WordPress 3 Complete

By April Hodge Silver
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  1. Introduction to WordPress

About this book

Using the WordPress Content Management System, you can create a beautiful, dynamic, and amazing website. WordPress is a flexible and powerful tool that's ideal for creating both blog and non-blog websites. You can customize the features, incorporate your own design, and even write your own plugins with ease. Its versatility and ease of use have attracted a large, enthusiastic, and helpful community of users.

Wordpress 3 Complete will teach you everything you need to know both to get started with WordPress and also to unlock its massive hidden powers. This book will give you a rapid and straightforward introduction to the rich and powerful features of WordPress and will also get you up and running with WordPress quickly and painlessly. It will help you learn everything WordPress has to offer, from the ground up, so that you can build your own complete website.

WordPress 3 Complete begins from scratch, starting with how to install WordPress, all the way to the most advanced topics such as creating your own themes, writing plugins, and including custom post types in your website.

Starting with downloading and installing the core WordPress software, you will take a detailed look at WordPress settings and also choose the settings that will work best for your website or blog. After that, the book will teach you all about content management functionality for your site – from posts and pages to categories and tags, all the way to links, media, menus, images, galleries, and more. Finally, you'll learn how to create your own themes and plugins to enhance the overall functionality of your website.

Once you're done with WordPress 3 Complete, you'll be an expert in everything WordPress, from content management through technical steps such as backing up your site.

Publication date:
January 2011
Publisher
Packt
Pages
344
ISBN
9781849514101

 

Chapter 1. Introduction to WordPress

These days, everyone has a good reason to have a website. It's not just large companies anymore. Individuals, families, and small or independent businesses all need to have one. Some individuals and small businesses don't have the financial resources to hire a website development company or a freelance web developer to create a website for them. This is where WordPress comes in very handy. WordPress is an open source web software application that you can use to create and maintain an online website, even if you have a minimum of technical expertise.

Since it is a web application, WordPress does not need to be installed on your home computer. It can live on the server (a kind of computer) that belongs to your website hosting company. It is also free, easy to use, and packed with excellent features. Originally, WordPress was an application meant to run a blog website, but it has now evolved into a fully-featured Content Management System (CMS).

In this chapter, we'll explore:

  • The reasons that will make you choose WordPress to run your website

  • The greatest advantages of WordPress

  • Online resources for WordPress

What is WordPress?

WordPress is an open source blog engine. Open source means that nobody owns it, everybody works on it, and anyone can contribute to it. Blog engine means a software application that can run a blog. It's a piece of software that lives on the web server and makes it easy for you to add and edit posts, themes, comments, and all of your other content. More expansively, WordPress can be called a publishing platform because it is by no means restricted to blogging.

WordPress was originally a fork of an older piece of software named b2/cafelog. WordPress was developed by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, but is now maintained and developed by a team of developers that includes Mullenweg.

Use it for a blog or a website

There are generally two popular types of websites for which WordPress is meant to be used.

  • Normal website with relatively static content—pages, subpages, and so on.

  • Blog website—chronologically organized, frequently updated, categorized, tagged, and archived.

For those of you unfamiliar with blog websites and blogging terminology, let's take a look at the basics.

Blog: Definition and common terms

A blog, which is short for weblog, is a website that usually contains regular entries like any other kind of log. These entries can be of various types such as commentary, descriptions of events, photos, videos, personal remarks, or political ideas. They are usually displayed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent additions on the top. These entries can be organized in a variety of ways—by date, by topic, by subject, and so on.

A blog is a special type of website that gets updated regularly. Unlike a site where the content is static, a blog behaves more like an online diary, wherein the blogger posts regular updates. Hence, blogs are dynamic with ever-changing content. A blog can be updated with new content and the old content can be changed or deleted at any time.

Most blogs focus their content on a particular subject—for example current events, hobbies, technical expertise—or else they are more like personal online diaries.

According to Wikipedia, the term weblog was first used in 1997, and people started using blogs globally in 1999. The terms weblog, weblogging, and weblogger were added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2003, though these days most people leave off the "we" part.

Common terms

If you are new to the world of blogging, you may want to familiarize yourself with the following common terms.

Post

Each entry in the blog is called a post. Every post usually has a number of different parts. Of course, the two most obvious parts are title and content. The content is text, images, links, and so on. Posts can even contain multimedia. Every post also has a publication timestamp, and most also have one or more categories, tags, comments, and so on. It is these posts, or entries, that are displayed in reverse chronological order on the main page of the blog. The latest post is displayed first in order to give the viewer the latest news on the subject.

