WordPress Plugin Review: Auto Save Remote Image

Did you know that articles with images get 94% more views?  Images also can improve your SEO (search engine optimization), especially if you use the title attribute.  Finding images is a whole ‘nother issues, but how you can easily grab an image from the internet and include it in your blog post is solved by Auto Save Remote Image.

This plugin doesn’t just link to the photograph on your site, but copies it to your own host, so if it disappears from its original location you are still hosting it on your own. It also sets the image as your featured image automatically

Here is how I use it:

I generally search Flickr for my images, using the advanced search feature and looking only for images that are Creative Commons-licensed and allow me to use the image commercially:

Once I’ve found my image, I right-click to copy the URL of the image:

And then, in my blog post I click on the Upload/Insert link and page in the URL

Once the blog is published, the Autosave Remote Images plugin looks for the first off-site image in your post; it then downloads it, adds it to your media gallery, and automatically sets it as the Featured Image for the post. It will also download any other remote images into your media gallery.

WordPress Plugin: Google Drive for WordPress

How often do you backup your WordPress database?  I’m really bad about my own backup schedules and was excited to find out that I can schedule backups and save them to my Google Drive.  The plugin, Google Drive for WordPress so far seems to do a good job.  My first manual backup occurred, through I haven’t had it installed long enough for my requested automated weekly backup to happen.  I’ll update if I find a problem with that.

Setup was harder than it needed to be due to lack of instructions.  First of all, instead of putting the menu item down under “Settings” or at the bottom of the menu, it is placed up top, right under “Posts”.  That was confusing.

Configuration required a client id and client secret from Google, and a link is provided, but there are several options you can choose from.  After trial and error here is what I did:

  • Copy the URL that is provided on the configuration page

  • From the Google page that the link sends you to, choose either “Create an OAuth Id” or “Create Another Id”.
  • From the popup, choose the first option “Web Application”
  • Where it asks for “Your site or hostname” choose “more options that you copied in step one above.
  • Where it says “Authorized Javascript origins” type in your website URL

 

  •  Click on create client ID.

The popup will close and you will see a box with your information in it.  Just copy and paste the Client ID and Client Secret and then click through the two “allow access” screens.  Whew!

The remaining steps are much more straight forward.  You’ll first set up your backup settings:

You can apparently get a notication email and I’m assuming the “Custom Main ID” will appear in the subject line of the email, but who knows?  Another place where some explanation would be nice.

And then your database settings.  I don’t suggest excluding any database files.

You have the option of excluding certain files from the backup.  I suggest leaving everything as-is on the “Manage Files” menu item.

Finally, the “On time Backup” menu item apparently backs up your files immediately.

I like the idea of this plugin and I like being able to schedule regular backups to my Google Drive account, but the plugin definitely needs some documentation and helpful notes for a smooth installation.  It would be pretty easy just add this to each configuration page.  As it is, I would recommend novice users have their webmaster install this for them.

 

WordPress Plugin: Event Espresso

In my ongoing search for an event plugin for WordPress I was contact by the people at Event Espresso via Twitter and invited to take a look at their product.  These folks have obviously used and thoroughly know the needs of scheduling and managing events.  Unlike many plugins, the navigation is kept to the minimum.  The Event Overview controls all aspects of the event, including:

  •  Event start/end
  • Registration start/end
  • Recurring Events*
  • Attendee Limit
  • Pricing
  • Venue information
  • Email confirmations
  • Questions to ask during the registration phase
  • Discounts/coupon promotions

*Some of these items require additional plugins to work.

From the main overview screen you can see the pertinent details for all of your events.

If you click on the attendees for an event you are taken to a screen listing all of the attendees and their payment status.  You can even keep track of who attended the event!

See those icons to the right?  They make it easy to check the payment record, send an invoice,  edit attendee information (including the cost of their ticket, resend registration details, get a PDF invoice for mailing or print a ticket.

If you use the ticket plugin, the tickets have a QR code and you can use the Event Espresso Android or IPhone app to scan in the attendees when they arrive!  (Check out their post on using Event Espresso to manage Haunted House tickets)

I’ve just looked at a fraction of what this can do and I’m really impressed.  The crew involved has an active Blog and support forum and their website mentions future upgrades and additional features and solicits input – which implies they will be around awhile and the plugin will stay fresh and updated as WordPress evolves.

