Blogrolls and links to other sites are an important part of the blogging world. We share our interests and places we think are neat with our reader, and hope others will do the same with our site. The basic Links widget that comes with WordPress only allows you to display the links in your Blogroll separated by the category they are in. You can’t change the name or the order of the display. It is not a bad list by any means, just very limited. There are plenty of plugins out there that go beyond those limits.
There are a lot of options available, including using either 4 ready made looks or setting up custom CSS, and choosing exactly which categories show on the list. You control whether the feed shows up for particular links by choosing which ones to have their RSS feeds on the Links page. This can help keep down the length of your blogroll. Which does lead into one of the downsides. How big is your blogroll? If you already have a large one, adding in snippets from many other blogs, even on the minimalist setting of one line, can mean it really gets out of hand. One way to handle this, if you are comfortable with PHP coding, is putting a PHP snippet on a page and generating the list there. Not easy, but an option.
The setup is somewhat complicated, primarily for two reasons. One, you need a Google API from Google Code, which also means you need a Google account. Second, the plugin uses the RSS feeds that are placed in the Advanced section of each link edit page. How many people bother to get that for their blogroll when they add the link? Neither of these is a huge problem, and they can’t really be avoided because it is information that the plugin needs to perform.
Auto Blogroll allows people to add their sites to either a link exchange page or your blogroll and the page. If you use the included sidebar widget, they will go into your blogroll, otherwise they will appear on the link exchange page. There are plenty of options, including only allowing links with minimum PR ratings on the list and a toggle of whether you want to moderate new links.
The installation starts off easy, taking you to a page for just that in the settings section. It will automatically create a link exchange page, and import your existing blogroll into its list. Or you can use and existing page, and manually add blogroll links. You can put the pages into any order you want on the list, limit the number of links that appear on the list page, place the links into categories and only have certain categories appear in the sidebar widget. The plugin can check each link once daily, and if the link back fails for so many days in a row, will stop showing the link out.
There are some problems with the plugin. The major one is the limited instructions. The instructions given are only slight more detailed then what I have already written, and the website of the developer, and the website at the link they give to find more information, is in either Chinese or Japanese. (No, I can’t tell the difference. What can I say, I am ????????????.) Most of the functions can be figured out if you are willing to experiment. But it can be a hassle. While you can order the links however you want, you can’t break them up by category, the way the basic blogroll widget can. And it changes your existing blogroll categories when it is installed so all your links are just in the Blogroll category. This is very irritating, especially if you do not want to use the plugin widget. Not bad plugin, with a nice idea behind it. But not one to add to your site lightly.
mylinks is another plugin that puts your blogroll on a separate page. The difference here is, it uses a shortcode to create a list of your blogroll where ever you want it, with pictures, the link name, the link, and your description of the site. There are no options for the plugin so far, it is completely plug and play. This makes installation a snap, you just need to decide where to place the shortcode.
The downside to this plugin is the fact there are no options. Every link on your blogroll will appear on the page, in alphabetical order. The author has a list of things he is working on adding to the plugin, like sorting, only showing a particular category, and templates to users have more control over the layout. This is very promising news, because right now, it is a nice plugin, but if he can add in the options he is talking about, without too much added complexity for set up, it will be a really great one.
Noio Iconized Bookmarks basically just adds a bit of bling to your blogroll. Set up is easy, install and activate the plugin, go to the options page and click on the update icons button. It may take a few minutes, but eventually it will list the sites where it found a favicon. If you have not placed the included widget, your blogroll will now be nothing but the found images. The widget give you both the icons and the names of the links. There is an option to have a default image for people that either do not use favicons or favicons that the plugin can’t find. I recommend creating one, it makes things look much better and more uniform.
Easy to install, the only real overhead is having to create a default icon. A couple of things to consider, first is the styling. The look of the icons and links may not fit well with your theme unless you do some styling. The author includes a couple of classes on the list, with the ability to add more in the widget, if you are comfortable working with CSS. The other thing is the fact that if you decide you want to get rid of the plugin and go for a more traditional blogroll, you either need to edit some PHP or go to each link on your blogroll and delete the image URLs in the Advanced options. A case where uninstalling is more of a hassle than the installation.
A lot of writing on this one, and only 4 plugins covered. Either I am getting more verbose or there was a lot to talk about on these plugins. I certainly hope it is the latter. I guess this means I will have to write more on this subject fairly soon, because I barely scratched the surface of what is available.