We have a fresh copy of WordPress installed on our localhost, it’s now time to start looking under the hood a bit to see how this all fits together. A great place to start is with the WordPress Admin Panel, also known as the Dashboard. By getting a strong grasp on the ins and outs of the WordPress Dashboard, you’ll save yourself time and frustration as you set out creating your site. In addition, you’ll be in full control of your content, themes, plugins, and general appearance. Let’s look at the WordPress Dashboard now!
Welcome to WordPress!
When you first log in to the administrators panel in WordPress, you’ll be greeted with an about page that tells you all about the version of WordPress currently installed. It’s broken up into three main parts.
In the What’s New section, you’ll find a description of all the latest updates for the particular version of WordPress installed. WordPress is always striving to make the content creation process easier for you by providing streamlined media management, ease of plugin installation, effortless embedding, and easy photo manipulation.
For example, one of the most incredible, and quite frankly ridiculously awesome new features is the ability to embed third party content by simply pasting an url into the editor. Want to a tweet or a facebook post in your article? Easy as pie:
Just paste something like this in your editor
https://twitter.com/vegibit/status/509858080859758593 on it’s own line and BOO YEAH!
What is WordPress? http://t.co/txyE4B0yGi
— vegibit (@vegibit) September 11, 2014
Very slick indeed!
These are the people that make it happen. In this page, you’ll find the Project Leaders, Contributing Developers, Core Contributors, and all External Libraries used in the WordPress Project. We can thank these folks and software packages for making WordPress the excellent piece of software that it is.
We can also see the list of fantastic 3rd party software that helps make WordPress tick.
Backbone.js, Class POP3, Color Animations, Horde Text Diff, hoverIntent, imgAreaSelect, Iris, jQuery, jQuery UI, jQuery Hotkeys, jQuery serializeObject,jQuery.query, jQuery.suggest, jQuery UI Touch Punch, json2, Masonry, MediaElement.js, PclZip, PemFTP, phpass, PHPMailer, Plupload, SimplePie,The Incutio XML-RPC Library, Thickbox, TinyMCE, Underscore.js, and zxcvbn.
This section talks a bit about WordPress and the Philosophy behind it. If you’re going to be a WordPress user, it is worth your time to take a closer look at this page to become familiar with the project. Four key points are discussed here that are numbered in zero based math – you gotta love programmers! They are quoted as follows:
You have the freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
You have access to the source code, the freedom to study how the program works, and the freedom to change it to make it do what you wish.
You have the freedom to redistribute copies of the original program so you can help your neighbor.
You have the freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes.
The WordPress Dashboard
Once you have made it past the New Features, Credits, and Freedoms pages, you can click on the Dashboard link in the upper left of your screen to take you to your home base. This page is going to be incredibly familiar to you if you plan on creating any amount of useful content.
In the Dashboard you are greeted with a list of links to help you get started creating your website with WordPress. Straight away, you are provided with a link to customize your site, or change your theme entirely. Themes are a big business in the WordPress ecosystem! One you get your site looking the way you like, it’s time to create a new wordpress post. Truthfully, this is where you’ll be spending the majority of your time and effort. Next up, maybe add an about page to your site. It’s good to have a short story to tell. Come up with a quick elevator pitch for your website or blog and create it here. Beyond these first steps, you can view your site, manage widgets and menus, turn comments on or off, or visit the documentation for further assistance with getting started.
In the right hand pane of the Dashboard are four areas that will provide a control center for your website.
At a Glance
The At a Glance widget provides a quick overview of all website activity. You can see how many posts are published, number of pages published, comments, in addition to the version of WordPress that is running and the theme in use.
The Activity widget shows you recent activites on the website. This will display things like recent posts and comments. With a quick scan of this area, you can see if there are any comments you need to respond to.
The quick draft area is almost like a Twitter Form. It’s just a small area where you can draft up a new post if you like. This is perfect for shorter, media light, type posts. For your in depth articles, you’re going to want to use the full blown editor as it has so much more power.
