Current list of WordPress plugins that are either supported or generally recommended by curators the NASA GRC WordPress theme(s). This list is continually updated as new, useful, non-conflicting, and well-supported plugins are discovered.
Plugins that are included in our supported baseline site configuration. Plugins that are “Required” or “Highly Recommended” are activated with every new site we set up. “Optional” plugins are activated upon request.
1. WordPress Repository
Baseline and recommended plugins that are found in the WordPress repository. Most useful for using WordPress as a CMS (content management system).
Required for Use
- Simple Image Sizes: Required if you want to make all image sizes available for use by content editors. Add options in media setting page for additional images sizes. We use this to create any image size, and include it for use in the “Add Media” interface in addition to the “Thumbnail,” “Medium,” “Large” or “Full” sizes and the default theme sizes. Use with caution and careful planning if you need to create addition images sizes for your site.
Highly Recommended for Use
- Better WordPress External Links: automatically flags links external to *nasa.gov site with the external link image.
- Black Studio TinyMCE Widget: Adds a WYSIWYG text widget based on the standard TinyMCE WordPress visual editor. Allows you to visually add rich text contents to your sidebars, with no knowledge of HTML.
- Breadcrumb NavXT: Adds a breadcrumb navigation showing the visitor’s path to their current location. Allows for excellent configuration in multisite networks.
- Broken Link Checker: Checks your site for broken links and missing images and notifies you if any are found. (Configured by default to use lower server resources.)
- Cleaner Gallery: Replaces the default gallery feature with a valid HTML solution and offers support for multiple Lightbox-type image scripts. (Re-evaluating for future use in regards to how child theme automatically renders galleries.) Note: Version 1.43 of the 2008 Theme and 1.08 of the Responsive Theme have been updated to work with the latest (1.x) version of the plugin. The themes are not officially HTML5.
- CMS Tree Page View: Adds a CMS-like tree view of all site pages, like the view often found in a page-focused CMS. Use the tree view to edit, view, add pages and search pages (very useful if you have many pages). Drag and drop to rearrange the order of your pages. Found under Admin: Pages: Tree View.
- Enable Media Replace: Enable replacing media files by uploading a new file in the “Edit Media” section of the WordPress Media Library.
- Exclude Pages from Navigation: Provides a checkbox on the editing page which you can check to exclude pages from the primary navigation and site map.
- List Category Posts: Allows you to dynamically list posts from a category within a post or page using the “catlist” shortcode.
- Page-list: Powerful plugin for creating dynamic page lists within a page’s content, using these shortcodes: “pagelist,” “subpages,” “siblings,” and “pagelist_ext.” Vital for developing and maintaining any page-heavy site.
- Remove Double Space: Cleans up website content by replacing duplicate spaces with single spaces on all pages. Removes extra spacing on poorly formatted pages.
- Reveal IDs: Helpful for advanced users. Reveals hidden IDs throughout the WordPress admin interface.
- Search Regex: Adds search & replace functionality across posts, pages, comments, and meta-data, with full regular expression support. Offered only to users with the Site Administrator Role, due to its instant site-damaging potential. (Note: We’ve been using this for years, but due to some functionality not working, we are open to suggestions on a replacement, such as Search and Replace.)
- Simple Page Ordering: Order your pages and hierarchical post types using drag and drop on the built in Page Admin screen. For further instructions, open the “Help” tab on the Pages screen.
- TinyMCE Advanced: Enables advanced features and plugins in TinyMCE, the visual editor in WordPress. Used in conjunction with the Advanced TinyMCE Config plugin to further set advanced options for TinyMCE.
- Yoast SEO: Our current solution for configuring search-engine-friendly and search-engine-optimized pages.Initially chosen because it previews how a page will look in search engine results while you’re working in the page’s admin.
Optional or Extended Use
- Accordion Shortcodes: Adds a shortcodes for adding accordion drop-downs to your pages, such as creating FAQs. Simplifies visually for sighted users only. Best for use by content developers who are comfortable working with WordPress shortcodes and HTML. The NASA WordPress theme 1.12 adds simple screen styling as well as print styling that allows functional printing of page with all items open. We are in the process of evaluating other “accordion” plugins with a simpler interface that add “FAQs” in a custom post (content) type and provide other features such as searching the content of the FAQ.
