My initial motivation for starting OpenSourceHack was to try out all sorts of open source and commercial website scripts and report back my findings. I’m still constantly on the prowl for all those hidden gems that work perfectly for my needs, but I’ve realized that once I come up with a new idea, I’m leaning on WordPress more and more. You can call it familiarity, complacency, or even boring…but the longer I play with WordPress, the more familiar I become with all the possibilities those themes and plugins allow.

Plugins are a non-programmers dream, and I definitely go overboard with them. I know I shouldn’t depend on so many, but it’s hard not to keep adding new

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functionalities with a few clicks on the mouse, which is something I could have never done before without shelling out gobs of money to a coder. So after launching dozens of WordPress sites, I’ve realized I can throw them up super quick now. In most cases I know exactly what I want and what I need to achieve a desired outcome.

In other words, I’ve developed a go to list of themes and plugins that I find I use over and over. Here’s my grab bag of favorites I reach into whenever I’m putting together a new site. I won’t go into much detail here. I don’t want to ruin the surprise of reading everything they can do on your own. 😉

Themes

DIYThemes

I use Thesis for about 90% of all my WordPress sites. Why do I use it? Believe it or not, it’s mostly because of the support forum. I would pay that price alone for the awesome help they provide. Don’t get me wrong, the theme is pretty sweet too, but without that forum help I’d still have a pretty vanilla install.

Templatic

I’ve used a Templatic theme at least a couple times (GeoPlaces, eProduct). Beautiful looking themes out of the box or with very little customization needed. I love a site where you can actually get ideas for sites based on a theme gallery.

WooThemes

I’ve also used WooThemes a couple of times. (Gazette Edition, RockStar). They were actually my first foray into the world of premium themes.

Plugins

 Premium

Gravity Forms – What more can I say other than it gives me the ability to allow users to post from the front end, with images, and create a template so I can design how the post will look.

BackupBuddy – Although my initial purchase of this plugin was to use it for one personal site I host from home on a Synology NAS (which doesn’t work as of right now), I have used it on every site I have built. I bought the unlimited sites license because the difference between two sites and unlimited sites wasn’t that much. Add in a coupon code I found from a quick search before I purchased and it turned out to only be about $35 more to go from two sites to unlimited.

Reviewazon – I am an Amazon affiliate and I like to monetize my sites right way, even if they are only placeholders before any considerable traffic arrives. I do this because I like the consistency and I don’t want to start re-arranging the layout to work in ads a year down the road. Reviewazon lets me create posts from Amazon that pulls in the images, data, and reviews from Amazon products. Drop feed your site with new product posts every day, or just pull in a whole bunch of products at once. I’ve used this on a half dozen of my sites so far.

Free

Contact Form 7 – This was always my stand by because it was so simple. All you had to do was create a new page, paste code, and bam…you have a contact form. Although, the more I become familiar with Gravity Forms, the less I use this plugin.

Custom Post Limits – Ever want to control the number of posts that appear for certain categories or specific author? I have quite often and this plugin works like I charm.

Broken Link Checker – Self explanatory broken link checker that even emails you when a broken link is detected.

Page Links To – A great little plugin that allows you to redirect pages.

Simple Pagination – This plugin will add a configurable number of numbered page links at the bottom of category pages. Much better than the simple Previous/Next Links that don’t leave much room for exploration.

Table of Contents Creator (http://markbeljaars.com/plugins/tocc-plugin/) – I use this plugin on three sites including this one. I’ve yet to find another plugin that allows you to display what you want, how you want, with the ability to include or exclude just about anything. Sadly, at the time of this writing, it’s been nearly two years since it was updated. Still works for now though.

Update – 9/17/2012: I’m not sure what’s going on with this TOCC plugin, or the site in general, but it’s unfortunately been down for a couple of days now. I’ll remove the hyperlink but still include the url where this plugin once lived (in case it comes back to life).

WP FancyZoom – This plugin will create a nice pop up effect for any image link. I never liked the default image in post style where it would link to the image on it’s own page. Now you can include a text or thumbnail link and when clicked, a nice lightbox type display pops up to see the nicely framed full size image.

WP Symposium – A really cool plugin that turns WordPress into its own social network.

Ad Squares Widget – I used to be a big user of WP125, but lately I’m kind of digging this plugin instead. It takes my Amazon IFrame 125×125 ads no problem.

NextGen Gallery – There are plenty of gallery plugins out there, but NextGen is definitely my choice when I need to display images. I use this on a rather large photo gallery site (450+ galleries and over 15,000 photos so far) as well as on a smaller biographical site with a one page picture gallery.

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