If you want to change the look of your WordPress Theme, you can edit the Theme’s stylesheet. There are a variety of tools to help you. I’ve featured a lot of them in this Month of WordPress Plugins series, including:
- WordPress Plugins for Images, Photographs, and Graphics
- WordPress Plugins That Play With Paper and Documents
- Customizable Post Listings WordPress Plugin
- Testing Readers: Survey, Polling, Rating, Testing, and Reviewing WordPress Plugins
- Ultimate Tag Warrior WordPress Plugin for Dummies
- Blog Navigation WordPress Plugins: Related, Recent, Most Popular Posts and More
- Post Meta Data WordPress Plugins
- WordPress Plugins for Comments
- Random WordPress Plugins: Rotating Banners, Header Art, Images, Quotes, and Content on Your Blog
WordPress Plugins that change the look, layout, and format of your blog can make small changes, such as allowing you to control the look of your blog’s front page including the length of post excerpts or summaries on the front page of your blog, to more complex changes like replacing category text titles with images or changing your WordPress Theme based upon the seasons. There are WordPress Plugins to help change the look of your menus for Pages and categories, displaying them in drop-down, dynamic or “folding” menus, change the look of your links, or other small design elements. There are even WordPress Plugins that will help you carry specific CSS styles across from one WordPress Theme to another.
As part of my month long series on WordPress Plugins, I wanted to explore some of the Plugins that help you change the layout and formating of your WordPress blogs.
While some of these WordPress Plugins will help you change the look and layout of your blog without digging into the code, some of these will require editing or modifying your WordPress Theme template files. For tips on installing any of these WordPress Plugins, see How to Install, Configure, and Use WordPress Plugins.
I’ve only highlighted a few layout and formating WordPress Plugins here. You can find more in the WP-Plugins.net database under Themes, Styles and Layout WordPress Plugins and Formatting Posts WordPress Plugins categories.
Posts and Excerpts WordPress Plugins
While many people want to change the look of their whole blog, most only want control over how their posts look and behave. There are a lot of ways you can change the look of your WordPress posts and have more control over your post excerpts on multi-post page views such as the front page, search, categories, etc. Some involve changes to the template file tags and codes, others can be done with WordPress Plugins.
One of the most popular requests is to add or replace a post with an image. Post Image WordPress Plugin allows you to display an attached image for a post creating a unique “post image” for each post without having to manage all the image references and tags for each post. My Post Icons WordPress Plugin also allows you to add a unique post image for each post.
Post Avatar WordPress Plugin is a similar WordPress Plugin that adds a “list” of images in your Write Post panel for you to choose from to include in your posts. For blogs which feature series or category icons, or logos used repeatedly in their posts, or multiple blogger blogs which similar needs, this is a fast and easy way to use the same frequently used images in their posts.
Controlling excerpts is another popular method for many bloggers. the_excerpt Reloaded is one of the most popular Plugins for giving you control over how and what your WordPress post excerpts will look like and work.
Other WordPress Plugins which give you varying control over the look of your post excerpts include Evermore Excerpts WordPress Plugin, Advanced Layout Plugin For WordPress (ALEW), and The Content Extract Plugin, which creates an extract of your post for an excerpt, putting it through a variety of tests to determine where it should cut your post off, according to the set options.
Less WordPress Plugin shows the entire post when the reader clicks the “continue reading” link instead of being taken to the point just after the “continue reading” mark.
Post Teaser WordPress Plugin also automatically sets multi-post views to excerpts, giving you some measure of control, and has option features to generate a word count, image count, and estimated reading time.
Mass Edit Pages lets you sort of the page order of your pages in your header, nav bar, or sidebar.
There are ways you can customize the “more” link found on WordPress blogs, encouraging visitors to “continue reading” or “read more” from the post excerpts. More Unique WordPress Plugin allows you to change the text of the “more” link through the use of WordPress custom fields, changing it on a per post basis.
While WordPress allows you to set the number of posts on a mutli-post pageview from the Admin Panels, there are times when you want 10 posts on the front page, 50 posts listed in search results, and 25 posts listed on the category pages. Custom Query String Plugin allows you to set the number posts to show for different “query views” of your multi-post page views such as categories. You can choose how many posts or days and their order sequence for each of the queries and/or categories, without interaction with the WordPress Theme template files.
AJAX Excerpt WordPress Plugins
A new technique for excerpts is to use AJAX to display the full post content on the front page after clicking the “continue reading” or “more” link without the page reloading. There are several WordPress Plugins available which do this for you including:
- Inline (Collapsible) More Link WordPress Plugin
- Inline Ajax Page WordPress Plugin
- Ajaxified Expand Post Now WordPress Plugin
Other Post Styling WordPress Plugins
Instead of featuring post dates by “dates” according to the calendar, why not show some creativity with relative dates. WordPress Relative Date Plugin sets your post and comment dates to be “2 hours ago”, “1 month ago”, “2 years ago”, and such.
