One of the best features of the Textpattern CMS is its simple and lightweight core; however, as a result you’ll more than likely find yourself needing to install some plugins to get it working as you want. There are many plugins out there, but I want to share a few that in my opinion are essential to any Textpattern build.
Most websites will have a contact page and many will use/require a contact form, for those sites there’s zem_contact_reborn.
zem_contact_reborn provides flexible contact forms using accessible form layouts. As well as fields for name, email address and contact message the plugin will let you create arbitary text fields, drop-downs and more. It even comes with an API for extending the plugin.
Textpattern comes with ten custom fields for use with articles. You can define these in the Advanced Preferences and then use them on the Write panel. However, its implementation is pretty basic. glz_custom_fields builds on this feature providing support for unlimited custom fields.
glz_custom_fields goes beyond letting you create as many fields as you like; it will also let you define the type of custom field, position and default values. For me, this is where the true value of the plugin comes. The plugin adds the ability to create new textareas, drop-downs, date and time pickers, and much more.
This plugin used to be paid-for but its developer Gerhard Lazu has since made it free. It is so good though that I happily paid for it back when it wasn’t free and have found myself using it on every site since.
It has become such a popular plugin that it would seem that some of its functionality is going to be making its way into a future release of Textpattern.
As great as Textile is many users want a WYSIWYG editor to help them write their content. While other CMSs come with some form of editor built-in Textpattern has kept things pretty basic so far. The options for WYSIWYG plugins are pretty non-existent, but thankfully there’s hak_tinymce which has been around since 2005.
hak_tinymce adds the popular TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor to the article panel. With the plugin installed you can still use Textile if you want by selecting ‘Use Textile’ for the article markup under ‘Advanced Options’ on the article Write panel. It also integrates with Textpattern’s images using the custom TXPImage TinyMCE plugin.
Out-of-the-box Textpattern lets you put each article into two categories in addition to a section. This for me has always struck me as somewhat quirky. Assigning one category makes sense and so does an unlimited number of categories, but the choice of two always seemed a little random. Perhaps someone can enlighten me, but still I have always found it a bit useless.
On sites I’ve setup I’ve usually wanted to either restrict categorisation to one category per article, or an unlimited number. The latter being the most common case and that’s what rss_unlimited_categories adds to Textpattern.
Unfortunately the plugin is no longer supported by its original developer, but thankfully other members of the Textpattern community have kept it going. The latest contributions/releases can be found on the plugin’s forum thread. (If anyone knows of a good alternative to this plugin please leave a comment below.)
Despite what its name may imply adi_menu does several things, and that’s why it’s one of my essential plugins. It adds the concept of section hierarchy, section menus and a breadcrumb trail.
Section hierarchy lets you create subsections (a feature currently lacking in Textpattern, but one that I’ve found many seeking). Once installed you can start assigning parents to sections, much like you would with categories.
Another major feature of the plugin is the section menu. You can order, exclude and redirect sections as well as override the section name for its menu item. The plugin then provides a Textpattern tag for displaying the menu and submenus (it’s how I drive the navigation on this site).
adi_menu also provides a tag for outputting a breadcrumb trail based on the menu.
This last one is perhaps a little cheeky as it is one of my own, but it helps with the SEO of a site which in my opinion is pretty essential. arc_meta will allow you to tweak the format of the meta title, include meta descriptions and robots, and add meta data for social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
arc_meta doesn’t just work for articles, but also sections and categories.
If you want to get your content found on search engines or more noticed on social networks then you should definitely check it out.
What Are Your Essential Plugins?
Those are my six essential plugins for Textpattern, the ones I’ve used time-and-time again, but what are yours? What plugins do you install each time you start work on a new site? Leave a comment below and share your favourites.