How to Upload Plugins and Change Your Theme

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One of the biggest benefits of WordPress is its ability to be extended with useful plugins and beautiful themes. If you’re just starting out with WordPress, it can be very confusing as to how you actually add new plugins and themes to your blog. This post will teach you how to upload and set up plugins as well as load new themes. Here’s how:

Where to Upload Plugins

Plugins have their own folder on your webserver within the WordPress installation. By default all plugins live in: root/wp-content/plugins. This is where all of your new plugins will go. When you download a WordPress plugin it’s compressed as a Zip file. You need to unzip the file and this will give you the folder where the plugin lives. Next, you simply need to upload that folder into the plugins directory.

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To upload to your FTP server, you will need an FTP program such as CuteFTP or Cyberduck for the Mac. You’ll need to enter your webserver login details to login to the server. Once you done this, you simply navigate your server like you would the folders on your computers. Find the WP-Content folder and then once you’re there find the Plugins folder and open it. All you have to do at this point is upload the plugin directory that you downloaded. Times may very, but it will take a minute or two to upload. This is only a third the step in installing a plugin. Next you’ll need to activate it.

How to Activate Plugins

To activate a plugin you’ll need to login into your WP-Admin interface. Once there, find your way to the plugins tabs. When the page loads you’ll see all your presently activated plugins. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll see a list of your installed but inactive plugins. The plugin that you just uploaded should be on the list. Click activate and the plugin will be turned on. Now, you’ll need to setup the plugin to do it’s job.

Changing Plugin Settings

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Some plugins will work as soon as you activate them, but many of them will need some settings changed before they do their job. For example the Google Analytics plugin needs your GA code in order to do it’s job. Usually, the settings for the plugin you just installed with be under the Settings menu. If you can’t figure out how to change the plugin settings, it never hurts to consult the read.me file. Usually the read.me file will provide you all the information you need to know.

Test, Test, Test

It’s not uncommon for a new plugin to break your site. So, as soon as you get things setup, you need to test your blog. Visit it, browse your posts and make sure that everything works right. If content is not displaying correctly, immediately deactivate the plugin and see if things correct. If they do, then you’ll need to troubleshoot or find a different plugin to do what you were trying to do.

Where to Upload Themes

Uploading themes is very similar to the process of uploading plugins. Themes live in the root/wp-content/themes folder. This is in the same FTP neighborhood as the plugins folder. When you download your theme it will come packaged in a zip file which you’ll need to extract. Then, just like you do with a plugin, upload the theme into your themes folder. Themes will take longer to upload as there will be a lot more files for it to upload.

How to Activate Themes

Once the FTP upload is complete, log into your WP-Admin and go to the Themes section. When the page loads you’ll see all your themes that you can currently choose from and your new one should be there. Click it and it will give you a preview of what your blog will theoretically look like if the theme is activated. Keep in mind that, oftentimes this preview is wrong as a theme may have special settings required for certain things to work.

Special Theme Settings

Things may not look right at first because the theme may have custom settings that need to be changed. Usually a theme will have it’s custom settings under the Theme menus. Custom settings can be anything from ad-codes, categories slug info or sidebar placement. Make sure that everything you expected with your theme is setup.

Test, Test, Test

As with plugins, themes can easily break your website or display it in an all together unexpected way. Once you have activated your theme and changed the necessary settings, it’s time to browse your site and make sure that everything is displaying correctly. This is a process that may take hours as some themes will require tweaking to make sure everything is correct. If your site ends up broken, deactivate the theme and return to what you had set up before.