#2: Excerpts, Screen Options, Tags & Slugs

I’ll try and keep this one short.  First, some settings WP decided to hide.  Then, some explanations and advice.

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 6.32.43 AMLook at the top of your APP window; the blackish band (technically referred to as the “admin bar”) that contains the phrase “Howdy, X (or Y or Z)” on the far right.  Just below it you’ll sometimes see a tab for “Screen Options.”  The confusing thing is that the “Screen Options” tab isn’t always there.  The geniuses behind WP decided that only some screens (like the edit post screen, for instance) should have… um… options.

So here’s the deal: you need to do this while editing or creating a post.  Start a new post (or edit an old one), find the “Screen Options” tab, click on it, and It should scroll down and reveal a number of additional settings that change depending on what particular “screen” you’re on at the time.  Specifically, you should get a drop down with some (but not all) of the following options:

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 6.33.03 AM

Screen options for the post screen. Click image to enlarge.

What’s important for the this particular tutorial is that you make sure that all of the following options are selected: Format, Categories, TagsExcerpt, and Slug.  Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the options, you can turn on/off those features you think you’ll use most.  Right now, however, we’re interested in the latter three options.  Once they’re selected, whenever you create/edit a post, your screen should now look something like this:

Excerpts Etc AnnotatedTime for some quick and quick and dirty explanations of the three boxes (technically, “metaboxes,” even though that really makes very little sense) that we’re concerned with in this post.

First the red box—Excerpt:

You may have noticed that the blogroll (Diary) is now displaying only very short synopses of the various posts we’ve published to date.  Walls-o-text are bad, bad, very bad things in the ADDHD world of the Interwebs, and even the egghead philosophy-types that will be visiting this site are prone to TL;DR syndrome.  So, the squirrels that power the APP site have been instructed to automatically truncate the blogroll to 55 words (we can tweak the number, but the idea remains).  This is the bit I meant about “writing like journalists” in a past email.  However, you can over-ride the fascist-totalitarian squirrel hive-mind by writing (or just cutting-n-pasting) a custom synopsis into the Excerpt box.  Not sure yet if there’s a word limit, but I don’t believe there should be.

Next, the green box—Tags:

Tags are good.  Tags will make Z barf and sigh at the same time, because tags are basically our version of an index for the site.  Get in the habit of using them, because they’ll become increasingly useful the bigger the site becomes.  Clicking “Choose from the most used tags” is a good place to start, but if you don’t see a fitting tag, add one.

Finally, the blue box—Slugs:

What are slugs other than a slightly less tasty version of escargot?  Slugs are geeky alternatives to the really long titles philosophy-types just seem to adore.  Right now, every time you create a new page/post, the title of that page/post becomes a part of its the URL. Now, WP is pretty smart, and it can create shortened permalinks on its own, but a slug is a way to control that action.  In other words, it’s something you only have to worry about if you want to, but if you’re writing a post entitled:

“Nine-hundred Reasons Why Long Titles with Multiple Sub-clauses are Cool: An Existential-Semantic Exposition on the Phenomenon of the Faux Titre: Fred, Jane, and the Walrus”

That’s going to produce a mess of a reference.  Specifically, it’ll makes something like:


OR, you could give it slug.  Something short.  Like: “nine-hundred-reasons”

Turst me, it’ll make my life (and our database’s) much, much easier.  Just remember that slugs need stripes.  In other words: no spaces; hyphens between terms.

Up next: something else you’re (probably not) curious about.

[Oh… hey… what about that button you drew our attention to with the arrow, but never mentioned?  Well, just give it a try.  It’s kinda handy.  Especially if you’re easily distracted when you write.]