WordPress plugins give you an amazing ability to extend the power of WordPress. You can easily install and start using any of the thousands of plugins to bring a wide assortment of functionality to your website. There are plugins for e-commerce, SEO, banner ads, Analytics, managing your users, integrating with email lists, showing galleries of images, embedding audio or video, and on and on and on.
Check out the repository of free WordPress Plugins at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/. There are also a number of premium (paid-for) plugins that you can by searching Google for "WordPress plugin" plus a keyword describing what you are looking for.
But they don’t do you any good if you aren’t using them! The good news is that finding and installing WordPress Plugins couldn’t be easier. In this How-To article, we’re going to take a step-by-step look at how you can find and automatically install plugins directly from within WordPress. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Log Into WordPress
Go to your WordPress Admin Center just like you would if you were going to add a new page or post and login as an administrator.
Step 2: Go To the Plugins Tab
This will bring up a list of all the plugins that are already installed. You may find a couple in there called ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘Askimet’ even if you never downloaded a plugin before, those come pre-installed with WordPress. At the top of this page you will find a "Add New" button that you can click to start searching for the plugin you want to include.
Step 3: Find Your Plugin
If you are looking for a specific plugin, then you can just search for the name of the plugin. You can also search more general terms to try to find a plugin for a particular need you have on your site. For example, let’s look at the Exclude Pages plugin. This simple, but endless useful, plugin lets you create pages that do not appear in your typical navigation. This is great for creating pages such as a Thank You page (for after someone submits a contact form for instance) where it doesn’t make sense to have visitors navigating directly to. To find this plugin, just search for "Exlude Pages" and you it should be at the top of the list.
Step 4: Install the Plugin – Automatically!
Under the "Actions" column you will find a link called "Install". Click that link to see more information about that plugin and to install it. You’ll want to make sure that the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress, though plugins will generally work fine for later versions as well. You’ll also want to check that the Average Rating is pretty decent, that the plugin has been downloaded a significant amount of times, and that they plugin author updates the plugin somewhat regularly. These are all good signs that the plugin is still actively maintained and should work without any problems.
When you are ready to install the plugin simply click the Install Update Now button. This will automatically start the process of downloading and installing the plugin into your WordPress. You just need to click the "Activate Plugin" link to start using the plugin.
Step 5: Use the Plugin
Different plugins are controlled in different ways. Most of them will create a new option under Tools or Settings to control the plugin options, others will create their own tab in the Admin Center, and some just add a new option somewhere within the Admin Center. In our example using the Exclude Pages plugin, we can navigate to a page via Posts > Edit (or Add New) and see the new Panel called ‘Exclude Pages’ where you can click the checkbox to either include or exclude that page from the general navigation. Simple!
It’s that easy. You can now search through the thousands of available plugins to add all kinds of functionality to your WordPress site. Did in and have fun!