Up in the err

I’m experimenting with changes to this blog.  Mostly they have to do with the theme.  If you’re not a blogger, that’s the collection of WordPress files that controls the appearance of the blog–not just the arrangement of colors and typefaces, but also the display and position of features like those you see in the sidebar (“latest posts,” “latest comments,” and so on).

I really liked my longtime theme, Simpla.  The white space went well with the blog’s name.  But it hasn’t been updated in a long time, and it’s not widget-aware.

For the three people still reading, a widget is a little drag-and-drop control.  For example, with the old theme, to have drop-down list for displaying archives by month, I had to edit the PHP code for the sidebar and add this:

<<id="archives"><h2><?php _e('The last few months'); ?></h2>
 <?php wp_get_archives('type=monthly&limit=6'); ?>
 <!-- END ARCHIVES -->
 <!-- Archive dropdown -->
 <h4>Or any month at all:</h4>
 <select name="archive-dropdown"
 <option value=""><?php echo attribute_escape(__('Select Month')); ?></option>
 <?php wp_get_archives('type=monthly&format=option&show_post_count=1'); ?> </select>

Nothing to it.

WordPress widgets in action
(click to enlarge)

Using more up-to-date themes (like Suffusion, which I’m experimenting with), you can add or delete widgets without having to worry about forgetting an angle bracket or a semicolon.

The example on the right is taken from this blog as I write.  Suffusion allows for multiple sidebars–the spaces outside of the main post area.  I dragged five different widgets into Sidebar 1; the order in which I place them is the order in which they appear.

That example includes the Archives widget, which I left open to show how easy it is to customize the title and to say whether you want the archive as a full list, or as a dropdown.  Since I’ve been scribbling on this Whiteboard for more than 5 years, I didn’t think the full list was the best option.

The Series TOC widget (second from last in the example) is another benefit I get from a more up-to-date theme.  I’ve written several post series, and the widget automatically displays titles for the first post in each one.  When I begin another series, I don’t have to do anything to update that table-of-contents; as long as I’ve named the series (through another WordPress gizmo called  a plugin), the widget will include the new title.

As I tinker with changes, cosmetic or (I hope) substantive, I’ll probably make mistakes, which is why I say things will be up in the err for a while.  And I do have some grunt work to do–that random quote, which I’m fond of, can’t retrieve the 300-odd quotes stored in the database.  It looks like I may have to re-enter them one at a time.