How to Install WordPress Plugins

by Martin Malden

Important:

Which version of WordPress do you want to install plugins in?

WordPress versions before 2.8: click here.
WordPress version 2.8 or later: click here.

Installing and managing plugins in WordPress versions before 2.8

I quite often see questions from people asking how to install new plugins on WordPress.

There are now more than 4,000 plugins available for WordPress. Between them they add pretty much any functionality you can think of.

But remember to use them thoughtfully. Plugins add overhead to your site, slowing down load times. So only use them where they bring a real benefit.

Here’s how to install them in WordPress versions before 2.8:  

Step 1: Download the plugin to your PC from the WordPress.org or plugin developer’s site. It will be in a zip file.

Step 2: Unzip the files into a new folder on your PC.

I always make sure that my PC file structure and server file structure are identical because this makes it very easy to re-install things when they get messed up.

So I unzip my new plugin into the /wp-content/plugins folder on my PC.  The result will be a new folder containing the files for the new plugin.  It will probably have the same name as the zip folder you downloaded.

Step 3: Upload the new folder to the /wp-content/plugins folder on your server.

Step 4: Go to the Plugins screen in your admin area. The new plugin will be at the bottom of the screen in a section called ‘Inactive Plugins’ (1, below)


Step 5: Click the ‘Activate’ link on the right side of the screen to activate it. (2, above)

Step 6: Look for the plugin’s options page if there is one – there often is, but it depends on what you’ve installed. It will be in the menu bar on the left.

Plugins don’t always locate their options pages consistently so you’ll need to look in your Settings menu, your Tools menu and your Plugins menu.  Some plugins even add their own extra menu item with sub menus, so be sure to check everywhere in your menu panel carefully.

Step 7: Make the changes to the options that you want and save them.

Step 8: You’re done.

Test it out on a development site first!

As a matter of course I never install and activate a new plugin on my live blog.

I have a development blog that’s not publicized.  It’s where I test out all new plugins, themes and even WordPress upgrades before I make any changes to my live blog.

Many is the time a new plugin or theme upgrade has scrambled by development site. By testing them there first I saved myself the public embarrassment of scrambling my live blog

I can also fiddle with the options (including the CSS settings, which more and more plugins seem to be incorporating) and get them to my liking before installing it on my live site.

If you’re serious about blogging I do recommend you set up a development site.

Update – 22nd June, 2009

When WordPress 2.8 was introduced it brought with it some changes to the plugins screens. So the screenshots I’ve shown above no longer apply.

Therefore I decided to create a couple of videos – one on adding new plugins in WordPress 2.8 and one on managing and upgrading plugins.

You can find them here.

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