2009 saw WordPress 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9 in rapid succession. As the platform continues to evolve toward perfection, its ease of use now extends even further to developers as well as end users. My favorite feature of the latest installment, WordPress 2.9, has to be the native post thumbnails support. You can now select an image of any size to represent each post. You can then make as many different sizes and croppings of this image as you like in your theme’s functions file, which you can then call in your templates. I see this as a revolutionary development for people who customize WordPress for the Portfolio crowd. Art gallery plugins will be able to take great advantage of this new feature as well. Note to developers: you have to enable this feature in your theme’s functions file before it will show in the user’s post page. Mark Jaquith has written a great guide to how WordPress’s new post thumbnails work.
Why am I going on about a WordPress function when I promised WordPress plugins? Because this feature eliminates the need for many image-fetching plugins like Get The Image, a number of which I have recommended in the past. Today, I am removing them all from my essential WordPress plugins cheat sheet.
One of the star plugins this year was W3 Total Cache, which dealt a mighty blow to both WP Super Cache and WP Widget Cache when Noupe started using it to combat getting slammed by links from Twitter.
2009 also saw Google and Facebook pimping their APIs. There were several plugins for both that allowed users to post comments or content using their pre-existing Facebook or Google profiles. Sadly, the Google Friend Connect integration plugins I tried were a bit twitchy, but I can recommend WP-Facebook Connect.
WordPress Plugins hit the ground as the first “WordPress App Store.” (But it has nothing to do with iphone apps, which does make one raise an eyebrow at their decision to subtitle the store as such.) It’s arrival was greeted with interest and a bit of trepidation. I’m still not sure what makes a $49 version of a free plugin a “pro” version or if it is worth a monthly fee to clients so they can update to the latest version when it comes out. I applaud the folks behind WP Plugins for trying to help plugin authors find a way to monetize their efforts nonetheless, and it will be interesting to see what the norm will be when authors have sorted out what the market will bear. Also, a very promising plugin I’m particularly keen to try in the new year is the $10 A/B testing plugin. Good value!
Overall I felt 2009 saw more improvements in WordPress itself than breakthroughs in her plugins. Long time favorites like All In One SEO Pack remained on top of the heap, and you still need Yoast Breadcrumbs if you want to make a proper CMS of the thing.