Archive | Commons Sites

Help related to viewing, creating and customizing Sites on the Commons.

Where can I find metrics and analytics for my site on the Commons?

Let us know if you want us to add your site to Google Analytics. We’ll be happy to set you up and provide weekly or monthly reports, emailed to you. They can be formatted as either a spreadsheet or a PDF.

There are other options as well:

Statistics For Your Site

Read about Google Analytics on the Commons:

Getting Started with Google Analytics

How To: Add Documents to a Page or Post

You can upload documents to your blog on the Commons from a file on your computer, a URL, or your Media Library:


  • In the Dashboard, go to Posts -> Add New or Pages -> Add New.
  • Click on the Add Media icon.


  • Click on the Upload Files tab.


  • Click the Select Files button and choose the file from your computer.



  • In the Dashboard, go to Posts -> Add New or Pages -> Add New.
  • Click on the Add Media icon.


  • On the left, choose the Insert From URL option


  • Enter the URL of the file and the Title (i.e. the link text).



  • In the Dashboard, go to Posts -> Add New or Pages -> Add New.
  • Click on the Add Media icon.


  • The Media Library tab is foregrounded, and shows your recent additions. Every item you’ve every added in your library is available until you delete it, and they are sorted by most recent.
  • If you don’t see your desired file, you can sort by Media Item type, Date added, or Keyword.


  • Once you’ve found your file, click on it.


The final step – for a File, a URL, or Media Library:

  • Click the Insert into Post or Page button.


  • You should now have a link to the file in your new post or page.

Congratulations! If you have any questions, please contact us at 


Full Page Composition with WordPress

It’s easily to toggle to fullscreen mode and concentrate on your content. On the WordPress toolbar, look for the full screen icon (circled in red, above). Click on the icon and enjoy distraction free composition. Just write!

When you go into full-screen mode, you can mouse over the toolbar area to reveal all the basic editing buttons you’ll need. See below:

When you mouse out, the toolbar gradually disappears, and you are left with a clean, distraction-free canvas:


FancyBox Plugin for WordPress

Fancybox is an easy to use plug-in that gracefully enlarges images in your posts and pages when a reader clicks on them.

When you upload an image to your blog using the “Media>>Add New” tab in the dashboard, WordPress automatically saves that image in up to four different sizes: thumbnail, medium, large, and full-size, depending upon the image’s original size. (When you “Insert into Post,” you can see which sizes are available.)

If you activate Fancybox, and a reader clicks on the image, a popup will display the image in its largest available size.

The plug-in will automatically convert all images in your blog that don’t have pre-existing links. If you don’t want the Fancybox effect on some images (perhaps you are displaying them in their largest size already), you can delete the link, and the popup will not appear. (This can be done best in the HTML view).

The plugin has a page with many customizable settings to change the borders, zoom rates, overlay color and opacity, but the default settings work fine for starters.

One warning: Fancybox does not work well with posts that use WIKI Inc plugin to “include” wiki page content. If the wiki page that you include has images in it, the Fancybox effect will not work.

Here is a post with a thumbnail image:

And when you click on the thumbnail, Fancybox does its magic:

Have fun with this useful and easy to use plugin!



Create a FAQ Page on Your WordPress Site

The Q & A WordPress plugin lets you easily add a configurable question & answer dialog on your site. First you create individual “FAQ” custom posts, where the post title is the question, and the post content body is the answer. You can assign categories to each FAQ post, and when you want to display your questions and answers, you use a simple short code. This is a neat way to provide a quick, compact Q&A dialog for your readers to quickly get onboard with new concepts, or create a review page that re-enforces important concepts.

Getting Started


When you activate the plugin, you’ll see a new section (“FAQs”) added to your dashboard (see image, above). Click on “Add New” to add a new Question & Answer. Here you can create a list of questions and answers that will appear on a single page:


Or you can use short codes. Remember – the title is the question, the content is the answer. You’ll need to repeat this process for each Q & A you add. To display your compiled list of questions and answers, use the following short code in any page or post:

Optionally, you can qualify the short code with a category, which will display only the Q&A’s in that category. That code looks like this (where “faq1” is the name of one of your categories):

Short codes can be sensitive to copy/paste operations – so if you have troubles (like I did), retype the short code rather than pasting what you copied.

The answer to your question is the post content, and it can contain images, links, text, and embedded video – anything that a normal post or page can contain.


If you go to your Dashboard and click Settings>>Q&A, you should see the following options that help you configure how you want your FAQs to appear. If you want, you can create a FAQ page dedicated to questions and answers. Or you can simply integrate your Q&A’s within posts and pages. (Hover over each question mark in your dashboard for handy tooltips that let you know what each option does).

Here are a couple Q & A’s to show what the plugin can do:

If you have any problems, let us know at the Commons help desk –

How to Adjust Your Site Privacy Settings

Sites created on the Commons are automatically visible to everyone. To adjust the privacy settings on your individual/group site please follow these 5 easy steps:

  1. Go to the Dashboard of your individual or group site.
  2. Scroll down the left navigation bar and select the ’Settings’ tab.
  3. Select the ‘Privacy’ link from the drop down menu.
  4. Select one of the 5 choices below to adjust your blog’s visibility:
    • I would like my site to be visible to everyone, including search engines (like Google, Bing, Technorati) and archivers;
    • I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors
    • I would like my site to be visible only to registered users from the site community
    • I would like my site to be visible only to registered members of this site
    • I would like my site to be visible only to administrators of this site
  5. Select ‘Save Changes’ and you’re done!

Password Protecting Parts of Your Site

If you would like to make particular blog post private so that only you or a group of people you select can view them, publish modulethere are some steps that you will need to take.

