WordPress shortcodes are an excellent way to add more style or advanced elements to your content. If you’ve been using the platform for quite some time, then you’ve probably used shortcodes in the past without even knowing it. If you’re new to the platform, then you’ll want to get familiar with them because they are incredibly useful.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Are WordPress Shortcodes?
To put it in layman’s terms, shortcodes are essentially shortcuts for doing various things in WordPress. You input a simple line of text and WordPress converts it into an advanced function. It’s kind of like when you text a smiley using code and your smartphone or IM application converts it into an actual emoticon.
With a shortcode you can do things like place an advertisement somewhere in your content, include an image gallery or share a YouTube video. However, one of the most common uses for shortcode is to add various style elements to a page such as buttons, columns, design boxes and more.
How Do Shortcodes Work?
The traditional way to use shortcodes is to include the full code in your functions.php file on the backend of your site. On the front end of the site, when you use the related shortcode in your content, the platform automatically knows to execute the appropriate action. This is a little more difficult to set up and requires a bit of programming knowledge, specifically in PHP.
The easier way to implement shortcodes on your site is to install a plugin. In fact, most plugins use shortcode by default to get a specific feature working. For example, a sliding gallery plugin may ask you to include the [slide-gallery] shortcode where you want it to appear.
By default, WordPress has a pretty extensive list of shortcodes you can use without installing any plugins or altering the functions file at all. Here are the highlights:
- YouTube video: Paste the URL of a YouTube video on a line by itself, not hyperlinked.
- Instagram image or video: Paste the URL of an Instagram photo on a line by itself, not hyperlinked.
- Tweet: Paste the URL of a specific tweet on a line by itself, not hyperlinked.
- SlideShare presentation: Choose “embed” on SlideShare, choose your settings, and grab the generated shortcode.
- SoundCloud audio file: Choose “embed” on SoundCloud, choose your settings, and grab the generated shortcode.
There are many other types of shortcodes in your WordPress install by default.
7 Free WordPress Shortcodes Plugins
To get you started and more familiar with using shortcodes, I’ve compiled a list of seven different plugins that use WordPress shortcodes. You can install any one of these on your site or WordPress-powered blog and follow the instructions to include shortcode functions and elements in your content. Plus, they’re all free so you can get started with them right now.
1. Easy Bootstrap Shortcodes
The Easy Bootstrap Shortcodes plugin is excellent for beginner and intermediate users. It offers a lot of basic shortcode functions that you can add to your content such as tables, toggles, buttons, multicolored boxes, progress bars, image effects and more.
There are even a ton of icons that you can use with your shortcodes to place alongside buttons or toggles. It’s akin to the buttons or toggles you see on smartphones, allowing users to quickly identify what each function is for. Admittedly, some of them exist just to make your site or page look better.
2. Shortcodes Ultimate
The Shortcodes Ultimate plugin is similar to Easy Bootstrap, in that you can label various elements of your site with icons and more. You can also change how each shortcode element works by altering different aspects like the size, color and position.
What this plugin does is add an “insert shortcode” button to the visual editor on the WordPress dashboard. Clicking on that button will display a list of the various shortcodes you can include in your content.
The other great thing about Shortcodes Ultimate is that the developer is very responsive and offers great support. If you run into any issues with the plugin, even the free version, you will definitely be able to get the help you need.
This plugin is actually quite basic when compared to the others on this list, but there are a few things it does that really make it stand out. You can do the usual styling with buttons, add various elements and functions to your content and more. However, with it you can make some pretty awesome styled boxes.
It doesn’t offer visual representations of the different shortcodes, which means you’re going to be using the “preview” button a lot, but that’s okay. If that kind of thing aggravates you or you just want to save a little time, you might be better off going with one of the other plugins in this list.
4. CPO Shortcodes
This plugin has quite a few basic shortcodes, but it’s not recommended for beginners. This is because it’s a bit frustrating to use. It places default shortcodes in your content, which you must then edit later. The problem is, there isn’t much documentation when it comes to changing the size, color, shape or style of various elements. You just have to figure it all out on your own.
Of course, it does offer a couple unique options, such as implementing a solid background for your page, pricing tables for e-tailers, and a custom team section where you can offer bios and background info about your employees.
5. Symple Shortcodes
The Symple Shortcodes plugin is awesome, and it’s completely free. The only downside is that you’ll have to download it from WPExplorer directly, and you’ll have to register for a free account first. That also means you’ll have to manually install the plugin, so you’ll need FTP access to the site in question.
That aside, it’s an incredibly robust shortcode plugin that offers a whole slew of features and style elements for your site. Like most of the other plugins on this list, you can add buttons, highlights, boxes, toggles, tabs, pricing tables and much more.
The other great part about Symple Shortcodes is that it’s easy to use. You can’t go wrong with this one.
6. Zilla Shortcodes
The Zilla Shortcodes plugin is free, and incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is click the “Z” icon in the admin dashboard and a pop-up list displays all the various shortcodes you can add to your content. You can add elements like columns, toggles, alerts, tabs and more.
7. Authentic Shortcodes
This is another plugin that you’ll have to install to your WordPress site manually, but it’s worth the trouble! The Authentic Shortcodes plugin is from Authentic Themes, and it allows you to add a whole bunch of stylized elements to your site. Like all the other plugins here, you can use shortcode to add buttons, highlights, social icons, toggles and tabs and more.
The Sky is the Limit
Once you become more familiar with using shortcodes in WordPress you can do some pretty awesome things. Before then, you have some great plugins listed above at your fingertips, and then some. You can’t go wrong with any of the plugins on this list, though I definitely recommend trying more than one. You might find some are better suited to your needs than others.
Now that you’re a shortcode pro, get out there and spruce up your site!
What are your favorite WordPress shortcodes plugins? Share them in the comments below!