For the past few years I’ve taken time to express my appreciation for free plugins that have served me well over the past year by leaving a review on the WordPress plugin directory. While some of these may have a premium version, the free plugin provides good value. I know that free support can be very time consuming and want to recognize the developers who go the extra mile for the WordPress community. This year I thought I’d share my list in case you find something useful.
For some reason I had one site where the comment form was getting a lot of spam. I tried the Akismet plugin that comes with WordPress, but a fair number of spam submissions would get through. I heard about Antispam Bee and problem solved.
You get a fair number of options to help with filtering. For example, you can restrict by language or the country of the visitor’s IP address. When I started with Antispam Bee I saved submissions marked as spam for review. After a while I came to trust it and just had spam deleted.
I am a big fan of the BBQ Firewall plugin and use both the free and pro versions. The author is extremely knowledgeable about WordPress and is the author of the 6g/7g PHP firewall which is widely used by hosting companies and other security plugins. The BBQ plugin is based on that ruleset. It is very lightweight.
The free version doesn’t have any user settings. It just works. The pro version shows you the rules, allows you to disable induvial ones if you want, lets you add your own rules, and shows you how many times each rule was invoked.
Better Search and Replace
This is a plugin I use when I move a site from localhost to its online domain. It allows you to search through the database and update the URLs for the new domain. There is an option to do a test run so you can check if there are any fields that need to be changed. It works with serialize fields as well.
I use the Breeze caching plugin on many of my sites. It does 90% of the optimization work with about 10% of the effort, so it is not something for those who need the absolute best performance score. However, it is easy to use and I don’t have to fight it.
Breeze was developed by Cloudways for their hosting customers, but it works fine for me on other hosts.
Custom Post Type-UI
WordPress supports Custom Post Types and custom taxonomies, but doesn’t come with a user interface to create them. CPT-UI solves this problem admirably. It is fairly straightforward and seems to have pretty much any option you might need.
The plugin lets you export the code should you want to create a plugin of your own for your Custom Post Type or custom taxonomy. It also lets you copy / paste the settings for your Custom Post Types and taxonomies so that you can paste them into another installation on another site.
Fatal Error Notify
At one point a couple of years ago I had a problem where my site would crash with an error and then eventually recover. I couldn’t find out what the issue was until I installed Fatal Error Notify. The plugin is pretty straightforward. It emails you the error message when an error occurs.
The default site email option is notoriously unreliable and most people install one of the many SMTP plugins available in the plugin directory. FluentSTMP supports a good number of email service providers, using their native API when possible.
The plugin has several additional options, such as the ability to send to more than one recipient, log all outgoing mail, use a fallback connection if necessary, resend emails, and show reports. FluentsMTP is made by the same company that develops Fluent Forms and a number of other high quality plugins.
A tool like MainWP is an absolute must if you manage more than a couple WordPress sites. There are two versions of the plugin. You install the dashboard version on the site you want to use as the management center and then the child version of the plugin on all of the sites you want to manage. The number one benefit of the plugin is the ability to easily update multiple sites from one location.
There are more than 10,000 dashboard installs and more than half a million child installs. MainWP has a good number of features available in the free version. There are premium extensions for those who want to further automate site management. The MainWP team is very responsive in providing support, even to their free customers.
Public Post Preview
I often want to have someone read over an article before I publish it. It is a hassle to create a user on the site and manage temporary logins. Public Post Preview lets you generate an obfuscated link you can share that is good for 48 hours. Anyone with the link can view the draft of the article without the need to login to the site.
The trend these days seems to be for SEO plugins with extensive sets of features and options. More than once I’ve found myself lost in the menus or I discovered I missed an important setting. For some sites these kitchen-sink versions are overkill and a simple plugin that covers the basics is sufficient.
Slim SEO is a newish plugin but it has already started to be noticed. It is developed by the same team that makes the Meta Box custom fields suite of plugins.
No doubt the ingenuity, creativity, and generosity of WordPress contributors has played a major role in the platforms popularity. These plugins, and other similar ones, have made my sites run better and made it easier for me to set the up and manage them. I’m thankful that they are available.
Did you find anything new that you might be interested in? Is there a great free plugin that I missed? If so, please let me know in the comments below.