How to Install and Configure WordPress Plugins

In this post we’re going to show you three ways to install a WordPress plugin. But first, let’s take a moment to make sure we all know exactly what a WordPress plugin is and what it does. A WordPress plugin is a php script that extends the functionality of your WordPress website, allowing your site to do something it otherwise wouldn’t be able to do–such as integrate a newsletter service like mailchimp; sync your website with facebook; create an editorial workflow/calendar; and the list could go on.

A good rule of thumb to follow when locating a plugin on the official directory is to only install plugins with an average rating of four stars or higher. Granted, some newer plugins may not have had a chance to accrue this rating but as a general rule this should be effective in identifying quality design/development as well as safe/secure plugins. You’ll also want to make sure that the plugin has been updated recently and is compatible with the latest version of WordPress.

plugin directory sidebar highlight

Ok, so now that you know what a plugin is and how to determine that you’ve found one of high quality, let’s go over the three ways you can install them on your WordPress website.

Finding and Installing Plugins from the Dashboard

Perhaps the easiest way to find and install the plugin you’re looking for is by completing the entire process within the WordPress Dashboard itself. To do this simply navigate to Plugins > Add New and search for the plugin you’d like to install.

plugins add new search

Once you’ve found the plugin you’re looking for, you can install it by clicking the “Install Now” button found to the right of the title of the plugin or, if you’ve clicked on “Details”, at the bottom of the resulting lightbox style information panel.

plugins install now highlight

plugins install now button highlight

Once you have installed the plugin you will be asked to “Activate” it. Do so by clicking “Activate Plugin”.

plugin activate

In most instances, after activating your new plugin you will notice that your admin sidebar has a new primary menu or that the menu for your new plugin has been added under the primary menu for Settings. In either case, it is important to configure the settings for your new plugin if you want it to function as desired (or at all, in some cases).

plugin new primary menu

In most cases plugins come with a section, subsection or series of either dedicated to its settings with the appropriate help text included to explain what each option does. To configure your plugin simply review each option, the help text associated with it, make your selections and be sure to click “Save” when a “save button” is provided. If for some reason no new menu or submenu appears then your plugin does not require any configuration.

Installing Downloaded Plugins via the Dashboard

Let’s say you’ve purchased a premium plugin from a third party or that you prefer searching for plugins on the official WordPress plugin directory instead of in your Dashboard. How do you install those plugins?

Simply download the plugin’s zipped file from the directory by clicking the large orange download button on the plugin page or using the download prompts provided by the third party.

plugin page orange download button

Next, in your WordPress Dashboard navigate to Plugins > Add New > Upload. Use the “choose file” option to select the zipped folder you downloaded.

plugin upload page

Click “Install Now” and follow the same steps for activation and configuration as before.

Installing Downloaded Plugins via FTP/SFTP

Finally, in certain cases you may wish to have more control over the installation process. At these times it may be necessary or preferable to install your plugin via FTP or File Transfer Protocol (a standard network protocol for transferring computer files from one host to another). To do this you will need an FTP client (a desktop application for your computer that provides an interface for you to use FTP). Popular FTP clients include FileZilla for Windows and Transmit for Mac, but a simple web search will reveal a wide variety for you to choose from; some free, some premium.

Once you’ve downloaded your FTP client of choice you’ll be asked to provide the proper login credentials to access the files that comprise your website. This information can be attained through your hosting account. You will need to provide your site’s domain and/or IP address and the username/password associated with it. Again, this information will be specific to your host; it is not your WordPress username and password.

Once you are logged in (preferrably to the SFTP option, as in secure file transfer protocol, not simply FTP) you will see a local file tree on the left panel representing the files on your computer and a hosted file tree on the right panel representing the files that are being hosted for your website.

Note: any time you are uploading/deleting files via FTP/SFTP it is highly recommended that you first backup your site completely. If you do not know how to do this please refer to this tutorial on backing up your WordPress website.

To install a plugin via FTP/SFTP you will first need to download the plugin files to your desktop. If the files are zipped you will want to unpack them and read the specific install instructions for that plugin. Unless otherwise specified, you will then select the unpacked plugin file from the left panel and drag it into the plugins folder (which can be found within the wp-content folder) on the right panel.

plugins sftp install

Once the file transfer is complete, navigate within your WordPress Dashboard to Plugins > Installed Plugins and locate the new install.

installed plugins activateugins add new search

Click “Activate” and then configure the plugin by finding the new sidebar menu and following the help text associated with each setting, same as the two options above.

