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What’s a shiny new plugin without a sense of whimsy? Whether its AI or just a fly on your page, you’ll want to see these shiny new plugins.

Thanks everyone for expressing your interest in this series. I’m glad this content resonates with so many folks. It says something about our WordPress community that I think is important: we love creative, innovative, fun, new solutions and we’re never going to run out of new ideas. I love that about us. So let’s keep it up!

Updates Since the Last Shiny New Plugins

One thing I love about this series is it gives me an excuse to watch individual plugins grow and mature from a distance. Last update I highlighted a few plugins that I thought had a lot of promise. Here’s a couple highlights of development from some of those to date:

  • Most Active Install Growth AwardCrew HRM! They’ve already gone from 0 to 30+ active installs in a short amount of time and have four 5-star reviews. Well done!
  • Biggest “splash” award – folks who read my article all seemed most impressed with PersonalizeWP. I’m excited to see them grow too, but so far adoption of the free plugin looks slow.
  • Best use of their README – Again PersonalizeWP because they’re now leveraging both the “Commercial” tag and the new Live Demo Playground. If you want to see PersonalizeWP in action their Playground is setup really well.
  • Ignore the Haters Award – I’ve gotta send some love to AutoWP for building something free and useful, putting it out there, and then seeing a random troll create a .org profile only to give them a vague and unhelpful 1-star review. Ignore the Haters AutoWP team!

To everyone else out there, don’t be this guy:

The latest Free WordPress Plugins for February 2024

This installment has some whimsy to it, but also was a strong reminder for me about what made plugins “plugins” in the first place. The Plugin Directory was first intended to be a lot more like Github and less like a marketplace – it was where developers shared their snippets of code that solved specific problems and could chat about that in the forums. If I had my ideal situation for WordPress it would be that the Plugin Directory could stay “pure” like that, and we’d additionally have a 1st-class freemium/premium marketplace in the Admin as well.

Nevertheless, here’s some new plugin entries that caught my eye

Curated Query Loop – a free WordPress block for querying any kind of post

What caught my eye on this one is that it’s co-authored by 10up. They tend to make plugins out of the needs they have running their very large WP-specific agency. To me that means something important for WordPress core and how web development for WordPress is evolving.

Query blocks have been an ongoing discussion both by a lot of WordPress core contributors and agencies. The ability to grab a bunch of a post type and display them on a page with pagination is really powerful and important for just about any website. It’s also the type of functionality that I think makes WordPress stand out above all the other CMS competition out there – WP already makes this functionality possible in ways others simply can’t even touch, and if WP doubled-down on this even more the competition could never catch up at all.

My only feedback to the 10up team on this one is that there seems to be great progress here in terms of the query part, but the display part seems like an afterthought (currently). And in terms of what users actually need, display should be primary.

vTables – WordPress plugin to create stunning, interactive tables effortlessly

HTML Tables are such a chore. There’s been some interesting contenders in this space over the years, DataTables of course being one of the most significant over the years.

What struck me about this one was the import feature. Being able to upload a Google Sheet or CSV to magically create your table. Their video on their website really sells that feature well.

The other thing that struck me is that their website is really polished and well done, but their Plugin listing almost made me skip this plugin completely. They need some README love to help with adoption of this plugin.

Not every website needs robust tables, but if you do, this looks like it has a lot of potential.

Tinylytics – a joyful analytics tool for small websites, that’s easy to use

Website analytics is a recent trend that I think is growing and maturing quickly and there’s a lot of room for innovation and growth. The way Google Analytics was attacked for their privacy issues in Europe left a wide-open door for more privacy-focused analytics. Combine that with how they flubbed the migration to GA4 and how its interface and reporting is challenging and counter-intuitive and their far too opaque pricing and you can see how smart product developers are swooping into this vacuum that Universal Analytics dominated for so long.

What I like about Tinylytics is it has a mission and it’s sticking to it. Do you need basic website analytics in a way that’s clean and simple? Here you go.

HTML5 Chat – a WordPress plugin to embed video chat right on your website

With the huge rise of remote work, and how every school parent is now intimately familiar with the pains of Zoom, or Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, I’m really surprised that we are not seeing a louder outcry for native, self-hosted, “own your video data” live video options. Basically, I’m including this one in this round-up because I want to see more of these types of products arise.

I’ll be honest, the plugin itself and the website don’t scream “security and safety” like I’d want in this type of service, but instead there’s a lot of fun and vibrancy about it. I’m interested to see where this goes.

For a plugin that DOES scream safety and trust for a self-hosted live streaming option, check out my episode of “Glam that Plugin” with WPStream

WPNakama – Fast and Simple Project Management Tool – WordPress plugin

This one stood out to me because it’s really unique from a “problem to be solved” perspective. This is focused on giving a project management solution to your web team that lives directly in your WordPress admin. I can see how it can expedite some task management workflows because it’s hooked directly into your website – like the way it can help you collect a bunch of posts in one place quickly is interesting.

I think I’d be far more interested if it would allow me to create the project board in the admin that could then be shipped to the frontend with specific user capabilities in place. Basically, publish your own Trello for your team to interact with.

The Fly – This plugin does nothing but presents a fly on the screen

I told you! Whimsy!!

I had to include this because it reminded me of what I said at the top. Sometimes building a shipping a plugin is just about whimsy. We do it because WE CAN, not because we should.

Other Trends in this week’s Free WordPress Plugins

Keep in mind, I’m not doing huge highlights of these, but I’m listing them because I do find them interesting in one way or another. Of course I continue to see interesting contenders in the following spaces too

AI!!

Lots of AI related entries again. I think it’s important to keep looking at how plugin authors approach two thorny issues with AI-powered products (1) the API implementation and usage, and (2) the UX of working with prompts and generating the results. Perfecting those two things is where the “magic” of AI-powered tools really is.

Payments and eCommerce

This will forever be a category where we see new contenders. One day I hope to see a full-blown eCommerce platform as a Shiny New Plugin. But for now, these are interesting because of all the different approaches to payments themselves and how to enhance your eCommerce experience.

Blocks!

I think there’s a lot of reasons why you should consider the move to WordPress Core blocks as a death-knell for massive Page Builders. But that day is not today. Elementor continues to be a strong option for so, so, so many websites and that’s clear because plugin authors continue to ship interesting shiny new plugins to enhance your Elementor website. BUT! There’s also so many interesting new block-focused plugins too. Here’s a few

Tell me About Your Free Plugins

So that’s a wrap! If you are the author of one of these fine plugins, ping me and let me know your backstory, I’d love to add more detail or cover your plugin exclusively.

Or if you are about to release a new free plugin soon, let me know and I can prep an upcoming article to include you in.

As always, I’m interested in what you learned, how this helped you in your own plugin author journey, and any other comments down below.

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