Tonight, Rob and I crossed a marital and technological threshold with our collaborative creation of an enhanced version of one of the files in Matt Good and dr Dave’s excellent X-Dashboard plugin for WordPress.

X-Dashboard allows users to customize the WordPress admin Dashboard by turning off and on its various feeds and components. But we wanted to customize the text displayed in the Dashboard itself.

Our hack to the dev_feeds.php file for X-Dashboard lets you designate your choice of RSS feed to display in X-Dashboard. This is useful if you want to have the control that X-Dashboard gives you over the layout and content of your Dashboard, plus the ability to customize the incoming feed itself.

We anticipate that this will be most useful in collaborative blogging settings (such as for corporate blogs), where the administrator of the site wants to provide information or updates to the other contributors to the blog. But if there’s a favourite feed you’d like to see whenever you open your Dashboard, heck, that works too.

Quickstart:

  1. Download X-dashboard.
  2. Download the dev_feed.php.txt file and change the extension from php.txt to .php only.
  3. Create your dashboard RSS feed (see below) or use a current one.
  4. Customize the dev_feed file (see below).
  5. Drop your new dev_feed file into the x-dash-plugins folder included with X-Dashboard, overwriting the original one.
  6. Upload the X-Dashboard files to your WordPress server as directed, and enjoy!

To create your Dashboard feed:

  1. Create a post category in your blog for internal blog updates (for example, xdash).
  2. Identify the URL for the RSS feed of your xdash feed.
    • with permalink structure enabled, typically http://yourblog.com/categories/xdash/rss, OR
    • without pretty permalinks, it will be http://yourblog.com/wp-rss2.php?cat=[catno] where catno is the category number that is assigned to your xdash category in Manage/Categories
  3. Optional: make your blog’s internal xdash category invisible to outsiders by following the instructions for excluding a category inwp_list_cats or list_cats and Exclude Posts.

To customize the dev_feed.php file:

  1. In line 11, replace the “http://dev4awsamuel.wpengine.com/blog/wp-rss2.php?cat=45” with the URL of your own RSS feed.
  2. In line 15, replace the text “Welcome to your personal dashboard.” with whatever you’d like as the title of your dashboard, preserving the single quotes.
  3. In line 20, replace the text “Here’s what you decided you wanted to read:” with whatever you’d like to see as the permanent welcome message on your dashboard, again preserving the single quotes.

That’s the whole enchilada. Hardly enough to call a hack since it’s still 99.5% what Matt & dr Dave put together, but since it took us a while to work through we thought we’d share it with the world.

Follow up: dr Dave himself pointed me towards the full documentation for X-Dashboard, which includes details on customizing modules as we have. We’ll update our file name and documentation to create a new module (rather than a variant of the dev_feed) shortly. Thanks dr Dave!