Shiny New Toys: Bringing it Back!

I'm excited to re-launch my popular Shiny New Toys Series on my personal blog.

Check out the whole “Shiny New Toys” series here.

Welcome to 2016! And welcome to a new article series we’re kicking off here. “Shiny New Toys” is a weekly report of the latest, newest, and free-est WordPress plugins you’ll find on the WordPress.org Plugin Directory.

Around our office we do a lot of browsing when it comes to WordPress and specifically WordPress plugins. We also interact with a lot of other professional WordPress developers and thought we could benefit the community by focusing one piece a week just to showcase new plugins. You never know when the next plugin that shows up on the Plugin Directory might be the next Yoast SEO or WooCommerce or “The Events Calendar”.

And just for background information, here’s the whole recipe for what you can expect from these posts each week:

  • One of our team will go to this page on Monday: https://wordpress.org/plugins/browse/new/
  • We’ll grab the most interesting plugins from that page
  • We’ll throw them into a local install (using DesktopServer most likely)
  • We’ll tell you what we like or don’t like about each plugin. We’ll also share what we know about the plugin author or anything else that we find relevant or interesting about it.

So without further ado, here’s our first round of “Shiny New Toys”.

Super Thorough Admin Color Scheme (STACS) solves one issue that is really fun. It allows you to customize the color scheme of your WordPress Admin area completely. You see, since the advent of MP6 (the code-name for the heavily revamped Admin Dashboard) WordPress supports customizing your admin color scheme with SASS. Very soon after MP6 was integrated into core a couple solid options for customizing the Admin via a settings panel were released. The draw back they each had was that they didn’t allow you to distinguish colors very specifically and they didn’t even touch certain elements of the Admin area at all really.

STACS addresses this by basically not being a series of settings but more of a color scheme boilerplate for developers. For example, if you wanted all your clients to have an Admin that reflected the colors of your Agency’s brand, you might fork this plugin to easily create your own scheme for the sites you build. This method obviously isn’t end-user-friendly, but the result is that developers get an easy way to have much finer control of the colors in the Admin.

Out of the box, STACS adds a new color scheme to your profile called “Super Thorough”. And… it’s pink. It’s actually really nice regardless of your affinity for pink or not.

The author is well-known in the WordPress space in the U.S. Michelle Schulp is the owner of Mark Time Marketing. She’s a frequent WordCamp speaker and is always easily recognizable by her bright pink hair. She was the designer of the infamous GoDaddy challenge coins at WordCamp US, and is an avid fan an customizer of Wapuu.

Bottom line for STACS is that it’s a useful tool for developers by a well-known and respected WordPress developer. I wouldn’t expect massive downloads but I can see it being used often behind the scenes of WordPress development shops.

The REST API is the latest greatest thing about WordPress. It allows you to interact with various parts of your WordPress site easily and dynamically. When the main things you want to interact with are things like the post title, post content, or user data then the REST API is all you need.

But what if the data you really need is inside custom post meta that you created with the popular Advanced Custom Fields plugin? With the standard REST API you’re out of luck. Enter the “ACF to REST API” plugin. It does exactly what it says, it adds all your ACF data as custom endpoints in the REST API.

This is actually the second iteration of this plugin. That’s because there has also been two versions of the REST API (and now that it’s in Core, it’s kind of three versions). The previous version has over 200 active installs and 3 5-star reviews. This version that was released within this past week is for version 2.0 of the REST API plugin.

The author is Aires Gonçalves from Brazil. He has three plugin on the WordPress Plugin Directory and all are related to Advanced Custom Fields.

Final say is that if you need your ACF fields available through the REST API this will get it done for you. That’s not a huge crowd of folks, but the REST API in general is getting much more attention and should start to be used much more often. So while the previous version only has 200 active installs, I’d expect this one to get up to 500 in a relatively shorter amount of time.

Discussion Board” stood out to me as having a lot of potential. The Discussion Board “space” within WordPress is dominated primarily by bbPress, p2 and more powerful third-party solutions like Discourse. Which to me means there’s lots of room for a new-comer like Discussion Board to make a splash and do something significant.

The author(s) behind Discussion Board are called “Catapult Themes”. They only just created their profile on wordpress.org in November, and their website — while it promotes “WordPress Plugins and Themes” — currently only has one post about Discussion Board.

Overall, the plugin is relatively simple. It’s a Custom Post Type with an archive page and each “Topic” can be commented on. Of course what makes it a “Discussion Board” is the ability to have users submit their topics from the front-end, so most of the interesting features have to do with how users access the topic content or login to your site.

If Catapult Themes is going to make a splash with this, I’m assuming it will be much later. Currently, it’s a very simple plugin that just has the basics, and does a fine job at that. But there is A LOT of room here for premium Addons, more robust features, and really creating a product that could go the distance in the right hands.

Our last plugin is really a small niche but very useful for the right type of website. Basically, the European Union created a law that requires websites to inform their users of what type of information the website tracks via cookies. According to the Cookie Law website:

It was designed to protect online privacy, by making consumers aware of how information about them is collected and used online, and give them a choice to allow it or not.

The Hayona Cookies plugin gives you all the settings you need to automatically generate a simple dismissable pop-over on your website to inform your users of the cookies on your website. Features include disabling cookies until the user accepts your terms, or listing the permission-necessary or permissions-unnecessary cookies in a simple popup.

When I tested it, it had some issues with internationalization, so my front-end notice was in Swedish (I think… maybe Finish…!?).

Overall, when it comes to professionalism and having your site get as much reach as possible, details like this go a long ways. This could be a simple but important tool for any website owner in the EU.

See You Next Monday!

Would love to hear your thoughts on this new series. Is this something you’d really look forward to? Is this the kind of inside information that you benefit from? Thanks!

Also in this Series:

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