Generating Content in WordPress Top Plugins—A Sequel

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WordPress Top Plugins

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Find and install the best plugins for generating and sharing content, building communities and generating revenue

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by Brandon Corbin | September 2010 | Open Source WordPress

In the previous article Generating Content in WordPress Top Plugins, we learnt about generating content in WordPress Top Plugins.

This article, by Brandon Corbin, author of WordPress Top Plugins, is a sequel of the previous article.

In this article we will cover:

  • CForms II
  • MapPress—Google maps
  • WP-O-Matic
  • Search unleashed
  • WP Web Scrapper

 

WordPress Top Plugins

WordPress Top Plugins

Find and install the best plugins for generating and sharing content, building communities and generating revenue

  • Learn WordPress plugin basics for both Macs and PCs
  • Focuses exclusively on 100% free and open plugins
  • Screenshots for each plugin
  • Organized by complexity to install and manage
  • Search Terms for automatic installation of plugins
  • Instructions on configuring and setting up the more complex plugins

Read more about this book

(For more resources on WordPress see here.)

CForms II

By Oliver Seidel (http://deliciousdays.com)

  • Why it's awesome: Super easy to create engaging and secure forms
  • Why it was picked: Popularity and ease of use
  • Manual Install URL: http://deliciousdays.com
  • Automatic Install search term: CFORMS
  • Geek level: Webmaster
  • Configuration location: Top Navigation | cforms II
  • Used in: Posts, widgets, pages

WordPress lacks any methods for creating a form (beyond the comment form) to collect visitor questions, contact info, or any other type of communication data. CForms makes creating custom forms as easy as pointing and clicking. Forms can be embedded throughout your blog, including widgets, posts, and pages.

CForms administration

CForms is a very powerful and somewhat complex plugin, so let's take a moment to get familiar with the Administration section.

  • Form Action is the somewhat hard-to-find Admin Actions. You will use this expandable menu to save your changes, delete, create, and back up your forms.
  • Form Selection is how you switch between your different forms.
  • Form Name is where you will define your form's name. This name will be used when you want to insert this form into a blog post, page, or widget.
  • Fields are the individual inputs your form will contain.
  • Kind of Field allows you to define a field as either a single line of text, multi-lined text, multiple-choice, captchas, file uploader, and a lot more.
  • Add New Field will insert a new field into your form.

Modifying the default form

Once inside the CForms Administration, located at Settings | CForms II, you will see your "default form". This default form is the basic information needed to create a "Contact Us" form on your blog, including the field's name, e-mail, website, and message.

Click the Field Sort Order icon, and drag it to reorder the field to any other position. Use the Default Value icon to specify what the field's default value should be, as well as mouse over values and error messages. Use the Delete this Field icon to remove a field from your form.

Adding your form to a page, post, or widget

CForms can be inserted into pages, posts, and widgets. However, the widget version is awfully wide and will most likely not look right in your sidebar. At the time of writing, there is no apparent way to modify this.

Once inside the page or post editor, you will find a new icon added to your "Descriptions" toolbar.

Once you click the CForms icon, you will need to select which form you would like to include. The drop-down box will contain all of the forms you currently have active. If you would rather use the coding method to insert your form, use the WP tag <!--cforms name="My Form Name"--> or the PHP tag <?php insert_cform("my form name"); ?>.

Advanced CForms customizations

While CForms might not be the easier form/mailer plugin available, it is hands down the most flexible. Make sure to delve into the additional options towards the bottom of the Form Manager.

File upload settings

If you will be using the File Upload field, you will need to provide some additional server information for it to work properly. Specifically, you will need to define where your file should be uploaded to, the maximum file sizes, and what type of files are allowed to be uploaded.

Messages, text, and button label

Customize your buttons, error messages, and text non-fictions for a given form.

Core Form Admin / e-mail options

Inside the Core Form Admin, you will be able to turn on and off the ability to track submissions in the RSS feed, set redirection rules, set start and end dates when a form will be shown.

Admin e-mail message options

Configure the e-mail message that will be sent to the administrator, once a user submits a form—including setting which e-mail address to send to, the header and footer html, and the from e-mail address.

Auto confirmation

Automatically send your visitor a confirmation e-mail, once they submit a form by clicking the Activate Auto confirmation link. Through this option, you will be able to configure the subject and message to send, the moment a form is submitted.

Multi-part / multi-page forms

Create multiple page forms by activating the Multi-part form option. Once activated, the Multi-part forms panel will allow you to define what step the current form in your process is, along with the ability to add back and next buttons.

Tell-A-Friend form support

The Tell-A-Friend field must be activated before you can leverage it. Once activated, you will have a new field type called "tell-a-friend". This "field" is actually multiple fields that are required to tell a friend about a given web page.

