WPToronto East: Plugin Showcase

Our WPToronto East meetup for September 2017 was a roundtable show n’ tell about some of our favourite plugins. Thanks to everyone who submitted plugins to share! This makes an excellent starting point for our Plugins resource page.

Working with content

Wonder Portfolio Grid (Freemium)

Peg was looking for a portfolio gallery plugin that allowed you to add an overlay; filter by category; click into a variety of media (audio, video, images); wanted to open media in a lightbox; needed support for multiple galleries; handle captions, social media, and multiple layouts.

The Wonder Portfolio Grid plugin is a freemium plugin that hit most of these requirements. You can filter images by category. Each image links off to a dedicated page, and the plugin handles the lightbox and social sharing capabilities.

The free version lets you evaluate all of the features, but images are watermarked. The paid version is $80 USD. (Considering the time you’re saving on custom development, though, that’s a great price!)

Essential Grid ($26 USD)

Robin was working with a client who wanted a “video wall” on their website with an engaging hover effect. One approach was to use Beaver Builder with a series of multi-column rows, but none of the modules from Beaver Builder or any of its popular addons did the trick.

Which brings us to Essential Grid. It’s from ThemePunch, the same team responsible for Slider Revolution. ThemePunch claims that Essential Grid is “the most popular grid plugin for WordPress”. (We can’t confirm that, but there you go.)

First impressions are great. The plugin’s site shows off a wide array of templates that show the plugin used in different ways.

Using the plugin is easy – you’re just embedding a shortcode into a post or page.  The powerful configuration options are handled in the WordPress admin. You create each grid and walk through each tab — Source, Grid Settings, Skins, Animations, et al. — to customize the grid.

According to Robin, one of the most powerful features is the ability to edit the “skin” (appearance) of tiles, or items, in a grid. The Item Skin editor provides a drag-and-drop UX to customize everything. You don’t need to know any CSS.

Fast Secure Contact Forms

A longstanding, reliable, basic contact form plugin for WordPress. Also recommended by Dan. (Can’t seem to reach the plugin page in the repo.)

Update: It appears that Fast Secure Contact Forms was compromised. A scammer bought the plugin and modified it to include malware to infect users’ websites. From the original author:

The new owner attempted to put code in several of his newly acquired WordPress plugins that would connect to a 3rd party server he also owned and place spam ads for payday loans and such in the WP posts.

You can find more in this WordPress.org support forum post. This seems similar to the epic plugin spam campaign recently covered by Wordfence, though I haven’t seen any explicit relationship mentioned, so I can’t say for sure.

Edit Flow

Another recommendation from Dan. Very customizable. Great for collaborating on the editing process and implementing custom workflows.

PublishPress (Freemium)

“WordPress for teams.” Recommended by Andy as an alternative to Edit Flow. Includes collaboration features plus premmium add-ons for integrating with WooCommerce, Vimeo, Wistia, YouTube, and more.

Broken Link Checker

Dan recommends running this plugin once every few months to make sure there’s nothing busted on your site. (Word of warning: This puts a lot of strain on your server, don’t leave it activated if you’re not using it. It’s also blacklisted by some Managed WordPress hosting providers.)

Instant Images

Recommended by Andy. Search and import Unsplash images directly into your WordPress media library. Other interesting plugins available from the same developers: Ajax Load More, Broadcast, Easy Query, Post Explorer, and Velocity.

Holler Box (Freemium)

Recommended by Andy. An elegant list-building and CTA plugin for WordPress. Includes four features: chat email capture (“fake chat”); FOMO notifications (“so-and-so just bought X”); subtle notification box; and lightbox pop-ups.

WP RSS Aggregator

Found when Colin asked if there was a plugin that could auto-import RSS feeds as new content for a blog. We don’t recommend scraping and duplicating content; but this could be useful if you want to add commentary on specific RSS items that come through.

