What is a plugin?
A plugin is a piece of code that expands the functionality of software in one way or another. They are basically special features that you can can activate and apply to your blog. Because WordPress is open source software, there are numerous plugins to allow you to add capabilities to your site.
WordPress blogs for personal use through a third party web hosting site or through Georgetown Domains do not have the same set of installed plugins as the Commons. For these blogs you can install and use any plugin available through WordPress.
As stated above, WordPress blogs that are not through Georgetown Commons can add as many plugins to the site as wanted or needed. To add a plugin, go to your Dashboard. Find "Plugins" - "Add New" along the left-hand side. From there, you can install any available plugin you want by clicking the "Install Now" button beside the name and description of the plugin.
To activate a plugin, go to your Dashboard - "Plugins". There you'll see that you can access a list of "active" and "inactive" plugins via links at the top of the page. You can activate or deactivate plugins using these links or the main list of all the plugins. The first choice underneath each plugin is to either activate or deactivate. For some plugins, features will appear as extra features on the left of your dashboard. The CampusPress plugin, for example, will add a "CampusPress" section below your "Settings." Other plugins will integrate new sub-categories in the sections that already exist, like "Tools" or "Settings". Only plugins that have been deactivated can be deleted from the list of installed plugins.
Only administrators of a blog can install and activate plugins.
Widgets are a "simple way to arrange the various elements of your sidebar content" (WordPress Codex). Examples of popular widgets include log-in tools, RSS feeds, a list of blog pages, a list of links (your "blogroll"), and a list of blog authors. In WordPress, you can drag and drop these modules into your sidebar and arrange them in the order that you would like to have them appear on your sidebar.
Adding widgets to your blog
To browse the widgets that are available to you, go to Dashboard - "Appearance" - "Widgets." You will see a list of "Available Widgets", a list of "Inactive Widgets," and on the left a "Sidebar" box. Drag and drop your "available" or "inactive" widgets over to the sidebar box. You can then open the widgets by clicking on the downward arrow beside them; most give you the option of renaming them or changing some of their display properties. If you want to remove a widget, simply drag it back over to "Inactive Widgets," and it will save the settings you have changed until the next time you want to use that widget.
Some themes come with predefined widgets in the sidebar, and by adding widgets in the appearance menu you might overwrite the current defaults. However, you can add them back as you wish.
To learn how to add customized links to the sidebar, click here.