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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
This 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 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
I 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.
In 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.
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.