Ask any number of WordPress developers what image gallery plugin they use most of the time, and at least half of those are “NextGen Gallery plugin, of course“. It’s almost become the standard for galleries, but does it mean it’s actually the best, or that it should be the default choice?
After trying Envira Gallery, I’m inclined to say not always.
Why Yet Another Gallery Plugin?
Sometimes, you want a gallery (or any tool/plugin, for that matter) that has all the options you (the user) could ever wish for. Just in case you need it sometimes. Envira is not one of those plugins. By focusing on simplicity, speed and efficiency, plugin author Thomas Griffin clearly has made the choice to not include features that you may want to use some time or another, but to only include features that most people need.
NextGen Gallery and many other gallery plugins do have more features and options, but that’s exactly why they suffer from bloat and become slow. Envira promises to be just simple enough to keep things fast.
Setup And Configuration
The paid version of Envira comes as a .ZIP file and is installed using the standard methods in WordPress (Plugins – Add New – Upload). And that’s really all there is to it. No further general configuration or setup, your Envira Gallery entry is added to the menu just like that.
Creating A Gallery
Creating a new gallery takes a few steps. It starts off very simple; you select Add new from the Envira menu, you name your gallery, and you add a number of images. Adding images is done almost the exact way as the default WordPress method: you can drag and drop, or browse your hard drive and select images, or you select them from your Media Library.
Once your images are added, you can add metadata to each of them if you wish (such as title descriptions or Alt text), or re-order them in a drag & drop kind of way.
If you choose the Config, you will see a lot of options you might want to play with. The most important one is probably the first one; here you select if the thumbnails need to be laid out in one column, six columns, or everything in between. From a design perspective, this page is also where you can define the spacing between the columns.
Additionally, you can disables the creation of specific images for mobile devices, but since Envira is fully responsive out of the box, I wouldn’t change this.
If you have access to themes, this is where you can select that as well (note that this is another paid add-on).
The second tab, Lightbox, deals with how the images are shown in the lightbox. Most of these settings are fine by default: displaying arrows to navigate, enable keyboard navigation, show the toolbar at the top or the bottom of the screen, and so on. The only default setting I usually turn off, is Loop Gallery Navigation (which obviously means that after the last image, the first image shows up), but this may be personal preference.
The Thumbnails tab is where you define the size of your thumbnails. Not the ones you see in the content of your post/page, but the ones that show up as a navigation in your lightbox. You can either show or hide them, size them, and set the position.
In the last tab, Misc, you can add some additional details, such as and internal gallery title (for identification in the admin), a custom slug, or some classnames that will then be applied on the front end.
Very handy is the option to import or export galleries, that you will also find in this tab. This can be handy if you want the same image gallery on different pages, but with a different look and feel (though keep in mind that it will duplicate the images in your media library).
Once you’re done with all the images and the configurations, you can publish your gallery.
Adding A Gallery To Your Site
Once you publish your gallery, you will be presented with the code that you have to use to add the images to any post, any page, or any sidebar.
Copy and paste the code anywhere you like, publish your post/page and your gallery is placed within your content. And then you’ll see it’s not just standard square thumbnails shown in a square grid kind of way. First of all, the thumbs are shown in an isotope layout (all the same width, proportional height, and placed to fill as much space as possible).
The icing on the cake is the subtle animation that is applied to the thumbs when the page loads. Not essential, but a nice touch.
Once you click any of the small images, the full-sized version is shown in a nice and clean lightbox.
If you’re not happy with any detail, either of your thumbnails or anything in the lightbox gallery, you can easily change your gallery settings and re-publish. The changes will be visible right away.
Just to note: you also have direct access to all existing galleries from within your post/page editing screen, so it’s easy to pick one while you’re editing a post, or add a new one.
The power of Envira is that it’s so easy to use and that you’re not overloaded with too many options. In most cases, that’s enough. However, it’s possible to expand on those options. should you (or the client you’re developing your website for) want that. This can be done by installing additional add-on plugins.
This gives you the option to add CSS styles to your gallery from within the admin. As a developer, you may not need this one (since you can probably find a way to add these styles in your standard CSS file). If you want to give the client the option to add their own styles, this could come in handy.
With this addon, every image in your gallery has it’s own unique deeplinking URL. When that URL is accessed, the gallery will show the image directly in the lightbox.
If you need your lightbox to go fullscreen (hiding all toolbars and taskbars completely, both for your browser and OS), this addon will give you that.
With this addon, you get two more themes that give your gallery a little more style, mainly in the form of different borders around your thumbnails. The theme names “Base”, “Subtle” and “Sleek” should give you an idea.
In case you want your gallery to move on to the next image automatically, the Slideshow addon will be helpful. With options to configure autoplay and the speed.
Activating this addon will disable image right clicking in both the gallery display and lightbox views to prevent visitors from downloading your images. It’s not really a safe form of protection, but some might want this extra layer of “security”.
The name says it all; with this addon, your images will be displayed to the full dimensions of your viewing window. Very nice for high-quality photos.
You might wonder ‘so I can add tags to photos, big whoop‘. But then you find out what you can do with those tags. First, the addon can automatically create galleries of images with a certain tag. Second, you can show tags above your gallery that the viewer can then use as filters; clicking on a tag will only show the photos that have that specific tag.
Note that some of the addon plugins are free, and some are only accessible based on your license (see next section).
Licensing options for Envira start at $39 for a Bronze license, which gives you the basic options. The highest level is the Platinum license for $249, which gives you access to all add-ons and lifetime support. It also gives you the right to package Envira in any themes you’ve created yourself for commercial purposes. In between Bronze and Platinum, you have the Silver license and Gold license ($79 and $149, resp.), which contain a limited selection of add-ons.
A lite version is available for free through the WordPress plugin repository, but of course it has less options than the standard version (you can not size your thumbnails from within the plugin, for example).
True to its promises, Envira is simple, fast, and efficient. It’s near-perfect as a standard gallery plugin and is almost guaranteed to meet your needs. If it doesn’t, then the add-ons most definitely will.
Some of these are useful but will probably only cater to those with very specific needs. I predict you will not need many of them; probably 2 or 3 at most. They may not be necessary (and some are a lot less useful than others), but it’s good that you at least have the option. A good place to see them all in action is on Envira’s Addons page.
I highly recommended to check out the lite version, after which I’m sure you’ll consider getting a paid license.
“Bigger” plugins may give you what you need in one big package, but if you just need the essentials, this is the plugin for you. Sometimes you don’t want to sail on a cruiseship, and you just want a speedboat. Envira is that speedboat. It gets you exactly where you want to be, fast and in style.
Remember how Google’s search engine got big: by being best at what it’s supposed to do, without any unnecessary bells and whistles. From that perspective, Envira is on its way to become very big.
Find out all the details about Envira at EnviraGallery.com.
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