To make a particular post private, follow these steps when you are editing your post:

  1. Navigate to the Publish module on the right side of the page. (The Publish module is used to set who can read your posts.)
  2. Under the Visibility area you can choose to make your post either:
    • “Password protected” (in which case you will enter a password that you will then share with whomever you wish to view your post) or
    • “Private” (which means that only blog Editors and Administrators will be able to view your post).
  3. Select “OK” then “Publish”/”Update”. These changes will go into effect immediately, but can be updated anytime if you choose to change the visibility of your post.

To learn how to add new users to your blog and set their roles, click here.



How to Embed an Events Calendar on Your Site

You have two options for embedding an Events Calendar on your site. You can embed a persistent calendar (Method 1) that is always available to your site visitor’s regardless of the post or you can include a calendar on a specific post (Method 2)–more of a one time only approach–that is particularly relevant to the calendar. Step-by-step procedures for implementing both methods are described below.


To embed an Events Calendar on your site, you begin on the site’s dashboard. Hover your mouse over Appearance in the left hand navigation bar and select Widgets from the fly-out menu. embed shot 1 A page will display Available Widgets. Select the (BuddyPress)Group Events Widget. embed shot 2 You must then select from a list of possible locations on your site. Choose the location where you want the calendar to appear and click Add Widget. The list of available locations will vary depending on your site’s theme. embed shot 3 In the window that pops open, select the Group from which you want to pull your calendar. Give the Calendar a title and press Save. embed shot 4 The calendar is now embedded in your site.


  1. Open the dashboard for your site.
  2. Activate the “Group Events Shortcode and Widget” plugin.
  3. Once the plugin is activated, you can navigate to any post in edit mode.
  4. Click on the “Add Media” button.
  5. Next, select “Insert Post Element > Group Events”.
  6. Select the Group Calendar you wish to embed.
  7. Make whatever customizations you want to make and click the Insert Element button.
  8. If you are using the editor’s “Visual” mode, the group events should automatically render because of shortcode.

“Social Stickers” WordPress Plugin

Interested in showcasing your social media networks on your site? Many of our themes have this functionality built in, but if yours does not, check out “Social Stickers,” a simple plugin that allows you to show which social networks you use. There are over 50 social networks to choose from, including: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and YouTube. You can also select from one of five themes, which change the visual style of the social network icons.

Follow these steps to display social networks on your CUNY Academic Commons WordPress site:

  1. Click on the “Plugins” menu in your WordPress dashboard, search for “Social Stickers” in the directory, then click “Activate” under the Social Stickers plugin.
  2. social stickersCustomize the settings in Settings>Social Stickers (*Please note – you will need to enter your username(s) before you can pick your theme).sticer1
  3. Add the widget to one of your sidebars or footers in Appearance>Widgetswi

Your social networks should now display on your site and look something like this:


“Sociable” and “Share This” WordPress Plugins

Social Media icons make it easy for readers to share the content they find on your blog.  One click and your readers can share your posts and pages to a wider audience.  (Users will be asked to sign into their social media accounts, if not already signed in.)

The Commons has two WordPress plugins that manage social media icons on your posts, Sociable and Share This.  Sociable has a full-featured options panel that allows full icon configuration, including sizes, styles, and placement.   Here is a video introduction to Sociable.

Not to be outdone, Share This has some very detailed instructions that can be found here.  One nice feature of Share This is that it allows for “Multi-Post” sharing within your blog, so that users remain on your site while they share to multiple sites:

So which to choose?  Check them both out and see which one you prefer.

Meta Slider Plugin

meta sliderMeta Slider plugin is simple to use and lets you choose between four different “types” of sliders – Flex, Nivo, Coin, and Responsive.  Each type is responsive, and gracefully changes sizes for different types of devices, and offers various features for layering and transitions.  You can easily swap between the four types to find the one that suits you.

If your theme does not include functionality for a slider, you have some other choices:

  • Rotating Post Gallery – this is the plugin the Commons uses on its Home page.  It has many great features, but it has several drawbacks: it is not responsive, and it is a widget-only plugin – you need a widgetized area to display it.  It also only allows one slideshow per site.
  • Revolution Slider – This plugin is great on a single site, but it is written in such a way that its powerful layering functionality doesn’t work on the Commons.  You can create great slides, but you can’t layer them with captions.  It allows multiple slideshows per site, using convenient shortcodes, and offers many different types of sliders and effects.
  • EasyRotator for WordPress – this is also a great plugin, but it requires that maintain your slides using an external Adobe Air application, which you need to install on your computer. It also allows multiple slideshows per site, using convenient shortcodes.

The Meta Slider addresses the shortcomings highlighted above.  It allows multiple slideshows per site, using convenient shortcodes.  It doesn’t require any external application, and you can layer your slides with rich text formatted with HTML.  It’s simple to quickly set up an attractive slideshow on any page or post, or on a text widget in one of your sidebars.

meta slider tabGetting Started

  • First, decide on the dimensions of your slider for non-mobile devices.
  • Add the images to your media library that correspond to these dimensions. Meta Slider does a good job scaling up and down – but to avoid distortions and loss of sharpness, it’s best to get your image sizes close to your full size.
  • Click on the Meta Slider tab to create a slideshow.
  • Click on the “Add Slide” button to see the images in your media library. (You can also upload more images at this stage as well.)  Choose the ones you want to include.  Hold down the shift key and select multiple images.  You will see them checked.  Save and preview.  (You can always add or remove more slides later.)
  • Choose a slide type (i.e. Flex, Nivo, Coin, and Responsive) – each has a list “Advanced Settings” for further configurations.
  • meta slider settingsEnter the slide dimension you’ve decided upon. (this should be the largest size you expect to display on your page – it will scale down on different devices)
  • Optionally, add some caption heading and body with links – certain slider types are better for this (Nivo, Flex).  Some HTML is parsed, so you format as needed.
  • To create another slideshow, simply click on the “+” sign in the Slideshow tab.
  • Each slide will have a automatically generated shortcode.  Simply copy and paste into your post or page.


