Switching to the WordPress Media Library from NextGEN Gallery

I finally switched to the native WordPress Media Library (WML) from NextGEN Gallery for my photographs. I’ve been using NextGEN for a while, but have always been worried about depending on a plug-in for core things like images. This was never more apparent than when they released version 2.0 and that brought down my entire site. A recent upgrade did a similar thing although not as extensive. I will admit, the developers were quick to fixe the issues, but the risks were apparent.

So why use NextGEN in the first place? Well, the stock WML is pretty basic and has an odd way of organizing images. With WordPress, your images are basically one giant group with no hierarchy. You can sort of group them by putting them into galleries that are added to a post or page. You can’t organize them them in folders which is the classic way to organize things and the way Nextgen does it. (NextGEN also has a cool feature that lets you group multiple galleries into albums.) To use an image in, say, a post, you often have to choose it from a list of all images! They are sorted from newest to oldest, so if you are trying to find something from way back, it can be cumbersome. If you know when it was uploaded, there is a feature that allows you to choose by month/year. Still, the system is kinda clumsy.

I use Foobox to display my images. I like the way it adds social sharing functions to the images. Interestingly, what really got me to seriously think about abandoning NextGEN was a post on the Foobox website discussing how to use NextGen with Foobox. The post takes an interesting turn when it questions the use of NextGEN in the first place and asks “Why circumvent the whole Media Gallery?”

To me, this was pretty bold of them and sort of got me worried that these two plugins may not peacefully coexist sometime down the line. However, the post also made sense to me. Maybe NextGEN was overkill for me. I really didn’t need all of its power features like ecommerce. WordPress (via Jetpack) had added some interesting ways to display image galleries including tiled mosaic (see below) and perhaps that was good enough.

So with the recent NextGEN issues still fresh in my mind, I decided to convert to the native WML and learn to embrace the odd organization methodology. Yes, I realize their are plugins that allow you to tag and categorize images in the WML, but the whole point of this exercise was to move away from non-native features. There are also plugins that assist in migrating from Nextgen to WML, but I figured I’d just re-upload everything. I’d lose all the titling and tagging I did in NextGEN, but I never really used that anyways.

One thing that NextGEN did that I still wanted was to automatically down-size images when they are uploaded. Image resolutions are crazy these days and it’s nice to not to have to scale images before uploading. To do this, I installed Imsanity which appears to work well. I know this because I set the Images uploaded within a Page/Post setting to a small resolution and didn’t realize that this applied to images I was adding to my new photography pages. Duh!… I ended up having to delete all the images–which is a real pain in WML–and re-uploading them. Lesson learned!

I had to give up the NextGEN Recent Photos widget, which notsurprisingly automatically displays recently added photos on the sidebar, but I replaced it with Gallery (Jetpack) widget. Although it’s not automatic, but it’s kind of nice to have more control over what appears in that widget.

In the end I’m pretty happy with the result. Perhaps someday I’ll go back and add some good captions, but I’m in no hurry. I’m hoping some bulk editing features will be added in the future and I’ll tackle the job then…fingers crossed!

2/27/2015: One unexpected surprise is that my site loads much faster. I guess I should have expected this. Here are some before and after performance charts:

Comments 3

  • I’m trying to migrate a site to another hosting provider and it doesn’t work with NextGen galleries. The “standard” site transfers can’t see images locked up in the NextGen file structure, so a migration completely fails. Nextgen is nice but if it goes wrong, all of your images are likely gone, too.

  • Hi there. Thanks for the mention of FooBox, we appreciate it.

    We plan to always support NextGEN, but understand your reasoning for reverting to the WML. The lack of organizational features for images (and other media) in core is something that is definitely a pain point for many users.

    We actually developed our own image gallery plugin (FooGallery found on the repo) that tries to keep everything as native as possible while striking the balance between too many features and too much bloat. Most everything is modularized.

    The good news is that the core team is working on an updated media flow for the 4.2 release so hopefully that will signal continued improvements on how media is organized in the future.

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