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In this 3-part series of articles on Jetpack, I will uncover some of the best features that are a part of this awesome plugin by Automattic. Let’s begin by discussing the basics of Jetpack: what it is, how to install and connect it, and an overview of the applications that are included. Jetpack is one of my personal favorite plugins, and I am sure once you discover all that it can do, it will become one of your favorites as well. Automattic released version 2.0.4 of Jetpack on Friday, so make sure you update! It’s important to always keep your plugins up-to-date at the latest version.

What is Jetpack?

Jetpack is an awesome suite of very useful mini-applications that make it easier to publish, share, and manage your blog posts, and is made available for free by the fine folks at Automattic. These features were once only available if you had a WordPress.com blog, but now the Jetpack plugin brings these helpful features to your self-hosted WordPress blog. A self-hosted blog would be any blog that is not on WordPress.com and requires the purchasing of your own web hosting service, such as an (gs) Grid-Service or (dv) Dedicated-Virtual account with Media Temple.

If you have (gs) Grid-Service with Media Temple and installed WordPress using the 1-click installer in the AccountCenter, Jetpack will already be installed and activated, but will need to be connected to your WordPress.com account.

What is Required to Run Jetpack?

To enable Jetpack for your WordPress website, you will need the following:

  • A self-hosted WordPress website running 3.1 or later
  • A free WordPress.com account
  • A publicly accessible website that does not require authentication. Note: local installs, intranets, and private sites requiring a login will not work with Jetpack.
  • XML-RPC enabled (Enabled by default on WordPress 3.5 and greater)

Connecting Jetpack

Let’s go ahead and get started. If you have not already done so, login to the dashboard of your site and then go to Plugins –> Add New and search for “Jetpack by WordPress.com”, install the plugin and click activate to activate the plugin. Once the plugin is activated, you will see the following message:

Click on the [Learn More] button. Then you will see the following screen:

Click on the [Connect to WordPress.com] button and then enter in your WordPress.com username and password (sign up here) , then click [Authorize Jetpack].

When successfully connected, you will see the following banner at the top of the page:

Once the Jetpack plugin has been installed and connected to WordPress.com, you will have the Jetpack menu on the left sidebar of the admin panel, where you can view stats as well as perform a variety of other functions and configurations. I encourage you to browse through and play with these features, as there is a treasure chest of goodies waiting for you!

Troubleshooting Jetpack

I have installed Jetpack on almost every site I have developed, over 200 of them and counting. I have rarely found an issue, but most issues can be resolved by disabling all plugins,  then re-activating and re-connecting Jetpack to WordPress.com, and then re-enabling the plugins. There are additional troubleshooting steps you can take that are documented on the official Jetpack site, as well as a list of known issues and FAQs.

Features of Jetpack

Upon clicking on the Jetpack on the left navigation menu, you will be presented with the following list of add-ons that can be activated, deactivated, or configured individually:

I will be covering some of these features in more detail in my future parts of this series, but here is a quick rundown of all of the current features:

  • Toolbar Notifications: Provides notification of site activity right from the admin toolbar.
  • Publicize: Automatically sends your newly published posts to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and/or Yahoo when you connect your accounts.
  • WordPress.com Stats: Provides simple, concise site stats with no additional load on your server and makes the stats information available on the WordPress back-end.
  • Jetpack Comments: Enables your visitors to use WordPress.com, Twitter, or Facebook accounts when commenting on your site.
  • Subscriptions: Notifies subscribers via a nicely formatted email when there is a new post to your blog.
  • Post By Email: Allows you to send new posts to your blog via email.
  • Carousel: Transforms your standard image galleries into a full-screen slideshow experience.
  • Sharing: Allows visitors to share your content via Email, Print, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, StumpleUpon, and Digg with the click of a button. Support for several button styles, including the official buttons from each service.
  • Spelling and Grammar: Improves your spelling, style, and grammar using the After the Deadline Proofreading service.
  • VaultPress: Available for a small monthly fee, VaultPress runs security scans and backups of your site automatically.
  • Gravatar Hovercards: Shows a pop-up business card of your users’ Gravatar profile when hovering over their icon in comments.
  • Contact Form: Inserts a simple contact form on any post or page. Uses the power of Akismet to prevent spam submissions.
  • WP.me Shortlinks: Creates a shortened version of a page or posts’s url for easy sharing on social networks.
  • Mobile Theme: Automatically optimizes your site for mobile devices.
  • Shortcode Embeds: Provides additional shortcodes to easily embeds videos and more from sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Google Maps, and SlideShare.
  • Custom CSS: Adds the ability to add additional CSS code without touching your theme’s files.
  • Beautiful Math: Allows you to markup your posts with LaTeX, a powerful markup language used for complex equations and formulas.
  • Extra Sidebar Widgets: Adds widgets for a Subscription form, images, Twitter updates, and RSS Links.
  • Infinite Scroll – Allows the popular infinite scroll feature to display on your site if your theme has been enabled for this.
  • Photon – Accelerates your site by loading images from the WordPress.com CDN. Truly magical and lightning fast!
  • JSON API: Allows applications to securely access your content through the cloud.
  • Mobile Push Notifications: Sends notifications of new comments to your Apple device when accessing your site through the WordPress mobile app.
  • Enhanced Distribution: Shares your public posts and comments with search engines and other services in real-time with companies utilizing the WordPress Firehose.

Summary of Jetpack

Jetpack is an amazing suite of add-on features that perfectly compliment your blog and allow maximum reachability to your audience. Though some developers have complained of the bloat or unnecessary applications of Jetpack, there are many social media features as well as performance enhancements that outweigh the negative, and each application can be disabled per the individual client needs. Ease of publishing to social networks for you and your visitors will insure that everyone gets the most out of your unique content and receives updates in a timely manner, and email subscriptions help to strengthen and reinforce your relationship with your visitors and keep them coming back for more.