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With nearing on 35,000 plugins in the WordPress Plugin Repository, finding a reliable and functional plugin for your specific need would seem to be really easy. But for many WordPress users, both new and moderately experienced, finding — and more importantly trusting — a new plugin is pretty difficult.

Fortunately, the reason why there’s so many plugins is also the solution to the answer: the WordPress Community. People all over the world contribute to WordPress in a wide variety of ways. Some build themes or plugins, some help out in the Forums, some contribute to core. Increasingly though, many users see the Repository as overly cumbersome and not very intuitive at all for finding what you need. So there has been a welcomed trend of developers creating tools for searching the repository more easily, reviewing premium plugins, ranking plugins based on ratings or downloads and other useful tools that make finding quality plugins easier and generally less scary.

So here are some tools and resources that I’ve been leaning on a bit lately that I find really useful, and some tips on how you can use them to make your plugin experience better and more convenient.

The Repository

wp-repo

I still find a lot of really great plugins just by browsing the repository directly. I definitely needs an upgrade, but there’s a few hidden easter eggs that I use to make finding new and great plugins a little easier.

See the “Latest” plugins

New plugins get added to the Repository every day. Sometimes they are really impressive and fully-featured plugins that haven’t gotten press yet. To browse the latest plugins just go to the repo, and add /browse/new to the end of the url. I’m not sure why there’s not a simple link to access that page anywhere on the repo, but I find it a fun place to browse through and see what’s going on.

What I typically look for in the newest plugins is whether the readme.txt is fully configured, whether there’s a well-done banner, how many downloads it has already, and whether the developer has other plugins already or if it’s their first. Each of those items speak to the future of the plugin. In my experience plugins that have done their readme.txt really well mean to put energy behind the plugin and support it and develop it further. Regarding downloads, every plugin that is brand new typically has a minimum of 6 downloads as soon as it is launched which come from the plugin review team. If on the first day of launch it has 10 or 14 or more downloads, then I know the developer is actively reaching out to others to try out the new plugin.

Browse by “Tags”

Tags are keywords that plugin authors add to their plugin manually to indicate that that word is directly relevant to the plugin. There is a prominent place dedicated to allowing users to browse by “tags”, but the list is pretty short. But you can browse by any tag you like. Just go to the repo and add tags/your-keyword to the end. For example, there are a lot of plugins that deal with PDFs in different ways. Browse to https://wordpress.org/plugins/tags/pdf and you’ll see them all right there.

Shortcomings

Anyone who’s spent a little time on the repo immediately recognizes it’s need to implement some basic search tools. The search algorhythm only provides one order, and that’s by relevance to the keyword. There’s no way to filter your results, or sort by downloads or popularity. Tom Ewer has a great write-up on all kinds of great ideas for improving the Repo.

Alternative Repos

Those shortcoming are exactly why others in the WordPress community decided to step up to the challenge and make finding great plugins easier. Here’s a quick list of some of those resources.

RankWP

rankwpRankWP is one of the very first attempts to make searching through the Repo easier. It’s not really “pretty”, but it’s much more functional than the Repo. Here’s a few of the highlights:

  • Browse by “Recently Updated”, “Trending”, and “Best”
  • “Best” plugins are rated according to a combination of their popularity, downloads, star ratings
  • My favorite feature of this site is the “Share” feature. It allows you to share a link to the plugin on the repo. But the best part is it also creates a little “badge” that you can include on your website to promote that plugin.

One big drawback to RankWP is that their database is seemingly not often updated. For example, most of our recently added plugins do not come up in search results on their site at all. You can navigate to them directly, but even then we noticed that the descriptions or version numbers were outdated.

WPPluginDirectory.org

wpplugindirectoryThis is a really robust and beautiful site for browsing the WP Plugin Repository in several different ways. It is updated more often than RankWP, but our Yellow Pages Reviews plugin — for example — was just released on November 22 and it doesn’t appear in a search for the title “yellow pages”.

Nevertheless, the most impressive tool is the search, which they place prominently at the top. You can choose a plugin category, and then search by tag within that category, or even by multiple tags.

[UPDATE]: Ashiquzzaman Kiron from WPPluginDirectory commented below that it is not intended to be able to pull ALL plugins from the Repo, it is instead a curated repository. That explains why some plugins appear and others don’t. I like this tool a lot, it’s really well done and that clarification is important.