Categories and tags

Categories and tags are ways to organize and find posts within a blog and even across blogs. Categories are like topics, whereas tags are more like keywords. For example, for a blog about food and cooking, there might be a category called Recipes, but every post in that category would have different tags (for example, soup, baked, vegetarian, dairy-free, and so on).

Comments

Most blogs allow visitors to post comments about the posts. This gives readers the opportunity to interact with the writer of the blog, thus making the whole enterprise interactive. Often, the writer of the blog will respond to comments by posting additional comments with the single click of a reply button, which makes for a continuous public online conversation or dialogue.

Theme

The theme for a blog is the design and layout that you choose for your blog. In most blogs, the content (for example, posts) is separate from the visual layout. This means you can change the visual layout of your blog at any time without having to worry about the content being affected. One of the best things about themes is that it takes only seconds to install and start using a new one. Plus, there are thousands of free or low-cost themes available online so you can take your pick (or make your own!).

RSS

RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication, and Chapter 7 addresses the topic of feeds in detail. For now, understand that RSS and feeds are a way to syndicate the content of your blog so that people can subscribe to it. This means people do not actually have to visit your blog regularly to see what you've added. Instead, they can subscribe and have new content delivered to them via e-mail or through a feed reader such as Google Reader.

Page

It's important to understand the difference between a page and a post. Unlike posts, pages do not depend on having timestamps and are not displayed in chronological order. They also do not have categories or tags. A page is a piece of content with only a title and content (an example would be About Me or Contact Us). It is likely that the number of pages on your site remains relatively static, whereas new posts are added every day or so. Thus pages have static content, while posts have dynamic content.

 

What is WordPress?


WordPress is an open source blog engine. Open source means that nobody owns it, everybody works on it, and anyone can contribute to it. Blog engine means a software application that can run a blog. It's a piece of software that lives on the web server and makes it easy for you to add and edit posts, themes, comments, and all of your other content. More expansively, WordPress can be called a publishing platform because it is by no means restricted to blogging.

WordPress was originally a fork of an older piece of software named b2/cafelog. WordPress was developed by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, but is now maintained and developed by a team of developers that includes Mullenweg.

Use it for a blog or a website

There are generally two popular types of websites for which WordPress is meant to be used.

  • Normal website with relatively static content—pages, subpages, and so on.

  • Blog website—chronologically organized, frequently updated, categorized, tagged, and archived.

For those of you unfamiliar with blog websites and blogging terminology, let's take a look at the basics.

Blog: Definition and common terms

A blog, which is short for weblog, is a website that usually contains regular entries like any other kind of log. These entries can be of various types such as commentary, descriptions of events, photos, videos, personal remarks, or political ideas. They are usually displayed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent additions on the top. These entries can be organized in a variety of ways—by date, by topic, by subject, and so on.

A blog is a special type of website that gets updated regularly. Unlike a site where the content is static, a blog behaves more like an online diary, wherein the blogger posts regular updates. Hence, blogs are dynamic with ever-changing content. A blog can be updated with new content and the old content can be changed or deleted at any time.

Most blogs focus their content on a particular subject—for example current events, hobbies, technical expertise—or else they are more like personal online diaries.

According to Wikipedia, the term weblog was first used in 1997, and people started using blogs globally in 1999. The terms weblog, weblogging, and weblogger were added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2003, though these days most people leave off the "we" part.

Common terms

If you are new to the world of blogging, you may want to familiarize yourself with the following common terms.

Post

Each entry in the blog is called a post. Every post usually has a number of different parts. Of course, the two most obvious parts are title and content. The content is text, images, links, and so on. Posts can even contain multimedia. Every post also has a publication timestamp, and most also have one or more categories, tags, comments, and so on. It is these posts, or entries, that are displayed in reverse chronological order on the main page of the blog. The latest post is displayed first in order to give the viewer the latest news on the subject.

Categories and tags

Categories and tags are ways to organize and find posts within a blog and even across blogs. Categories are like topics, whereas tags are more like keywords. For example, for a blog about food and cooking, there might be a category called Recipes, but every post in that category would have different tags (for example, soup, baked, vegetarian, dairy-free, and so on).

Comments

Most blogs allow visitors to post comments about the posts. This gives readers the opportunity to interact with the writer of the blog, thus making the whole enterprise interactive. Often, the writer of the blog will respond to comments by posting additional comments with the single click of a reply button, which makes for a continuous public online conversation or dialogue.

