Another post in our series on Creating Azure (hosted) WordPress Websites without knowing PHP or MySql!

Intro –  Choosing WordPress Plugins

This is the current list of plugins that we have tested and use together successfully on our current WordPress (v4.8 at the time of this writing) websites hosted on Azure Platform as a Service (PaaS). Certainly there are a number of other variations of each of these plugins to be found, both free and premium, that will work together for your various website functionality – but these are what we’ve chosen and know are reliable for what we require. (Disclaimer – we have NO affiliation with any of these plugin products, except that we use them!)

  1. SMTP Mailer
  2. iThemes Security Pro
  3. Customize WordPress Login Page
  4. All-In-One-Intranet
  5. Advanced Sidebar Menu and Advanced Sidebar Menu Pro
  6. Breadcrumb
  7. Comet Cache
  8. Swifty Page Manager
  9. Advanced Access Manager
  10. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
  11. Smooth Scroll Page Up/Down Buttons
  12. Page-List
  13. WP Edit
  14. Enlighter – Customizable Syntax Highlighter
  15. Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
  16. Akismet Anti-Spam
  17. WP Security Audit Log
  18. Remove Dashboard Access

In the outlines below, the hyperlinked title for each plugin title will direct you to the plugin’s information page for full details of the plugins. We’ve outlined some basic information of why and where we use them. Not all of these plugins are used on all of our websites, as noted for each:

1. SMTP Mailer

  • Used for configuring a mail server to handle all outgoing email from the website using SMTP and sending SSL emails from the website
  • This is the first plugin we install, configure and then test that the website is able to send emails. Sometimes a new plugin installation or a plugin update error will generate an email to allow access back in to the website. For example, installing iThemes Security Pro and having 2-factor login authentication activated, generates an authentication email that is required to be access the website again.
  • Having the email plugin working first is a caution against getting locked out of the website! (So is doing a website backup before adding a new plugin or running updates to the website)
  • Used on all of our sites

2. iThemes Security Pro 

  • This is a full-featured security & protection plugin
  • We use the Pro (paid for) version
  • We outline some of the iThemes Security Pro features we use in Maximize Security of your WordPress Site
  • Below is a screen shot of some of the 32 main categories of settings for iThemes Pro
  • Used on all of our WordPress sites

3. Customize WordPress Login Page

  • Used for creating a branded WP Login Page
  • A full featured plugin that allows us to change background color, background image, add a background slide show, login form color, login form font size, login form position, add social media icon on form, redirect Users to a custom URL after login and many more features.
  • Used on all of our ‘private-access’ sites

4. All-In-One-Intranet 

  • A small footprint plugin that quickly & simply locks down a website from all public access, with one setting!
  • The Login Redirect and Auto Logout are useful features
  • We temporarily install this plugin to use while building a website, before making it public
  • Used on all of our ‘private-access’ sites

5. Advanced Sidebar Menu  and Advanced Sidebar Menu Pro

  • This is the widget plugin that we use to generate a sidebar menu with a dynamic list of hyperlinked heirarchical parent/child/grandchildren pages
  • We also like that it comes with its own styling options so we don’t have to use/know CSS to be able to quickly style it the way we want.
  • Used on all of our ‘page-centric’ sites


  • The red highlighted area in the screen shot below is an auto-generated Right Sidebar’s menu list of page links by the Advanced Sidebar Menu Pro:

6. Breadcrumb 

  • Generates Breadcrumb navigation links anywhere on a website

  • The red highlighted area is the breadcrumb trail we use on all of the page-centric sites we build. We like having yet another quick access way to navigate ‘up’ the hierarchical list of pages
  • Used on all of our ‘page-centric’ sites

7. Comet Cache

  • Reduces page load time from 6.7sec to 1.7s via GMatrix testing
  • Used on public blog websites, not on private sites since logged in users exempted from receiving cached content

8. Swifty Page Manager 

  • Generates a hierarchical/collapsing order list of pages on the Admin Dashboard
  • Can add page, change page settings like retitle, drag and drop to a new section, delete, edit or view pages from the screen
  • Makes working with a lot of pages on a website a LOT faster & easier than from the WP admin dashboard
  • Used on all of our ‘page-centric’ sites

9. Advanced Access Manager

  • This is a premium (paid-for) plugin we use to set up page/category access restrictions for various access roles on both the front and back end of a WP site
  • Used on a private intranet/wiki website to restrict business confidential pages/sections to Administrators on the front and back end

10. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

  • Generates Google Analytics of pages and posts, viewable from the WP Admin Dashboard
  • Used on all of our websites

11. Smooth Scroll Page Up/Down Buttons

  • Fast, smooth scrolling up and down, one screen/page at a time
  • We place this on the bottom right of our website’s pages for convenience and speed of reading long pages
  • Used on all of our websites

12. Page-List 

  • Generates a dynamic linked list of hierarchy of pages under a parent page using short-code
  • With the use of a simple short-code (in this case, [pagelist child_of=”current” ] ) placed anywhere on a page, an auto-generated list of pages is displayed on the website front end
  • We copy/paste the code into Section pages to list all published pages
  • Used on all of our ‘page-centric’ websites to display an expanded list of dynamic links to all the child/grandchild/greatgrandchild list of pages of a parent section
  • Back-end Shortcode:

Front-end’s Auto-generated Display:

13. WP Edit

  • Creates a full featured back-end WP Editor
  • Used on all of our websites

14. Enlighter – Customizable Syntax Highlighter

  • Syntax display editor for loading code/snippets into posts/pages
  • Used on websites requiring technical code to be displayed

15. Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions 

  • Multi-featured database cleaner and optimizer
  • Over time, the WP database can become bloated with old post and page revisions, trashed items etc.
  • We set the max number of revisions to 6, and optimize databases at least once a month
  • Used on all of our websites

16. Akismet Anti-Spam

  • Controls comments and contact form submissions from spam
  • A WP Default installed Plugin that only needs to be activated
  • Used on all of our public websites

17. WP Security Audit Log

  • Generates an audit trail of logged in users’ activity on a website
  • Used on all of our websites

18. Remove Dashboard Access

  • Removes access to the WP Dashboard to Subscribers
  • Used on private access sites where Subscribers may only see the front end UI and have no access to the WP Tool Bar.

Choosing WordPress Plugins

Read  all of the other posts in our series on Creating Azure (hosted) WordPress Websites without knowing PHP or MySql!