Packages are like spices, Umbraco is your meal. Plugins give Umbraco additional functionality, the ability to do more things faster and better way. They extend the possibilities Umbraco has by default and can be a great benefit for every Umbraco-based website.
Umbraco CMS does not have so many packages like WordPress but continues to have a strong development community behind it. Over the years, Umbraco has had hundreds of packages published to the Our Umbraco Marketplace by community members.
Since Umbraco has so many different packages available today, it can be a daunting task to find the right extensions, mainly because you have to deal with specific versions and compatibility issues. Some packages are not maintained or contain bugs, which can break your website and be a real pain during development.
Below we will explore Umbraco’s free and paid packages that every site should consider in its arsenal. Here is a list of the best plugins that I use and highly recommend:
uSync is an open-source package that is well known to Umbraco developers.
uSync can help you to synchronize and deploy Umbraco model changes between various environments. This plugin is probably one of the most popular Umbraco cms packages ever. What is remarkable about this solid package is that during the Umbraco conference called CodeGarden 2015 – Umbracians voted for uSync to win the Umbraco development award.
uSync key features:
- Helps with the syncing changes across various environments
- Speeds up development workflow
- Saves model changes to XML files on disk
- Works great with your source system of choice
- Supports all major Umbraco types (Content types, Data types, languages, Macros, Media Types, Member types, Templates, etc.)
- Easy to use Dashboard with options: Import, Export, Report – you can review differences before import.
- Flexible configuration – you can import changes automatically during deployment or trigger import manually configuSync*.config depending on your needs/process
- Easy setup via NuGet repository
- Commercial uSync.Complete provides extra features
The StarterKit for Umbraco (free)
The StarterKit is the default starter kit for Umbraco 7/8/9 that was created initially in 2017. It was designed to provide developers with a boilerplate structure, based on best practices and design patterns learned from working with Umbraco CMS for the past years.
This plugin is great for anyone who wants to quickly build a basic Umbraco site with predefined pages like Home, Products Catalog, People, About, Blog, Contact, and more. You can create and publish new content real quick.
Starter Kit is a perfect option if you:
- Don’t care if your site looks just like every other site.
- Are just after basic functionality
- Want to learn some coding practices and good naming conventions
- Want to prepare a quick showcase
- Easily install packages to explore their features
- Works with Umbraco 7 (from 7.6), 8 and 9
Dedicated Media Folder Automation (paid)
Dedicated Media Folder is your Content Editor’s best friend.
Dedicated Media Folder speeds up essential media-content workflow by putting Umbraco Media Picker on steroids. The package was designed to automate creating special media folders and introduce an effective media management system.
Dedicated Media Folder key features:
- Introduces an effective system for Umbraco Media management (Media section tree is a mirror to Content tree)
- The ability to automatically create (and pick) a dedicated Media folder for each node in the Content section.
- Well-organized media section without the mess.
- Improves back-office performance and loading speed.
- Faster upload, search, managing files.
- Automates the time of time-consuming operations, a great timesaver for content management workflow (up to 20%).
- Limited duplication of nodes in the Media section
- Significantly decreases storage costs.
- Supports all major Umbraco components like Rich Text Editor, Grid, Block List, or Macro, etc.
- Works with Umbraco 8, Umbraco 9 will be supported soon.
Doc Type Grid Editor (free)
Doc Type Grid Editor is a back-office extension that significantly simplifies creating grid editors (components) inside Umbraco Grid cells – based on document types definition. Umbraco’s Grid Editor can be one of the most powerful features-especially if you want to display complex and well-structured content.
DTGE gives Umbraco Grid more power and speeds up the development workflow signiﬁcantly.
To create a custom grid editor component using DTGE you need to:
- Create document type (ex. Call to Action) with “Is an element type” option selected
- Customize the configuration inside App_PluginsDocTypeGridEditorpackage.manifest JSON file
Doc Type Grid Editor key features and benefits:
- Reduces development time, you can bake new grid editors quickly
- Makes the Umbraco Grid very powerful and allows to put complex content inside Grid cells fast.
- Gives full control over HTML output
- Easy & intuitive JSON configuration
- Works with Umbraco 7, 8 and 9
Umbraco Azure File System Provider (free)
The Umbraco Azure File System Provider was created to provide an Azure cloud option for storing media files. The benefits of this package are that keeping media files in Azure saves space on your website’s hosting and provides faster access to these media files. Umbraco CMS + Azure blob storage is a perfect combination for websites with data-intensive traffic that run 24/7 without downtime.