- Contact Form 7: Simple contact form creator. This is useful for creating form data that you only want to be emailed to you, rather than saved to the WordPress database, for privacy (PII) concerns.
- Nice Navigation: Adds the widget that makes your page list expandable/collapsible with a slide animation effect. On our action list is to fully explore the options using WP arguments in the widget. This plugin is currently used in the theme demo(s) in the “Primary Navigation” position. However, if we take the lessons learned from the new NASA.gov portal launched in 2015, users avoid long navigation menus, so this plugin merely provides quick access for webmasters to drill down into page hierarchies, rather than provide good user experience (UX).
- Another older, but still functioning plugin we sometimes use for subfolder-section navigation is the Simple Section Navigation.
- Page Links To: Allows you to point WordPress pages or posts to a URL of your choosing. Good for setting up navigational links to non-WP sections of your site or to off-site resources. Best used when you are simply using your default page hierarchy, rather than custom menus, as your navigation, and you want to link one or two pages to another site. If using this frequently on your site, consider using a WordPress custom menu, instead, or Nested Pages.
- Rich Text Excerpts: A WordPress plugin which swaps out the textarea used for excerpts with a TinyMCE editor instance. Useful for manual excerpts. Tip: our themes are set up to use excerpts on pages to help users set up automatic, dynamic indexes with the recommended Page-list plugin.
- Table of Contents Plus: Automatically creates a table of contents on a page organized by proper use of headings; useful for long pages that are well organized.
- Widget CSS Classes: Add custom, first, last, even, odd, and numbered classes to your widgets. Currently underutilized; we will use this widget in the future to further develop new widget area styles that can be changed easily by site Curators. Update on responsive theme version 1.05: if you activate this plugin and add a class of “w-tr” in any widget, the background color and image is made “transparent.”
- WP-Piwik: Adds Piwik analytics to your dashboard menu and Piwik code to your site footer. Requires separate installation of Piwik.
2. Genesis Plugins
Required for Use
- Genesis Simple Edits: Lets you edit the three most commonly modified areas in a Genesis theme: the post-info, the post-meta, and the footer area. (Future version of theme may make this plugin optional.)
- Genesis Print Style Plus: Starting with the 2013 responsive theme, we are unloading the handling of the theme print style to this plugin, with modifications as needed in the style.css.
- Genesis Featured Page Advanced: Extends the display options of the Genesis Featured Page widget. We’re newly looking for a supported version that extends the Genesis Featured Post widget.
- Genesis Simple Sidebars: Allows you to easily create and use new sidebar widget areas (in addition to the default areas), which can be used for particular pages, post, category and tag pages, and other page types.
- Genesis Nav Menu Amplified: A simple way to put your page hierarchy in the primary navigation position.
- Genesis Title Toggle: Specialized use only: Turn on/off page titles on a per page basis, and set sitewide defaults from Genesis Theme Settings. Also useful if you require your page (H1) title to be much longer than the title in your default page navigation (i.e., you want a short navigation title, but need a longer H1 title on the page itself). Not needed for the homepage, as the theme automatically removes the H1 from display on the homepage.
3. Premium Plugins
- Backup Buddy: We use this mostly to move WordPress sites from one server and/or WordPress multisite installation to another. We also use it to rubber stamp a template site fully configured with current best-practice settings, then create a new instance of a WordPress site in our various multisite instances.
- GravityForms: The most useful dynamic form creator we’ve evaluated to date.
- There are other plugins we are using and/or evaluating. Contact the curator for more information.
4. Responsive Plugins
Plugins used to enhance the responsive theme functionality.
- Responsive Page Tester: Gives users with content creating permissions the ability to preview their site in a responsive testbed. Note: Cross-frame scripting security additions in our theme prevent non-logged-in users from testing responsiveness in frame-based online testing tools such as Responsive Test or Matt Kerskey’s responsive testing tool. To test responsive qualities if you are not logged in, you can get a general sense of responsive behavior by resize your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, but not IE8 and earlier) window.
- Responsive Video Embeds: Adds automatic responsive resizing for WordPress embeds, including video and other iframes. Only activate this if you are inserting video. Related Tip: No longer use <object> to embed video in WordPress. The object tag uses Flash, which isn’t supported on mobile devices.
