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Notes on WordPress 4.0 – “evolutionary”

Evolutionary but not revolutionary. It’s a big new number but a “regular” number of new features—some really useful, however. The other good news is that fewer big changes means fewer chances of breakage while updating.

WordPress 4.0 “Benny” has been released today. Here’s the intro video



new media library uses space more effectively: infinitely scrolling “grid view” added to the “list view”wordpress v4 media library grid Notes on WordPress 4.0   evolutionary

new plugin views use space less effectively but provide more info:wordpress v4 plugins page Notes on WordPress 4.0   evolutionary


TinyMCE  editor: New behavior of the editor is really useful – having the top bar be “pinnable” so it’s always visible is key for pages with lots of content. There are other improvements to keyboard and cursor interaction with TinyMCE views.

Looking forward to using it and to WordCamp in October.

Other features:

  1. Previews of oEmbed URLs in the visual editor and via the “Insert from URL” tab in the media modal.
  2. Select a language when installing WordPress
  3. Widgets in the Customizer are now loaded in a separate panel
  4. Improvements to formatting functions

via A Guide to WordPress 4.0 – Tuts+ Code Article.

Posted in Web Design | Leave a comment

Alternatives to Hello Bar: WordPress Notification Bar Plugins

Hello Bar is a SaaS which charges based on the number of clicks the bar receives. If your bar receives 7,500 clicks per month, HelloBar would cost you $50/month. It’s a great service and includes it’s own analytics but many sites will benefit from a simpler option without ongoing fees.

foobar1 Alternatives to Hello Bar: WordPress Notification Bar Plugins

Foobar ($14)

Foobar is my favorite alternative to Hello Bar. $14  is a one time payment at CodeCanyon and it features a powerful customization panel. Customizing colors, font size, shadows as well as social icons and much more. You can save multiple Foobars and assign to to specific pages. It’s great also for occasional ‘emergency’ notices also.

attentionGrabber (free)

Foobar was my favorite, but attentionGrabber is nicely designed visually. The transition effect is smooth. Like Foobar, you add official Twitter and Facebook button next to the post link. So with regards to the backend and in terms of design attentionGrabber is the best.

see also:

  • Mintbar – an open source notification bar.
  • Smart Bar by SomoMe – this is just for email signup but they have interesting related products.
  • AddThis Welcome Bar – this bar appears based on which social media site your visitors are coming from.
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Google “local” “places” and “+”

It’s another Google riddle: What’s local yet keeps moving?

I had a listing on Google “local” and then that became a Google “places” page and now it’s a “Google+” page. I’m sure they’ll change it again soon enough but for now it’s nice to have more integration with reviewers identities. BTW if you are a client that I have worked with in the past… please consider writing a review for me on my business Google+ page.

The URL started as
and is now

In 2012 Google Places pages were completely replaced by new Google+ Local pages.


BTW: Google changed settings, including the “Hide my address” settings. Google local listings can appear in 3 places: in Google Maps, in Google+ and in the organic Google web results. Used to be that you could suppress your address in some listings.

Google is changing some settings including the Hide my address settings 2014 04 23 Google local places and +

Posted in Product Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Akismet Error Code #10003

Akismet Error Code 10003 Screen Shot 2014 04 23 at 3.05.58 PM 634x157 Akismet Error Code #10003

This is a pretty new development. Akismet is not free anymore – but they do have a free version for “personal” use (well, it’s listed as “pay what you want”).

If you see this error then don’t panic. For that matter, in general, don’t panic. I think for now you can leave things as-is and my guess is that it will just keep working for a good long while. Till they decide to get more strict.

Better yet, do as I did and start paying them for this excellent service. Go to http://akismet.com/plans/ and sign up for a free plan – pay what you want – or a paid plan. You can make an account with Akismet or use a wordpress.com account.

And for all my clients that don’t host their WordPress sites with me, I suggest paying extra for the Akismet and VaultPress bundle. VaultPress provides a very powerful backup and security scanning service.


  • WPtavern account set-up with screenshots
Posted in WordPress | 1 Response

How to remove a Google account from “Choose an account” page list

google sign in remove button missing 634x484 How to remove a Google account from Choose an account page list

Here’s a quick tip on something very simple that I could not figure out for the longest time. One of those bugs that was somehow thought to be a feature at some point in the development process over at Google. Too busy not doing evil, I guess…

The graphic above is very straightforward and familiar to anyone who uses more than one Google account.  Easy to add or remove accounts, right? The tricky part is that if you are logged into any of these accounts then you will not see the “remove” button. Instead, it will look like this (with just “add an account”):

add account no remove 634x174 How to remove a Google account from Choose an account page list

Add and Login to Remove?

