There are several kinds of WordPress plug-ins. Some you install on your blog, find out it doesn’t do exactly what you wanted it to do, so you uninstall it. Others just don’t work at all, so you uninstall them too. Others (like Akismet) do their job quietly in the background, so you don’t think about them much. But then there are the plug-ins that you actually use interactively on a regular basis that make your job easier. They make you happy. Smart Youtube is one such plug-in.
You might think to yourself, “why do I need a plug-in to put YouTube vidoes on my website? All you have to do is paste the embed code into the WordPress editor!” And you know what? You’d be right. But Smart Youtube has some features that pasting an embed code can’t match.
For starters, to use it, you simply paste the YouTube URL into the editor window, then add a v to the end of the protocol type (httpv://). This turns the URL into a WordPress short code. And unlike pasting an embed code, you can easily change the alignment of the video simply by using the “left”, “center” or “right” text buttons, something you can’t do with embed codes.
Smart Youtube also supports a variety of defaults that make sharing video easier. You can set the default player size for your blog, so that any time you paste a YouTube URL into the editor window the embedded video will be 320×465 instead of the default 425×344 or what have you. You can also choose a default color scheme and remove various annoyances like the “related videos” links, the search box and embedded comments as well. Again, this is all something you can do with simple embedding, but it’s nice to have a default setting for your blog so you don’t have to futz with the options on YouTube’s page every time.
And lastly (and most importantly), Smart Youtube allows you to embed videos in your RSS feeds. With normal embedding, a blank space appears where your video should be, which sometimes causes confusion for your RSS readers (or, say, your Facebook friends if you pull your WordPress site into Facebook via RSS). Smart Youtube will embed the video in your feed, allowing RSS readers to see the content you posted. Because not every RSS reader supports the feature, Smart Youtube also supports putting a linked screencap in the feed instead (sadly, IIRC the link goes to the YouTube video and not your post, but I guess you can’t have everything!).
Smart Youtube has some other nifty features that I haven’t used yet, like supporting “deep linking” (linking not just to a video, but to a specific time in the video), embedding videos into sidebar widgets, and short codes for other types of YouTube videos (httpvh:// for high-quality videos, httpvhd:// for 720p videos, and httpvp:// for playlists).
Smart Youtube is free and is available here.