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Must have WordPress plugins for every project

Must have WordPress plugins, in no particular order:

Advanced Custom Fields


Custom fields. Made easy.

This go to plugin allows us to setup an unprecedented amount of control and configuration of meta fields, options pages, content controls and pretty much anything we need to make each project specifically dialed in for our client’s requirements. It helps us turn WordPress into the Full fledged CMS it can be.


Recommended add-ons:

It’s also worth mentioning that a new version (5.0) is in beta and to be released soon was serious performance increases and some new features and functionalities. The “Pro” version will be coming with all the add ons bundled under one roof for the ultimate in ACF offerings.

Gravity Forms


Form creation, management has never been easier than with the aid of Gravity Forms. This a paid plugin but worth EVERY penny. You can actually import/export forms. We have a bunch of forms that are ready to imported depending on the project requirements. So on a moment’s notice and a couple of clicks we can import:

  1. A generic contact form
  2. A careers application form
  3. A survey template

There are tons of add ons and the community support is really deep for this plugin. The ability to have conditional fields show based on previous selections on the form and to even have conditional notifications/confirmations show based on certain field entries make Gravity our go to plugin for ALL form managment.


WP Migrate DB Pro

I use this plugin on a daily basis. This is by far the easiest and efficient way I’ve found for moving my WordPress database from one place to another. Whether its if you’re migrating to a new host or from your local development server to a remote server… All of this is achieved by a simple intuitive user interface. Gone are the days of exporting from phpMyAdmin and doing a search and replace :)


Black Studio Tinymce Widget


This one is pretty straight forward. This adds a new widget type which acts much like the native “text” widget BUT with one big difference… a WYSIWYG editor!
I’m still very surprised that this isn’t in WordPress core. How many times have you setup a widget for a contact page for a client where maybe they have their address, hours of operation etc.. You can’t expect them to work around <br> tags and add <strong> tags to bold things… This simple widget will allow you to use the already familiar Tinymce editor as a widget :)


Codepress Admin Columns

The free version still does lots. According the plugin repository description:

Manage and organize columns in the posts, users, comments and media lists in the WordPress admin panel. Transform the WordPress admin screens into beautiful, clear overviews.

The free version of Admin Columns does not support sorting, filtering and inline editing and has no priority support. Admin Columns Pro offers these features, direct e-mail support and several add-ons.




“SEO” means many things to many different people and the debate on differences are not soon to be agreed upon. That being said, there are some essential best practices one should do to ensure their content and website are as digestible and SEO optimized as possible with easy to use tools such as Yoast.

According to their website:

WordPress SEO is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.

There’s a full feature list for the base plugin below. If you want, you can also read more about the preium add-on modules for this plugin:

  • The Video SEO module for sites wanting to optimize their videos for the search results.
  • The Local SEO module for sites that compete in Google Maps.
  • The SEO Video Manual plugin that contains training videos for editors and instruction videos for the Admin section.




This free alternative to the native WordPress commenting system is super easy to setup, responsive and allows your users to login via their Facebook, Twitter or Google accounts. The ability to subscribe to a comment thread is another feature we’ve grown fond of.


Simple Page Ordering


This is another one of those small plugins that you wonder why the functionality isn’t already baked into WordPress. On hierarchal post types (pages for example) you have the ability to change the order via the page attributes. The problem with the way WordPress wants you to change the order is by entering a numerical value in the order page attribute field. This can be very time consuming and a pain to keep track of. The plugin adds drag and drop functionality to your pages/posts on the listings page of your admin. If you’re ordering things by “menu_order” in your templates, you’ll now have a super intuitive way to organize your pages/post independent of publish date.


Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order


Just like the Simple Page Order plugin, the Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order plugin allows you to drag and drop and change the sort order of any of your custom taxonomy terms and categories.


Custom Post Type Maker


This plugin is a very lightweight easy to mange solution for creating custom post types and taxonomies for your custom post types. The other advantage we found for using this plugin is that it keeps the logic separate from the theme itself. In the event we ever need to migrate to another theme (which is rare for us.. but… still…) it was nice knowing the custom post type declarations weren’t theme dependant.


Regenerate Thumbnails


Here is the scenario: You’ve declared some image sizes in your functions.php, you’d uploaded some media along the way BUT you decide you’d like to declare a new image size… The problem here is that WordPress creates your various image variations on upload and doesn’t have the capacity to create new thumbnails based on your new image size declaration.

The solution: Regenerate Thumbnails :) Not much in ways of setup or settings, just run the “Regenerate Thumbnails” action under /tools and sit back and let it work its magic.




Developer is a collection of some of the more popular debugging tools all under one easy to manage roof.


Did we miss any must have plugins?

Make sure to leave your must have plugin suggestions in the comments.

  • daronspence

    Curious why you guys went with Custom Post Type Maker over CPT UI. Do they offer some more in depth features?

    • kevindoherty40

      Actually, the opposite :) We found it was super light weight and offered a light thumbprint on things. I’ve actually never use CPT UI but from the plugin page it certainly seems very lightweight and to the point as well. I’ll be sure to check it out :)

      Any other must have’s you could recommend that you use on your projects? would love to hear them.

      thanks for the comment!

      • daronspence

        I like User Role Editor https://www.role-editor.com/ (the paid version) for handling permissions. Especially useful for large organizations that may have 10+ people editing specific portions of the site. I can remove stuff that they shouldn’t see and limit what pages they can edit down to as many or few as I want. Built in Gravity Forms support is nice too. The only part about this plugin that is clunky is setting permissions for custom post types, but Map Cap http://wordpress.org/plugins/map-cap/ takes care of that pretty easily if I don’t feel like messing with a ton of code.

        Advanced custom fields and Gravity forms are the real breadwinners though! One of my new toys I’m playing with is a plugin called timber http://upstatement.com/timber/ that abstracts wordpress templates into separate views and controllers. It has worked fantastically so far! Jared Novack has a bunch on YouTube videos outlining how to use it as well as some talks on WordPress.tv that are pretty insightful to how he uses it. Follow me everywhere @daronspence if you want to chat some more.

        • kevindoherty40

          Oh wow, thanks for the share Daron, timber looks very cool :) I’ll send a follow for sure. Appreciate the plugin shares, cheers!

  • goester

    thanks for the list, i didn’t know about admin columns before your post. After I used the free version for a while i upgraded to the pro version. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to build a wordpress site.