This five minute tutorial should get you up and running quickly:

Hope you enjoy this plugin!

The “Screen Options” Tab on your Dashboard

cockpit_3926872878_fe1c388e02_mOften overlooked, the “Screen Options” tab is located in the upper right corner of many sections of your WordPress dashboard. Clicking on the toggle button either expands or contracts an area of check box options. Select or de-select the options you want to display on that particular dashboard section.

The dashboard can seem overwhelming to those new to WordPress, and to make it less ominous, many lesser-used, but important options are hidden by default. If you find you never use an option, try hiding it to make it easier to find the stuff that is important to you.

screenopts 2

Just click on the button circled in red to discover which options can be shown or hidden in a particular section. Here are some examples:

On the Dashboard Main Tab

The screenshot below shows the options exposed after clicking “Screen Options.” Here you can de-clutter your main dashboard page. Tired of the “Welcome” page? Just deselect and it no longer shows. You can also decide how many columns should be used to display the checked options.

dashboard opts

On Summary Screens – Posts and Pages

When you click on the Pages or the Posts dashboard tab, a summary list of items is displayed. You can show/hide certain fields. (Some add-on fields are shown below, since this particular site has the WordPress SEO plugin activated.)

post opts

On Edit Screens – Posts and Pages

Again this screenshot comes from a site with lots of plugins activated, and you can show/hide their options and icons here, though if you don’t want to use the plugins, you might be better off just deactivating them. The important common options here are Send Trackbacks, Discussion, Slug, and Author. Without these checked, you will not see the option to allow trackbacks and comments on the individual post level (you can set them on or off globally, in “Settings,” but only for posts and pages written after that setting is applied). If you check the slug option, you can change the last part of the URL for your posts or pages. If you check the Author field, you can change the author to another user on your site.

post edit optsOn the Appearance>>Menu Tab

The Menu tab makes it easy to build custom menus using drag and drop, but by default, some types of content (like posts) are not displayed. Select all the types of content you want to be available when you build your menu to eliminate the work of finding links and pasting them in.

You can also add advanced options to customize the appearance of your menus.

menu optsHope this helps you customize your dashboard, and find those missing options you know should be available and get rid of those that are just taking up space.

Yoast WordPress SEO

yoast SEO

Yoast WordPress SEO is a powerful plugin that helps improve the chances that your site’s content will be discovered by search engines. The plugin “goes the extra mile” to make your WordPress content more accessible. It automatically adds OpenGraph meta tags to your content based on the keywords and descriptions you enter. You can see the tags it adds if you do a “view source” on your page or post. It is typically 20 or 30 lines from the top. See below for an example:

seo tags

If you are not that familiar with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), there is a great post recently published in the Emerging Tech in Libraries site on the Commons called Gentle SEO Reminders that covers some of the basics and is a great introduction.

Once activated, the plugin creates a new form section on your page or post admin screen:

yoast form

The plugin claims to help you write better content by having you choose a focus keyword and description. It automatically analyzes if this keyword is found in the article heading, page title, the url, description, and the page content, and suggests ways to improve.

There are many other settings that are available, and these are documented on the plugin’s website. You can set up default templates that auto-populate some meta tags so that you won’t need to go back to every page and post of your site and fill in the data. There is a lot of functionality to explore, but even if you just use its rudimentary features, the plugin seems to provide great ways to improve your site’s search engine results.

FAQ – Sites


Embedding Scribd Content

scribd-logoScribd bills itself as a “personal digital library” and provides both a premium monthly subscription plan (with access to over 400,000 books) and free access to user uploaded content.  Many Commons members take advantage of the free upload and storage Scribd offers, and embed PDF content such as CVs, research, syllabi, or the first couple chapters of a book directly into their WordPress sites.

The WordPress embed code that Scribd provides only works for users of or members of the Commons who activate the JetPack plugin.

It is easier to a built-in shortcode that is active on all Commons WordPress sites.  You’ll need two parameters: doc and key.  These are readily found in the WordPress embed code that Scridb provides.

Here is an example of the Common’s Scribd shortcode.  Simply type it on a new line of a WordPress post or page with your doc and key.  Or simpler still, just make a slight modification to the Scribd embed code (described further, below).


How do I Find the Parameter Needed in the Shortcode?

Each item on Scribd has embed information.  It is sometimes a little hard to find.  Here are some screenshots to guide in the process.

  • First, look for the “Share” icon at the top right.  Click it to get a dropdown of ways to share the item.  Select “Embed.”

scribd embed1

  • Then you will see screen that lets you configure the way your content will appear on a page (i.e. size, links, recommendations).  But most importantly, you need to click on the link “WordPress” (highlighted below, in red).
  • scribd embed twoOnce you click on the WordPress link, you will have all the information you need.  This is a screenshot of what Scribd Provides:

scribd embed 3

(Once again, this embed code only works on sites or sites that have JetPack plugin activated.)

Just Add Four Characters and You’re Good to Go!

On the Commons, all you need to do is copy the embed code and add “-doc” after “[scribd” – that is, just change  “[scrib id=….” to “[scrib-doc id=….” and you are good to go.  It will embed into your Commons WordPress post or page.




Getting Started with Google Analytics

Google Analytics and the Commons

The Commons has Google Analytics running on the whole site to gather statistics and metrics.  If you want to get statistics for your site on the Commons,  contact us at, and we’ll set you up with online access to review statistics, and/or daily, weekly, or monthly reports, sent to your email. Activity is provided in a spreadsheet or PDF, and can be broken down many ways, including by Pageviews, Unique Pageviews, Average Time per Visit, Bounce Percentage, and Exit Percentage.  Google seems to be constantly changing Analytics, and there seems to be a lot of new stuff constantly appearing.

There are a couple other ways to gather the kind of information – check out Statistics For Your Site for alternatives.