ManageWP.org

managewpManageWP.org is an excellent community driven WordPress news aggregator. I’m pretty active over there and have loved their site since it was first released. It’s owned and operated by Vladamir Prevolac and his team at ManageWP.com. Vladamir has just released the most robust alternative Repository currently available. It’s a really gorgeous and responsive site, with powerful functionality. Here’s the highlights:

  • Plugins are ranked by “Last Updated”, “WP Compatibility”, “Support”, “Rating”, “Plugin popularity”, and “Author popularity”. This is by far the most comprehensive rating system of the three options here.
  • Browse the “best new” plugins.
  • My favorite feature is the Compare Plugins tool. You insert your two favorite “gallery” plugins or “google maps” plugins and you can see a side-by-side comparison of their rankings and information, including a color-coded downloads chart.

Vladirmir has been chatting this up at ManageWP.org for a while, and has promised that this is just the beginning. If so, this could become the BEST place to start your plugin search.

[UPDATE]: WPTavern just published a really useful article on ManageWP that’s worth a read as well.

Going Beyond the WordPress Plugin Repository

One thing smart developers realize is that WordPress is just a platform. There’s no reason to be restricted to the WP ecosystem when building out your site. There’s a whole world of “plugins” on the internet that can easily be dropped into WordPress. If it works on the web, it can work in WP. If you have some basic skills in PHP, Javascript/jQuery, or even HTML/CSS then you can find scripts and plugins that serve your needs. Here’s a few great resources.

GitHub

github-markI always search GitHub first when I’m looking for a custom solution. I’ll often search for “jQuery slider” or “PHP Instagram API” to find what I need. What you need to keep in mind with GitHub is that these scripts really are provided “as-is”. Yes, some developers respond to the “issues” section and are generally helpful, but that’s really just bonus. Many developers just use Github as an online storage depot for code that is half-baked or used once and forgotten. But just like with the WordPress repo, if you find a Github repo that has a fully featured readme.md file (meaning the full description you see on the landing page), links to documentation, or even leverages GitHub’s built-in wiki section, then you can expect that they’ll be a bit responsive if you run into a bug.

Unheap.com

unheapIn contrast to Github, Unheap is a curated repository of jQuery goodness. These jQuery plugins are complete and functional and probably even have users behind them so you can find tutorials on the web for implementation or use cases.

Going Premium

Lastly, there are high-quality plugin developers all over the world trying to make a living. Some of them are really talented and highly skilled with code… but really lacking in PR skills. When you are looking for a good quality plugin, start your search by adding the word “premium” or “pro” into the search field to see if you can stumble on a new marketplace or a developers one-man shop.

Premium Plugin Reviews

But it doesn’t have to be the Wild West, when searching for quality premium plugins. Here’s a few sites that can help guide you:

  • WPMayor does regular premium plugin reviews. The articles are very in depth and detailed. While they tend to lean generally positive-only, there’s always very constructive and useful information. You might even find a few familiar writers over there.
  • WPScoop.com recently created a public forum for submitting reviews of premium plugins called “User Reviews“. It’s still a work in progress, but this could become a nice place to check before hitting that “buy” button.

A Few of Our Favorites

When it comes to premium plugin shops, reputation, trust, and high-quality support are the most valued attributes I look for. So here’s a short list of premium shops that we respect (besides our own, of course!).

  • Pippin’s Plugins — Developer of Easy Digital Downloads, Pippin always produces great and useful plugins. His commitment to support is top-notch.
  • FooPlugins — The gang at “Foo” are the masterminds behind the ever popular FooBox Media Lightbox, FooGallery, and the jQuery plugin FooTable. They also recently entered the Browser Extension market with FooCapture. Needless to say, they’ve got serious media-oriented skills that could help you out a ton.
  • Yoast.com — For anything “search” or Google Analytics related, Yoast needs to be your first stop. Besides being one of the most downloaded plugins on the WordPress repo, yoast.com hosts several really powerful premium plugins and services for your site.
  • WPExplorer isn’t a plugin marketplace. They specialize in premium themes (and also have a really useful blog). But they have a great section on their site dedicated to other premium plugins. Most of them are from CodeCanyon, which is a giant resource, but the quality is often hit or miss. So having a curated list like WPExplorer’s is really useful.

The Web is Wide

The web is wide and deep, and it’s all freely available as a gigantic resource for your website. We love the WP community and ecosphere tons. But don’t let your platform narrow your resource pool. Pull from everything you learn, and every resource you can find to make your site the powerful, gorgeous, dynamic thing you have always invisioned it to be. The WordPress Repository is an amazing resource — but it’s just ONE resource. Go deep. Go wide.

