The experts say you should keep plugins to a minimum for performance reasons, and they’re right, but I consider these to be essential.
Here they are, in alphabetic order:
This is a simple, undemanding plugin that does what it’s supposed to do. However, if you use Wordfence Security, as I do, you shouldn’t need it. Free.
Custom Meta Widget
The standard WordPress Meta widget has five options, and you can add a custom link if you want one:
Custom Meta Widget enables you to show only the ones applicable to your site. Free.
Easy WP SMTP
If your site needs to send emails, this plugin lives up to its name. Free.
For those longer articles, easy to use shortcode. Free.
The SEO Framework
I’ve replaced Yoast SEO with this plugin. Yoast is an effective and widely used SEO plugin. However, it’s branded, where as the SEO Framework isn’t. It’s a jungle out there and having good search engine optimisation is your only chance if you want to get noticed, even though I’m not too concerned about that. Free.
Short Pixel Optimizer
An almost free plugin that optimises your images. Given that image size can slow down load times, this is well worth its low cost. A bonus is that you can use it on an unlimited number of sites.
Smart Maintenance Mode
I leave this deactivated until it’s needed. When changing the structure of a WordPress site, putting it in maintenance mode is a courtesy to your users. Free.
A neat widget that can use text, images, etc as snippets to be placed anywhere on the site. Free.
Tiny MCE Advanced
Extends the visual editor with a range of useful features, including tables, lists, text colours, videos, text alignment, and so on. Free.
W3 Total Cache
A heavyweight solution to caching. It takes up most of a site’s load time, but is worth it for improved overall performance. It’s compatible with CloudFlare, which is a content delivery network (CDN) I use to propagate sites to servers around the world.
This is good at keeping hackers from getting into the site. I’ve permanently blocked a number of hackers because of it. I use the paid version for added security, but the free version is adequate for most non-commercial sites.