COOL WP PLUG-IN: Sidebar Page Sections

WordPress comes with several interesting and helpful widgets built-in. A WordPress site owner can log in to the admin panel of his or her site and click on Presentation > Widgets and add, remove or reorder several available widgets. If you don’t want the “Categories” widget on your blog’s main page, simply drag it from the sidebar mockup to the “Available Widgets” bank at the bottom of the screen, and it will no longer appear in the sidebar. If you’d prefer to have the “Recent Comments” widget appear above the “Recent Posts” widget, simply drag the Comments post above the Posts widget, and they’ll be reordered the next time you load your home page.

Perhaps the handiest widgets are “text widgets”, which, despite their name, can contain HTML code. You see the pic of Arthur Guinness at the top of the sidebar? That was created with HTML code typed into a text widget. The WIMZI widget? HTML code that was copied from AOL’s site and pasted directly into another text widget. The “I’m listening to:” and “I’m reading:” widgets? Both are single lines of HTML code pasted into text widgets.

There are two problems with text widgets, however. The first is that WordPress doesn’t give you any way to give each widget a meaningful name, so you’re stuck with widget names like “Text 1”, “Text 2” and so on. Is the WIMZI widget “Text 5” or “Text 6”? The only way to know is to actually open the widget and look at the code inside. The other problem is that WordPress, by default, only allows you to have a maximum of 9 text widgets. This may seem like a lot, but once you start playing around with things, you just might find yourself bumping up against the maximum number.

The Sidebar Page Sections plug-in fixes both of these problems, albeit in a clumsy way. You install the plug-in the same way you install any plug-in. Then you click on Presentation > Sidebar Page Sections. You’ll see three text boxes on the page that opens: the first is marked “Title Tag”, the second is “Page Sections” and the last – the one we’re interested in – is called “Named Text Blocks”. Just type in the names you’d like to give each widget (one per line, please) and click “Save Options” when done. Then click the Widgets link, and you’ll see a bunch of new widgets in your “Available Widgets” bank. Unfortunately, there’s no way to automagically copy the text from the widget “Text 5” to your new “WIMZI” widget, so you’ll need to drag the “WIMZI” widget to the sidebar, open “Text 5”, copy the text therein, paste it into “WIMZI”, then drag “Text 5” back to the bank. Oh, and you’ll also need to repeat this for all your other widgets. Like I said, it’s not pretty, but it beats constantly opening “Text 4” to see which widget it is. Oh, and you can have as many “Named Text Blocks” as you’d like with this plug-in; the 9 widget limit does not apply.

The plug-in also has a nifty feature that allows you to gather WordPress pages into “groups” that only appear when certain conditions are met. For example, let’s say you have a “Cars” page on your blog where you talk about how much you love cars. You also have several “sub pages” for each make you like, such as “Chevy”, “Nissan” and “Toyota”. If you don’t want the “make pages” showing up in your main pages list, you can create a “sub group” and tell it to only appear on the “Cars” page. That way, your front page remains clean and the make pages only show up where appropriate. Note that I haven’t tested this functionality at all.

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