Free WordPress recent posts widget – Which one is the best?

📂 Category: WP Plugins

🖺 Last modified: 3rd Dec 2019

💻 Experience: Beginner - Intermediate

🕑 Read Time: 6 min

Almost every blog or magazine displays a list of recent posts in the sidebar, so should you. WordPress comes by default with a Recent Posts Widget, unfortunately with rather basic functionality. Fortunately, there’s a wide choice of third party recent posts widgets to replace the default one. We’ve done a Free WordPress recent posts widget test, to help you choose which the right one for your web site.

Our Free recent posts widgets test and review

We tested and reviewed the most popular Free WordPress recent posts widgets currently available in the WP Plugin Repository. Those recent posts widget plugins all have over 100.000 active installations and an average vote 4.5 or higher. Our test criteria was the following:

  • ease of setting up and customizing
  • basic functions such as display of post thumbnail, title and excerpt
  • advanced functions specific for each widget
  • visual appearance
  • impact on web site loading speed
  • additional CSS styling possibilities

In matter of basic functions and impact on the loading speed all tested recent posts widgets do their job well. They all have the possibility of displaying the post thumbnail in different sizes and some even have customizable excerpt length. All widgets generate 2-4 server requests, which doesn’t impact the loading speed significantly. Make sure you use smaller post thumbnails for best performance.

The differences between the tested recent posts widgets become noticeable in matter of advanced functionality, visual appearance and customization possibilities. They all share most of the advanced functions, but each Free WordPress recent posts widget has some tricks of it’s own, which could be crucial for your project needs.

 

Recent Posts Widget Extended

Let’s start our review with the most popular Free WordPress recent posts widget. Recent Posts Widget Extended by Satrya has over 200.000 active installations and an 4.5 average vote among 150 developers. This widget plugin is regularly updated and compatible with the latest version of WordPress.

As it’s name suggests, this plugin extends the possibilities of the default WordPress recent posts widget. The plugin doesn’t come with a dedicated settings page, and all the customization is done trough the widget options. The widget will display the post thumbnail in user defined dimensions and generate it’s own thumbnail. It will also display a custom length post excerpt. Post filtering will allow you to select one or more categories to pull posts from. If you use the widget on the single post page you can choose to hide the current post from the list. The widget will display the published and modified date, and offer you the possibility to display the date in relative format. We found showing the date in the XX days ago format quite convenient.

Free WordPress recent posts widget extended appearance

Recent Posts Widget Extended’s default appearance doesn’t need almost any additional styling which is great for non-coders.

The visual appearance of the widget is nice without additional styling. Even though, in most cases it will need some additional CSS styling, which can be done directly trough the built in mini CSS editor. Of course, some knowledge of CSS will be required to do it. You can add your own CSS classes and ids to the widget for easier targeting and also append custom HTML code before and after the widget.

Free WordPress recent posts widget works pretty well with no significant downsides. We’d like to see an option to show posts only from the current category and maybe the choice of default WordPress post thumbnails. Apart from that, this widget will satisfy in the vast majority of cases.

Pros

  • simple preferences interface
  • widget title as link
  • generates own thumbnails
  • limited length excerpt
  • hide current post
  • random post order
  • post date in relative format
  • comment count
  • default visual apearance
  • additional CSS styling possibilities
  • widget or shortcode implementation

Cons

  • no default post thumbnail sizes
  • no current category filtering

Download the Plugin

 

Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails

Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails by Martin Stehle has over 100.000 active installations and it’s voted 5.0 by over 160 WordPress developers. This free WordPress recent posts widget is compatible with the latest WP version and recieves regular updates.

As it’s name says, Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails is focused on post thumbnails. You can choose one of the default post thumbnail sizes or define a custom size. There are a couple more options regarding thumbnail display and even placeholder option if post has no thumbnail. Post filtering allows to chose one or more categories, but unfortunately, there’s no current category option. The widget can display a custom length excerpt, post author and date. It will also display post categories as links and number of comments.

Free WordPress recent posts widget with thumbnails

Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails shows quite a lot post meta info, but in most cases will need additional CSS styling.

The visual appearance of the widget is rather basic. It will most likely need additional styling which require some CSS knowledge. This recent posts widget works well and offers some good functions, although it misses few. Some projects will find it as the best option.

Pros

  • default WP post thumbnail sizes or custom size
  • hide current post
  • random post order
  • custom length excerpt
  • shows author, categories and comment count

Cons

  • no current category filter
  • widget title not linkable
  • basic appearance with no styling options

Download the Plugin

 

List category posts widget

List category posts by Fernando Briano is another recent posts widget with over 100.000 active installations. It scored an 4.5 average vote from over 220 WordPress developers. The plugin is frequently updated and compatible with the latest WordPress version.

List category posts is not feature rich as some competitors, but is has all the recent post widget functions needed in most cases. It will show the post thumbnail in one of the predefined dimensions, date, author and custom lenght excerpt. It also offers the possibility to display pagination on the bottom of the widget. The feature we loved the most is filtering posts by current category. That’s an awesome feature if you want to display recent posts only from the current category in a single post sidebar. The competition widget are missing this feature. We miss the option to hide the current post, even though it’s possible to do it trough CSS.

List category posts widget in action

List category posts widget’s best feature is displaying posts only from the current category.

From the visual standpoint, this widget comes completely unstyled. Additional CSS styling to perfection could be an effort since not all displayed post meta has it’s own class. That’s the biggest downside of this plugin.

Pros

  • default WP post thumbnail sizes
  • current category post filtering
  • random post order
  • widget or shortcode implementation

Cons

  • no custom thumbnail size
  • can’t hide current post
  • no comment count
  • unstyled visual appearance

Download the Plugin

 

Category Posts Widget

Slightly under the 100k milestone, Category Posts Widget By TipTopPress is another Free WordPress recent posts widget. With 90.000 active installations and an 4.5 average vote it’s surely worth the consideration. The plugin is compatible with the latest WP version and regularly updated.

Category Posts Widget displaying recent posts

Category Posts Widget can show various post meta which can be arranged using the built in template editor. It also comes with a Ajax Load More button.

Category Posts Widget offers all the options as competitive recent posts plugins. It will do well for most projects. The only feature we miss is the current category filter. What makes it different from other tested widgets is a nice Ajax powered Load more button and a built in template editor. The default appearance is rather basic, but with some knowledge of HTML and CSS you can do very nice layouts using the widget’s template editor.

Pros

  • custom post thumbnail dimensions
  • hide current post
  • custom length excerpt
  • various post date formats
  • Ajax Load More button
  • template editor
  • widget or shortcode implementation

Cons

  • defualt appearance
  • no random post order
  • no current category filter

Download the Plugin

 

 

HowTo WordPress Tips Conclusion

It’s not easy to declare an overall best Free WordPress recent posts widget. All tested widgets perform well with slight differences between each one. Those small differences in features will define the right widget for each project. Therefore, to make your choice easier, here are some directions:

  • Recent Posts Widget Extended: good all around widget with nice default appearance, perfect for non coders
  • Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails: another good all around widget, suitable for most projects
  • List category posts widget: perfect if you need current category filtering, might need to make compromises on some areas
  • Category Posts Widget: great styling possibilities for those with good knowledge of HTML and CSS