website management

WordPress Basics: Useful Modifications (1)

WP, the popular WordPress CMS (or Content management System), is an enormous powerful tool for every small business, private individual running a Weblog, or even larger E-Commerce Websites.

Out of the box, WordPress is ready to be used for any of the above purposes — and then some.

This is a great thing. The CMS comes with the famous 5-minute installation feature, you basically just download the WP version you want (not necessarily always the latest but at least one of the more recent ones), punch in a few basic settings, and you’re good to go. A video showing this process as an easy-to-follow tutorial will be posted here soon. This will even help total newbies to be all set in no time!

The ease of installation is one of the reasons — if not the chief reason — for WordPress’ popularity all over the internet. WP websites make up a huge chunk of all Weblogs on the internet (between 40% to 70%, depending on how you count). WordPress’ ease of installation is a good thing — on one hand. It comes with a few disadvantages though, on the other.

For example, when a total Noob (or newbie) starts out with WordPress, all these nice “Get WordPress Now” helpers point to the very latest version of WordPress (that would be WP Ver4.4, as of this writing — and possibly 4.4.1 or something as soon as later this week). The “current” is usually the “best” version for most purposes, security-wise or when it comes to certain bugfixes or similar. As soon as you start adding something more specific for your purposes, maybe a special WP Plugin to do specific tasks, you may soon find out that not all the great Plugins there are will support the very latest of WordPress versions. It may well be, that your favourite (or most-needed) Plugin “only” supports WordPress’ previous version (which may have been top-of-the heap as recently as this morning but is kind of “old crap” in the afternoon).

Even worse, since WordPress 3.7 there is an “auto-update” feature activated by default. Pretty much as the name implies, this auto-update forces your website to automatically update to the latest version of WordPress once such a new version becomes available (maybe over lunchtime, in order to stick to the example above). This means that a somewhat modified or specialised website running some we–maintained and useful Plugin for specific extra tasks you may like or absolutely require for your purposes may or may not be incompatible — and, in more severe cases, possibly even causing your website to crash — from, well, lunchtime or whenever that next WP update happens to be. Not good.

Some plugin aren’t completely compatible with WordPress updates as soon as the updates come out.

So one of the more useful “modifications” you might want to make to your installation is disabling this somewhat questionable WP auto-update function. This is easy to do. It only requires adding one line of code as described below:

  • Go to your WordPress server.
  • Go to the subdirectory of …/yourwebsite/
  • Find the wp-config.php file”
  • Open the file in an editor
  • To completely disable all automatic updates (of any type), add the following line to your wp-config.php file:

This will save you from waking up one morning and finding that some auto-update has broken your installation.

Still, you may want to manually update to a fairly recent version in order to eliminate vulnerabilities or exploits that may come up over time as attackers try to find ways into websites. Once you know that a more recent version is not doing any harm to your configuration and Plugins used, do a manual update to a later version (or the latest one, if you are reasonably sure that it will work with your Plugins).

There are also Plugins of their own to more comfortably control WP updates in a Graphical environment. Disable Automatic Updater and Update Control are two Plugins doing just that.