DropCap First Character WordPress Plugin makes the first character of a post BIG, like magazines and old books use.
Posts Expire WordPress Plugin allows you to set a date when your posts “expire” and to display that expiration date. After that date, those posts will not be shown on your blog. If you are working with timely information, or a contest or gimmick you want to feature an ending date, and then have it disappear, this might be worth exploring.
WordPress Post Information Plugin creates a collapsible section with information about your blog’s post meta data, information on the author, date, time, categories, etc., about your post, similar to the Post Meta Data WordPress Plugins offerings.
Blockquotes WordPress Plugins
Blockquotes, known traditionally as “pull-quotes”, are quotes you use from other people and resources in your blog posts. Today, most of those quotes come from websites, so the quote includes a citation (credit) with a link to the source.
Blockquotes feature highlighted quotes from someone who may or may not have something interesting to say. As with all blockquotes and quotes on your blogs, include credits by listing the quote author and/or providing a link to where they said what they said, or at least to their blog.
Lorelle, Lorelle on WordPress
Styling blockquotes in WordPress Themes is usually done by the Theme author, but you can take back control or change the styles for blockquotes on a case-by-case method with WordPress Plugins.
Blockquote Cite WordPress Plugin is designed to help cite quotes and sources on your WordPress blog posts and optionally includes displaying a logo from the linked site, if one is available.
Fancy Pull-quotes WordPress Plugin also helps you easily style your blockquotes.
WordPress Plain Text Paste Plugin adds a button to the WordPress Rich Text Editor to paste clipboard content as plain text. This avoids the nasty conversion of quote marks and other non-text characters into question marks, black boxes, and weird characters in your WordPress posts. I wish it would appear on the non-Rich Text Editor, too, in fact, built into WordPress completely.
WordPress Plugins for Pages
Pages differ from posts as they are pseudo-static web pages which do not move with the chronological nature of posts. They remain “static”, timeless, if you will. Bloggers use these to create their About page, Contact, Events, and feature pages for products, services, Plugins, Themes, and such. I explain them more thoroughly in WordPress Pages: Exploring the Pseudo-static Pages of WordPress.
WordPress blogs can have Pages and subPages, children Pages listed beneath the parent Pages. The more Pages your blog offers, the longer the list and the more challenging the process of displaying them. This is where WordPress Plugins can help.
Let’s start with a simple method of listing the subPages under a parent Page from within their “family” of Pages on a Page. For example, if you are an author of several WordPress Plugins, you can create a parent Page for your WordPress Plugins. From that parent Page, you can create subPages for each Plugin, containing all the updated information and documentation for use. When someone is visiting any of the subPages or main Page for your Plugins, you might want them to see a list or menu of all your various Plugins within that Page parent, much like a category. Writing all these links to the different Pages is tedious.
Or maybe, like me on on Taking Your Camera on the Road, I needed to list the policies, legal information, copyright, and other subPages from my About Us Page. I found txfx Subpage Listing, but you can also try List SubPages WordPress Plugin, to make the job easier to list all these subPages. With a little bit of code placed within that Page’s content, the menu of all the subPages for that parent Page would be shown. No need to write the links manually.
There are WordPress Plugins that impact the look of your Page lists on your blog, such as helping you turn them into drop down menus, folding lists, and other CSS styles for lists. Some also allow you to change the order of your pages. These include:
- WP-PagesNav WordPress Plugin
- WordPress Widget King Pages
- My Page Order WordPress Plugin
- WordPress Order Pages Plugin
- WP-PageNavi 2.10
- Collapsible, Foldable, Expandable Page Menus Plugin
- Collapsing Page Menus Plugin
- Fold Page Menus WordPress Plugin
- Cimy Page Navigator WordPress Plugin
You can also use WordPress Plugins to control the look and content within your Page, allowing you to add HTML and external files to your Pages.
Jixor’s Static Page eXtended WordPress Plugin allows you to create a static page with a lot of options including content from external files, inline PHP, user level options, and post redirection, all controlled from the Administration Panels.
Static Jack WordPress Plugin by Jack Born also allows you to include external files as static content on any template file in your WordPress Theme. The only requirement is the use of permalinks or editing your
Category Styles and Looks
Categories are used as “tags” in WordPress blogs, though with the use of the Ultimate Tag Warrior WordPress Plugin, you can separate tags from your categories, allowing your category list to become more of a table of contents guide to the contents within your blog.
Category lists can get long and complex to manage visually. While there are many ways of changing the CSS and web page design to handle the look of your category lists, WordPress Plugins make the job easier. (NOTE: Check with Plugin authors to make sure these category Plugins are updated to work in WordPress 2.1.)
