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The best and most reliable WordPress plugins

Jetpack

Plugin Author: Automattic

Jetpack is largely heralded in the WordPress community as one of the most popular plugins in the repository. And for good reason. I like to call it the swiss army knife of plugins. There are a couple of dozen features included with Jetpack ranging from better comments to a JSON API. For some it can be a bit lofty, but for others it’s the perfect thing.

What’s It Do?

Jetpack has a full feature list. Really, it’s a combination of plugins and widgets mixed in with an occasional paid service like VaultPress.  It has tools for developers and users, some that are automatic and some that require customization.

Jetpack Full Feature List

Jetpack Full Feature List

Jetpack comments, for instance, allow users to sign in via any social media network, and enables the ability for users to subscribe to individual comment streams. Carousels let you set up a lightbox carousel gallery. Omnisearch can be pretty useful, it enables categorical search within a single search box. There are also several social media and SEO features to enable you to add more sharing functionality to your website.

There are a couple of useful developer tools as well. One of the most useful that i have found is the JSON API. Anyone that has tried to feed JSON data into WordPress understands how difficult that can be. Jetpack gives you an API for handling JSON calls. It uses the WordPress REST API so be sure to explore that further. And then there’s the mobile theme, which uses too much UA sniffing for my liking, but it may be something like what you need.

You can also connect the Photon CDN and VaultPress backup service to your self-hosted site using Jetpack. WordPress.com stats also become available to you, which are fairly efficient at what they do. And, of course, there are about a dozen more that I haven’t even touched on. Visit the Jetpack website for way more information.

How’s It Work?

When you activate the plugin, you’ll have a brand new menu option in your admin panel called Jetpack. When you click into this menu for the first time you will be prompted to connect your WordPress.com account. If you don’t have one, you can create one. Don’t worry you won’t actually need to use it all that much, it’s just for login authorization.

Connect Jetpack to WordPress.com

Connect Jetpack to WordPress.com

Once you’ve done this you will see two new options added to Jetpack as well as new options added to the main menu. The two new panels are Omnisearch and Site Stats. Omnisearch allows you to search through your entire site for something. It will show a list of posts, pages, plugins, comments, feedback and anything else on your site. Very useful when you are trying to take an inventory of something on your site. The Stats panel will integrate with WordPress.com stats to run day to day statistics on your site. This may take a day or two to fully be recognized, but should integrate without any effort on your part.

Omnisearch functionality

Omnisearch functionality

In the main Jetpack menu, you will now see several new options under each service, plugin or widget. Some will say “Activate,” others will have a “Configure” button, and some will just say “Learn more.”

Those that have an “Activate” button, such as Carousels and Likes, are turned off by default and should be left off unless you need them for performance reasons. By clicking Activate, you will enable them on your site, and you will be able to configure them in settings. To Deactivate any of these, click on the learn more button, then click the Deactivate button which is revealed directly above it.

Once a “Configure” button is displayed, that particular feature is integrated into your site. The settings for the various features in Jetpack are also integrated into your admin panel, and will be located in different places depending on their functionality. Carousel settings, for instance, will be in your Media panel, while Publicize settings live in a brand new Sharing Settings tab in your General Settings panel. To change the settings for each feature, click on the Configure button, and you will be taken to the proper settings page.

Publicize feature settings

Each feature has it’s own steps, so follow the onscreen steps for each option. Some may not require any set-up from you at all. The Contact Form feature, for instance, will be automatically set-up on your site. Just click the Contact Form button in your WYSIWYG editor on any post to use. That’s what the “Learn More” button for each feature is for. It will explain how the feature works, and where you can enable/disable it and change it’s settings.

"Add Contact Form" button

“Add Contact Form” button

There is lots and lots to explore, more then I can cover here, but check out the resources below to find out more info, or simply dive in to get started.

Also, take note of the Jetpack Debugger, the very last option on your list. If you run into any problems with Jetpack, activate and run this to try and diagnose what the problem may be.

UPDATE: To it’s list of services, Jetpack has also added VideoPress, Facebook Embeds, and further Google Integration for comments and posts.

Costs, Caveats, Etc.

Because it is run by Automattic, Jetpack is one of the most well maintained and well documented plugins around. However, it also comes with it’s own proprietary inner workings that can be cumbersome to some. For instance, you have to connect via WordPress.com and in no other way. Also, most features are turned on by default and cannot be turned off. Mark Jaquith’s Manual Control for Jetpack plugin should help with this if you find that problematic. But if you think you would enjoy the majority of Jetpack’s features there’s no real reason not to use it.

Jetpack is completely free, along with services like Photon, a content CDN, which is free for Jetpack powered sites. The only service that comes with a premium is VaultPress, a security and backup system. You can simply not use these, but if you’d like to set them up you can do that through WordPress.com.

One problem I’ve heard of, which Joost De Valk describes in detail is that OpenGraph functionality is enabled by default and may conflict with other SEO plugins. I believe they’ve worked out a way of improving this, but it’s something to keep your eye open.

Also, Jetpack tends to use a lot of PHP memory, so you may have to edit your php.ini file to accomodate this, especially in use with other plugins.

Let me know if you’ve noticed any edge cases for Jetpack in the comments for sure.

Resources

Download Jetpack Now!

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  • Richard Archambault

    Hi! Just wanted to let you you know that Photon is totally free! 🙂 I’m a Happiness Engineer at Automattic and I provide Jetpack support. If you have any questions about it, please let me know!

    • Jay Hoffmann

      Thanks Richard!

      I changed the info on the page, and I’ll definitely be in touch if I have any questions. Keep up the great work with Jetpack.

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  • http://vanessablaylock.com/ Vanessa Blaylock

    I’m a big Jetpack fan. Sadly I’ve just installed Plugin Performance Profiler and it’s telling me that Jetpack alone is adding nearly 600ms to my page load times – ouch! I tried turning off as many Jetpack modules as I could and it unfortunately didn’t change the results.

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