In this post, we’ll be reviewing one of the WordPress platform’s most popular image gallery plugins: Envira Gallery. Read on to learn about the plugin’s best features, how to use it, and whether or not it’s a plugin worth paying for.
As a webmaster, it’s your job to satisfy internet users’ obsession with photos and pretty visuals, while also serving your website at lightning-fast speed. But aren’t these two goals, well, sort of incompatible? After all, adding a ton of photos to your pages is bound to make things slower — using large, quality images means sacrificing load time, right?
Well, not always. And in this post we’re going to be assessing a potential solution to this predicament: The Envira Gallery plugin.
The claim on the Envira Gallery website is bold and unambiguous: ‘The Best Premium WordPress Gallery Plugin.’ It builds beautiful image galleries, it’s quick and easy to use, and it’s been fine-tuned for maximum speed. What more could you ask for from a gallery plugin, huh?
Of course, any plugin can sound good on paper. The more important questions are: What’s it like in reality? Does it live up to expectations? And is it worth the price tag?
We’ll be looking to answer all of these questions and more, as I take Envira Gallery for a test drive.
Let’s get started.
Introducing Envira Gallery
First, though, a little background on Envira Gallery.
Part of the WPBeginner stable of plugins, which also includes OptinMonster, WPForms, and Soliloquy (click for reviews!), Envira celebrated its third birthday in January 2017, so it’s been around for a while now. During this time, Envira has established itself as arguably the top gallery plugin, and possibly one of the best-known plugins in the WordPress world — period. As such, it may already be on your radar.
Right from the get-go, performance has always been a vital part of Envira’s philosophy. Developer Thomas Griffin set out to create a gallery plugin that wasn’t bloated with code but could still stand up against other top gallery plugins. In fact, much of Envira’s success can be attributed to this approach — the plugin squeezes impressive usability and a shed load of powerful functionalities into an insanely lightweight and super-fast package.
Although Envira is known for its speed, in my opinion, the impressive feature set is probably the plugin’s biggest boon.
You can, of course, quickly create video or image galleries, complete with lightbox and slideshow functionalities, but it’s when you throw the various premium addons into the mix that you begin to unlock some of the most exciting features for an image gallery plugin. These include password-protected galleries, WooCommerce integration and image printing.
As you’d expect from a top plugin in 2017, it is, of course, fully responsive, too.
So, there’s lots to like about Envira, but let’s see how it performs on a live website as we dive into the bulk of today’s post: Our detailed Envira Gallery review.
Getting Started with Envira Gallery
Let’s start by installing the plugin. Navigate to Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin and install and activate the Envira Gallery .zip file.
A notification at the top of the screen will prompt you to verify your Envira license key. This is an important step if you want Envira Gallery to update itself with the latest features and security patches. It only takes a few seconds, so it’s well worth doing — just copy and paste the license key found in your Envira Gallery account area, then click Verify Key.
Now it’s time to install the addons. This is achieved by clicking Envira Gallery > Addons, then clicking Install on the ones you want.
Now, there are up to 29 addons available, which means you can add an impressive range of functionality to the core plugin. Which ones are you eligible for? Well, that depends on your license type, which leads us nicely on to the topic of price.
Envira Gallery Pricing
Envira Gallery offers four license types.
- Bronze ($19) — one year’s support and updates, use on one website, and a few basic addons.
- Silver ($49) — one year’s support and updates, use on three websites, and basic and intermediate addons.
- Gold ($99) — one year’s priority support and updates, use on unlimited websites, and access to all addons.
- Platinum ($249) — lifetime premium support and updates, use on unlimited websites, and access to all addons.
Your preferred license will depend on how many websites you want to activate Envira Gallery on and which addons you’d like to use.
And, for comparison, Envira Gallery’s main competitor is NextGen, which prices its Pro version between $69 and $99. As such, Envira Gallery is more affordable at entry level, while broadly in line at the top end.