Storing files on Azure blob storage will give several benefits:
- Unlimited, fast storage with geo-replication (low latency)
- Flexible billing, low cost
- Reliable and redundant infrastructure
- World-class security, encryption
Umbraco Azure File System Provider key features:
- Keeping media files on the cloud storage
- Flexible configuration, caching
- Works with Umbraco 7, 8 and 9
- Easy to install as NuGet package: Install-Package UmbracoFileSystemProviders.Azure.Media
Getting the package to work with Azure Private blob storage (recommended for security) can be challenging, but it’s possible. If you want to find more, please read the article Setting Umbraco CMS to work with Azure private storage.
Simple Redirects is an extension that allows you to manage HTTP redirects directly from the Back-office panel, as the name suggests.
SimpleRedirects key features:
- Intuitive and easy-to-use dashboard displaying a redirects list. Supports searching, paging, and CRUD operations.
- Easy configuration via the web.config (cache enabling, cache duration)
- Fast performance thanks to caching layer
- Works with Umbraco 8 and 9
- Easy to install as NuGet package: Install-Package SimpleRedirects
Media Protect (paid)
The Media Protect package was designed to protect media files and folders the same way Umbraco protects content (documents). This extension is a perfect choice if you want to limit media files access only for authenticated members. In other words, users have to be logged in to view or download files.
How does the media protect package work?
Once you click on the media file or folder, you can choose one of the protection level options:
- Specific members
- Member groups (roles)
Media protect key features:
- Flexible media files access restriction mechanism
- Restrict access to files/folders for member groups or specific users
- Audit logs viewer for media usage (media details, username, IP, request date) with CSV export option
- Unauthorized users can be redirected to custom Error or Login page
- User-friendly interface plugged to Umbraco back-office
- Easy to install, license file should be uploaded to bin directory
- Works with Umbraco 7, 8, 9
Media Protect is using IAuthenticationProvider abstraction with default ASP.NET Membership API (System.Web.Security) which allows you to swap and use a custom ASP.NET Membership / Role provider. You can easily switch to Single Sign-on (SSO) authentication and the media protect package will work.
The Dashboard (free)
The Dashboard package was created in 2018 to provide an easy-to-use, intuitive interface for editors to see what’s happening on their website.
The Dashboard package mainly provides basic statistics about content changes so you can know how often your content has been edited or updated and who did it and when they did it.
The Dashboard key features and benefits:
- Shows recent activities from all users in the back-office
- Shows current user activities in the back-office (your recent activity)
- Shows unpublished content
- Displays metrics on Published content nodes, Nodes in the recycle bin, Members on the website, New members last week
- You can implement custom counters by implementing the IDashboardCounter interface
- Works with Umbraco 7, 8 and 9
A Star Rating property editor may be an excellent choice for rating items such as news, articles, blog posts, products, restaurants, etc.
The Star Rating key features and benefits:
- It’s easy to create a rating data type
- Uses solid jquery.raty.js plugin
- Several intuitive options: read-only, enable half-star, maximum rating value, the default rating
- It can perfectly improve the work of the editorial office
- Works with Umbraco 8
How to find the right Umbraco packages?
To find the best packages to suit your needs – I recommend visiting Our Umbraco marketplace. The site is very user-friendly and gives the ability to browse all packages by popularity, date, or category. Plugins are divided into several categories: Collaboration, Backoffice extensions, Developer tools, Starter Kits, Umbraco PRO, Website utilities, Umbraco Cloud.
The Umbraco package ratings are essential. Any community user can vote by giving a “like” which provides a good insight into the quality of the package. Naturally, the best packages have a lot of downloads, and you can see both metrics.
Factors to consider before installing the Umbraco package:
- The number of package downloads (Downloads on Our Marketplace, Downloads via NuGet repository, Total downloads)
- Package Compatibility – whether the package is compatible with a specific Umbraco version. Community members can give feedback after downloading and verifying the package.
- Quality of documentation.
- Package Owner/Contributors activity on the forum or GitHub (bugfixes, replies, support)
Finally, we went through the top Umbraco packages and I hope you learned some interesting things from this article. Before installing a new package, remember to check if your Umbraco website version is compatible. If you have the Umbraco extensions, which are the least popular, and compatibility issues, do not install them as this could mess up the system. However, the popularity of Umbraco plugins does not always mean good quality and added value, so be sure to do some research before installing!
Do you have something to add?
Feel free to let me know about your favorite Umbraco packages in the comment section below.
I would love to check them out.