MailPoet (Freemium)

Recommended by Andy as a simple solution for sending out email newsletters from within WordPress. Combine with the SendGrid plugin to use SendGrid’s email delivery service.

List Category Posts

Recommended b y Andy. A simple plugin for listing posts within a category by using a shortcode. Basically functions like a simple query builder for posts. Tons of well-documented options.

Duplicate Post

Recommended by Andy. Another simple plugin. Lets you clone existing posts or pages. Helpful if you’re creating a standard template of post content and don’t want to start from scratch with each new post.

Site backups & migrations

UpdraftPlus (Freemium)

UpdraftPlus was recommended by Peg. It’s her backup software of choice after trying BackUpWP and FTP. UpdraftPlus is available as a free version or as a paid version. A variant called “Migrator” exists as well.

“The free version of UpdraftPlus is really, really good.”

The purpose of Peg’s backups is to create some safety when experimenting. It’s good if something goes wrong. Also if something goes wrong on the host, good to have a backup outside of your hosting provider.

The free version backs up the /wp-content/ folder. That means your themes, uploads, media library, plugins, and your database. You can backup to a remote destination, like Google Drive.

The premium version also backs up the core installation, .htaccess file, and any third party stuff, and you have more options for remote backups.

Additional premium addons are available at a variety of price points.

UpdraftMigrator ($30 USD)

UpdraftMigrator was recommended by Colin. It lets you clone or migrate a WordPress site from your UpdraftPlus dashboard. Pricing starts at $30 for 60 day support.

Duplicator Pro (Freemium)

Duplicator Pro was also mentioned as a preferred WordPress backup and migration plugin. It comes in a free version as well.


Dan sets this up to run on a regular basis to make a backup of the database and send it via email. It does a bit of optimizing and repair on the database, too.

BackupBuddy (Premium)

Recommended by Alex for pushing development sites live.

Developer tools

Optimize Database

Recommended by Dan. Useful for deleting old posts and cleaning up your database.


Similar plugin, recommended by Peg. Automated and lets you run it on a regular basis. Works in tandem with UpdraftPlus, automating backups before optimizations are run.

What The File

Recommended by Alex. This is a simple plugin that adds a feature to the admin bar indicating which template files are currently in use on whatever page you’re viewing.


Also recommended by Alex. This overlays a WordPress page with all of the available hooks and filters. Another useful plugin for WordPress development.

Query Monitor

Alex uses this on all of his development sites. It shows you all the warnings, notices, and under-the-hood queries being triggered on a WordPress page. It also returns server information (phpinfo).


Similar to WP-Optimize, this plugin is useful for tidying up your WordPress database. Another recommendation from Alex.

Widget CSS Classes

Recommended by Andy. Lets you add custom CSS classes to your widgets. Helpful for styling widgets using the Customizer’s CSS editor.


Sucuri Security

Recommended by Andy for its thorough auditing features. It plays nice with Wordfence. From the plugin description:

“The Sucuri Security WordPress plugin is free to all WordPress users. It is a security suite meant to complement your existing security posture. It offers its users a set of security features for their website, each designed to have a positive affect on their security posture.”


If there’s a plugin you’d like to recommend, swing by our Plugins resource page and leave a comment. Tell us why you’re recommending the plugin and we’ll give you credit on the list.

3 thoughts on “WPToronto East: Plugin Showcase”

  1. Thanks for posting this, Andy. There are a lot good plugins mentioned here. I’m another fan of UpDraftPlus, Migrator, Broken Link Checker and Sucuri.

    If I had been able to make the meeting, I would have suggested “Email Address Encoder” from the WP Plugin Repository. This plugin will protect any email addresses published on a WP site from being harvested by spam bots. It encodes the email address so that it cannot be recognized in the page source.

    Looking forward to catching up with everyone next month!

  2. I did a talk on Essential plugins at Podcast 2016. That list included 16 plugins which were state of the art. Funny, state of the art has changed in a year and a half such that 9 of the 16 plugins have been replaced by better tools.

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