Welcome to the second installment of WordPress functions for beginners. The first part can be found here. Today we are gonna cover Appearance, Plugins, Users and Tools menus, to give you better idea how to configure WordPress visually.
Themes – on this page we can manage our blog’s themes – at the top there are two tabs, one of them Manager Themes – here we can switch current theme, get details on themes or delete them. Another tab is Install Themes – we can search for new themes on the internet with given options or we can upload themes if we already got it from somewhere. These two tabs are completely covered in How to Install WordPress theme article I wrote earlier, so if you need detailed explanation, please check it out.
Widgets – if we have widget enabled theme, this is where we’re gonna spend lots of time. Here we can assign widgets (small pieces of code that gives us some basic functionality and can be moved around our site) to the widget areas. List of available widgets is located on the left, while list of widget areas is on the right. To assign a widget to area, simply drag it from left to correct area on the right. Take a look at the given screenshots – as you can see we have Archive and Recent Posts on the widget area called Main Sidebar. Once you put widget onto the area, you can do some basic configuration like set it’s name or number of posts to show. It is possible to change widgets’ order by simply dragging them around and dropping into the correct position. If you don’t need a widget anymore, just drag and drop it back to the left area and it will disappear. Basic set of widgets consists of Calendar, Archives, Categories, Custom Menu, Meta (Log In and Log Out), Pages, Recent Comments, Recent Posts, RSS, Search, Tag Cloud and Text (where you can also put some HTML code).
Menus – using this page we can modify and add new menus to our theme in very intuitive, beginners friendly way. If you want to create WordPress menu, click the + icon on the top and enter name for your new menu. It’s gonna appear at the top tab.
Now you can start adding submenu items to your chosen menu – your choice is Custom Links (which are gonna link to given web address), Pages and Categories, so basically everything you’re gonna need when using WordPress. Don’t forget to press Add To Menu button once you select what you need in your sub menu. Once item is in the menu, you can edit its attributes or move it around by drag and drop. One tip – if you want to create further sub menus, please notices the indentation – if item is indented, it means it is sub menu of the item above. Very simple concept.
When your menu is ready, you should assign it to one of your theme’s menus in the left top area of page, simply by selecting its name from the drop down list. Another way to display the menu in the WordPress theme is to add Custom Menu widget to one of your widget areas and configure it to display menu you just created.
Header – here we can set up a logo image to be shown on the top of our blog. To do this, simply create some logo not bigger than 960 pixels in width and upload it using given form, or add it to your media library and choose it from there. You can show some additional text as well.
Background – here you can upload background image for your WordPress blog, in the exactly same way as you uploaded header, but please be warned – adding too many images to your blog makes it very bandwidth heavy (and believe me – situation is getting worse with passing time and growing number of posts), which leads to increased loading times.
Editor – this option is no-no for beginners, only advanced users should use it (in my opinion even them should just edit files in their favourite editor instead of changing them in WordPress). It gives you ability to edit theme and WordPress files directly in WordPress, which is VERY dangerous, because if you make a mistake, you can stop your blog from displaying, which kind of make it hard to fix (hey, it’s not displaying anymore). So please stay away from this option if you can.
WordPress plugins are small programs that extend WordPress functionality. You can find literally thousands of them on the web and customize your WordPress installation to great extent. For more information about adding them to your blog check out my previous article – How to use WordPress plugins, where I explain the whole process in detail.
Installed Plugins – here you have an list of plugins in your WordPress installation, where you can activate, deactivate and delete them. Switches on the top allows you to view plugins per their activation status (All, Active, Inactive, Recently Active).
Add New – using this page you can install new plugins via upload (option at the top) or search for them on the web using categories like Newest, Popular or Recent. Extremely useful option.
Editor – exactly as with the Editor in Appearance menu – no-no for beginners, otherwise you are asking for troubles.
All Users – list of all the users (accounts) which can access your WordPress blog’s administrative area, with their roles listed. There is one administrator account which you cannot delete – it is you. There may be other administrators as well, but this is the main administrator of the blog. By hovering over the names you can get access to Edit User screen.
On the Edit User screen you can change their username, personal details, nickname, bio and contact info (email, website and instant messengers) and most important thing – their role in the system. At this moment WordPress supports these roles:
Administrator – user with access to ALL the administrative features
Editor – user who can manage and publish his own and other users pages, posts, comments etc.
Author – person who can manage his own posts and pages
Contributor – user who can manage and write his own posts without ability to publish them himself
Subscriber – user who can only manage his own profile
In general you should give access to your WordPress administrative features only to well known people that you trust, otherwise you may get into deep trouble and risk losing your blog and/or hosting account (imagine your editors start adding illegal content to your blog).
Add New – here you can add new users by giving their username, email and password. Please notice that passwords should not be easy to guess and at least Medium level in the Strength Indicator. Good thing to have some numbers and upper/lower case character mixed in your passwords. By ticking “Send this password” box you make your WordPress send an email with login and password to the user’s email you provided. You can assign his role here as well – by default it is Subscriber. See notes for Edit User above.
Your Profile – basically it is Edit User page for current user (you) – you can change your details and password here.
Available Tools – this is the main page for whole Tools sub menu, there is Press This bookmarklet which is supposed to allow you easily grab bits like texts and images off the network, but I don’t find it very useful.
Import – list of tools for importing content from other blogging platforms like Blogger, LiveJournal, Tumblr and another WordPress. These tools are in fact plugins you can use to easily move your old blog’s content to the current installation.
Export – this is very useful option to easily export content of your blog to export file which you can then use with another WordPress installation.
OK, this is it for now, in the next installment of WordPress functions for beginners we are gonna cover WordPress Settings in detail.
If you would like to learn more about how to use WordPress, please check our previous articles: