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14 basic plugins no Wordpress blog should be without

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While I was setting up the Wordpress backend that runs this site, I found myself installing some of the same old plugins I have used-- and seen used-- time and time again. These are basic plugins that I can't imagine installing Wordpress without, plugins which improve performance, secure, or otherwise basically improve Wordpress's work functionality. I thought I would list them here, because in my searches for "top 10" plugins, I have not found a list quite like this. Consider it a "basic 14".

  1. Akismet It comes with Wordpress and protects you from a lot of spam. An obvious choice, but I thought I would put it here in case anyone new to WP was wondering if they should activate it or not (answer: YES).
  2. AskApache Password Protect Helps improve security and pairs nicely with WP Security Scan (which we shall get to below). Edit: I ran into problems with this plugin and permalinks, which ended up causing my entire admin area to generate 404 errors. Be warned!
  3. Wordpress Automatic Upgrade Upgrading Wordpress is a bit of a pain, to put it mildly, but this plugin takes some of the oof out of Upgrade Day by automating most of your work for you.
  4. Chunk Urls for WordPress You know when someone posts a long URL in the comments and it breaks your blogs nice design and plain looks ghastly? This stops that. At last. Thank goodness.
  5. WordPress Database Backup WP-DBManager Just in case something breaks, it's always good to keep a backup of your database on hand. With Wordpress, all your content, your entries, settings, etc, is kept in a database. Your site's template or "theme" and administration files are about the only things that are kept on the server as live files. So backing up your files isn't good enough to restore an entire site . But this handy plugin can be set to email you a copy of you database every night or every week, depending on your preference. Nice insurance against losing everything your wrote last week because you were twiddling with a new set of plugins. Note: I had trouble getting WP Database Backup to work, but WP-DBManager does backups and optimizes your database and lets you run database queries from the comfort of your administration area. Why settle for several slipshod plugins when you can use just one that works?
  6. WP Security Scan After you've installed Wordpress, there are many things you can do to improve your blog's security, but you might not know what they are. This little fellow is like having someone hold your hand through the securing process. It will tell you what files need changing and where to find them. Perfect for anyone new to Wordpress. There's even a password tool!
  7. WP Super Cache Wordpress likes to bog down, but caching can help reduce server load and speed page displays. WP Super Cache is pure gold in that case.
  8. FeedBurner FeedSmith I partly considered this a "buzz" plugin, but seriously, Wordpress comes with so much lovely RSS support, you might as well make full use of it.
  9. RSS Feed Signature Adding a little "this article by so-and-so, for more visit such-and-such.com" at the end of your RSS feed is not only a nice touch, but also helps exercise your copyrights by applying credit where it is due.
  10. Lighter Menus This plugin only effects the admin end of things. It helps reduce the number of clicks it takes you to get to where you need to go simply by displaying all the administration submenus in easy to reach drop-down menus. No more clicking around in circles trying to find where the settings for some obscure plugin scampered off to!
  11. Maintenance Mode I had to use this quite a bit when setting up this site. It provides a lovely privacy screen that only admins can see behind, politely telling everyone that your blog is down for maintenance and that you shall return at a set time. The page displayed is completely customizable, as well, and you can easily turn it on and off for quick touch ups and testing new plugins.
  12. Redirection It lets you redirect pages Great if you like to move things around later, and if you know what you're doing, it comes in handy for SEO tweaking (like redirecting index.html to index.php--a trick I learned about in this handy article regarding Wordpress search engine optimization).
  13. Search Excerpt An older plugin that still works remarkably well. It highlights the terms users searched for in their search results. I found out about this and the following plugin from Yoast's excellent article on improving Wordpress's search results.
  14. Search Suggest Are you sure you were searching for wrdpress? Would you like to try searching for Wordpress? That's what this plugin does. Fantastic.
  15. TinyMCE Advanced I know how to code my entries by hand. I technically don't need more options on my toolbar when writing a post. I'm a big girl. But then again, why type all that in HTML view when there are buttons that will do the work for you? TinyMCE Advanced gives you many more option when writing a post.

Do you have any plugins that you recommend for a basic install?

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