In Conclusion

WordPress plugins are fantastic tools for extending and expanding the functionality of your WordPress website. Installing a plugin is easy and can be done in three different ways depending on your preference:

The first and easiest way is to use the built-in plugin installer found in the WordPress Dashboard under Plugins > Add New. The second and nearly as simple method is downloading a plugin’s zipped file from the plugin directory and installing it via Plugins > Add New > Upload. And finally, the third method for installing a WordPress plugin is to use an FTP/SFTP client such as FileZilla or Transmit and manually place the unpacked plugin files directly into your site’s plugins folder, which can be found within the wp-content folder.

No matter which method you choose, they all get the job done in just a few seconds or minutes. And just like that, your WordPress site is equipped with new and useful functionality that extends or expands the way you are able to use WordPress.

We hope you found this tutorial helpful, if you have any questions or need clarification on one of the methods mentioned above, please feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below.

How to Install WordPress Locally

It is always good practice to have testing environment installed locally where you can access it with out internet connection. It can be a real life saver if your internet connection slows down or is lost completely as you can continue to work on modifying your WordPress site in your test area and then update your live site later.

This tutorial will show you how to install WordPress locally. It may seem daunting at first, but as you shall soon see, it’s actually very easy and it will give you a controlled environment to work on themes or plugins.

XAMPP is a great free tool that can be installed easily on a Mac, PC or Linux. This open source package contains all the necessary tools that a WordPress install requires; Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl. The following install was done on a Mac but installing on a PC or Linux machine are virtually identical. Let’s get started.

1. Download and install XAMPP https://www.apachefriends.org/download.html to the /Application/XAMPP

download xampp

Then run the install wizard.

download xampp

Then select your components. You will need both XAMPP Core and Developer Files for this install.

Setup Select components

You can download the latest version of WordPress right from the bitnami site or download the latest version of WordPress from WordPress.org (https://wordpress.org/)

XAMPP is an Apache distribution that contain MySQl, PHP and Pearl

2. Drag the dmg file to your application folder

This installs by default into these locations:

On Windows:   C:\xampp,

On Linux: /opt/lampp

On OS X:   /Applications/XAMPP

3. Start XAMPP in the application folder

Load XAMPP screen

4. Click on ‘Manage Servers’ then ‘Start All’– this will change the red status lights from red to green once all the servers are running.

manage servers

Apache default is port 80

MySQL started at port 3306

5. Click on ‘Welcome’ tab then click ‘Go to Applications’– this will take you to this page http://localhost/xampp/splash.php Click on your preferred language and you will see this page:

You successfully installed XAMPP on this system

6. In the left column under Tools, click phpMyAdmin

Log in to the admin if asked to

7. Click ‘New’ on top left column then check ‘Create database’ and enter ‘wordpress’ then select utf8_general_ci

8. Click ‘Create’ button

create wp database

9. Download the latest version of WordPress– https://wordpress.org/download/

10. Open the ‘Application Folder’ for XAMPP here c:\xampp\htdocs\

11. Create a new folder for your WordPress installation– (e.g. wordpresslocal) and copy all of your WordPress files to it.

wordpresslocal folder

13. From the folder, open wp-config-sample.php in a text editor.

14. Edit the connection details as follows:

// ** MySQL settings ** //
define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘wordpress’); // The name of the database
define(‘DB_USER’, ‘root’); // Your MySQL username
define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, ”); // …and password
define(‘DB_HOST’, ‘localhost’); // 99% chance you won’t need to change this

So the connection details should look like this:

wp_config php

15. Rename the wp-config-sample.php file to wp-config.php and hit ‘SAVE’

16. Install WordPress– Loading this URL into your web browser: http://localhost/wordpresslocal/wordpress/wp-admin/install.php

5 minute install

17. Fill out the form– and voila you have a local installation of WordPress for your testing pleasure.

wordpress installed

*IMPORTANT NOTE: In order to update the WordPress core or add/update plugins, you will most likely get all kinds of errors when attempting to do so. These errors are from permission and ownership conflicts with the FTP server, your computer and WordPress. You can spend many hours chasing down all the conflicts or you can follow these easy steps that will show you how to by-pass FTP for your updates.

