The vast majority of WordPress users install plugins in order to improve their site in some way; whether it be to add new functionality, speed up the loading time of their website or change their design in some way. Everyone has their own favourite WordPress plugins that they tend to use on all of their WordPress powered websites. I’m no different :)
A few months ago I spoke about ‘Why I Don’t Like To Style My Content Using Theme Short Codes‘ as any content that is styled using a short code that is built into a theme will not display properly when you change to another design. One solution to this is to transfer the short code functionality to the functions.php file of your new theme.
There are many plugins that tie yourself to them once you start using. In particular, plugins that help you format your content in some way. One good example of this is syntax highlighting plugins.
Syntax highlighting plugins are used to style code in posts and pages. On WordPress Mods I use WP-Syntax. Whilst it does work well, I’d love to try another syntax plugin out such as Syntax Highlighter Evolved.
Unfortunately, changing the syntax plugin you use isn’t so easy due to these plugins using different short codes to wrap code. With WP-Syntax you need to use wrap code inside pre tags e.g. <pre lang=”PHP” line=”1″>. Syntax Highlighter Evolved uses simply language short codes instead e.g. or . One way to fix this would be to use a ‘Find & Replace‘ plugin to replace any instances of <pre lang=”PHP” line=”1″> with though I’d have to make sure I did a replacement for every language I’ve ever displayed code for in my posts.
Tying Yourself To A WordPress Plugin
Most plugins can be activated and deactivated on your site with no problems. For example, I frequently use the WP PageNavi plugin on my blogs to display numeric navigation links at the top and bottom of my archives page. If I wanted to stop using the plugin I could find another navigation plugin, hard code a navigation solution or revert back to the standard older/newer navigation links.
Plugins that require you to use short codes in order to display content could be a real pain in the future if you want to stop using it. This includes syntax highlighters, video plugins that help you insert videos into posts using short codes and plugins that add a data box underneath your post editor.
So the question is: Should you still use plugins that require you to add codes to your content?
In my opinion, if you are only going to be using the plugin on a few pages, there’s no real risk of relying on a plugin. For example, on WP Mods I originally created individual archive pages for each category with a template solution but later used the List Category Posts plugin installed as the plugin short code was only being applied to 6 pages (this also saved me from creating 6 new templates every time I changed design).
If, on the other hand, you are going to be using a plugin to add or style content in all of your blog posts, it’s worth looking at whether there is an alternative solution available. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t use a plugin that lets you insert videos or add tables to your posts however you should bear in mind that the special code used to display the videos or tables could be used in potentially hundreds of even thousands of posts and pages. This ties yourself to the plugin somewhat (though as I mentioned previously you could perhaps resolve this issue by using a ‘Find & Replace’ plugin).
Have you ever found yourself tied to a plugin in some way?