WP comment feature

You can actually replace WordPress' comment system with CForms. This might be helpful if you would like to customize the fields that a user can submit on a comment, or if you want the user to be able to send the author an e-mail opposed to a public comment.

Third-party read-notification support

CForm offers integration with notification services readnotify.com and didtheyreadit.com to notify you if a user reads your e-mail. These services might cause your e-mails to be triggered as spam.

MapPress—Google maps

By Chris Richardson (http://wphostreviews.com)

MapPress makes it easy to insert custom Google Maps into your blog. Once installed, you will have the option to add multiple locations by address or lat/long. You will need a Google Maps API-key, which can be obtained from http://bit.ly/gmap-api. Google requires users who customize maps to have an API key. This allows them to track usage and ensure that people are not using Google Maps outside the 'Terms and Conditions'. If you do not have a need for customizing the content on the map, then you could always bypass installing this plugin and use the embed code directly from Google Maps.

Adding a map to a post or page

You will now have a new panel titled MapPress during the editing or creation of a post/page. The MapPress panel is where you define the size of your map, and the specific points of interest.

WordPress Top Plugins Find and install the best plugins for generating and sharing content, building communities and generating revenue
Published: September 2010
eBook Price: £14.99
Book Price: £24.99
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(For more resources on WordPress see here.)

WP-O-Matic

By Guillermo Rauch (http://devthought.com/)

  • Why it's awesome: Great for automatically pulling content from your other blogs or online applications
  • Why it was picked: Flexibility and data import consistency
  • Manual Install URL:
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-o-matic/
  • Automatic Install search term: WP-O-Matic
  • Geek level: WordPress Ninja
  • Configuration location: Settings | WP-O-Matic
  • Used in: Posts

WP-O-Matic is used to automatically create posts from an RSS or ATOM feed. This plugin is by far one of the more complicated plugins available, but insanely powerful. Imagine being able to take content from any website virtually, and automatically add it to your blog every time it is updated. With this plugin, you could hypothetically build a gigantic blog filled with tons of content, without ever manually posting.

Before you can begin, there are a few steps you need to go through to ensure that you have all of the right software available for this plugin to work. The first time you visit Settings | WP-O-Matic, you will be asked to click through a series of configuration options.

The first step makes sure that you have the right SimplePie installed. SimplePie is a wonderful piece of software that makes consuming RSS and ATOM feeds very easy.

The second step allows you to select how automatic updates will occur; your options are using a CRON job or a pseudo-automatic process. The CRON job does require you to do some server magic in the SHELL. For those of you who have no idea what that last sentence meant, uncheck the box at the end of the second step.

Creating your first campaign

In WP-O-Matic, a campaign is a collection of feeds (or a single feed) that will be imported into a specific area that you define. For example, let's say you want to create a new category dedicated to news about Space. Then you would create a new campaign called "Space news" that would contain multiple RSS feeds from other websites and blogs that write about Space. Then, on a schedule which you define, WP-O-Matic will automatically grab the latest news and create a post for each new item in the feed.

Adding feeds

The Feeds tab is where you will define each of the RSS or ATOM feeds you would like to include in your newly created campaign. WP-O-Matic has a great feature if you are unsure what the RSS feed is for a given website; all you have to do is provide the website's URL. For example, enter http://universetoday.com, and WP-O-Matic will automatically locate the websites' feed for you.

Categories

WP-O-Matic allows you to specify different categories for different feeds. This feature is awesome when you have a site that covers multiple topics and will be importing multiple types of content from different feeds.

Understanding WP-O-Matic's options

Each campaign has a slew of options available during import. The following is a breakdown of what each of the options will do.

  • Custom Post Template: When WP-O-Matic is importing the text of a feed, you have the option of adding additional content to the post. This is helpful if you want to add a "Read More" link to the end of the post or include additional details about the feed.
  • Frequency: By default, WP-O-Matic checks for new posts every day and a half. To change this to a different time delay, simply provide the number of days, hours, and minutes.
  • Cache Images: Many times, feeds have images embedded in them. This setting automatically downloads the files to your own server. In this way, if the original publisher of the post deletes or changes an image, your blog still displays the original post images.
  • Perform Ping Back: A Ping Back is a way to automatically notify another blog that you referenced one of their posts on your blog. If checked, the Perform Ping Back will automatically "ping" the blog post that WP-O-Matic adds to your blog. It's recommended that you check this option to give proper attribution for the posts you are importing.
  • Type of Post: By default, new posts will automatically be published. You can change this setting by selecting either "draft" or "private".
  • Max items to create on each fetch: Change the Max Items number if you want to import more than ten posts each time WP-O-Matic goes to work. Setting this number to 0 will import the maximum items in a feed.
  • Post title link to Source: When a post is imported, you can either link the headline to the post on your blog or send the user directly to the original blog that posted the article.
  • Discussion Options: Use the Discussion Options drop-down box to turn public commenting on or off.

Search unleashed

By John Godley (http://urbangiraffe.com/)

  • Why it's awesome: Turns WordPress' basic search into a full text searching monster
  • Why it was picked: Easy setup, multiple search algorithms
  • Manual Install URL: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/search-unleashed/
  • Automatic Install search term: Search Unleashed
  • Geek level: Newbie
  • Configuration location: Tools | Search Unleashed
  • Used in: Posts, widgets, pages

Search is significantly more important than most people credit it. The ability to find content on your site is probably the most important aspect to running a successful blog. The Defacto search built in to WordPress is nice, but far from perfect. Search Unleash introduces powerful new methods to scour through your blog's data, including full text searching and Lucene powered searching.

WordPress Top Plugins Find and install the best plugins for generating and sharing content, building communities and generating revenue
Published: September 2010
eBook Price: £14.99
Book Price: £24.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

Read more about this book

(For more resources on WordPress see here.)

Setting up your search index

A search index is a collection of information that is stored about each of your posts, pages, and other elements that contain text. This "Index" is then used during the searching process to quickly find the information that is relevant to the search terms provided by the user. Search Unleashed offers three types of search indexes.

To select your search index type, click on "Options" within Tools | Search Unleashed

  1. Default WordPress: The Default WordPress search index is what all WordPress blogs come with out of the box, and while this search is acceptable for most blogs, it's a bit slow and doesn't offer much intelligence.
  2. Full-Text Search: As WordPress uses MySQL as its database, it's able to leverage MySQL's built-in full-text searching. MySQL's indexes are super fast, tested, and true. However, it can become slow when you are dealing with a blog that has more than 10,000 or more posts.
  3. Lucene: Lucene is an open source product released by the Apache Foundation. The same company that brought us the insanely popular Apache web server that your blog most likely runs on. Lucene is the undisputed heavyweight in open source searching. With its unique searching and indexing algorithms, Lucene will absolutely deliver the search goods.

Creating your first index

Once you have decided on which Search Index to leverage, you will need to build your first Index; we highly recommend Lucene. If you have decided to use the default WordPress index, then you can skip this section.

To run your first index, click Search Index from within Tools | Search Unleashed.

To initiate the indexing, you will need to click Re-Index.

Once you have completed your first index, you will not need to rerun it, as this process will now happen automatically. However, re-indexing your site is one potential solution if your blog search is not behaving properly, which can happen if data corruption happened during the indexing process.

WP Web Scrapper

By Akshay Raje (http://webdlabs.com/)

WP Web Scrapper is definitely not for the weak of heart, but it is for those of you who know what a "JQuery Selector" is. If you know what a "JQuery Selector" is, then you are in for one awesome coding treat. WP WebScrapper makes grabbing parts of ANY website and including it in a post or page on your blog, a snap!

WP Web Scrapper uses CURL and phpQuery to grab and manipulate data from any public website. Because WP Web Scrapper uses phpQuery, you have the luxury to select which elements you want from the external website using jQuery Selectors. Plus you do not need to be afraid if the external website changes, as WP Web Scrapper degrades gracefully if any changes occur.

Copyright warning

It's important to note that while WP Web Scrapper makes ripping content from a website super simple, it doesn't mean that it's legal. There are many big websites out there that will not take kindly to someone stealing their content. Make sure that you have permission before you take another website's content, or you might find a nice letter from some law firm in your mailbox.

Adding a scrapping

To create a new Web Scrapping, you edit a post or a page. Once installed, WP Web Scrapper will include a new button in your Toolbar that looks like a Gear.

All that is needed for WP Web Scrapper to work is a valid website URL (Source URL) and a valid CSS Selector. Once you have added the external website's URL (don't forget the http://) and added your selector, click Insert. This plugin will create a short code that is inserted into the body of your post. Once you get familiar with the WP WebScrapper syntax, you will be able to add them without ever clicking the "Gear". For example:

[wpws url="" selector=".product" ]

Learn more about CSS Selectors by visiting http://code.google.com/p/phpquery/wiki/Selectors

Summary

In the above article we have cover:

  • CForms II
  • MapPress—Google maps
  • WP-O-Matic
  • Search unleashed
  • WP Web Scrapper

Further resources on this subject:


About the Author :


Brandon Corbin

Brandon Corbin has been building online products for more than a decade. He has applied his passions to several industries, including radio, real estate, pharmaceuticals, recruiting and eCommerce – with an obsessive attention to creating a smooth user experience.
An accomplished web entrepreneur with a background in advertising, Brandon Corbin has used his knowledge of design and marketing to create websites for many of the Fortune 500. Currently Brandon offers coaching and support in the way of online branding, blogging, product development and usability

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