Introducing Excerpts+ Leaf v2 for Headway Themes

Excerpts+ Leaf for Headway Themes [I am Co-Founder of Headway Themes] is an awesome leaf that greatly enhances how you can display post excerpts and content to give your site the “wow” factor. In particular, Excerpts+ uses the post’s Featured Image in various ways to add that professional look to your layouts. Excerpts+ includes options to display posts in a slider, show excerpt or full content, and pagination.

Some popular uses are:

  • Featured posts with slider
  • Recent posts lists with thumbnails
  • Grids of post excerpts with images as background to each
  • Product showcases
  • Image rotators
  • Simple image galleries
  • Magazine/ newspaper style website layouts

Excerpts+ is a very versatile leaf that can go well beyond just being a spruced up excerpts display.

Version 2.0 brings several new features that users have been asking for, and a raft of other additions and improvements. The main new features are pagination, improved image management, a structure editor and an extensive user guide.

Right off the bat though, it is very important to note that to achieve some of these improvements has meant tinkering that means if you were using Excerpts+ v1 you will need to reconfigure your existing leafs – particularly under the Structure Tab.

More on that later, but lets first talk about the big four improvements.

 

1. Pagination and full content display

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The number one user requested feature for Excerpts+ was pagination. That is, the option to enable readers to page through posts – the familiar “Previous posts” and “Next posts” buttons seen on WordPress websites.

Consequent to adding pagination was a need to add full content display. So, now you have the option of just displaying the excerpt or displaying the whole post’s content.

With pagination and full content display, the Excerpts+ leaf can be used as an alternative to the built-in Content leaf in most situations. The Content leaf should still be used on Single Post pages as it can display comments, whereas that is not a feature of the Excerpts+ leaf.

Combined with other features of Excerpts+, the pagination and full content display greatly improve how you can layout your pages.

One caveat of using pagination… never have more than one leaf on your page with pagination enabled – it will really confuse WordPress and your readers.

2. Improved image processing and support

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The number two most requested feature for Excerpts+ was to use the first image in a post if no Featured Image was set. In v2.0, you got it!

Image processing has been hugely improved in Excerpts+ v2, thanks to code from Jarod Oberto, http://jarrodoberto.com/portfolio/. Some sites on web hosts with very tight security (e.g. HostGator) were seeing problems with images not being displayed. Jarod’s system means that should no longer happen.

And of benefit to all Excerpts+ users, it has meant you can now (finally!) choose the height AND the width to display images when shown in the content or title. As the example above shows, you can now finally create rectangular thumbnails.

Note, you will need to set the width for any existing Excerpts+ leafs. Until you do, by default, it will use the image height.

NextGen Gallery is now also supported in Excerpts+. If you’ve set your Featured Image from an image in a NextGen Gallery, it will display. (If no Featured Image is set and the image within the post is from a NextGen Gallery, Excerpts+ can’t yet use it because of the way NextGen processes those images.)

Another new feature in the Images tab is vertical crop alignment. Based on the width and height of your original image, compared to the width and height you want to display, the displayed imaged will often be a crop of the original. Previously, the crop was centered in the image, but this was not always ideal – especially with images of faces. Excerpts+ v2 lets you choose where you want to align the vertical crop. It must be noted though, all images in the leaf will receive the same alignment, so if you have a mix of images, it’s a case of finding which alignment works best overall.

See the example below for the different vertical crop alignments in action.

 

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3. Structure Editor

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New in Excerpts+ v2 is a structure editor. Where previously you had some control over the order and display of the elements, the structure editor lets you choose exactly how you would like to order and display them.

Furthermore, you can also choose whether to align the text elements to the top or bottom of the image when you are using Image Location behind.

Some examples will help:

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In the above example, the image is displayed within the content/excerpt.

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This example shows when the Image Location is set to Behind. Also, the cells are aligned to the bottom of the image. Note how unused cells are ignored.

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And lastly, an example that shows the image location being set by the structure. This is like the old “Above” (above everything) or “Below” (below everything) in Excerpts+ v1, but now you can locate the image anywhere. That is, above, below or between.

4. User Guide

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Hopefully one of the most appreciated new features of Excerpts v2 will be its User Guide. This document runs to 33 pages and more than 4,500 words. It is aimed at every one from the novice through to developers. Its chapters are:

  1. Welcome to Excerpts+ v2 - An introduction to Excerpts+ v2
  2. Installation – Installing and activating Excerpts+
  3. Using Excerpts+ – Understanding all the Excerpts+ options
  4. Examples – A few examples of Excerpts+ layouts with instructions
  5. Advanced Excerpts+ – Advanced styling of Excerpts+ using custom CSS
  6. Troubleshooting and Support - Some ideas of what to do when things don’t go as expected
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As well as being able to download the User Guide from the Excerpts+ information page on Headway, each Excerpts+ dialog box has a button you can click to download it. Having the guide reside online enables us to provide updates without having to email it out each time – keeping your email box cleaner. So if your find errors in it, or there’s something more you’d like in it, let us know, we can easily update it.

Other improvements

Some other improvements to explore in Excerpts+ v2 are:

  • Added Image alignment centre (only works when image in content)
  • Added option to show child pages’ of a single page ID. (Don’t use on posts It’ll be very messy.)
  • Added CSS classes to style sticky posts and individual Excerpts+ cells for advanced styling
  • Added option to exclude specific posts or pages (useful for excluding 404 page)
  • Added nice error messages
  • Changed so automatic width calculations for text area when image in title
  • Fixed so uses category when on category archive page
  • Fixed so uses author when on author archive page
  • Added option for image borders

Other Features

If you are new to Excerpts+, it has many other useful features. These include:

  • Display as slider
  • Use posts, pages or custom post types
  • Select by category
  • Select by post/page ID.
  • Set any number of excerpts across
  • Customizable meta info display, including showing the author picture and using HTML

Installation

The user guide includes full instructions for both new and existing users of Excerpts+. Below are the brief versions.

Installing Excerpts+ for the first time
Headway leafs are plugins, and as such, are installed using the WordPress plugin installer. For this, you will need the Excerpts+ ZIP file that you downloaded from Headway Themes. On some systems, it may have been automatically decompressed. In that case, check in your computer’s Trash or Recycle Bin and copy it to somewhere on your hard drive.

To install Excerpts+ for the first time:

  • Use your site’s WordPress plugin installer with the Excerpts+ zip file;
  • and activate the plugin once installed.

Installing on a site with Excerpts+ already installed

The process for installation over an existing Excerpts+ is to:

  • deactivate the existing Excerpts+ one;
  • install and activate the new Excerpts+ using the WordPress plugin installer;
  • and then work through all existing Excerpts+ leafs ensuring all their settings are correct, paying particular attention to Image Widths, and the Structure.

Wrapping up

Excerpts+ has always been an add-on for Headway Themes that many people have found useful, but this new update should make it appeal to just about everyone. With its new features and comprehensive user guide, it’s an absolute steal at just $25.

You have to have Headway Themes to use the Excerpts+ Leaf.  Two great tools for building your Web presence.

About The Author
Grant Griffiths is founder of Blog For Profit and co-founder of Headway, the first Drag and Drop WordPress Theme Framework. You can follow Grant on twitter at @grantgriffiths
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