Out of the box, WordPress comes equipped with a recent posts widget for displaying your latest content in the sidebar and other widgetized areas of your website. However, the settings and controls on the default recent posts widget are pretty minimal.
With only the ability to give the widget a title, set the number of posts to display, and the option of displaying the post date, there isn’t much flexibility on offer.
Installing a recent posts plugin, however, can give you a lot more control over how your recent posts are featured in the sidebar and other widgetized areas of your WordPress theme.
By upgrading the core recent posts widget you can display featured images, include custom post types, filter posts by category, or list other posts by the same author.
If you are using Multisite, you can even display recent posts from other sites in your network.
If any of that sounds appealing, then one of these WordPress recent posts plugins should allow you to display your latest content in a range of different ways, helping you drive more visitors to other posts on your website.
Recent Posts Widget Extended is a popular free plugin that adds another recent posts widget to your site with a more powerful set of controls for displaying content in your sidebar and other widget areas.
The list of recent posts can also be displayed in your posts and pages using a shortcode.
This plugin adds new controls to the recent posts widget that allow you to choose which taxonomies to source the posts from; whether to show post thumbnails and if so, which size; which post types to include; whether to show a post excerpt or not and if so, of what length; and also whether to display a date or the relative age of the post.
Other features of the Recent Posts Widget Extended plugin that are not often seen elsewhere include the ability to turn the widget title into a link and add HTML or text before and after the list of recent posts. There is also a field on the widget for adding custom CSS to alter its appearance.
The settings and controls of this widget make it a very flexible choice that should allow you to build the exact recent posts list you need for your WordPress website.
Advanced Random Posts Widget is another free plugin that displays posts in the sidebar and other areas of your website using a shortcode.
Instead of showing the latest posts, however, it lets you list random posts instead.
Don’t fret, however, as the plugin does give you some control over which posts are randomly selected for inclusion in your list. Its settings allow you to customize the widget content in much the same way as you can with the Recent Posts Widget Extended plugin covered earlier. This includes support for custom post types, custom taxonomies, displaying thumbnails, and including post excerpts.
With this plugin installed on your site, each time a visitor arrives or loads a new page on your website, they will see a random list of posts in the sidebar, which helps them discover more of your content.
Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails is a lightweight plugin that lists your most recent posts with post titles, thumbnails, excerpts, authors, categories, dates, and more.
This is a great plugin if you are looking for a simple recent posts plugin for use in widget areas only.
The plugin is based on the WordPress default widget ‘Recent Posts’ and has been extended to display more information about your posts, such as thumbnails, excerpts, and assigned categories. It also provides options to build custom post lists and sources thumbnails from the post’s featured image or the first image in your post content. You can also specify a default thumbnail if your post does not contain a featured image or images in the content and set the width and height of thumbnails to display in your list.
A nice little feature of this plugin other than the fact that it supports multiple languages is that thumbnails display differently in post titles when using left-to-right (left-aligned) or right-to-left languages.
If you are looking for a better way to display links to recent content on your website, one of the above plugins should do the trick.
The ability to filter content by post type or custom taxonomy will give you more control over which posts are displayed in your widgetized areas. The extra settings in these plugins, such as the controls covering how the posts are displayed, will also give you greater control over how your content will look.