Please Note

This documentation is for the Commons Community team, and others who have been granted admin privileges to Google Analytics for the site.  Users with basic access will not be able to do many of the things below, but are invited to read on, if interested.

Where Am I?

ga whereIt is confusing at first (and even afterwards) to figure out where you are in the Google Analytics API.   Basically, you can be looking at the whole site and control admin and users from there, or you can go into a “view” and edit settings and set up reports for that sliver of data.  There are many views or subdomains (aka blog sites) listed, including one view of the entire site (  A good way to tell where you are is to look at the top right corner of the page.

The screenshot above shows two examples of what would display in your top right corner when you are looking at: (1) the whole site, and (2) at one view called “Digital Labor”.  It is easy to think you are looking at the whole site, when in fact you are only in one view.

User Privileges

ga users2Typically, we assign permissions based on subdomains, but some users will be assigned permissions for the entire site.  There are four levels of permissions, and they can be assigned on the whole Commons site, or on the subdomains level.

If assigned at the subdomains level, you will see “None” in the screenshot below, which is found at Admin>>User Management:

GA Users1

If you click on a user’s email, you will be taken to a screen that shows the permissions assigned on a subdomain level.  In the screenshot below, we are looking at the permissions assigned to Anthropology Fellows.  As you can see, these individuals have access to two subdomains and can collaborate, read and organize:

ga users3

To add a User, you only will need his or her valid gmail address.  You should encourage members who want to use this tool online to get a gmail account.  Other email addresses can be problematic.

Creating Views and Filters

To isolate and report on the statistics of a particular blog, we need to do two things – create a “view” and create a “filter” (you can call it anything, but mostly we just call it by the same name).  The filter strains all the metadata – typically we use these parameters: “include only“, “traffic to hostname“, “that begin with“.  That way when we create the filter, we can input the hostname as the sub-domain address (“”) and effectively filter out any traffic that is not going there.

Here is a screenshot that shows how to create a view.

new view2

Once you have created a view, you need to filter it display the stats you want see.  Without a filter, you’ll see all visits to the Commons.  Be careful here – syntax counts.  No “http//” or trailing “/”.  That will mess up your outcome.

GA filter

Once you’re done, you might want to visit the “view” site and see if you are getting counted.  It takes awhile – maybe a couple hours – but if you’ve done it correctly, you should see some uptick in the blue line.  The standard reports are based on monthly totals, so it really takes a month to get any meaningful stats.

ga uptick

ga viewsGetting Historical Data

A view only starts filtering out data from the time it was created.  How can you get statistics to subdomains prior to view creation?

First, go to the Commons view.  This is the view that was created when the Commons was first set up on Google Analytics, and it has compiled all our data since then.

We will need to create a customized report based on this data.  Click on “Customization” highlighted in the red box and then “New Custom Report” to get the process rolling.customized

metricsOn the new report page, you’ll need to supply a report name, and some metrics you want to report on.  To see all metrics possible, check the “Display Options Alphabetically.”  This will make it a lot easier to see the possibilities.  A good metric to start with is “Visits.”  You can always add or subtract metrics later.

Next you will probably want to choose “HostName” as your dimension if you want to report on one or all subdomains.

Next you will probably want to filter by one or more subdomains.  You can set up the filter to exclude or include.  Usually you will pick “Include” and “Exact” and then just provide the name of the subdomain.  The API will prompt you.  You can enter several includes, or if you know regular expressions, you can use one or more to filter down to exactly what you are looking for.

When you save your report, your data will display after a couple seconds.  You can adjust the timeframe at this point.  You can set the report to begin and end on certain dates, and you can report by day, week, or month.  These controls are found on the actual report and can be changed dynamically.  “Line Chart” is the default, but you can also choose “Motion Chart” to animate the data.  Line Charts can be exported to a variety of formats.

This is just a quick start for Google Analytics on the Commons.  There are obviously hundreds more options.

Here is an experimental report that I played around with for “Helldriver’s Pit Stop.”  It has four tabs with different report metrics.

ga example

Getting Started with Twenty Fourteen

t14 slider

When first installed, Twenty Fourteen doesn’t look much like what you anticipate from its pictures.  Here are some quick steps to make it to shine:

Accessing the Settings

t14 customizeOnce you’ve activated Twenty Fourteen, go to your dashboard, to Appearance>>Customize.  Click on Customize (circled in red) to access the theme’s settings.  You should see a panel like the snapshot pictured below.t14 panel

All the the theme’s configuration settings are found here.  You can set your site title and tagline and instantly see a preview of what it will look like.  Likewise with the background color, the title font color, and the background image, should you add one.

Be sure to click on “Save & Publish” if you are happy with the way your changes look.


The Navigation settings are very similar to what you find on your dashboard.  But here you can preview changes before saving them.  You’ll still need to set up your menus in Appearance>>Menus.  The theme provides two menus and you control where (and if) they are displayed.

Static Front Page

This setting probably looks familar to you if you’ve gone to the Settings>>Reading in the dashboard.  But here you can use it to preview how such a change would affect you site’s home page.  Basically, you decide here if you want your home page to display a number of your latest blog posts, or if you want it to display a static front page.t14 featuredContent

Featured Content

This is where you control what the featured area on you home page looks like.  It could be totally non-existent, or a grid of boxes, or a slider.  It will display your latest blog posts if they are tagged to be shown.  The default tag –  “featured” –  can be changed to whatever tag you want.  You can change your home page’s entire featured content area by just changing the tag name, and by deciding whether to display a slider, or a grid.

Featured Images

featured imageThe theme relies heavily on featured images.  The boxes in the grid will display the featured images of each post along with the post title, tags and other links.  The slider will display your post’s featured images as well.   Slider images need to be big, or else you might see a black area on the right (depending on device and monitor size).  If you are using a full width page template to display your slider, the featured image’s width needs to be at least 1200px to look good on desktops.  If you are using a template that also shows a sidebar, the width should be at least 1000px.  Slider images scale down, but do not scale up.  This might make transitioning from previous themes difficult.

