Pamela Wilson posted a must-read article over at Copyblogger.com yesterday titled 12 Must-Do Tasks for the New WordPress Site Owner.
Wilson provided exactly what her headline promised.
I could probably expand each of her 12 must-do tasks into their own posts — and perhaps over time I will — but there was one in particular that jumped out at me.
I was intrigued by Wilson’s #7, “Supercharge your site with one single plugin.” She is referring to the official WordPress Jetpack plugin.
So I initially read Wilson’s endorsement of JetPack with skepticism. Is it really worth installing? Is it really the “Mother of All Plugins” and a worthwhile “Swiss Army Knife” as Wilson describes it?
Upon further review, I’ve decided that yes, it is. And it plays very nicely with the Synthesis stack.
In this post, I’ll run down the features of Jetpack and provide a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of it.
1. Easy to Install, Setup, and Learn
We all use WordPress for different reasons. I use it because I love to write. So I like to minimize the time in between writing posts when I have to manage back-end aspects of my blogs.
Jetpack could not be easier to install and set up, considering how many different benefits it provides.
To install it, just go to Plugins –> Add New and then type “jetpack” into the search box. It’ll be the first result. Hit “Install Now” and you’re ready to go (unless you need to create a WordPress.com account, which is necessary so you can link it with your blog and Jetpack).
Once you’ve got the plugin activated, it will create its own dashboard nav bar menu section right at the top. Click into it and you’ll be taken to a page that looks like this:
This page lays out each of the Jetpack functions in easy-to-navigate widget style.
Frankly, I was a bit worried that it would take a while to dig into Jetpack and learn about each of its functions. But with this overview page, you can easily click the “Learn More” links and do just that.
The info is even provided in pop-under expansions, so you don’t have to open new tabs or leave the page. Simple and convenient!
2. Site Stats a Plus for Multi-Author Blogs
One issue I’ve had with Midwest Sports Fans — which has 15-20 active authors at any given time — is providing quick access to pageview stats to writers, as well as stats that are accurate.
I used to use WordPress.com stats on MSF and many other blogs, but it stopped working at one point. After fiddling with it unsuccessfully, I gave up and moved in other directions. Ultimately, I never did find another solution that was as simple as I wanted.
With Jetpack, I had Site Stats back doing its thing quickly and easily.
The main overview page for Site Stats provides a wealth of information at a glance. I just installed Jetpack on another of my sites a few minutes before starting this post, and it’s already generating useful data:
In addition, with the Jetpack Post Statistics Link companion plugin installed, you get link next to each post in the dashboard that sends you to the stats for that individual post.
This is going to be greatly appreciated by all of the writers for MSF, many of whom had trouble navigating Google Analytics easily to figure out the stats for their articles. Now it will all be there at the click of a button without having to leave the dashboard.
3. Comments and Subscriptions Made Easy
WordPress users often find themselves needing plugins to enhance comments and make it easy for people to subscribe to posts or the entire blog. Jetpack takes care of it all.
By enabling the JetPack commenting and subscription features, commenters to your site end up seeing this:
Previously, this would have taken 2-3 plugins minimum to achieve. Jetpack does it all in one.
Even better, Jetpack makes configuring these options easy. You have to go to a couple different dashboard pages to do so, but hitting the “Configure” button on the main Jetpack page takes you right there.
4. Sharing Made Simple
Setting up social sharing buttons on a WordPress site isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It requires either a plugin, hard-coding them in yourself, or a theme that does it for you.
Jetpack allows you to incorporate social sharing buttons about as easily as any plugin or theme I’ve seen. You just drag and drop from a list of the most relevant social sites out there:
You can see a preview, and other options for customization are provided. You can use the Facebook Share button rather than the Like button, for example, or you can have the social site’s name spelled out next to the icon if you want.
5. Spelling and Grammar Help!
This is a huge benefit, and it isn’t one I expected to encounter.
Powered by After the Deadline, the Jetpack plugin gives your WordPress install the power to help you avoid embarrassing grammar and spelling mistakes.
Once you’ve written a post, just hit this button to get a full review of your post:
And you can toggle on or off all of these different options for what the spell/grammar check system will focus on:
That’s a pretty robust feature, and everyone can use an extra layer of proofreading support before hitting Publish.
6. Shortcode Convenience
In last week’s post on built-in WordPress options that everyone needs to know and use, I incorrectly stated that YouTube shortcodes could be used to alter the width, height, and other features of embedded YouTube videos.
Unless the self-hosted blogs have Jetpack power …
Jetpack brings the shortcode convenience of WordPress.com blogs to self-hosted blogs. Look at all of the different sites and services for which there is shortcode support:
That screenshot is taken from the Jetpack page, and the links take you to pages at WordPress.com that show you the different shortcode options for each service.
Many people are not terribly comfortable in the HTML editor. Shortcodes allow even these folks to embed and customize the look and feel of external media.
Add the Power of Jetpack to Your WordPress Blog
There are many other features in addition to the six above that I enjoy.
Support for WP.me shortlinks is nice; the “Beautiful Math” feature is great for blogs that need to neatly display numbers and functions; and the ease with which a contact form can be set up and installed is quite useful.
What makes Jetpack such a powerful and essential plugin is that there are multiple features that every WordPress user can take advantage of. Think about how many plugins or file customizations it would take to perform all of the functions of Jetpack.
You should also consider Mark Jaquith’s Jetpack companion plugin called Manual Control for Jetpack (search for it from your plugins dashboard). This will ensure that new Jetpack features are not automatically enabled.