Yes, I've been quiet and for that I apologise. Each year I think I'll get the time and get back to blogging, but last year was a major up and down year and I barely stopped, and in all honesty this year will probably be the same simply due to the fact that I'm pregnant with twins, due in 4-6 weeks. One was planned, the other is just a little stowaway! :)

I do keep meaning to write some posts, even personal stuff, make this site possibly a bit more personal and probably a lot less techy in part, but by the end of the day I'm just working hard to keep my eyes open. It's certainly hard work carrying/growing 2 babies and trying to help out with a 3 year old too! Plus I'm putting in all the hours I can with work to maximise my maternity leave and in case I go early (a possibility with twins).

Still, I've finally managed to get some updates into my Page Menu Editor plugin, just bug fixes, nothing mind blowing really, but they've been sitting waiting for about a year.

I will try and get some posts written, it's just hard to write these days as a lot of stuff I do is so bespoke such as report writing, using data from bespoke systems, that it's not really mainstream stuff.

Anyway, I am still here, still working, still breathing… although it's time for bed! :)

A major new addition to WordPress 3.0 were custom menus. This gave you the ability to have full control over your menus, and removed the need for several plugins that performed various functions such as excluded pages from the menu, set pages to auto redirect to a custom link and my own page menu editor, which allows you to edit the menu label and title attribute to be different from the page title. It also removes the need for setting up ordering using the menu order option in the page attributes (and then deciding to insert another page and having to reorder all pages after it!).

Custom menus are so simple to set up with just a few lines of code needed to get started, and then you can make use of the Appearance -> Menus section within the admin. A simple drag and drop system which allows you to create menus consisting of page, post, category, custom post type, custom taxonomy and custom links. It's so much more flexible.

To get started with custom menus I recommend reading Justin Tadlock's tutorial which tells you everything you need to know – WordPress custom menus. Well, almost everything, there is one item missing from his tutorial (although it may have been added since I last read through it), which is how he has the CSS class, link relationship and description showing in his second screenshot. To get this you need to open up the screen options section up at the top of the screen and you'll see the extra boxes that you can tick to display (or not as the case may be).

We now use custom menus on every new site we set up, and we even use one for the site map as it makes more sense to do so. If you've not already started using them then I highly recommend learning and switching to them.

I'm a bit behind on my various blog posts here so for some people you may think this is old news, but for plenty more there are still lots of fab new features that have come into WordPress over the past 18 months, and as I haven't written about them yet I want to start now :)

Rather than writing out and repeating how to do everything, I've decided to just link to the tutorials and sites that I used to learn these features, and just add my own notes instead. However, of course I'm always happy to answer questions and help via the comments section.

Featured Images

This came in WordPress 2.9. Before this specific option, you could still create a featured image by attaching an image to a page or post via the media uploader and then using a bit of querying to pull it out and display it. Trouble was, it was a bit of a hassle and hard to explain to clients or less advanced users. Bring on the Featured Image. A way to allow posts and/or pages to have a single specified image that just required one line of code in your theme file to display.

I think the best post on this subject has to be from Mark Jaquith – Post Thumbnail Images (note, this was their name before it changed to 'Featured Image'). He covers everything you really need to know.

Featured images brings a whole host of new options. It's far simpler to create a photo blog with them for a start, and I can remember helping people out in the past where they used the categories and posts system to hold product details for a catalogue style site. Before it was a case of upload and attach the product photo (or several) to the post, and explain to the client to put the main one at the top using the order system, so that you could code in the theme to pull the first one out larger, and then perhaps show small thumbnails of the rest. Now you can simply tell them to use the featured image which can easily be displayed in product listings, and as a larger image on the main product page, with any additional images added via the media uploader and displayed as thumbnails.

This is just a simple example of how this can be used :)

Free accounting software A couple of years ago I wrote about Kashflow – Online Business Accounting Software. At the time I'd been using it as a sole trader for a few months. Now with 3 years of experience and company / VAT registered experience it's worth refreshing this post.