The addons are probably the distinguishing variation between the licenses, as they unlock some really cool features. There’s no need to run you through all 29 addons, but here are some of the best:
- NextGen Gallery Importer Addon (Bronze and up) — migrate galleries directly from the other major gallery plugin, NextGen.
- Protection Addon (Bronze and up) — prevent visitors from right clicking and saving your images.
- Instagram and Pinterest Addons (Silver and up) — import images from social media sites.
- EXIF Addon (Silver and up) — for professional photographers, this one lets you add EXIF metadata to images, such as camera model and shutter speed.
- Featured Content Addon (Silver and up) — lets you link to posts, pages, and custom post types.
- Gallery Themes Addon (Silver and up) — prettify your galleries with additional stylish templates.
- Pagination Addon (Silver and up) — in the interest of speed, this addon splits galleries across multiple pages.
- ZIP Importer Addon (Gold and up) — save your images in one handy .zip folder, then upload them in bulk into a single gallery.
- WooCommerce Addon (Gold and up) — integrate Envira with WooCommerce to sell your images to visitors.
- Deeplinking Addon (Gold and up) — optimize your images for a ranking boost.
These addons are activated individually, which means you only need to install the ones you intend to use. The benefit of this is that the plugin carries no unnecessary baggage.
Creating Your First Gallery
Envira prides itself on being one of the most streamlined gallery plugins, giving you the ability to build galleries in mere minutes. In this section, we’ll put the plugin through its paces to see if this really is true.
To start, we need to navigate to Envira Gallery > Add New, then give the image gallery a name.
Now, the most important part of any image gallery is, of course, the imagery itself. As such, selecting your images is a sensible place to start. Envira gives several options for sourcing your images.
- Choose existing ones from your WordPress Media Library.
- Upload new ones by dragging and dropping them into the gallery pane.
- Import images directly from Dropbox, Instagram, or Pinterest (*requires addons*).
- Upload a .zip file containing all the images you intend to use — a ready-made gallery in a folder, if you will (*requires addon*).
When you’ve selected, imported, or uploaded your images, you’ll be able to see them in the Image panel in the section below.
From here, you can choose to modify your images or you can re-order them using drag and drop. It’s all effortlessly easy, and it takes just seconds to populate and arrange your gallery.
Configuring the Gallery
Now it’s time to start configuring the gallery. This is done by working your way down through the Config, Lightbox, Mobile, and Misc panels. *Note — as you activate more addons, new panels will become available with new settings to configure.
First up is the Config panel, which allows you to configure several basic settings for your gallery. For example, you can specify how many columns you want to spread your gallery over, select image dimensions, and activate image auto-cropping. If you’ve installed the Gallery Templates Addon, you can choose between five gallery themes, too.
Although you can organize your image gallery using drag and drop (as we did before), you can also choose alternative sorting methods. These include random, by URL, by file name, or by publication date.
Next, the Lightbox tab. From here, you can modify the lightbox and how the images behave when clicked.
If you’ve activated the Gallery Templates Addon, you’ll be able to select eight lightbox styles — without the addon, you’re limited to two. You can also configure the size of the lightbox images, whether the galleries can be scrolled using the mouse-wheel, and the animation effects.
Now, on to the Mobile panel, which lets you configure your gallery’s mobile settings.
For starters, you get to activate galleries on mobile devices. You can also specify dimensions, pick lightbox styles, and activate swipe gestures for navigating the galleries.
Finally, the Misc tab. This one lets you give your gallery a slug, and also export/import galleries. Chances are, you won’t need to spend much time on this screen, so we’ll breeze over it.
Placing the Gallery
Now the gallery is good to go, it’s time to display it in all its glory on your site! And, as with every aspect of Envira Gallery, the process couldn’t be easier — in fact, the plugin ships with several options.
