Another WordPress plugin: Dashboard Notepad (and some backstory)

Let me pause here and say that this blog is not going to become all WordPress, all the time. I don’t really plan on writing five plugins in a single month ever again (this is #4; there’s another being uploaded to right now). Two things happened.

First, I had two custom plugins I’d written for clients’ sites that just needed a little work to make them useful to the general public. Just as I was finishing up, I realized that the plugin competition had a week left to run. Not only was the plugin I was working on eligible, but the one I’d released earlier in the month was, and the half-finished HTML importer would be if I could get it out the door in time. So, in between more client projects (did I mention business has been good?), I finished them up and got all three plugins entered.

Second, I made the abrupt decision to dump Drupal for the Writing Center redesign and go with WordPress instead. I’d chosen Drupal over a year ago and had been struggling with it ever since. At the time, we needed some features (most notably a robust events calendar) that WordPress couldn’t provide. However, WP has had two major updates since then, and Drupal was proving to be more trouble than it was worth. Among other things, in Drupal it takes three plugins and an act of Congress just to get a rich text editor with image uploading (never mind other forms of media). In WordPress, that just works. And since then, the university has made a centralized events calendar available, so we can enter our stuff there and just pull a feed of upcoming events onto our home page. So, after gnashing my teeth and tearing my hair out all summer, I finally said “screw it,” located a Joomla-to-WordPress importer (Joomla being our original sucktastic CMS, powering the current site), and had the new WP site more or less up to the same point it had been in Drupal — in three days instead of several months.

Suck it, Drupal. You are too complicated for your own good.

The upshot is that I’ve spent the last couple of months, and especially the last week, absolutely up to my eyeballs in WordPress code. As a result, plugins are falling out of my brain like loose change.

This one is tiny compared to the importer. I’ve been using Alex Günsche’s Headache With Pictures for ages, and it was a nice, simple way to add some private notes to the Dashboard. On one site, it holds newbie instructions for using the media uploader; on another, I keep a to-do list of posts I haven’t gotten around to writing yet.

However, the plugin had never been updated to work with the newer Dashboard widgets, so it couldn’t be moved and it didn’t match the new design. It also isn’t available anymore, or at least not that I can find — I’d long since resorted to copying it from one site to another, like smuggling it along a secret network of my own making. I got the point where I really needed to either update or replace it. I wasn’t happy with any of the alternatives, so I updated it instead.

The result is Dashboard Notepad. It is the very simplest of scratch pads for the Dashboard. The widget settings allow you to choose which roles can edit the notes, and which roles can merely read them.

The notepad
The notepad
The widget options
The widget options

One more, and then I’ll go back to talking about writing and watching TV. I promise.

This is an excerpt from Content Strategy for WordPress.My latest books are Content Strategy for WordPress (2015) and WordPress for Web Developers (2013). Sign up to be notified when I have a new book for you.


  1. says

    I just installed this on a wordpress-MU 2.8.2 blog I’m allowing guest bloggers on. It was just what I was looking for!

    It is nice to see you had also made the HTML import plugin (I still have to try that)

  2. Roy says


    Very nice work. Just one thing…, For me isn’t working the settings for “read” “write”. The only who can edit text, in despite of the setings, is the admin.

    I’m on WP 2.8.4

    Some Idea?

    • says

      Roy, by any chance are you using Role Manager or some other plugin to alter WP’s default roles? I used the built-in roles for simplicity’s sake, but the plugin is actually checking capabilities:
      Admin – edit_dashboard
      Editors – edit_pages
      Authors – publish_posts
      Contributors – edit_posts
      Subscribers – read

      I meant to put that in the readme and forgot!

      If you’re just using the built-in roles, please let me know and I’ll do some additional testing.

  3. Micah says

    Great plugin. Exactly what I was looking for.

    Unfortunately I can’t seem to hide the notes from users. I set it for only Admins to be able to edit and read the notes, but they are showing up on Authors pages.

    I’m using wordpress-MU 2.8.1


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