If you choose to display your featured content in a grid, featured images can be smaller, but you still probably want them large enough to span the width of your page or post (at least 640px), when your readers click to see the actual content.  (You can also experiment with different post formats to see how they display the featured image.)

You can set the featured image on both a page and a post.  They display quite differently on different devices.

Dynamic Magazine Functionality

Twenty Fourteen offers a lot, but you can customize it further by changing its CSS or by creating a child theme (contact the Commons Help if you elect to go this route).

Some drawbacks – the slider does not animate, and you have to manually advance it.  Some studies suggest this is a better user experience.  (If you make a child theme, here is a way to make it animate.)  There is no easy way to change color scheme.  If you like the black background, you are in luck – if not, polish up on your CSS skills.

Hope you have fun with this theme!

WordPress 3.8 Now Available on the Commons

WordPress WordPress 3.8 (nicknamed “Parker” in honor of Charlie Parker) offers many improvements:

admin themeFirst off, the Dashboard looks very different.  Although everything is basically the same, the layout is much more attractively styled, and you now have the option to choose between seven different color schemes.  Go to Users>>Your Profile and find the “Admin Color Scheme” settings, pictured at the right to make any changes.  The Dashboard looks especially great on mobile devices and tablets and has a “fresh, uncluttered design that embraces clarity and simplicity.”   (I was not a big fan of the default color scheme and chose the “Light” option which I found easier on the eyes.)

Theme management has been refined.  You can more easily flip through the themes that are available on the Commons.  Sit back and use page up and page down keys to view available themes (we have hundreds).  Find one you like?  Hover over the theme and two things will happen.  You will see a box in the center (circled in red, below) that, when clicked, provides “Theme Details.”  This provides information that will help you decide if the theme will meet your needs.  You will also see the “Activate” and “Preview” buttons (highlighted by the red arrow).  Use the  preview button first to get a sense of what it will look like.  If you like it, you can click “Activate.”


widget changesWidgets are now easier to manage, especially on smaller devices.  Just click the widget you want to embed and a dropdown list of available widget areas is displayed.  Select the widget area, click the “Add Widget” button, and the Widget Area is auto-populated.  You can drag its position up or down to get it in the right place.  Then you need to click the “Save” button.   You can still use the old method of dragging and dropping too.

The new Twenty Fourteen theme is now the default theme on the Commons.  It is a sleek and responsive magazine style theme with three widget areas and two page templates.  Here is a link to its demo page and below are some screenshots of what it can look like.  On larger screens, the number of boxes on the rows increase.  You can also substitute the grid of boxes with a manually advancing slider.  For some quick start information, see Getting Started with Twenty Fourteen on the Codex.


Create Newsletters from Your WP Site with MailPoet


You can create fully configurable newsletters from your Commons WordPress site with the “MailPoet Newsletters” plugin.

MailPoet lets you use WordPress to build rich newsletters, either ad hoc using the familiar WP interface,  or by interacting with existing posts on your site.  You can manually drag and drop posts into a newsletter or schedule weekly or monthly newsletters that automatically pick up your latest content based on category.  Newsletters can include images, links, and social icons, and be designed from a number of templates.

Newsletters are sent directly from your site to lists of subscribers who you build via the plugin interface.  Lists can be derived from those who subscribe to your blog, or manually, or even by importing from a CSV file comprised of “email”,”lastname”, and “firstname” columns.

This is a great way to garner interest in your site and keep subscribers aware of what’s going on.

Getting Started
Once you activate the plugin on your dashboard, go to “Newsletters.”  You will see a basic newsletter template with four sections – you can use or delete any of these sections, or you can elect to use a totally different mailpoet themestemplate or “theme.”  (You can easily upload a number of free “themes” by clicking on “Add more themes” button.)  Drag them over to the canvas and start configuring your newsletter.  To add content from your posts, go to the Content tab and drag the type of content you want over to the canvas.  For example, if you want to add an excerpt from one of your posts, drag the “WordPress post” block over to a text area and drop it.  You will then be presented a list of all posts that you can select from.  Select one and if it has an image, re-size it appropriately by clicking on the lower right corner and expanding or contracting its size.  Other content options include “Title & Text,” “Dividers,” and “Social Icons.”

Once you get the hang of it, it is very easy to design a neat looking newsletter.

There are many “Settings” options that help you further configure your newsletter and email clients, and even a widget that lets viewers auto-subscribe.

Take a look and if you have questions, let us know at WordPress Help!  Enjoy!




You Just Created a Site on the Commons – Now What?


You now have a site on the Commons.  If you are new to the Commons or to WordPress, you might feel a bit confused about what to do next and unaware of the possibilities.

Blogs on the Commons

If you’re not already be clear about a focus, here are some examples of how members use blogs or “sites”:

  • Personal blogs
  • Research projects
  • Event or conference sites
  • Department sites (including calendar of events)
  • Class sites
  • Journals and reviews
  • News and Views commentaries
  • Photo blogs

Getting Started With Content

To make any changes to your site, you’ll need to go to your WordPress dashboard.   There you can enter content (i.e. “pages” and “posts”), and organize it with tags, categories, and menus, decorate it with images and videos, and make it accessible in sidebars using widgets.  The opening video demonstrates how to publish your first post.