What is Kashflow?

Kashflow is essentially accounting software like Sage, but it's based online and, speaking of experience with Sage, is far simpler to use. Everything is based online which means that you can access your accounts from any computer, you can share your login with your accountant and if you own an iPhone, there is an app to allow you easy access via your mobile phone.

Business Accounting and Administration

Kashflow doesn't just do accounts, it also allows you to store all of your clients' details, allows you to create invoices and email them direct to the clients and/or save them as PDFs. You can create quotes and projects which can have invoices and quotes assigned to it as well.

A major benefit that we've found is the repeat billing option, which means setting up an invoice for a client and then setting it to go out automatically every X months or every year. This is such a time saver, especially for small bills for domain renewals, or small hosting accounts. We just check through once a month to make sure the next few weeks are accurate and up to date, and leave them to go. The only work needs to be done when payment is made and we just mark it off as paid.

All of the invoices created on Kashflow are automatically added to your turnover once they're paid. You can also save rates and discount rates for individual clients making it easier to remember who pays what.

You also have sales and purchase types, allowing you to set up specific 'types' of products / jobs, and you can choose to assign prices to them as well, again saving a lot of time when you just select the correct product to add to the invoice.

Finally the bank reconciliation is also a great feature, which allows you to reconcile your bank statement with Kashflow to ensure nothing is missed.

VAT

(This section is probably a bit easier to understand if you're British!) The support for VAT registered businesses is great too. On the front overview page you can instantly see your VAT liability for the current quarter, and you can set up your details for HMRC and then submit your VAT directly from Kashflow when you're ready to do so.

Of course you don't have to be VAT registered to use Kashflow, as I wasn't when I first started using it as a sole trader. It's just another great feature that's available.

Accounting Reports

Finally the number of accounting reports available are great. To be honest I still don't know what half of them mean but then again I know what I need to see and that's our profit and loss! We give our login to our accountant too and he uses other various reports to get information for our end of year accounts. He'd never used Kashflow to start with but has even remarked on how easy it is to use and has got the hang of it quite quickly. We've had a few fun and games finding the wrong payments in the wrong payment types, but it's very easy to shift payments from one type to another to ensure the accounts are correct.

Free 60 day trial

So if you're in business then I cannot recommend Kashflow enough. Before I started using it my argument would be that I couldn't afford to pay out for accounting software when I could do it myself in Excel or my own written accounts software. However, the £15.99 + VAT per month cost is minimal compared to the time saved, which frees us up to do more work and earn more than the cost of Kashflow.

You can try it for free for 60 days, you don't even have to enter your card details (unlike most trial offers). You can simply set up an account, give it a go and if you like it, decide if it's worth the monthly cost. There's no minimum requirement on accounts either, so you don't have to sign up for a year or anything like that either. If you also sign up via my Kashflow link and decide to continue with using it, then you will actually save £1 off the monthly cost (this is continuous, not just a one off). This means £14.99 + VAT per month, and saves you £12 + VAT per year.

So it's certainly worth looking at. So go take a look ;)

(Feel free to ask me any questions below with regards to it if you want and I'll do my best to answer them!).

Thomas with hat on Wow, my life has changed, for the good of course. I knew having a baby meant changes, I don't think anyone realises how much their life will change until this tiny, 100% dependent on you, baby becomes your responsibility. It's been amazing but extremely hard work too. We've had a lot of ups and downs in part due to the lack of knowledge of some healthcare professionals, but we're still battling on through because my gorgeous boy is worth it.

He's 7.5 months old now, a happy and chilled out baby, and he's absolutely amazing. We both still can't believe he's ours :)

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with chat of nappies (cloth of course), lack of sleep or his 'first' everything. I just wanted to leave a quick post to point out that I haven't forgotten this site and I hope to get back to at least the occasional post as I've got so much to write about. It's just a case of finding the time, usually once the little 'un has gone to bed :)

(Photo taken by David Anderson)

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