Matt is Head of Support and Community Outreach at WordImpress.com. He's the author of many free WordPress plugins, a popular blogger at his website, an admin of the Advanced WordPress Facebook group, co-organizer of the San Diego WordPress Meetup, and a frequent WordCamp speaker and attender.

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18 Responses to “Going Beyond the WordPress Plugin Repository”

  1. Ashiquzzaman Kiron

    Thank you Matt for mentioning wpplugindirectory.org . I think there’s a misunderstanding, We don’t include all the plugins from main repo into WPD. WPD is a curated plugin directory and we add plugins manually once we see plugins got positive reviews. In your case “Yellow pages reviews” wasn’t added therefore you didn’t find it through search, I’ve added it and now you can search “yellow pages” and find it in our database – http://wpplugindirectory.org/?s=yellow+pages

    Reply
    • Matt Cromwell

      Hi! Thanks for reviewing the article and for that really important clarification. I added an update to the article to highlight that. As I mentioned, I’m really impressed with the site, it’s very useful. Thanks for helping out the broader WP Community in this way.

      Reply
      • Ashiquzzaman Kiron

        Thank you for the update and glad to know that you find it useful. Actually It’s our pleasure to serve WP community.

        Reply
    • Devin Walker

      How often is the readme.txt updated or is that manual also?

      Reply
      • Ashiquzzaman Kiron

        We pull stats like downloads,voting,rating,last updated and other stats from main repo by using API and it’s generally updated once a week.

        Reply
  2. Vladimir Prelovac

    Thanks for covering the ManageWP.org Plugin Discovery Tool Matt. RankWP was a good idea which we supported (http://managewp.com/rankwp-finding-great-wordpress-plugins) but as you noticed the project was kind of left on its own.

    Reply
  3. Fabrizio Azzali

    An important search feature that I do not finded in this repositories is to get only the plugins that are updated to the last version of WP. Or better to search for compatibilty for a given WP version.

    Reply
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  5. Steve "SecretWebFormulas"

    It’s finding the right plugins that work together that is the key

    Reply
  6. Dalí Llama

    The irony of this post being that, while you point to sites that sort plugins by downloads & ratings etc, there’s no plugin that provides that obvious functionality itself outside of eCommerce! Apparently the only people who like to sort WordPress content this way are commercial stores. If someone eventually makes that plugin, there’s going to be a stampede for it!

    Reply
    • Luca Fracassi

      Dali, if you are interested I have a plugin that does just that… and I am looking for beta testers. You can give a spin to my site here https://addendio.com and then subscribe to the plugin here: https://addendio.com/downloads/addendio-wordpress-plugin/ Feedback more than welcome!

      Reply
      • Dalí Llama

        Hi Luca. Maybe I’m being silly and just missed it, but what’s the plugin called? Would it work for sorting a gallery of thumbnail links?

        Reply
        • Luca Fracassi

          Hi Dali, from you comment I understood you were looking for a plugin that would help you find “plugins” via filtering, sorting, etc etc. That’s what I am building with Addendio. I only understand now that you are actually looking for a generic plugin to help you create a faceted search on generic WP content… (sorry, I read your post too quickly). Assuming I have now understood correctly, I’d say you are looking for something like this: https://facetwp.com/ (haven’t tried it, just googled it).

          Reply
          • Dalí Llama

            No worries Luca. Your plugins look great, so I’m sure they’ll come in handy for a lot of people! I’ll go check out your other suggestion as well. Thanks for that 🙂

          • Luca Fracassi

            pleasure… hope you find what you are looking for. Btw, your request for such a plugin makes lots of sense to me as well. 🙂

  7. Luca Fracassi

    Interesting list, I was aware of only a couple of those sites. I felt the same pain and I built https://addendio.com – looking for feedback so do not hesitate to give it a spin. Personally the version of WP was not as much of a pain, but it’s interesting to see that it is for many people. I will add that to the filtering. I start to choose mostly based on number of installs when I want to go for the safe route, but I also focus on the last update date. After that I move to the reviews. Plugins with no recent updates are an alarming sign to me, regardless of the reviews and that’s why I mostly filtered them out. When you look at the numbers almost 50% of the plugins in the wp repo have not been updated for over 2 years…

    Reply

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