Other stuff to think about:

  • recent blog postsVisibility – Do you want your site public and have search engines to index it?  Private to only Commons members?  Private only to you, while you are setting it up?  There are a lot of ways to control accessibility.  If your site is public, an excerpt of your posts will appear on the front page of the Commons when you publish, under “Recent Blog Posts.”  It will gradually disappear on the front page, as other members post content. (The Commons Home page displays 8-10 of our member’s most recent posts, and is constantly being updated.)  New blog pages are not shown on the Commons Home page.
  • Discussion – Do you want people to comment on your content?  You can turn discussion on or off globally, or on the page/post level.  Follow this link for more information on discussion settings and ways to filter spam.
  • Collaboration – Do you want to be the sole contributor, or do you want to let colleagues add content too?  You can add new “users” to your site and assign various levels of permissions.

Working With Themes

The default WordPress theme is great, but you might want to experiment with changing the general appearance of your site.  The Commons has hundreds of WordPress themes, many premium, that can make your site more unique.  No coding knowledge is needed, but you’ll just need to configure your new theme to take advantage of its options.

Themes provide alternative ways to layout and advertize your content.  Some come with built-in sliders and customizable front pages.  Some let you configure sidebars that compliment individual pages.  Many themes are designed to appeal to a certain type of blogger – so check them out and see if you see something that looks good and will work for your site.

live preview2A new feature of WordPress lets you preview a theme before you activate it.  In your dashboard, go to Appearance>>Themes, find the theme you are interested in, and then click “Live Preview.”  This will give you a general idea what’s in store if you activate it.

When picking a theme, you might want to consider how it looks on mobile devices.  For more information about this, and a list of mobile-ready themes, see Responsive Themes.

Working With Plugins

Plugins extend what you can do on your site.  So for example, if you are doing research and want to include a map with various sights pinpointed and annotated, you’ll probably be interested in a plugin like Leaflet Maps Marker.  Or if you want to create a Frequently Asked Questions section, you would want to activate Q & A plugin.  Love the 2012 theme, but would like to create a slider for a specific page?  Check out Easy Rotator.  Want to create a cool tag cloud – activate WP-Cumulous.  There are over two hundred plugins on the Commons that do cool stuff, and thousands available on  If you have a special need or a favorite plugin that is not available on the Commons, submit a plugin request or contact us at

See “Tweaking Your Site” for a quick summary of our most popular plugins.

Working with Media

You can easily include pictures and video in your pages and posts.  Typically, on a page or a post, you simply click on the Add Media button, and select “Upload.”  Then find the image on your computer system, and WordPress will upload three different sizes – small, medium and large.  Pick the size you want and orientation (right, left, center), and you are good to go.

Videos are even easier.  Simply paste the URL of the video on a new line and it should automatically embed.

Want to embed a PDF or a Google Doc?  You’ll need to use a specialize plugin – see Simple I-Paper and Google Doc Embed.  Have a presentation that you want to embed?  Check out the possible options.

Help Resources

There are many WordPress help resources available, both on the Commons and on the Web.

  • WordPress Help! A group on the Commons where members help other members out with WordPress questions.
  • On the Commons Wiki, check out the FAQ pages about blogs and Tweaking Your Site.
  • On the Commons Codex menu, see the section on “Blogs” – there are many posts that focus on blogging.
  • Contextual Help – don’t overlook the help button that is available on many dashboard pages.  The WordPress team has done a fine job of documenting common tasks and explaining concepts.  Find the “Help” toggle button in the upper right corner of your dashboard page.  Clicking it will show/hide an area that provides information about the particular task.

The contextual help section for “Pages” is shown in the screenshot below.  On the left side are textual descriptions, on the right, external links to WordPress documentation.

contextual help

  • Instructional videos –  There are a lot of videos to watch to more detailed information.  WordPress TV has some great ones – your might want to look in the beginner category if you are just starting out with WordPress.  You can also search YouTube and Vimeo for good videos on specific topics.


Domain Mapping on the Commons

cc-licensed image "Needs beget New URLs, Old URLs need redirecting" by flickr user psd

cc-licensed image “Needs beget New URLs, Old URLs need redirecting” by flickr user psd

Is Domain Mapping Right for You?

Do you or your organization have a specific domain you want to use, but would still like to host your WordPress site on the Commons?

Mapping your domain to a site on the Commons makes it accessible via both your domain url and your Common’s site URL.

What is domain mapping?

Domain mapping is a way for you to use a domain name that you’ve purchased (usually around $15.00 per year) and point it to the host where your content resides (i.e. the Commons).  So your site on the Commons can be accessed via the standard Commons URL ( – but it will switch to URL you have purchased.  People can access your site via either URL, but the URL always resolves to the URL that you have purchased.  On the Commons, hosting is free, so if you pick this route (and it is totally optional) you will only be paying for the domain you purchased. There are no other hosting charges.

A Couple Examples

Please note that the Domain Mapping discussed on this page does not relate to URL shorteners, or “Quick Links”.   If you want to create a  quick link to your site (i.e. “”), please refer to this page

Nor does it relate to URL redirects, which are also an option (For example, the NYC Nursing Education Consortium in Technology’s domain: is redirected to a site on the Commons:

Getting Started

It’s a two step process:

  1. Contact the Commons.  We’ll need to know what you’re planning and register the mapped domain on the Commons, so that WordPress knows to expect it.  Please use the form below to get the process rolling.  We’ll get back to you to coordinate.
  2. Contact your Domain Registrar.  Specific instructions for changing DNS settings vary widely.  Basically you’ll need to point your domain name to your Commons WordPress site URL. When mapping a domain name, point CNAME records to ( No change should be made to A records.

Domain Mapping Request Form

Use the following form to let us know about your plans to map your domain to the Commons, or optionally, contact us at

Your Name (required)

Brief Description (optional)

Domain You Want to Map (begin with http://) - this is the domain that you own

Target URL (begin with http://) - this is the WordPress site on the Commons that you want your domain to redirect to

Approximate Go Live Date (required)

Your email


Please enter the characters you see above.

