In this tutorial we look at How to Improve the WordPress Dashboard Desktop, which by default is extremely unused.
The WordPress dashboard desktop
The WordPress admin desktop is totally underutilised. Jeff Starr, a semi God of WordPress, has released a new free (but worth all the gold in the world) plugin, which is a delight, and I am compelled to share it with everyone, because it is really good. The plugin itself is called Dashboard Widgets Suite and allows us to customize the desktop to give real utility, depending on our needs. You can download it from the official repository, as I said, it’s free.
What this plugin does is basically offer a suite of very useful and flexible widgets that we can configure and place on the desktop. Let’s take a tour through all of them.
WordPress Control Panel
The first thing you will notice when you activate it, is a new widget on the desktop called “Control Panel”. It is the only one of the 9 widgets that comes activated by default, which has the functionality to show or hide each of them, including itself, which as you can see, is the first in the list and is already selected.
The widgets are as follows:
- Control Panel: The one in the image. We will probably want to hide it after configuring everything.
- User notes: To write notes for us or other users.
- Feed box: To add any RSS feed.
- Social box: Shortcuts to our social networks.
- List box: Small list application.
- Widget box: To add any widget.
- System info: Information box of our system data.
- Debug log: For developers.
- Error log: For developers.
We only have to select the ones we want to see, click on “Save changes”, and the widget will magically appear. Also, at the top of the list we have a link to “Customize widgets”, which sends us to the plugin configuration options page. This is the same as going to “Settings / Dashboard Widgets”. There we find the following.
In the first tab we have the following options:
- Dashboard columns: We can change the number of widget columns in the dashboard. By default there are two, but now we can change it.
- Control Panel: To activate the widget “Control Panel”, if we have deactivated it and we don’t know how to put it back.
- View role: We can choose which user role can see the control panel widget (to hide it from subscribers or authors, for example).
- Reset Options: To reset everything as it was at the beginning.
The next widget we can activate is “User Notes”, which is nothing more and nothing less than a functionality to write notes to ourselves or to other users. How it works couldn’t be easier.
All we have to do is click on “Add Note“, and fill it in as we wish. We can put a title, an author, the text itself, and even the role of the person who will be able to read it. As you can see, it is fully integrated into WordPress, and the notes will be quickly visible to those chosen roles:
If we want to modify it, a simple “double click” will be enough, and if we want to add another one, we only have to click on “Add Note”. In addition, in the configuration options we can do many other things.
We can choose the following:
- Enable widget: To activate or deactivate it.
- Enable Frontend: To be able to show these notes on the web, via shortcode.
- Number of notes: Number of notes that will be displayed at the same time.
- Note height: If you want them to have a specific height. If you leave it at zero, it will adapt to the text.
- Edit role: Role that someone must have to edit the note.
- View role: Role that someone must have to view the note.
- Custom message: Text that will appear if there are no notes.
As you can see, this is a concrete, specific and useful utility. And it is not the only one. Let’s see the rest.
The following widget allows us to add any feed in the control panel, to keep up to date with any website. To configure this widget we will do it in the plugin options screen, “Feed Box” tab.
As you can see, it is very versatile, and we can set the following settings:
- Enable Widget: To activate it.
- Enable Frontend: To display the feeds on the web, via shortcode.
- Feed Excerpt: Add the summary of each feed item.
- Item length: Maximum number of characters for each excerpt.
- Number of items: Number of items in the feed.
- View role: Role that someone must have to view the feed.
- Feed URL: Feed to be displayed.
Once again, a very concrete functionality that although I personally won’t use, as I use Feedly, it can be very useful for clients who don’t use RSS aggregators 🙂
This widget allows us to add shortcuts to our social networks. Great to have them always at hand. As you can see, it is easy, simple and quick. One click, and we will open our profile or page in any of the main social networks. Obviously, we can configure everything in the options panel, tab “Social box“:
Very complete and exhaustive, we have the following options:
- Enable Widget: To activate it.
- Icon Size: Size of the icon (the square).
- Font Size: Font size (the symbol of the social network).
- Icon Radius: In case we want to make the edges rounded.
- Icon Spacing: Space between the social network icons.
- View Role: Which user role can see the icons.
- Network URLs: To place the networks. Currently supports Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn ,RSS Feed, Skype, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, WordPress, Tumblr, Foursquare and even your email.
As you can see, it’s great to have everything centralised in one place. What better place than your control panel?
The following functionality is nothing more and nothing less than a list of links. Shortcuts to internal or external pages, whatever you want. As you can see, this is a simple list of links. Curiously, these links are not edited from here. And neither are they set in the settings, where we only have the option to activate the widget and choose the role that will be able to see it:
So… Where do you set these shortcuts? Easy, on the WordPress menu page. Since WordPress has that functionality… Why create another one? So, if we go to “Appearance / Menus“, we will see a menu called “Dashboard Widgets Suite” which is where we can manage that list of shortcuts.
At a glance we can see all kinds of data:
- Summary: A summary with basic data, IPs, and memory.
- WordPress: Information about the version and configuration of WordPress.
- Client: Information about our browser.
- Server: Server information, addresses, load, etc.
- Database: Where we have it, version, uptime, etc.
- PHP: PHP version, active mods, configuration, etc.
- Security: Security mods enabled and disabled.
As in the other widgets, in the configuration we can only activate it, deactivate it or choose to which roles it will be shown.
Error and debug logs
Finally, the last two modules. These will show the debug and error logs. These are more technical and for developers who need to fix or detect bugs. The configuration for both logs is very similar. Both allow us to enable or disable them, define the maximum number of errors and characters, define the length of the log, and set the role with the ability to view it.
And in the case of the error log, we also have the option of indicating its location. As you can see, these two widgets are for more advanced topics, and not everyone will be interested in seeing them or know how to use this information.