Theme

The theme for a blog is the design and layout that you choose for your blog. In most blogs, the content (for example, posts) is separate from the visual layout. This means you can change the visual layout of your blog at any time without having to worry about the content being affected. One of the best things about themes is that it takes only seconds to install and start using a new one. Plus, there are thousands of free or low-cost themes available online so you can take your pick (or make your own!).

RSS

RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication, and Chapter 7 addresses the topic of feeds in detail. For now, understand that RSS and feeds are a way to syndicate the content of your blog so that people can subscribe to it. This means people do not actually have to visit your blog regularly to see what you've added. Instead, they can subscribe and have new content delivered to them via e-mail or through a feed reader such as Google Reader.

Page

It's important to understand the difference between a page and a post. Unlike posts, pages do not depend on having timestamps and are not displayed in chronological order. They also do not have categories or tags. A page is a piece of content with only a title and content (an example would be About Me or Contact Us). It is likely that the number of pages on your site remains relatively static, whereas new posts are added every day or so. Thus pages have static content, while posts have dynamic content.

 

Why choose WordPress?


WordPress is not the only publishing platform out there, but it has an awful lot to recommend it. In the following sections, I've called attention to WordPress's most outstanding features.

A long time in refining

In web years, WordPress has been around for quite a while and was in development the whole time, getting better constantly. WordPress's very first release, Version 0.70, was released in May, 2003. Since then, it has had ten major releases, with a number of minor ones in between. Each release came with more features and better security.

Active in development

WordPress is a constantly evolving application. It's never left alone to stagnate. The developers are working continually to keep it ahead of spammers and hackers, and also to evolve the application based on the evolving needs of its users.

Large community of contributors

WordPress is not being developed by a lonely programmer in a dark basement room. On the contrary, there is a large community of people working on it collaboratively by developing, troubleshooting, making suggestions, and testing the application. With such a large group of people involved, the application is likely to continue to evolve and improve without pause.

Amazingly extendable

In addition to having an extremely strong core, WordPress is also quite extendable. This means that once you get started with it, the possibilities are nearly limitless. Any additional functionality that you can dream of can be added by means of a plugin that you or your programmer friends can write.

Detailed feature list

Here is a detailed list of many features of WordPress:

  • Compliant with W3C standards

  • Unlimited categories and subcategories

  • Automatic syndication (RSS and Atom)

  • Uses XML RPC interface for trackbacks and remote posting

  • Allows posting via e-mail and mobile devices

  • Supports plugins and themes

  • Imports data from other blogs (Moveable Type, Textpattern, Greymatter, b2evolution, and blogger)

  • Easy to administer and blog without any previous experience

  • Convenient, fully functional, built-in search

  • Instant and fast publishing of content—no re-building of pages required

  • Multilanguage capable

  • Link manager, also known as a blogroll or link list

  • Allows password-protected content

  • Comments manager and spam protection

  • Built-in workflow (write, draft, review, and publish)

  • Intelligent text formatting via a WYSIWYG editor

New feature list since 2.7

Since the last edition of this book was published, quite a staggering number of new features have been added to the WordPress software. If you're new to WordPress, this list may not mean a whole lot to you, but if you're familiar with WordPress and have been using it for a long time, you'll find this list quite enlightening.

  • Scrolling back to the same location after saving a file in the Plugin and Theme editors

  • Adding support for "include" and "exclude" to [gallery]

  • Showing "Draft updated" instead of "Post updated" when saving draft

  • Renaming various menu items, for example Posts | Edit becomes Posts | Posts, and Links | Edit becomes Links | Links, and so on

  • Moving Tools | Upgrade menu option to Dashboard | Updates and overhauling of user interface so themes, plugins, and core upgrade under one panel

  • Improved revision comparison user interface

  • Lots of new template files for custom taxonomies and custom post types, among others

  • Not asking for confirmation when marking a comment as spam

  • Not notifying post to author of his/her own comments

  • Showing absolute date instead of relative date for scheduled posts

  • Addition toggle all button to the Gallery tab in the uploader

  • Browsing the theme directory and installing themes from the admin

  • Allowing the dashboard widgets to be arranged in up to four columns

  • Allowing "No role for this blog" to be chosen in Users | Add New panel

  • Choosing username and password during installation rather than using "admin"

  • Multisite now built in

  • Supporting time zones and automatic daylight savings time adjustment

  • Supporting IIS 7.0 URL Rewrite Module

  • Faster loading of admin pages via script compression and concatenation

  • Lots of arguments added to template functions

  • Addition of password strength meter to Add User and Edit User

  • New default theme "Twenty Ten" takes full advantage of the current features of WordPress

  • Custom header and background APIs

  • Support for shortlinks (though you need a plugin to realize this fully)

  • A lighter admin color scheme to increase accessibility and put the focus more squarely on your content.