ChartBoot for WordPress

chartbootThe ChartBoot for WordPress plugin makes it easy to add a wide variety of charts to your site’s pages and posts.  The available styles depend upon the kind of data you paste into the initial text box.  You can create simple bar charts, line charts and pie charts, or if you include a date and several variables, you can create an interactive “trend” chart.  Each chart can be easily customized with headers, fonts, and colors.

chartboot iconGetting Started

After you activate the plugin, no settings are necessary.  You’ll see that an icon appears on you edit dashboard.  After clicking the icon, a popup screen will appear with four buttons.  See image below:

chartboot API

Follow the four steps below to create a chart:

Imchartboot importport Data

Your data needs to be in some kind of spreadsheet.  Copy the data, including the headers, but you probably will not want the totals.  Paste your data into the text box shown on the right.

chartboot typesSet Types

This screen will automatically show your data field names – use the drop down to configure whether the field is text (“string”), number, or date.

Edit Chart

The plugin does a brief analysis of your data and provides some recommended chart types.  You can pick one of these, or click “More” for more options.  Your data will not support all chart types, and if you pick one that will not work, you’ll get an error message.  When you select a box, your potential chart will appear in a preview box on the right. The subsequent tabs on this screen let you customize a chart to your liking.  Features include heading, font size and family, background colors, and axis choice.  Make your choice and view how they look on the preview box.chartboot edit

Send to WP

This is the final step in the process.  When you click the box, the plugin generates the shortcode that creates your chart.  Make sure you are happy with all the steps above, since you’ll not be able to go back to the plugin’s API to edit your chart once it is generated.  You could try to decipher the shortcode and modify it, if you know what you are doing, but more likely you will find it easier to just start fresh and repeat the steps above.  Here is the shortcode generated for the sample chart:

chartboot shortcode

Google Calendar Events

google calendar eventsThe Google Calendar Events plugin lets you embed one or more Google calendars into your WordPress site, displaying events in a calendar grid, or as a list.   The plugin uses feeds to aggregate events from various sources.

Getting Started

Once activated, the plugin will create a new entry on your Admin “Settings” where you add your calendar feeds.  You can add several here, and later select the ones you want to display on a post or page (using a shortcodes) or in your sidebars using a widget.


The “Settings” page for the plugin has many more options, including its own “Event Display Builder” which lets you customize how events are displayed when the mouse rolls over a calendar date.  These settings are specific to the individual feed you are working with.  There are many conditional shortcodes that can be implemented here to ensure you display exactly the kind of events you want.  For example, you can customize the feed to only display all day events which are not ended.

calendar3How to Find Your Calendar Feed URL

Go to your Google Calendar.  In Chrome, you’ll probably see it as an option on the toolbar.  Click on the highlighted down-arrow, and then click on “Share this Calendar.”  You will be taken to page where you can make your calendar public.  To use this plugin, your calendar must be public.

Then click on “Calendar Details“, highlighted below:

calendar details On this page you will find a bunch of details about your calendar.  Scroll down the page until you find “Calendar Address.”  Click on the orange “XML” icon.


A box will popup containing the feed URL you need.  Copy this and go back to the Google Calendar Events plugin “Settings” page on your WP Admin dashboard.  Go to the “Add a Feed” (pictured above) and paste it into your Feed URL textbox.

Display Events on Posts or Pages, Using a Shortcode

Simply insert the following on a new line to display the default calendar:


There are four parameters which can be used to customize the appearance:

  •  id – a comma-separated list of the feed IDs you want to display (if this parameter is omitted, if will display all)
  • type – there are four possible values: list(events displayed in a list), list-grouped (events displayed in a list, grouped by date), grid (events displayed in a calendar grid for the current month), and ajax (events displayed in a calendar grid, with the ability to change months via AJAX)
  • title – when you roll your mouse over a calendar date, this will display as the title in the tooltip box that displays the events for the day
  • max – the max number of events to display

Probably the most noteworthy parameter here is type=”ajax”.  If you don’t use that, you will not be able to flip back and forth between months.  Also note that if there are no events in the coming months, the forward arrow will not appear.  (And conversely, if no previous events, the previous arrow will not show).

[google-calendar-events id=”1, 3″ type=”ajax” title=”Events on” max=”10″]

gce widgetDisplay Events Using a Widget

Once activated, you’ll notice that a widget called “Google Calendar Events” has been added.  Simply drag it over to the widget area of your choosing and configure. The widget provides the same options available with the shortcodes, described above.

Styling Your Event Calendars

If you want to take a shot at changing the way your calendar looks, and know a little CSS, you can play around with plugin’s stylesheet, attached below.  It’s pretty well documented.  Find the particular rule you want to override and paste it into Appearance>>Custom User CSS.

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar .gce-caption{ /* Caption at top of calendar */ color:#333333; text-align:center; }

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar{ /* Main calendar table */ width:100%; border-collapse:collapse; border:1px solid #CCCCCC; color:#CCCCCC; }

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar th{ /* Day headings (S, M etc.) */ border:1px solid #CCCCCC; text-align:center; width:14.29%; padding:0; }

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar td{ /* Day table cells */ border:1px solid #CCCCCC; text-align:center; height:80px; vertical-align:middle; padding:0; }

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar .gce-has-events{ /* Table cells with events */ color:#333333; cursor:pointer; }

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar .gce-event-info{ /* Event information */ display:none; /* Important! */ }

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar .gce-day-number{ /* Day number span */ font-size:2em; }

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar .gce-today{ /* Table cell that represents today */ background-color:#DDDDDD; }

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar .gce-next, .gce-page-grid .gce-calendar .gce-prev{ /* Previous and next month links */ cursor:pointer; display:inline-block; width:3%; }

.gce-page-grid .gce-calendar .gce-month-title{ /* Month title */ display:inline-block; width:90%; } .gce-page-grid .gce-calendar th abbr{ /* Day letter abbreviation */ border-bottom:none; } /* PAGE LIST */