In other words, to remove an account you have to log out of a different account but it doesn’t tell you which account you are logged into. And to find this page in the first place you have to “Add account” from the top right menu - so you have to add an account and then log out of an account in order to remove an account.

There are many ways to end up on this page I suspect – jumping between Google services such as Adwords or Google Analytics, for example. These are some of the URLs that will bring up the “Choose an account” list:

Some of the keywords I tried to find an answer online:

  • How to remove a Google account from your list of accounts on the “Choose an account” page?
  • How to remove sessions from Google accounts?
  • Google account +remove button missing

More links:

If you have never seen this interface it might be helpful at this point to know that once you can see the “remove” button then it’s very simple: click the “remove” button and ‘x’ any accounts that you want to remove from the list. This will not delete accounts of course, just remove them from the saved list. See the “Choose an account” picture at top.

Posted in Product Reviews, Web Design | 14 Responses

Embedded tweets in WordPress

It was a great idea when introduced just a year or two ago but at this point it seems it’s a feature that is no longer supported. Some users report that it only works sometimes. Twitter is famous for having its servers become unavailable so perhaps it’s not ideal to rely on “oEmbed” anyway. Embeds work just fine for YouTube and other sources however.


My team wrote a simple twitter oEmbed plugin that works with a shortcode. So instead of putting in the full tweet URL:
Just put in a shortcode like this:
   [twit id="423594413600690177"]


Another solution is to grab the “full” embed code from twitter. It looks something like this:

<blockquote lang=”en”><p><a href=”https://twitter.com/freshbooks”>@freshbooks</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23status&amp;src=hash”>#status</a> paypal payments are not working. paypal says it&#39;s a known issue with freshbooks today. please give us an update.</p>&mdash; ari salomon (@helloari) <a href=”https://twitter.com/helloari/statuses/421349608422264832″>January 9, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Remember to  put that in the “text” (not “visual”) tab of your post editor.

Here’s where to get the code:

and finally, here’s what it will look like


WordPress v3.8.1 seems to fix this issue

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Stripe, Gravity Forms and WooCommerce

I have more and more clients who are enjoying using Gravity Forms and Stripe to build order forms and take payments on their own sites. Note that the Stripe Add-on for Gravity Forms is free – no yearly fees – if you host your WordPress site with me and/or have me build your site.

stripe logo funny busienss blue Stripe, Gravity Forms and WooCommerce

Here’s some other notes about the benefits of using Stripe and why it can replace PayPal, Square and many other tools.

Stripe Account Management: Mobile (iOS)

Pay Pad $7.99
Mobile account management for Stripe

  • Create new charges (credit card reader via the device camera)
  • View recent activity
  • Analytics & Reports
  • Rich push notifications
  • Recurring invoices: See the plan a customer is on

The big feature is the ability to accept payments from your iPhone into your Stripe account – there is no hardware for swipes like the “Square” or “PayPal Here” but  instead you use the iPhone camera.

Paid for Stripe $5.99

  • Enter payments manually (no card reader)
  • Monitor, refund and retry payments. Email or delete customers.
  • Clean interface. Nice Dashboard.

Card Readers

AppNinjas – The iOS app if free but there is “a monthly fee of $15 (includes 1st terminal) and $9/mo for each additional terminal”. There is no minimal time commitment so you could pay $15 for one month’s service and still get the free card reader – but after that month you would not be able to use the card reader. Works with many gateways including Braintree. If you want to use Stripe or Braintree or your own existing merchant account make sure to start from this page.

Innerfence – The App and Card reader is free but this service requires a monthly fee plus a transaction fee. Min of $9/mo +1.9%. Yes, they add  percentage on top of the Stripe percentage – not a very good deal but comes with extra features: location based sales tax, maps, and online access to manage your account.If you want to use Stripe or Braintree or your own existing merchant account make sure to start from this page.

CardFlight – this seems to be only for app developers. Now they have an app too: SwipeSimple but you first need a SwipeSimple account — only sold through resellers, providers of merchant account services.

