One of the features of WordPress 2.7 that pretty much passed me by was the ability to install plugins from within the WordPress interface. However, I’ve been installing a load of new ones recently and have finally realised that I don’t need to muck about with FTP to get them to work any more. WordPress 2.7′s plugin installer has made things much easier, so let’s have a look at it in case you’re installing plugins the hard way too!
First, finding the installer: Your WordPress dashboard has a number of sections down the left-hand side, one of which is labelled “Plugins”. Clicking on the little downward arrow that appears when you hover your mouse over the plugins label will expand the menu… you want the “Add New” option.
This takes you to a page that allows you to search for plugins using any terms you choose, popular tags, or you can opt to view a list of features, popular, new, or recently updated plugins. So far so good, but I should point out that not all plugins you may want to get hold of are in the database… so they won’t appear in the search results. We’ll come back to that later, though, because even that has been made easier.
Anyway – once you’ve searched and found the plugin you want, click on its name or on “install” and you’ll get a screen giving you a brief overview of the plugin and the option to install it.
Clicking on “Install Now” downloads the plugin package and unpacks it in the WordPress plugins directory. That was always the annoying bit, really: having to fire up FTP and drop the files in the correct directory always took you outside the WordPress environment. Incidentally, when you install a new plugin it will not be activated by default. To activate it there and then, click on the “Activate Plugin” link on the installation confirmation page, or you can do it later as normal from your plugins page. This is definitely much simpler than searching the WordPress.org forums for a suitable plugin, visiting the site, downloading and unpacking the files, and uploading it again. But what about those plugins that aren’t in the database?
The process here is also slightly simplified. Rather than having to unpack a zip file and FTP the contents to your server, when you click on the “Add New” option under Plugins you can upload the zip file within the WordPress interface. You still have to find the zip file yourself (think Google) but at least you don’t have to play around with FTP any more.
Self-hosting WordPress has always been a little bit technical, but it’s great to see the effort the authors are putting into making it as user-friendly as possible. Simplifying plugin installation is a great step forward, and very much more convenient than before. Thank you WordPress guys!