.gce-page-list .gce-list p{ /* Each piece of information in the list */ margin:0; }

.gce-page-list .gce-list p span, .gce-page-list .gce-list div span{ /* The text displayed before each piece of info, \’Starts:\’ for example */ color:#999999; }

.gce-page-list .gce-list .gce-list-event{ /* The event title */ background-color:#DDDDDD; } .gce-page-list .gce-list .gce-list-title{ /* The title (not the same as event title) */ font-weight:bold; }

.gce-page-list .gce-list ul{ list-style-type:none; margin:0; padding:0; } /* WIDGET GRID */

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar .gce-caption{ text-align:center; }

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar{ /* Main calendar table */ width:100%; border:1px solid #CCCCCC; border-collapse:collapse; }

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar th{ /* Day headings (S, M etc.) */ width:14.29%; border:1px solid #CCCCCC; text-align:center; }

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar td{ /* Day table cells */ color:#CCCCCC; width:14.29%; border:1px solid #CCCCCC; text-align:center; }

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar .gce-has-events{ /* Table cells with events */ cursor:pointer; color:#666666; }

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar .gce-today{ /* Table cell that represents today */ background-color:#DDDDDD; }

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar .gce-event-info{ /* Event information */ display:none; /* Important! */ }

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar .gce-next, .gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar .gce-prev{ /* Prev and next month links */ cursor:pointer; display:inline-block; width:5%; }

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar .gce-month-title{ /* Month title in caption at top of table */ display:inline-block; width:80%; }

.gce-widget-grid .gce-calendar th abbr{ /* Day name abbreviations */ border-bottom:none; } /* WIDGET LIST */

.gce-widget-list .gce-list p{ /* Each piece of information in the list */ margin:0; }

.gce-widget-list .gce-list p span, .gce-widget-list .gce-list div span{ /* The text displayed before each piece of info, \’Starts:\’ for example */ color:#999999; }

.gce-widget-list .gce-list .gce-list-event{ /* The event title */ background-color:#DDDDDD; }

.gce-widget-list .gce-list .gce-list-title{ /* The title (not the same as event title) */ font-weight:bold; }

.gce-widget-list .gce-list ul{ list-style-type:none; margin:0; padding:0; } /* TOOLTIP */

.gce-event-info{ /* Tooltip container */ background-color:#FFFFFF; border:1px solid #333333; max-width:300px; }

.gce-event-info .gce-tooltip-title{ /* \’Events on…\’ text */ margin:5px; font-weight:bold; font-size:1.2em; }

.gce-event-info ul{ /* Events list */ padding:0; margin:5px; list-style-type:none; } .gce-event-info ul li{ /* Event list item */ margin:10px 0 0 0; }

.gce-event-info ul li p{ /* Each piece of information */ margin:0; }

.gce-event-info ul li p span, .gce-event-info ul li div span{ /* The text displayed before each piece of info, \’Starts:\’ for example */ color:#999999; }

.gce-event-info .gce-tooltip-event{ /* The event title */ background-color:#DDDDDD; font-weight:bold;

List Pages Shortcode

flicker_poles_6594723627_6e3dcf6137_zThe List Pages Shortcode plugin comes in handy if your site has a lot of pages and you want a quick way to make them accessible.  As its name suggests, it provides an easy-to-use shortcode with a bunch of optional parameters to list out links to your pages. Just type in the shortcode on a new line on the page where you want the list to appear.

You can exclude pages from the list, you can only show “child” pages of the current page, and specify how deep your want to go (grandchildren, great-grandchildren…), or you can only show siblings of the current page (pages with common ancestor pages).  You can sort the list according to specified fields (post_author, post_title, ID, post_date, etc. ).  And you can include a page excerpt (excerpt=”1″).  This plugin works well with the “Page Excerpt” plugin, which allows you to create a excerpt that summarizes and teases your readers to explore the page.  To exclude the current page, use exclude_current_page=”1″.  If you plan to do some custom styling of your list using CSS, you can add a class (class=”my_page_list”).

Here are some sample ways to use the shortcode:

listpagesAnd here are some of the parameters that you can use:


An explanation of how to use these parameters can be found here.

This plugin is a great way to organize and manage content on your site.

WP Post to PDF

postToPdfThe WP Post to PDF plugin lets your readers download your page or post content to a PDF.  You can control if this function should be available to everyone, or just to logged in users.  Installation is a snap.  The plugin adds an entry to your admin dashboard “Settings” called postpdf1“WP Post to PDF.”  Here you can configure the plugin to your liking.  You can determine what pages and posts you want the PDF export icon to appear, and how it should look like.  You can exclude pages and posts, and determine how to display author information.

The plugin has a default logo that is easily changed on a single site installation, but which is problematic to configure on the Commons.  Follow this post to see if there is a resolution, or stay tuned.  Maybe we can globally replace it with the Commons Logo, or simply not display it.replaceLogoWhen installed, your page or post will look something like the screenshot below.  Just click on the icon to download a PDF version.
pdf samp

And the downloaded PDF will look like this, depending on how your configure your layout:
sample pdf

Column Shortcodes

column shortcodesColumn Shortcodes is a plugin that lets you divide your post or page content into columns wherever you want, using easy to use shortcodes.  You can swap in and out of various column layouts (there are eleven to choose from).

column icon2Once installed, the plugin adds an icon to your edit dashboard.  Click on the icon and choose a layout.  Enclose the content between the two parts of the automatically generated shortcode, and continue across the row.  If you choose, you can end the row with the “(last)” shortcode.

column shortcs

This is an easy way to create interesting layouts for your pages and posts.  The plugin also provides a way to add padding to columns.  Be sure to enter the padding first (put your cursor on the box, and add a pixel value for the padding) if you need it, and then select a column shortcode.

column options

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