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Dougal Campbell: Customize Your WordPress Dashboard

April 12, 2010

If you are reading this, there is a very high chance that you are a WordPress user. There’s even a chance that you arrived here through a link in the Other WordPress News widget in your Dashboard. The WordPress Dashboard is a great summary of current activity on your site and in the WordPress community. What some of you might not realize is that you can customize your Dashboard according to what you think is most important.

Dashboard Widgets

When you are viewing your Dashboard, you’ll see that it’s broken in to different sections, each in its own little box. We call each of these boxes a “widget”. At the top of each widget is a title bar which tells you the widget’s name. For example, you’ll probably see Right Now, Recent Comments, Incoming Links, WordPress Development Blog, and so-forth. Most of the Dashboard Widgets you see come standard with WordPress, but plugins can add them, too (for example, the WordPress.com Stats plugin).

Rearrange Things

If you hover your mouse pointer over the title bar of a widget, you should see the cursor change to a four-arrow icon, which indicates that you can move this item. You can drag-and-drop the widgets to rearrange their order. Sometimes it can be a little tricky, especially if you are trying to move things in a way that requires the screen to scroll.

You can make things a little easier by using the next tip: you can collapse and expand a widget by clicking on the title bar. You may also have noticed that when you hover over the title bar, a downward-pointing arrow appears on the right side. This arrow can be clicked to expand/collapse without the chance of starting a drag-and-drop action. With the widgets collapsed, it is generally easier to arrange the order.

Only Show Your Favorite Widgets

Moving your most-used widgets to the top, and least used to the bottom is helpful. But there might be some widgets that you just aren’t interested in at all. For instance, I never use the QuickPress widget, so I remove it from the Dashboard completely. To choose which widgets are visible, click Screen Options in the upper-right area of your Dashboard. You’ll see a list of all available widgets, with a checkbox next to each one.

You may also notice that there is a selector for Number of Columns. I work mainly on my laptop, so 2 columns is optimal for me. But if you have a large screen, you might choose to enable 3 or 4 columns.

Configure Your Widgets

On some widgets, you may see a Configure link appear when you hover over the title bar. Clicking this will allow you to set extra options for these widgets. For example, you can decide how many comments to display in the Recent Comments widget, or how many headlines to display for the WordPress Development Blog widget.

Customize!

That should give you a good idea of how you can customize the Dashboard to your liking. Hide things you don’t care about, move your favorite widgets to the top, customize what information they show you! It’s your Dashboard, make it work for you.

In case you’re wondering about my preferences, I like to keep the Right Now and WordPress.com Stats widgets at the top. I tend to have several draft posts hanging around waiting for edits, so the Recent Drafts widgets comes next in the left column, followed by Recent Comments. Under Stats on the right, I have WordPress Development News and Other WordPress News.

The WordPress Development Blog tends to be pretty low-traffic, so I have it configured to only show the 2 most recent headlines. But the Other WordPress News feed tends to update at a pretty rapid pace, so I configure it to display 15 headlines. I recommend that anyone interested in keeping up with happenings in the WordPress community configure this widget to display 10 or more headlines, and check it often. You can also visit the Planet WordPress site, if you think you might have missed something.

That should about cover things. If you haven’t already customized your Dashboard, I highly recommend that you do. It’s easy to set things up in a way that gives you all of the information that <em>you</em> consider the most important, right at your fingertips!

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