Jetpack Tiled Galleries and Carousel

I have been using NextGEN Gallery plugin for years as a tool to handle images on this site. At the time WordPress core didn’t do a great job of image galleries and media in general. That is no longer the case. With WordPress 4.0 the media handling is fantastic. Combine that with Jetpack from Automattic, the company that runs, and I now have a very easy way to create a nice looking gallery directly from the WordPress post editor. Here is an example of what it can do, photos from a trip to Banff. I suggest you check it out on your site.


WordPress Plugin Battle: NextGEN Gallery vs EasyRotator

A client asked me to take a look at the EasyRotator plugin for WordPress, they were looking for a nicer way to show images in a post (trying to get rid of the long list of images).  Having used NextGEN Gallery for years I was interested in seeing how both plugins worked for creating a simple slideshow in a post.

For this post I decided to use my collection of miniature photos, you can read more about the process of creating these in the link. I intentionally picked images of different size to see how each tool handled this.

Up first NextGEN gallery plugin. This plugin offers a full image management tool. Images are uploaded into a Gallery. Several Galleries are then combined to create an Album.  The nice part about the plugin is that it gives you several ways to display the images. You can see one such choice on the Gallery page. In this case we are using the built in slideshow option. Once this images have been loaded into the NextGEN Gallery then it is a simple one click operation in the visual editor to add a gallery to a post. The dialog allows you to pick the format as slideshow. You can set in the size, duration and select from several transition effects.


EasyRotator is new to me. To work with the EasyRotator you need to install the WordPress plugin and a piece of software on your desktop (using Adobe AIR). This might scare off some users.  To create the rotator you simply click on the button on the visual editor. This launches the local desktop program. It is through the program that you select images and choose a style. The number of templates is impressive. You can also make images link to content which would make the EasyRotator a good choice for creating entry page navigation. There are of course more options in the pro version.  For comparison I picked a fairly straightforward template. The images not scaled by default in this template. I liked that EasyRotator just blended with the theme nicely.



I also picked something a little more exciting. This template scales the images to fill the space, which causes an issue with vertical images.



While these plugins are wildly different they both can be used for slide show creation.  I think both do a decent job of this. If you are looking for a straight forward slideshow for your posts then NextGEN Gallery would be my suggestion, especially if you want to ability to create a nice gallery page. If you are looking for a little more splash or would make use of the templates for creating a visual navigation then EasyRotator would do the job nicely.

If you use either of these tools or have another favorite method of showing images in a slideshow format let me know if the comments below.

WordPress Plugins

WordPress on its own is a great framework for a website. For the average user it comes complete with everything you would need for a personal blog. But what makes this platform my choice for now 8 websites is the dedicated users of WordPress that have created an outstanding library of plugins to enhance the features of your site. I wanted to give you a few ideas of plugins that are being used on this site and others that I am running.

NextGEN Gallery
Well might as well start with the best plugin I have found yet for WordPress. NextGEN gallery is the brain child of Alex. He has continued to upgrade the plugin on a regular basis and each time I am amazed by the new functionality being added.

So what makes it great. The most important to me is the interface to add photos to a gallery. With the latest version this is done via flash, so multiple files can be quickly uploaded at the same time. This allows the user to follow a very simple and streamlined process for creating new galleries.

The other great thing about this plugin is the control over each gallery and the whole plugin. Photos can be hand sorted into the order you like. Every detail about a photo can be adjusted from the menus. The user can control the end style to create a look that blends the gallery into their site. Being able to control which type of users can access the gallery admin has been great for several sites I have setup for organizations (some other plugins require everyone to be an admin to use the gallery tool).

Akismet Spam Filter
Yes not only is it bad enough that you get spam in your email but you also can get spam in your blog comments. Akismet is the solution to that. All you need is a API key. I consider this a plugin a must have for all the sites I run. I can’t imagine the drudgery of having to go through all the junk comments on my own. Stats (Now part of Jetpack)
This plugin gives you a simple view of how the site is doing in attracting attention. It is easy to setup and you will need the same API key as above. Most themes have the necessary code to hit the counters – if your theme is missing it then a simple online change will take care of it.

The plugin is not without its flaws. For example the graphs need a y-axis title for what units are being use – I have this annoying voice in my head from some grade school math teacher nagging us to label our graphs properly. It would also be nice to show an average on each graph, this would allow me to quickly tell website owners how the site is doing that week. Most importantly it would be nice to give other contributors to a site the ability to see the stats within the dashboard.

Overall an easy to use plugin that will provide you with the basic information about your site hits.

Dagon Design Form Mailer
I am using this plugin on the SLSC site to create a simple registration form. There seems to be lots of form plugins but most are geared to being only a contact form. This plugin allows you to create any type of simple form you would need. It also has built in spam blocking via a random verification phrase.

Event Calendar
A perfect tool for a site that needs to show upcoming events. It has widget support for both a visual calendar and a list of upcoming events. The tool is perfectly integrated into the WordPress new post panel using the special category Event.

Role Manager
Role Manager does exactly what the name suggests. It allows you to control what each type of user can do on the site. This is great for controlling access for site with multiple contributors – some who are not tech savy and need only minimal access to the admin panels.