Pricing

There is a free version of this plugin that includes the following features:

  • out-of-the-box event registration from your WordPress website
  • process payments via PayPal IPN
  • create custom event registration questions
  • automated confirmation and reminder emails
  • manage attendees and export attendee data
  • easily manage attendees profiles

However, for $89.95 you get all of the premium features, plus the calendar and social media add-ons:

Premium Features:

  • manual registration
  • additional payment gateways including Authorize.net, IDEAL, Firstdata and PayPal Pro
  • multiple pricing options
  • promotion codes
  • custom post type support
  • reusable email templates
  • upcoming event calendar
  • MailChimp integration (advanced & developer)
  • recurring events (advanced & developer)
  • members integration (advanced & developer)
  • Groupon integration (advanced & developer)
  • custom files (advanced & developer)
  • multiple event registration (advanced & developer)

The Calendar add-on gives you a nice visual calendar:

While the social media add-on adds Twitter, Facebook and Google+ buttons to your events.

Other add-ons include:

  • Ticketing
  • Multiple Event Sign-up
  • Recurring Events
  • Seating Chart (for events with reserved seating)
  • MailChimp Integration
  • Roles & Permissions (give users the ability to submit events)

Contact me if you are interested in installing Event Espresso.  I am offering packages which include installation of the the premium version, all 12 add-ons, up to 1 hour of training and 30 days of email support.  Find out more.

 

Disclaimer:  Though I discovered this plugin when the Events Espresso folks contacted me via Twitter, I was neither compensated nor received free product for this review.

WordPress Plugin Review: Events Manager Pro

I think I may have found an events manager/registration system for WordPress that functions similarly to Eventbrite but without the per-ticket fee (see my previous review of Events+) – Events Manager Pro.  There is a free version, but some key features are missing, so I strongly suggest shelling out the one-time fee of $75 to support this excellent plugin.

On the Admin side, events are added just like you would add a new post.  Recurring Events have their own screen, separate from the main events page, which was confusing, but  the learning curve is not steep at all.

One nice feature allows the site manager to set up various levels for submitting new events.  This means that you could create a community events page where the public can submit an event, which is then moderated by an admin before being added to the actual site.

The front-end integration is really nice.  Check out the demo here.  Events Manager Pro is created with designer control in mind, so just about anything to do with how events display to the public can be changed.  Check out one of the available sidebar widgets:

Are your events located all over town?  There’s a map for that:

The downside is, of course, that you need to get the paid pro version to be able to sell event tickets.  However, at $75 this plugin is well worth the cost and I’m going to suggest it to my own clients in the future.

WordPress Plugin Review: Events+

A few of my clients use event scheduling to handle ongoing classes or one-time events, and we’ve been using EventBrite for that.  I like EventBrite, especially the ability to add a registration form right to a page.  See this in action at Studio of Good Living.  What do we like about EventBrite?

  • Ability to embed registration into a web page or blog post.
  • Manage registered people, send them emails, collect additional information upon registering.
  • Registrants can print tickets.
  • EventBrite handles all kind of ongoing events, such as classes.
  • Uses PayPal (and other gateways) for payment processing.
  • Widgets for WordPress and for blogs!

EventBrite is really a full-featured solution for events, but there is one drawback.  They charge a fee for every ticket sold.  This fee can be added to the ticket price (like Ticketmaster) or embedded within the price, but for a few clients this is a deal-breaker.  If your price point and margin are slim enough, that additional fee can tip your event over the edge into unprofitability.

So my mission is to find a plugin for WordPress that duplicates the features we like best in Eventbrite.  I headed over first to WPMUDEV to look at Events+.

At first I thought it would work.  Events+ uses PayPal as the main payment gateway and has additional plugins for other gateways (or pay by check).  Registrants can sign in using their Facebook or Twitter accounts or just type in their information.

Adding events is much like adding a blog post and Events+ handles recurring events just fine.  Where it fell down was on the front end – the ability to display events on your site.

There are some specialized plugins to display, for example, a calendar of events for the upcoming week, a countdown until the event and the next recurring event.  These are sadly lacking.

The upcoming events displays in an agenda fashion:

The problem is that while you can edit the calendar interval for the hours, what if you have some 4 hour events and some 2 hour events?  The image above was set at 4 hour intervals.  Here it is at 2 hours:

It looks like there are 4 events, while there are only 2!  I supposed I could find the code and hack it into behaving, but out of the box this just doesn’t work.

I’d also like to see a small monthly calendar that could be embedded into a post or page.  The event countdown, next event countdown and next event plugins also don’t work well.  They don’t show the name of the event, for instance, or provide a link to the event.  There is also no feature to edit the registration information from attendees.

This plugin will also involve a lot of style formatting to fit your site.  Notice the “Prev/Next” links in the images above – shouldn’t they be styled left and right?  Or at least the links separated?

This isn’t a terrible plugin for someone looking to collect registrations for a single event, but it isn’t the quality of plugin that I’ve come to expect from WPMUDEV.

Next week I’ll be reviewing Events Manager.

 

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