WordPress Plugins are intended to extend the abilities and functionality of WordPress.
The WordPress.org Plugin Directory, displays data about each WordPress Plugin. This data is extracted from the plugin file, the readme.txt file, and from the subversion repository.
WordPress Plugin developers are required to create and maintain a readme.txt file, in order to submit their WordPress Plugin to the WordPress Plugin Repository.
The WordPress.org Codex says:
If you want to host your Plugin on http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/, you also need to create a readme.txt file in a standard format, and include it with your Plugin.
The readme.txt file may be required for the original plugin submission to the WordPress Plugin Repository, but it isn’t required of all WordPress Plugins.
The WordPress Codex also states:
Some plugins contain the readme.txt file which might contain look-a-like headers as well. Those files are not handled by WordPress but by third-party applications.
To me, the word “some” means you may not find a readme.txt file with all WordPress plugins, especially those not available through WordPress managed Plugin Directories.
The readme.txt file gets a significant amount of attention in the WordPress Plugin Development Codex. However, WordPress and the plugin developers fall asleep on the job when it comes to updating the readme.txt file. Plugins are often updated, but the readme.txt file tends to be ignored.
The WordPress Plugin Development Guidelines, set a clear expectation about the readme.txt file. However, after a plugin has been accepted and listed in the WordPress Plugin Directories, there doesn’t seem to be any processes in place to ensure plugin developers continue to meet the expectation.
Developer Information – WordPress Plugins explains expectations for submitting WordPress Plugins to the WordPress Plugin Repository.
Why does it matter?
To me the readme.txt file is the best way to identify which WordPress Plugins have been given the most attention. If a plugin developer doesn’t care enough to update the readme.txt file, what am I supposed to think about the effort put into the continued development of the plugin? What should I feel about the quality of the plugin?
In the recent article, First Five WordPress Plugins, I talk about the Better Plugin Compatibility Control WordPress plugin:
My clients know I refer to the Better Plugin Compatibility Control WordPress Plugin (by Oliver Schlöbe), a lot. It helps keep an eye on which versions of WordPress, plugins are compatible with.
When the Better Plugin Compatibility Control plugin identifies version compatibility issues, the entire plugin becomes suspect to me. I also question the quality of the plugin, as well as the abilities and organization of the developer.
FYI: You will not see this version information in your list of installed plugins if you did not install and activate the Better Plugin Compatibility Control WordPress Plugin. However, this information is still available to you, after you install any WordPress Plugin, by using the editor to view the readme.txt file.
You may also find the information in the WordPress Plugin’s readme.txt file is out of date.
The many WordPress Plugins available, provide all kinds of cool new ability. However, if the WordPress Plugin compromises your WordPress website, it shouldn’t be used. If a developer really cares about their plugin, they will maintain it’s readme.txt file. Only careless developers ignore it.
If you need help with your WordPress website, contact me over on https://bamajr.com/; my business’ website.