5. Jetpack Plugin
- Jetpack by WordPress.com: This plugin, from WordPress.com, adds a number of features called “modules.” This plugin is the currently recommended method for adding a CSS editor to your administration area (Appearance > Edit CSS), removing any need to directly edit the theme’s CSS file. Useful modules also include LaTex and Widget Visibility.
- However, since we do not need (or want) much of the functionality that Jetpack provides (nor do we wish to connect to WordPress.com in order to these certain features), we run Jetpack in development mode (sample plugin information).
- We also run Manual Control for Jetpack plugin to keep JetPack from auto-activating new Jetpack modules.
- Finally, we add TinyMCE Spellcheck to bring back the spellcheck button in the visual editor, which gets removed in development mode.
Plugins recommended and used on our multisite (a.k.a. network) installations; very useful for overall maintenance.
- Debug Bar: Adds a debug menu to the admin bar that shows query, cache, and other helpful debugging information. You must configure your wp-config.php file correctly. Email the curator for more info.
- Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades: Allows for installed themes & plugins that need to be manually uploaded to be easily upgraded. Note: You will need to patch this plugin for it to work. See this support thread.
- Multisite Plugin Manager: Only network activate the plugins you use to manage the multisite. Use this plugin to manage all others.
- Multisite Toolbar Additions: Adds easy access to many useful administration links in the WordPress Admin Bar in multisite installations.
- For our use of the Genesis framework, the same developer also provides a similar plugin for Genesis: Genesis Toolbar Additions
- No Longer in Directory: Checks for installed plugins that are no longer in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. Good for overall security in your WordPress installation.
- Plugin Activation Status: Scans a multisite or multi-network installation and reports whether or not plugins are active. Assists with plugin inventory on busy multisite networks.
- User Role Editor: Greatly simplifies user role editing. Plugin developer is extremely knowledgeable and has written up a lot of research on WordPress roles on his own site that WordPress should have documented but hasn’t.
- User Switching: Instant switching between user accounts in WordPress.
Plugins Evaluating for Regular Use
- Nested Pages: Solves the problem of combining Page hierarchy with WordPress custom menu navigation links, and therefore provides an easier method of creating, maintaining and inserting a site navigation menu into navigation positions. Previously, if you had a Page-heavy site, and needed to put pages in a navigation menu position, you needed to create a separate custom menu, which would double your work. This plugin syncs updated Pages and custom links with a WordPress custom menu (called “Nested Pages” by default.) Other features of this plugin could replace features such as simple page re-ordering and page meta information updating provided in other plugins.
- WP Accessibility: Provides fixes for common accessibility issues in your WordPress site. Pick and choose which ones are necessary. (Under evaluation, in conjunction with an annual overall accessibility review, so feel free to offer feedback.)
Plugins Re-evaluating or Decommissioning
- Search Everything: Was no longer updated sufficiently to meet our expectations. We are evaluating other search engine options to enhance WordPress’ basic search functionality. Update: Work on the plugin has been taken over by a new developer.
- Grab & Save: Allows you to fetch a remote image from another site and save to your site. Use only if you have permission to use the image, of course! Saves time from otherwise downloading and re-uploading an image. The plugin needs to be updated to work with the latest WP media interface, so it’s really only useful for its main purpose. Proceed with care if the time-savings to use it are beneficial.
- Rich Text Tags, Categories, and Taxonomies: Offers rich text editing capabilities (a.k.a. a Visual Editor) for descriptions of site tags, categories, and taxonomies.
Plugins Discontinued. Recommended Uninstallation.
- WP TinyMCE Excerpt: Adds the TinyMCE rich text editor (a.k.a. Visual Editor) to the Excerpt box in page/post admin screens.
- Genesis Featured Widget Amplified: Allows support for custom post types, taxonomies, and extends the flexibility of the Genesis Featured widget to allow the elements to be repositioned or other elements to be added. (Used in widget areas to present content and content indexes in a variety of ways. Very configurable, but complex)
- My Page Order: Allows you to set the order of pages through a drag and drop interface. Found under Admin: Pages > My Page Order (Related: My Category Order) Some users may prefer this plugin’s simpler functionality over the drag-and-drop of page ordering in CMS Tree Page View or the Simple Page Ordering. This plugin has not been updated in some time, so we’re re-evaluating its use, especially with the Simple Page Ordering plugin, mentioned above.