Running multiple web blogs of any variety takes time and attention and site owners are always on the lookout for tools to make that job easier.
While WordPress has long been the content management system of choice for multi-bloggers in the form of its WordPress MU (multi-site) offering, the latest incarnation of the world’s favorite publishing platform has taken things to a new level by integrating the same functionality into its core package, opening the possibilities of multi-site management to the masses not previously familiar with WordPress MU.
WordPress 3 has made blog networks easier to launch but running them effectively still depends on individual needs often not covered by the base WordPress package. With multi-site usability built-in, all that’s left is narrowing down the bulk of available WordPress plugins aimed at making the lives of blog network owners easier.
The only plugin mentioned on our list that isn’t completely free is ManageWP, a full-featured system aimed at giving network owners full and absolute control over their WordPress sites. The ManageWP service provides a single web-based control panel for all of the sites you own, giving you the ability to manage content across unlimited sites with both a single login and a single submission.
Combined with life-changing features like one-click upgrades for multiple WordPress, plugin and theme installations along with mass publishing, automatic backups, editorial calendars the ability to clone whole sites with a single click and much more, ManageWP may be exactly what the proverbial doctor ordered for blog network owners with an eye toward extreme productivity.
Network admins managing related sites already functioning on separate WordPress installations are left with the task of making the entire network accessible to all users, often ending with messy database sharing techniques and something less than a seamless experience for network visitors.
The Networks for WordPress plugin solves this problem and a few others by allowing its users to manage blog networks based on very specific criteria, sharing resources – and users – only when and where you stipulate.
When using WordPress MU or the built in multi-site functionality in WordPress 3 isn’t an option but sharing users across sites is a necessity, the Shared Users Reloaded plugin is the quickest and easiest way to give your registered users access to content across more than one WordPress installation. Setup is simple, database changes are minimal and results are instant; there is simply no easier plugin for sharing users.
A general question for WordPress network admins already running a multi-site environment: How many times have you forgotten exactly which blog contained which particular piece of content? If your answer is anything other than zero, you are definitely familiar with searching manually through endless posts. Luckily, there’s a plugin for that!
The Multi-site Global Search plugin for WordPress allows you to search through all posts on all sites using any search string, giving you instant access to any piece of content, anywhere on your network, at the click of a button. The plugin allows for searching within several fields, including post title, post content and post author, making this the only search-enhancing plugin you’ll ever need to install.
One of the things that the built-in multi-site functionality of WordPress doesn’t cover handily is the fact that not all blogs are alike. Sites based on WordPress serve both different purposes and different userbases and the functionality that you provide to users at one network site does not necessarily reflect the functionality that you want to provide at another.
The Multi-Site User Management plugin gives you the ability to control what default permissions and abilities users have on a given site or the global network, depending on your needs. Where one site may be dependant on user-created content and require default permissions to reflect this, another may be updated by a single author, requiring that default users have only basic privileges.
While the plugins listed above represent some of our favorites for blog network needs, keep in mind that developers are constantly working on new ways to get the absolute most out of WordPress and those efforts are usually made public. WordPress continues to amaze blog network owners with its fast, well-written code, ease-of-use for both end-users and admins and its new built-in ability to handle multi-site environments, but a keen eye toward plugins that suit your particular needs can easily be the facet of WordPress that makes you love it most!
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