is not a security issue, because WordPress handles that, the point of the plugin is to provide a nicer experience than the WordPress default. I think it would be worthwhile to see if the links could be filtered before rendering them so as to only show links that they user can see.

Discussion and Conclusions

If there is any significant “weakness,” it is that the plugin is at version 1. Features are still being quickly added.

It you have worked with WordPress for a while then you are likely familiar with the Admin Toolbar. It has its limitations and it can become frustrating and repetitive to have to navigate to admin pages deep down the menu hierarchy. That said, there are other plugins that let you add links to the Admin Toolbar to deal with that. What makes WP Swift Control different is that you can disable the WP Admin Toolbar on the front-end altogether and just use the Swift Control menu bar.

I’ve known some web designers who were deeply troubled when they had to view their site creations with the “ugly” Admin Toolbar looming over it. There are also clients and users who get easily lost or confused when faced with the WordPress admin, even when menu options are limited by role. These users will obviously benefit from having a custom WP Swift Control menu. The free version might be enough for simple sites, but I imagine that the Pro version is needed for any real effort to protect the user from the admin back-end.

Of course, once you start adding a lot of widgets to include more of the admin area, and perhaps links off-site, then I wonder if we need a way to manage and display more links while keeping the menu tidy?

The developer mentioned to me that there was going to be a feature to accommodate user roles. I got the impression that perhaps that meant it would be possible to configure different widget sets for each role. That would be a boon. While testing the plugin I continually thought of potential use cases beyond a set of admin links. Membership and LMS sites typically have several pages for the user profile, purchase history, and member-only content. Imagine the menu bar providing these types of quick links site wide. Being able to use the plugin for membership sites, for instance, would seem like a natural extension that having role based widget sets would allow.

I was impressed with the elegant simplicity of WP Swift Control Pro. It is a well coded and performant plugin. It provides a professional alternative to the WordPress Admin Toolbar that could be a convenience and time saver for admins. WP Swift Control Pro also provides a curated list of links for clients while protecting them from the WordPress admin interface. Potentially in the future the plugin could provide a customized menu for different user roles.

Visit the WP Swift Control Website

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