1) Access /wp-config.php

Open your /wp-config.php file from the WordPress root folder from your installation folder wordpress/wp-config.php

2) Add FS_METHOD direct.

FS_METHOD forces the filesystem method. Paste this line of code below all other lines of code in your /wp-config.php:

define(‘FS_METHOD’,’direct’);

FS_METHOD

3) Save the changes to the file and close it. When you attempt to upgrade to the most current WordPress version you should see this:

successfully updated wordpress

That is all there is to it. Just follow the above instruction and you will have a locally installed fully functioning WordPress website.

How to Configure a WordPress Theme

Themes control how your website looks and how content is structured. Even if you are not a designer, it is important for to understand how themes work in WordPress.

This tutorial will walk you through the “Appearance” section of the WordPress admin area and show you how to make basic customizations to your website.

After installing WordPress and configuring your website settings correctly, the next step is to set up your theme. It is best to configure your WordPress theme before activating plugins on your website. You can then choose plugins that complement your theme.

The configuration of your WordPress theme is done in the “Appearance” section of the WordPress admin.

For this instruction we will use the default WordPress Twenty Fourteen Theme

1) Click on ‘Appearance’ menu then Themes

Appearance Menu 4

2) There are three themes already downloaded with WP 4.0, Twenty Fourteen, Twenty Thirteen and Twenty Twelve.

4 0 Themes

3) You can choose one of them to configure. If you want to use a different theme, click on ‘Add Themes’ button.

Add Themes

4) Click on the ‘Upload Theme’ and upload your premium theme from WPHub in .zip format. Make sure that your theme has been zipped correctly. It is common for designers to include documentation, Photoshop files and other things inside their zip file. You want to make sure that your theme folder is located in the top level of your zip file (i.e. at / and not /files/theme-files/your-theme/).

Upload Theme

5) File Transfer Protocol is a great tool for uploading new themes. Using an FTP client such as FileZilla, you can upload your theme folder to the /wp-content/themes/ directory. Your theme will then be displayed as an available theme in your WordPress admin under the Themes menu tab.

file transfer protocol

6) By default Twenty Fourteen is already active in WordPress version 4.0 and when you click on “Customize” on the left menu bar you will see this:

customize theme

7) Your website title and tagline can be defined through the general settings area. It can also be changed through the customize section. There is also an option to hide the website title in this area.

When you use the “Customize” section you preview changes to your header automatically. It is a great way to see how your title and tagline will look in your header.

title and tag

8) Twenty Fourteen allows you to change the header text and background colors using a color wheel. Some WordPress themes are more advanced in this regard; allowing you to modify the colors of multiple areas across your design.

colors

9) The customizer also allows you to add a header image.

header image

10) A background image can also be uploaded and aligned.

Background image

11) Next, you can set your Widgets on the Primary Sidebar, the Content Sidebar, and Footer Widget Area. You can control your widgets individually in the main Widgets tab under the Appearance section.

widgets

12) Static Front Page – Here you can set your front page and preview changes once they have been saved

static front page

13) Featured Content – Set your home page for a slider or a grid layout.

Featured content

14) Appearance > Widgets

Widgets allow you to add content, menus and interactive features to your sidebars, header and footer. Widget areas are defined in your theme’s functions.php file. You will see each widget area available to you down the right hand side of the widget page.

The number of widget zones depends on the theme you are using. At the very least your theme will have a widget area in the sidebar,however some designs come with over a dozen widget areas. For example, a theme could have a widget area in the header, sidebar, footer, below posts, above posts and on the home page.

Adding widgets to your website is straightforward. All you have to do is drag a widget from the available widgets area on the left hand side of the page to the appropriate widget zone on the right hand side of the page. Each widget can be configured correctly once it has been dragged within a widget zone. Once you have saved your widget, load up your website and check that the widget you configured is displaying correctly.

Widgets main

Widgets can be deleted from your widget zones by clicking on the delete link at the bottom of the widget. Alternatively, you can drag the widget outside the widget zone and it will be placed in the inactive widgets area. This allows you to drag the widget back at a later date.