WooCommerce and Stripe

One great feature Stripe offers for the WooCommerce WordPress ecommerce plugin is “saved cards”. If users make WordPress accounts in your web store, the user will be able to view saved credit cards when they come back. At payment, they are setup in stripe as a customer and at their next order they will be able to checkout using the same card. A big timesaver for returning customers. Stripe also supports the Subscriptions extension.

Posted in WordPress Ecommerce | Tagged | Leave a comment


feet wheel stairs3 634x422 Feet+wheelchair=Staircase


What an amazing idea – take a wide staircase and “overlap” a ramp for wheelchairs. Makes me want to think out of the box about using phrases like “think out of the box”.

For everyone who has ever gotten around in a or pushed around a baby stroller, you know how frustrating it is to encounter a building with stairs and no ramp. Almost as bad are the steep, poorly-designed ramps that were simply tacked on later. The McCormick Tribune Campus Center in Chicago made a stylish compromise between stairs and ramp with this staircase that incorporates a zig-zagging ramp with the stairs.


via 15 More! Crafty Metal, Wood & Spiral Staircases | En Derin.

Posted in Inventions | 2 Responses

Google Apps vs Outlook.com for free email hosting at your domain

Back at the end of 2012 Google’s big announcement was that they no longer offered a free version of Google Apps. Google Apps is basically a free Gmail account but at your own domain instead of at gmail.com. If you pay for the pro version (“Google Apps for Business”) you get more storage, support and a few other features. Nonprofits can get it free by request.

Google Apps is a great product but who can we turn to now for domains that have simple email needs and no budget? I host most of the sites I build but I no longer host email on my server in order to keep it safe and speedy for my WordPress managed hosting clients.

live mail outlook 300x180 Google Apps vs Outlook.com for free email hosting at your domain

What is outlook.com?

Outlook.com is the successor to Hotmail. If you have a Hotmail address, you can upgrade to outlook.com. Note that Office 365 is more of a direct, enterprise-ready competition for Google Apps. It gives you an Exchange account, and web versions of all 8+ office programs (not just the 5 free “SkyDrive” ones). But Office 365 is not free – there are 3 service levels.

Google Apps vs Outlook.com

Here is a comparison chart between Yahoo, Outlook.com and Gmail (all of which are free).  They are all really similar in terms of feature lists – and all allow forwarding to other email accounts (Outlook.com allows forwarding to just one address but Google apps allows for more than one). The key thing this chart doesn’t address is the experience of using the web-based interface. The interfaces are all very different – with Yahoo being a distant 3rd in terms of usability. Of course all 3 offer many ways to access your email without every using their browser-based interfaces. Some other take-away notes:

  1. Outlook.com didn’t offer IMAP till very recently.
  2. Outlook claims “virtually” unlimited storage.
  3. Outlook shows ads (more that mail) BUT it doesn’t target them based on your email content – in other words, it’s robots don’t read your email.
  4. You can get free email in the form of  x@outlook.com or you can use your own domain free. (Gmail/Google Apps no longer offers a free option for using your own domain name)
  5. Outlook.com  has web-based versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint so you can work with those kinds of attachments directly. It is like Gmail and Google docs + Google Drive. See image below.
office onine skydrive.live .com  300x211 Google Apps vs Outlook.com for free email hosting at your domain

Look in the Sky – It’s a drive!

How to set up free outlook.com for your domain

Now that I’ve done this process a few times I can offer some tips:

  1. Start with this LifeHacker article.
  2. Note that you can have multiple administrator accounts for your custom domain. Each administrator must register the domain on the Windows Live Admin Center website and enter a unique MX record that authenticates that user (an MX record specifies which server in your domain should receive incoming email) that’s associated with that administrator at your registrar or Domain Name System (DNS) provider’s website.
  3. The Domain administration interface at live.com / outlook.com is much much simpler and has hardly any features compared to Google Apps. But that can be a feature in itself.  Basically just add new user accounts and go on your way.
  4. Check e-mail at http://mail.live.com or you can set up your own subdomain just like Google Apps does via a Cname DNS record
  5. Where to make more accounts for your domain? You can make up to 50 email accounts for free.
    Start here: https://domains.live.com/ and click “get started”
    Note that you  have to log in as the new user in a browser in order to confirm the account before using it. Live will ask you for a captcha to confirm you are a human and there are two other simple screens to proceed through before you can start using the new account.
  6. Important note: Please sign in at least once every 365 days—otherwise your account looks inactive and could be deleted. I’m not sure how that compares to Gmail these days but there are a few levels of security you have to go through in activating a new Outlook.com email account.
  7. Also see: answers.microsoft.com FAQ
  8. To use Apple Mail (or any other IMAP client) read these instructions. Here’s the most relevant part: “For incoming mail server settings, make sure that the account type is set to IMAP, then enter “imap-mail.outlook.com” as your incoming mail server. Enter your real Outlook.com e-mail address and password in the username and password fields.”see: ActiveSync and POP settings

Are there other free email options?

