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Reorganize your WordPress posting screen

WordPress as a content management and blogging platform just keeps getting better and better. Since I started using it last year, the new features introduced have really blown me away!

One of the nicest of these is the ability to customize the layout of the posting screen. I’m still looking into how to create an “optimal” base layout for folks who get their own Freedom Blog, so until I can do that, I feel I should offer a bit of advice.

Open your site’s dashboard and either go to Posts->Add New at the left, or just whack the big “New Post” button at the top right. The posting screen will come up.

See all those gray bars with titles like “Publish”, “Categories” and (scroll down) “Custom Fields”? Each of those bars and their boxes is a set of controls for additional options you have any time you publish something.

I almost never use most of these, and a few I use all the time. Every post goes into a category, so I keep the Categories control in place. I also keep Publish right up on top. Of the remainder, all I ever really use are: Suggested tags (from the Simple Tags plugin), Tags (Simple Tags) and Excerpt.

Creating an excerpt for each of your posts is pretty important. These get turned into descriptions that search engines and also social sites like Facebook and so on look at. An excerpt should be short and direct (no more than 200 characters or so, preferably less) and describe your post in a clear and direct way. I keep the Excerpt box up near the edit window, both for convenience and to remind me to write an excerpt for all my posts. If you don’t see it on the post screen, scroll down until you do. Drag it up until it’s below the posting screen, and use the arrow that appears when you hover over the gray bar to open it up. This setting will then remain in place for you in the future.

For tags, I use the Simple Tags plugin in preference to what comes included with WordPress. Unlike the hierarchical categories, tags are a more “horizontal” way to create navigation through your content. On Freedom Blogs, they also get turned into HTML meta keywords, which affect how search engines look at your post in mysterious ways. If you want to set up like I do, drag the Simple Tags tag list window over to the right side under Categories, and the Suggested tags box right up under the editing window.

And that’s basically it! Everything else on the right panel I drag into the center, minimize with the arrow, and push to the bottom. Almost all the good stuff on my sites happens automatically, so I don’t bother tweaking things in those other areas too often.

So take a look, get some of that clutter out of the way on your posting screen, push the important parts front and center, and you’ll be saving yourself just that little bit of all-too-precious time every time you go to write something on your blog!

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