Ultimate Category Excluder WordPress Plugin and WordPress Category Visibility Plugin give you control over which categories appear on your multi-post page views such as the front page, archives, and category views.
Multi Column Category List is a WordPress Plugin for those with really long category lists, and those using categories strictly as tags on their WordPress blogs. It creates an alphabetical listing of your WordPress categories in columns rather than as one long list. You can control the number of columns to display in your blog’s sidebar, with an option to split up the list by letter references.
There are times when you want a specific category of posts to look different from other categories on your WordPress blog. For instance, if you have a category for movie reviews, you might want to feature movie graphics to showcase that this category differently. Post Templates by Category allows you to set a custom template file for all posts within a specific category. Using the WordPress Codex article on Custom Category Templates, you can create a category template file just for that category, called to from the Plugin.
The following WordPress Plugins allow you to control the order and customization of your category lists:
- WP Root Cats
- WordPress Widget: King Categories
- My Category Order WordPress Plugin
- WordPress Sort Category Posts By Title
CleanCat WordPress Plugin displays only the posts of the category the post is in within your blog sidebar.
Category Icons WordPress Plugin assigns a graphic icon to your categories and showcases the icons to represent categories on your blog.
Ilfilosofo Highlight Current Category inserts a “current category” class to your blog’s categories, allowing you to style your category list to highlight the category in which the reader is visiting. This would also make an interesting breadcrumb effect.
Other category menu styling WordPress Plugins include:
Styling Your Sidebar WordPress Plugins
I covered a lot of sidebar-related WordPress Plugins in WordPress Widgets: The Next Generation of WordPress Plugins, Customizable Post Listings WordPress Plugin, Testing Readers: Survey, Polling, Rating, Testing, and Reviewing WordPress Plugins, Blog Navigation WordPress Plugins: Related, Recent, Most Popular Posts and More, and Random WordPress Plugins: Rotating Banners, Header Art, Images, Quotes, and Content on Your Blog. There are more ways to style your sidebar with WordPress Plugins.
Sidebar Slider WordPress Plugin allows you to create an element or your entire sidebar in a “container” that slides up and down with your page scrolls. It’s unclear if this works in WordPress 2+.
My Link Order Widgetized is a WordPress Widget that helps you order your blogroll links.
Asides are “thoughts”, little opinions, and short commentary style posts that are often featured in your blog’s sidebar, compared to longer post which are found within the post content area. Many people use these to highlight specific topics or events pulled out of the chronological mishmash of their blog posts, or as just little notes to themselves and their readers.
Asides are often called “mini blogs”, as they appear to be a blog within a blog, and mini-posts and side blogs. It’s a great way to feature a flow of content on your blog’s sidebar.
There are different WordPress Plugins to help you automatically create your sidebar mini-blog or asides. Mostly, these all do the same thing, extract a specific category of posts from your main post listings to be featured independently in your blog’s sidebar. As this technique developed, asides WordPress Plugins have grown into so much more.
Asides WordPress Plugins include:
- MiniPosts WordPress Plugin
- SideBlog WordPress Plugin (allows multiple categories)
- RustAsides WordPress Plugin for WordPress 1.5
- Fully Linked WordPress Plugin
Front Page WordPress Plugins
I covered controlling your post’s look on multi-post pageviews under Posts and Excepts at the top of the article, and in this section, let’s look at some WordPress Plugins that give you even more control over what your front page looks like, not just the posts themselves.
Besides adding things or taking things away on the front page of your WordPress blog, the main thing users want to do is to replace the front page of their blog with a static page, a non-chronologically changing gateway to their blog. However, they also want to add chronological information such as the most recent posts, posts from specific categories, and other WordPress blog post data to their front page.
The WordPress Codex article on Creating a Static Front Page takes you through the technical aspect of changing the way WordPress recognizes which is the front page of the site, and how to still integrate the look of your WordPress Theme onto the static page, thus connecting the overall look of your entire site’s design. There are also some WordPress Plugins to help make the task easier.
Filosofo Home-Page Control and Rudd-o-com – Home Page for WordPress, and Semiologic – Static Front Page Plugin for WordPress allow you to set a Page or post you’ve already created in WordPress as the front page of your blog. Some of these Plugins involve familiarity with WordPress Theme template files, template tags, and PHP code.
Welcome Visitor! is a WordPress Plugin that allows you to add a “welcoming message” in your sidebar, front page, or wherever you need it to greet visitors coming to your WordPress blog. This is a great way of leaving a simple message for visitors, informing them of problems with your blog, events, directing them to newsworthy information, or just offering general information.
Easy Announcement WordPress Plugin allows you to add a temporary (or permanent) announcement to your blog’s front page to advise of an upcoming site maintenance, special event, or other notice. It is not a post but just text.