The short answer is Zoho. They offer a similar suite of tools and a free option – with email at your domain. But I have not used it.

For free (and paid) email/webmail Wikipedia has a useful table with many options:

wikipedia.orgwikiComparison of webmail providers 300x253 Google Apps vs Outlook.com for free email hosting at your domain

Lifehacker has a great article about alternatives.

LH notes 300x161 Google Apps vs Outlook.com for free email hosting at your domain




…or just pay for Google Apps!

gapps pricing 300x270 Google Apps vs Outlook.com for free email hosting at your domain


PS: here’s a tip if you are having issues with the outlook.com (and hotmail.com) spam filter. it’s pretty agressive and only has two settings. There is no way to turn off the spam filter. For those that don’t use the web interface and want to use some other spam filter this can be a real problem. solution: set up a filter

  1. Go to the gear icon, go to “more mail settings”
  2. Then find “Rules for sorting new messages”
  3. Finally, add a new rule of the form “Sender’s Address” “contains” @ then select “Move to Inbox”

turn off spam filter in outlook hotmail 634x594 Google Apps vs Outlook.com for free email hosting at your domain


UPDATE: After struggling with some senders being blocked I am “downgrading” Outlook.com and am motivated to try out Zoho’s service.

UPDATE 2014: Well, I have not tried Zoho yet but I have a couple commentors that seem to be happy with it.

Posted in Web Design | 6 Responses

Gravity Forms FreshBooks Add-On and Recurring Payments

freshbooks large Gravity Forms FreshBooks Add On  and Recurring Payments

Gravity Forms and FreshBooks — my two favorite services (software is a service, of course) — now play nicely with each other.

Let me start with the bad news: the invoice that can be generated is not sent automatically (it is only added to FreshBooks in Draft mode) and there is no provision to send recurring invoices currently.

But there is lots of good news too:

  • Automatically add clients to a FreshBooks account when any kind of Gravity Form is submitted
  • You have the option of asking for a PO number that gets passed to FreshBooks
  • Automatically create invoices and estimates from a form submission (draft mode only – the invoices are not sent out)
  • Update existing client details when new forms are submitted

Sample project

See the public view of the form I set up:   http://www.artsadministration.org/register/

Here is a screenshot of the feed:

FreshBooks Feed Screen Shot 2013 09 18 at 3.42.13 PM 544x600 Gravity Forms FreshBooks Add On  and Recurring Payments

Recurring Payments… on the Titanic

This Gravity Forms plugin can’t set up Recurring Payments in FreshBooks. But that research led down a rabbit hole that I want to share with you now…

This gem below came after a very long talk with PayPal customer support where they were not sure if it would work. And then FreshBooks support also was not sure if it would work. FreshBooks support is usually great but I know that the PayPal API is a big mess – they keep old versions around which is nice for backwards compatibility but they don’t organize their APIs clearly and their site in general has gotten very confusing and bloated. Titanic… well there is some joke here about how PayPal is just rearranging deck chairs instead of getting to the heart of the problem and revamping their whole site. I know Gravity Forms is considering dropping support entirely for PayPal in favor of Stripe.com which offers a wonderfully clean and simple experience.

Here’s what I found out:

FreshBooks works with the “Payflow Edition” of “Website Payments Pro”.  With this kind of account PayPal is both gateway and processor.  FreshBooks says it requires “PayPal Payflow Pro” (where PayPal is the gateway and a separate bank account is required as processor – $10/mo extra fee, other fees, a very different kind of account) for recurring payments. By testing directly myself, I confirmed Website Payments Pro Payflow Edition  works for recurring payments.


Update: a reader reminds me that Gravity Forms can initiate recurring payments – if done directly with Stripe and not via FreshBooks. Gravity Forms Stripe Add-On  supports recurring payments – but you need to buy the Pro version ($49/yr) and always remember to enter API keys for Stripe (right after you turn the plugin on) or the form elements won’t work and other “bugs” will appear.

Posted in WordPress Ecommerce | Tagged | 1 Response
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