15) Appearance > Menus

The WordPress menu system allows you to easily manage navigation menus. Menus can also easily be inserted into other areas of your website using widgets.

To get started, click on the “Create a new menu” link and enter a name for your menu. I recommend using a name that describes where the menu will be placed or what links will be added. For example, I use “Main Menu” for my top navigation menu and “Information Menu” for the information menu in my footer that links to my about and contact pages. This simplifies things later if you create a lot of menus.

appearance menu

Along the left hand side of the menu page are lists of your pages, links, categories and any post formats you use. All you need to do is select what page, link or category that you want to add to your menu and click on the “Add to Menu” link. Once you have done that, you can rearrange the order of your menu items using drag and drop. By moving a menu item a little to the right of its parent item, it will be listed as a sub-menu. This simple system allows you to create detailed hierarchical menus in minutes.

Do not forget to save your menu at the end or your changes will not be applied to your menu. Once the menu has been saved, you can insert it anywhere on your website.

16) Appearance > Header

Many WordPress themes allow you to insert an image at the top of your website design. Header images are usually static, so to get the best look you are advised to use a defined height and width.

appearance header

If the uploaded image does not match the suggested size, WordPress allows you to crop the image to the correct dimensions.

WordPress does not force you to an image of sufficient size. Therefore, if the image you use is too small, it may only take up part of your page.

17) Appearance > Background

A background image can be uploaded via the theme customizer or via the “Custom Background” page.

appearance background

Images can be positioned to the left, centre or right. They can also be tiled and fixed to the background. A background color can also be defined; which is useful if you do not repeat your background image.

18) Appearance > Editor

All of your theme templates can be viewed through the WordPress theme editor. You can also edit templates through the theme editor if you have made your files writeable (through file transfer protocol or through your hosting control panel).
A good place to familiarize yourself with how WordPress templates work is the WordPress Codex. The developer of your theme should also provide documentation on how to manage the theme you are using.

appearance editor

You should obviously be cautious whenever you are modifying template files on a live website, particularly if you do not have experience with HTML, CSS and PHP. Be sure to always make a backup of your template files before applying any changes to them.

Conclusion

All WordPress themes are configured a bit differently. It is common for theme developers to use their own theme framework and use their own custom options page for their designs. Thankfully, more and more theme designers are updating their themes so that they comply with features such as the WordPress theme customizer, custom backgrounds and WordPress menu system so this will give you a good knowledge base to configure other WordPress themes.

Build a Free WordPress Blog in the Cloud

In this intermediate level WordPress tutorial, I will cover how you can host an absolutely free WordPress blog that you can customize as you see fit. The only alternative solution for a free WordPress blog has to do with signing up with WordPress.com and hosting your blog with them, but they do not offer you the freedom that hosting your site on the Amazon free usage tier does. For one thing, you have complete freedom of design and branding using the cloud server solution described in this tutorial.

Setting on Your Amazon Account for Free:

The first thing you have to do is sign up and start a cloud server on Amazon’s free usage tier. Here is how:

  1. Go to aws.amazon.com, signup & login to your AWS Management Console
  2. Open EC2 tab and click “Launch Instance”.
  3. Select Linux 64bit with the star by it first step of wizard then click Continue 2 times until you see the screen to enter a key/value pair.
  4. Leave the first key field set to “name”. Set the value to a name to id your server. Click Continue.
  5. If it’s your first time making an instance, choose “create new key pair” and follow the procedure to do so. Otherwise, choose one you created before and continue.
  6. If you haven’t created a security key, choose default here and continue to launch pg and click “Launch”.
  7. Click on text link that reads “View your instances on the Instances page”.
  8. Open Putty and enter the public DNS you were given during instance creation i.e.: ec2-23-50-63-219.compute-1.amazonaws.com into the host field. If you do not have Putty, the command line interface necessary for this step, you can download it at: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/download.html
  9. In the left column of your Putty interface, expand “ssh” and click on “auth” then browse to where you saved your .ppk file. If you have a pem, use Puttygen to reformat it. Click “open” when done.
  10. Enter the user name “ec2-user” and you will get a command prompt if it worked.
  11. Type the following command line commands at the prompt:

    sudo yum install php-mysql php php-xml php-mcrypt php-mbstring php-cli mysql httpd

    sudo yum install mysql-server

    sudo /etc/init.d/mysqld start

    mysqladmin -u root password UrPassWord

    mysql -u root –p

    CREATE DATABASE MYSQL;

    use MYSQL

    CREATE USER ‘MYSQL_admin’@’localhost’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘myadminpass’;

    GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON MYSQL TO ‘MYSQL_admin’@’localhost’;

    CREATE USER ‘MYSQL_user’@’localhost’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘myuserpass’;

    GRANT SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE ON [DataBase NAME].* TO ‘[DataBase NAME]_user’@’localhost’;

    Exit;

    Sudo chown e2c-user /var/www/html

    sudo vim /var/www/html/index.php

At this point if you typed all the above commands correctly you should be in the middle of editing a file with the vim editor. Type “I” to put it into insert mode and type something for the contents of a test php page,

Then hit the Esc key to get out of insert mode and type “:wq” to save your file.

Type:
Sudo service httpd start

Go to your public DNS and see if you see your test page. If you don’t try these possible fixes:

Your test page may not have proper file permissions, so type:
Sudo chown ec2-user /var/www/html/index.php

If it is still not to working, restart the httpd server by typing:
service httpd restart
or
servicehttpd stop
then
servicehttpd start
if it said ok, you are okay, so try again and it should work.

PHPMYADMIN INSTALL:
Now type the following commands to install phpmyadmin if you want it:

cd /var/www/html

wget http://www.sourceforge.net/projects/phpmyadmin/files/phpMyAdmin/3.4.1/phpMyAdmin-3.4.1-all-languages.tar.bz2

tar -jxf phpMyAdmin-3.4.1-all-languages.tar.bz2 -C /var/www/html

mv phpMyAdmin-3.4.1-all-languages phpmyadmin

cd /var/www/html/phpmyadmin

mkdir config

cp /var/www/html/phpmyadmin/config.sample.inc.php /var/www/html/phpmyadmin/config/config.inc.php

Sudo vim /var/www/html/phpmyadmin/config/config.inc.php

Find the line that reads “$cfg[‘blowfish_secret’] = ”;” and add a value of a secret passcode. It can be anything.

Find the line that reads “$cfg[‘Servers’][$i][‘AllowNoPassword’] = false;” and change false to true.

Now hit the esc key and type :wq to save and quit. Finally go to your public DNS followed by /phpmyadmin and if it worked you will be in your new phpmyadmin area.

Installing a WordPress Blog in the Cloud:

  1. Now go to your phpmyadmin and create a new database named wps.
  2. Open Filezilla, click on “edit” select “settings” then select “sftp” in the left column and click on “add keyfile…” in the right column. Select your .ppk file and make a private key out of it. If you already have a private key stored in the box above the button, you may be able to use that instead.
  3. Go to the site manager, click “new site” and enter the public DNS into the host field. Select “SFTP” as the protocol. Logon type needs to be “Normal” and finally enter the username and click connect.
  4. Once connected via FTP using FileZilla or another FTP program, go down two directories to get to the root. Then navigate back up to the HTML dir by going to /var/www/html.
  5. Download and extract WordPress from: http://wordpress.org/download/
  6. Make changes to files from your desktop – Open the new folder named “wordpress” created on your desktop. Locate the file named “wp-config-sample.php” and rename it to “wp-config.php”. Open the config.php file in notepad and fill in your own database details where they are required. You will clearly see where they go as the file is well notated for this purpose.
  7. Upload the WordPress files via FTP – Now create a directory on your server for your blog. If you want your blog to be in the root directory, like example.com, then upload all the files in your WordPress installation to the root folder, but do not include the folder itself, just the files. If you want a separate directory for your blog, make a new directory for your blog, like example.com/blog. Use your favorite FTP client such as FileZilla to upload the files.
  8. Run the WordPress installation script – This is done by accessing the wp-admin/install.php file from a web browser. You would go to example.com/wp-admin/install.php or example.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php depending on how you uploaded it in the previous step.

Summary

That is all there is to creating you very own free usage tier account with Amazon cloud server and installing WordPress on it. You can use this account completely free if you don’t go over on disk space usage. After that year, you will start accumulating charges. Also, if you go over your allotted disk space in the free usage tier, you will start accumulating charges. Be careful and monitor your Amazon account to be safe. Have fun with your new free WordPress site in the cloud! You will find it goes faster and smoother than on any other server.

How to Install WordPress in a Few Minutes

This post was updated on October 3, 2014

In this post we’re going to show you how to install WordPress on your host in just a few minutes. Part of what makes installing WordPress so quick and easy is its popularity. WordPress is far and away the most popular content management system in the world and because of this most hosts have created what’s called a “one-click” WordPress installation feature. I’ll show you this method first and then what is known as the manual method of installing WordPress via FTP (file transfer protocol) second.

Using Your Host’s “One-Click” WordPress Installation Feature

Each hosting service is going to have a slightly different looking interface, but the process remains the same.

1. Find the One-Click Install Section

This is sometimes a sub-section such as “goodies” that houses other offerings such as analytics, adwords, etc. Other times it is its own section.

2. Choose WordPress

When you click on the WordPress options you will be asked which domain to install WordPress on. Select the appropriate domain (which much be fully hosted to appear, not simply registered). Unless you choose to create a custom database one will be created for you.

3. Click Install

After clicking it takes between five and ten minutes for the install to complete and an email will be sent to you with a few simple instructions that you can follow along with in order to access the admin section of your new WordPress website!

Installing WordPress via FTP

It has become increasingly rare for a hosting service not to have a simplified WordPress installation process. However, you may have your own server or simply desire to manage the installation manually for a number of different reasons. In any of these cases, the FTP WordPress installation instructions below will have you up and running in as few as five minutes.

1. Download & Unzip the WordPress Package

First, download the WordPress package from WordPress.org. To accomplish this simply click on the link that reads “Download WordPress 4.0” (or the latest version of WordPress).

Next…

For Windows: click save file then left click on the file name in the “Downloads” pop up window and choose the “open containing folder” option to open the folder with your download. Now left click on the zip archive entitled “wordpress-4.0” or the most recent version title and choose “Extract”. In the extract pop up, click the “Browse” button and select “Desktop” to extract the archive to your desktop.

For Mac: navigate to your downloads folder and find the new zipped WordPress file. Then, double-click the zipped file and it will unzip into a folder. You can then drag the WordPress folder to your desktop for easy access.

2. Create a Database & MySQL User on Server

From within your hosting account, navigate to PHPMyadmin and create a table for WordPress. The table name is up to you, but we suggest simply naming it “wordpress” if you only plan to have one installation. Otherwise something like “wordpress_1” would be good for multiple installations.

3. Rename wp-config-sample.php to wp-config.php & Edit

Back on your desktop, open the new folder named “wordpress”. Locate the file named “wp-config-sample.php” and rename it to “wp-config.php”. Open the config.php file in notepad or textedit (for Windows and Mac respectively) and fill in your own database details where they are required. You will clearly see where they go as the file is well notated for this purpose.

4. Upload WordPress Files to Server

Now create a directory on your server for your blog. If you want your blog to be in the root directory, like example.com, then upload all the files in your WordPress installation to the root folder, but do not include the folder itself, just the files. If you want a separate directory for your blog, make a new directory for your blog, like example.com/blog. Use your favorite FTP client such as FileZilla or Transmit to upload the files.

5. Run the WordPress Installation Script

This is done by accessing the wp-admin/install.php file from a web browser. You would go to example.com/wp-admin/install.php or example.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php depending on how you uploaded it in the previous step.

What’s Next?

After completing either of the two WordPress installation methods above you now have a brand new WordPress website, on your very own domain, to do with what you will. Those of you newer to WordPress and perhaps unfamiliar with how to configure the initial settings might want to continue on to our overview of the WordPress admin. Others of you may want to learn how to install and configure themes or plugins. While still others may wish to continue learning about the basic infrastructure of WordPress itself.

If you’re already familiar with all of that information and would instead like to experiment with WordPress customizations, themes, plugins and more then you may enjoy our tutorial on how to create a copy of your WordPress website on your local machine; which provides a risk free environment for experimentation.

Whatever your next step, we’ve got you covered. Happy pressing!