Stay up to date with the latest happening in the WordPress community in this section. You’ll find all kinds of useful tidbits of information here including Popular Plugins, New Themes, Security Bulletins, and more.
Arranging You Control Center
All of these areas we just discussed are fully customizable. By click in the upper right area of the Dashboard, you can show the Screen Options of which widgets you’d like to display.
You can also drag and drop the areas to fit where ever you’d like them to appear. Want that Activity box in the lower right hand section of the screen? No problem, just drag it over there and drop it in place. Personally, I really like the defaults. Defaults exist for a good reason, not only in WordPress, but in all areas of software, technology, and more. Think about it, the creators of a product or device want you the consumer of said product to have the best possible experience with it. When they choose the default configuration of their creation, they are doing so because it is likely to work well for the largest range of potential people as possible. Then again, the defaults may not work for you as we’re all different! Long story short, arrange things however you like to fit your needs!
Of course, we all need help sometimes! In the far upper right portion of the Dashboard area next to the Screen Options is a Help Tab. Don’t be afraid to click that baby! In the help section you’ll find a wealth of very valuable information as you navigate the vast landscape that is WordPress. What’s great about this help feature is that it is contextual, meaning that depending what page of the WordPress Dashboard you are currently on, this menu will update to provide the best information to you. For example, the Dashboard help area looks something like this.
Welcome to your WordPress Dashboard! This is the screen you will see when you log in to your site, and gives you access to all the site management features of WordPress. You can get help for any screen by clicking the Help tab in the upper corner.
The left-hand navigation menu provides links to all of the WordPress administration screens, with submenu items displayed on hover. You can minimize this menu to a narrow icon strip by clicking on the Collapse Menu arrow at the bottom.
Links in the Toolbar at the top of the screen connect your dashboard and the front end of your site, and provide access to your profile and helpful WordPress information.
You can use the following controls to arrange your Dashboard screen to suit your workflow. This is true on most other administration screens as well.
Screen Options – Use the Screen Options tab to choose which Dashboard boxes to show.
Drag and Drop – To rearrange the boxes, drag and drop by clicking on the title bar of the selected box and releasing when you see a gray dotted-line rectangle appear in the location you want to place the box.
Box Controls – Click the title bar of the box to expand or collapse it. Some boxes added by plugins may have configurable content, and will show a “Configure” link in the title bar if you hover over it.
The boxes on your Dashboard screen are:
At A Glance – Displays a summary of the content on your site and identifies which theme and version of WordPress you are using.
Activity – Shows the upcoming scheduled posts, recently published posts, and the most recent comments on your posts and allows you to moderate them.
Quick Draft – Allows you to create a new post and save it as a draft. Also displays links to the 5 most recent draft posts you’ve started.
WordPress News – Latest news from the official WordPress project, the WordPress Planet, and popular and recent plugins.
Welcome – Shows links for some of the most common tasks when setting up a new site.
Different Pages Provide Different Help
If we change pages to the Posts pages however, we can see the help menu dynamically updates for us.
Therefore, no matter where you are in the administrative navigation of your WordPress site, you’ll have help all along the way.
Two Column Layout
Ultimately the WordPress Admin area is a Two Column layout. Everything we have been discussing so far is what shows up in the right column. It is by clicking the various links on the left column that allows us to change our main or right hand side view. The left column contains things like Dashboard, Jetpack, Posts, Media, Pages, Comments, Feedback, Appearance, Plugins, Users, Tools, Settings, and more. If you add several custom plugins and themes to your site, this menu will grow even more. A quick tip from experience, is to find a small handful of super high quality plugins and themes to work with. The WordPress ecosystem is so large, with so many thousands of plugins and themes to choose from that you may become overwhelmed. Do the research, and stick to the basics. WordPress itself, as it ships by default, is going to provide 99.9% of all the functionality you’ll ever need. You’ll also save yourself from the need to monitor a huge number of plugins and themes for updates and security fixes. Make it easy on yourself!