The Vito Tardia’s Improved Include Page WordPress Plugin allows you to include HTML code and other content based upon a wide variety of conditions, giving you precision control over content on your front page. It requires some understanding of PHP and template tags for inclusion in your WordPress Theme template files, but it you want control over front page content, this is worth exploring.
Dynamic Content on Your Front Page
I mentioned a couple plugins which allow you to feature non-post or page content on the front page of your blog. You can also feature post and Page content on the front of your blog, and even control what appears on the front page and what is hidden.
The Adhesive WordPress Plugin allows you to easily set specific posts to show on the front page or any page that shows more than one post, known as multi-post page views. These are also known as “Sticky Posts”, and they only appear when viewing posts from the same category as the sticky post, or on on the front page where all posts, no matter which category, are viewed. If you have a specific post welcoming visitors or featuring content you want to hang around for a while and not cycle through the chronological order, Adhesive is a quick way to control that content.
Semiologic – Opt-in Front Page WordPress Plugin allows you to showcase posts from a specific category on your front page.
Front Page Filter WordPress Plugin allows you to filter the posts that appear on the front page of your blog, set to include or exclude a specific category. Unfortunately, it only works with one category and filters through all the posts that appear on your front page.
Guff.szub’s Get-a-Post WordPress Plugin works much like Include Page, but it just allows the inclusion of one post or Page that you specify. The author includes a conditional tag example of how to generate content depending upon the type of page or category being viewed. It’s simple but does the trick.
Sam Sarin – Customizing WordPress Home Page with Thumbnailed Articles is an article on how to use thumbnail images alongside your post excerpts. While not a Plugin necessarily, it could be. Still, this is a great technique for photoblogs or other visual blog models and formats.
Hide on Homepage WordPress Plugin uses the custom fields on the Write Post panel to add an option to “hide” or not include the post on the front page of your blog.
WordPress Plugins Which Control Your CSS Styles
Most full version WordPress bloggers know they can tweak the look of their WordPress Theme to meet their blog’s needs. However, there are also WordPress Plugins that add more control and features to styling your WordPress Theme.
iMax Width WordPress Plugin sets a maximum image width so large inline images don’t mess up your WordPress theme.
Toggle CSS WordPress Plugin allows you to add a link or button to your blog to enable the user to turn on or turn off the stylesheet (CSS) on your blog’s page. I have used this as a teaching tool for articles I’ve written on CSS and web page design on other blogs. Now you see the magic, now you don’t. ;-)
This Style WordPress Plugin allows you to style a specific post by adding the styles through the Custom Fields in the Write Post panel. This is an interesting way to add post-specific styles to an individual post for movie or art reviews, by category or subject matter, or other ways to change the look of your posts.
Do you have some styles you want to appear on your WordPress Theme no matter which WordPress Theme you choose? I use a default style for images on my blogs, even if I change the Theme, and I also feature a lot of custom CSS for different posts, blockquotes, and text boxes. Because those are in my posts, I want them to still work no matter which Theme I’m using. Persistent Styles WordPress Plugin and MyCSS WordPress Plugin will carry forward any CSS styles you want to keep, independent of the WordPress Theme you are using.
There is a caveat, though. Do not use any style references common to WordPress Themes unless you want them to replace the styles in the Theme. This stylesheet will supersede the WordPress Theme styles if the style selector names are the same. For instance, if you set the H3 heading to look a specific way with the Plugin, the look might not match the WordPress Theme you have switched to with it’s own unique H3 heading.
I believe CSS Adder Plugin für WordPress is another similar WordPress Plugin.
ClassyBody WordPress Plugin adds CSS styles to your WordPress Theme’s HTML
body tag for each type of page view you may use on your WordPress blog. For instance, if you would like your category pages to look a specific way when generated, you can style a “look” for the page from the
cat-ID# CSS style.
Colourful Links WordPress Plugin changes the color of the links when you change the colors in the header of your blog.
Change Fontsize WordPress Plugin adds an optional menu to your WordPress Theme to allow users to change the fontsize of your blog’s fonts. This is a neat idea to increase the usability and accessibility of your WordPress blog text.
Season Style Switcher has no documentation at all, but it is presumed that it allows you control over switching WordPress Themes or CSS to make your blog’s design season-specific. Thus in fall it might host fall colors, and in spring be covered with wildflowers, or whatever represents your version of spring.
Link Indication Plugin allows you to add a CSS class style to your links to create various tiny icons indicating if the link will leave the site, the type of file, and other link information, helping the reader know what they are clicking before they click.
Identify External Links WordPress Plugin is another CSS link styler that helps you add styles, looks, and graphics to your blog links.
What WordPress Plugins Do You Use to Style Your Blog?
What WordPress Plugins do you use to add some style to your WordPress blog? To change the look, order, format, or style of things? There are a lot of Plugins out there, and I’ve just covered a very few.
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