  • Contextual help text accessed under the Help tab of every screen in the WordPress administration

  • Changes Remove link on widgets to Delete because it doesn't just remove it, it deletes the settings for that widget instance

  • Syntax highlighting and function lookup built into plugin and theme editors

Learning more

If you'd like to see detailed complete lists of all new features added since WordPress version 2.7, take a look at these links:

Also, you can read a fully explained feature list at http://wordpress.org/about/features/.

 

Online WordPress resources


One very useful characteristic of WordPress is that it has a large, active online community. Everything you will ever need for your WordPress website can likely be found online, and probably for free.

WordPress news

As WordPress is always actively developed, it's important to keep yourself up-to-date with the software community about their latest activities.

If you visit the Dashboard of your own WordPress site regularly, you'll be able to stay up-to-date with WordPress news and software releases. There are widgets on the dashboard that display latest news and announcements, and an alert always appears when there is a new version of WordPress available for download and installation.

If you prefer to visit the website, then the most important spot to visit or subscribe to is WordPress Releases. Whenever there is a new release—be it a major release, or an interim bug fix, or an upgrade—it will be here: http://wordpress.org/development/category/releases/.

Also, be sure to stay tuned to the main WordPress blog at http://wordpress.org/development/.

The Codex

The WordPress Codex is the central repository of all the information the official WordPress team has published to help people work with WordPress.

The Codex has some basic tutorials for getting started with WordPress, such as a detailed step-by-step discussion of installation, lists of every template tag and hook, and a lot more. Throughout this book, I'll be providing links to specific pages within the Codex, which will provide more or advanced information on the topics in this book.

Support from other users

The online WordPress community asks questions and responds with solutions on the WordPress forum: http://support.wordpress.org. That's an excellent place to go if you can't find the answer to a problem in the codex. If you have the question, then probably someone else has had it as well, and WordPress experts spend time in the forum answering questions and giving solutions. There's also an IRC channel where you can get additional support.

Theme and plugin directories

There are official directories for themes and for plugins on wordpress.org. Though not every theme and plugin is available here, the ones that are here have been vetted by the community to some extent. Anything you download from these directories is likely to be relatively bug-free. Plugins and themes that you get from other sources can have malicious code, so be careful. You can also see what the community thinks of these downloads by looking at ratings, comments, and popularity.

Additionally, plugins in the Plugin Directory are automatically upgradable from within your WordPress Administration Panel, whereas other plugins have to be upgraded manually. We'll cover this in more detail in a later chapter. You can find the Theme Directory at http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/ and the Plugin Directory at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/.

WordPress.com

You'll notice that all of the URLs above belong to wordpress.org. There is another website, Wordpress.com, which is actually a free blog-hosting service. Anyone can open an account on WordPress.com and instantly have his or her own WordPress-driven website. According to WordPress.com, there were over 16 million blogs on WordPress.com and over 25 million active installations of the WordPress.org software as of December 2010.

In Chapter 2, we will discuss all of the differences between having your blog on WordPress.com versus downloading the software from WordPress.org and hosting it yourself, but the basic difference is the level of control. If your blog is on WordPress.com, you have less control over plugins, themes, and other details of the blog because everything is managed and made worry-free by the WordPress.com service.

 

Summary


Having a website of your own is essential these days, whether you are an individual, a small business, or some other group. It is whether you are blogging regularly, or just want some accurate static content up on the Internet. In this chapter, we reviewed basic information about blogging and common blog terms for those of you who are new to the concept.

WordPress is excellent software application that can run your website (blog or not). It's packed with excellent features, is so flexible that it can really do anything you want, and it has a wealth of online resources. Additionally, it's super easy-to-use, and you need no special skills or prior experience to use it. Last, but not least, it is free!

In the next chapter, we will explore the choices and steps involved in installing WordPress and getting started.

About the Author

  • April Hodge Silver

    April has been designing and developing new web sites from scratch since 1999, just before her graduation from Columbia University. Early in her career, she worked for several web companies and startups, including DoubleClick and About.com. Since 2004, she has been self-employed through her company Springthistle Design and has worked with a staggering variety of companies, non-profits, and individuals to realize their web site dreams. In her professional work, April's focus is always on usability, efficiency, flexibility, clean design, and client happiness. WordPress is the best solution for many of Springthistle's Clients, though April also develops custom web applications using PHP and MySQL. More about April's professional work at http://springthistle.com

    In her free time, April enjoys developing recipes in the kitchen, bicycling, and relaxing with her daughter, dog, and darlin wife.

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