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If you are new to the world of web design and WordPress then one of the best analogies I've heard to described what they do is this...

If your website is like your house then a plugin is like an appliance in your house (washer, dryer, fridge, stove, etc) that you plug in to increase the functionality of your home.

So, overall plugins are web designers "GOLD!" The only problem is there are currently over 20,000 plugins to choose from in the WordPress.org plugin directory, covering just about every functionality you could ever dream of adding to your design kit. This can make choosing one that is right for you a daunting task.

That's why I would like to recommend two plugins both of which are keys to my design sanity and both of which give you more flexibility when formatting your text / graphics on pages and posts. 

1.  Ultimate TinyMCE:

This is a plugin that can add over 40 new buttons to your default visual tinymce editor (kitchen sink), giving you the power to:

  • Easily manipulate your fonts, font sizes, colors, styles, and css from a graphical user interface
  • Create tables through a graphical interface (much like Microsoft excel) to display your data
  • Insert YouTube videos by simply copying and pasting the share URL
  • Graphical Image Mapping to make your images more exciting, and MUCH MORE...

All without the need for messing around with HTML and CSS. I have found the free version, that you install from the WordPress Plugins directory, to be sufficient for my needs; however, the developer does have a PRO Version that has quite a few more robust design features.

2.  Black Studio TinyMCE Widget

This plugin is powerful as a stand alone widget plugin BUT when combined with the Ultimate TinyMCE plugin described above it is a powerhouse of WYSIWYG functionality!

This plugin was designed to overcome the limitations of the default WordPress text widget (having NO dynamic editing ability), so that you can: 

  • Add rich text widgets to your sidebar using visual editor
  • Switch between Visual mode and HTML mode
  • Insert images/videos from WordPress Media Library
  • Insert links to existing WordPress pages/posts

So, whatever WYSIWYG (kitchen sink) options you enable in the settings of the Ultimate Tinymce plugin will be available for your sidebar widgets. Again, all with no knowledge of HTML required. How beautiful is that!!!

Remember, just like shopping for a new appliance (maybe a "kitchen sink") for your home it takes a little research to find exactly what you need; therefore, you should always:

  • check out the screenshots
  • read the FAQs
  • read other user's reviews, and of course...
  • take them for a "test drive."

Now however, you also have the added benefit of a first hand recommendation from someone who is using the "appliance" you want to buy so you can feel much more confident in your decision.

Happy designing!!!

Ultimate Tinymce PRO

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