First, the one I imagine most of you will want to use: Pasting a shortcode. This lets you add your gallery anywhere on your website — be it a post, page, or custom post type. You can find the relevant shortcode within the gallery settings or on the gallery overview screen — just click Envira Gallery, and you’ll spot it in the second column.
Those of a more technical inclination may prefer this second option: Embedding a code snippet directly into your theme’s code. Again, this is super easy to do, with the code snippet readily available on the edit gallery screen.
Last but not least, you can place a gallery in a sidebar using the dedicated Envira Gallery widget. Just drag and drop into your preferred widget space, then select the gallery you want from a drop-down list.
Galleries in Action
So, we’ve seen how easy it is to build a gallery with Envira, but what do the galleries actually look like? The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the gallery’s appearance is the most important thing for users.
Fortunately, the results are really impressive, as you’re about to see. Remember, though, try not to be too swayed by the images featured in the gallery screenshots. After all, the quality of the images in use has no bearing on the quality of the plugin.
First up, here’s a simple three-column gallery.
Here’s the same gallery using the Polaroid template, which is available in the Gallery Themes Addon, available with Silver licenses and above.
And here we see the Sleek template deployed.
As you can see, all galleries look really stylish — very clean and modern.
When a visitor clicks on an image, it triggers lightbox mode. The background is darkened, and the image expands to full-size. Visitors can also navigate in lightbox mode by using the buttons provided, or by clicking left or right on their keyboard.
Here is the standard lightbox.
This is the lightbox using the Sleek template.
And, finally, the Legacy lightbox.
Again, they’re visually stunning with simple navigation. You’ll also see the thumbnails of the other images featured in the gallery below the main image, and visitors can click on these to jump straight to that particular image.
Envira Gallery Lite
The features we’ve outlined above are all well and good, but some users are looking to build quality image galleries using a free plugin.
If this describes your predicament, you’re in luck. The official WordPress plugin directory stocks the Envira Gallery Lite version. The plugin has garnered 70,000 downloads and currently enjoys a stellar 4.7 rating. Compare these stats to the main rival, NextGen Gallery Lite, which has a far bigger user base — more than a million — but a relatively disappointing 3.3 rating.
The Lite version is still exceptionally well coded and speed optimized, but it comes without most of the bells and whistles of its premium big brother. The plugin is just as easy to use — the process for building galleries is identical, in fact — but there are fewer options and none of the functionalities the addons provide.
Still, if you want a free gallery plugin, it’s an excellent option, or it gives you the opportunity to try Envira Gallery out before purchasing the full version.
Overall, I was really impressed with the Envira Gallery plugin. Not only is it one of the fastest around — an important consideration for any image-heavy website — but it’s also one of the most user-friendly plugins I’ve had the privilege of testing. The learning curve is as flat as it gets.
As far as feature sets go, Envira Gallery can do everything you could ask of an image gallery plugin. Social sharing, WooCommerce integration, image SEO, stylish templates, gallery imports — the list goes on and on.
Each function is activated at the click of a button, which means you only need to install the features you’re actively using. This means that, for users just looking for a streamlined gallery, there are no unnecessary configuration screens to drown in. And for those looking for specialist functionalities, there is a dedicated settings screen for each one, enabling you to tweak the galleries to your exact liking.
The biggest decision is choosing which license to opt for. As you’d expect, the more expensive licenses ship with additional (and more sophisticated) addons, so it’s a tradeoff between price and feature set.
For most users, the optimal license will fall somewhere between Silver and Gold — Silver unlocks the bulk of the best addons, while Gold unlocks the lot.
Having looked closely at the addons available with each license, I personally lean towards the $49 Silver license, and feel it represents the best value. Yes, upgrading to Gold gets you a few extra addons, but at double the price it’s a big jump for not much more. Gold also offers premium support, but because of how easy the plugin is to use, you probably won’t need this much.
All in all, Envira is a really strong gallery plugin. Quick, reputable, and easy to use — and gets a full endorsement from us.
Using Envira Gallery? Thoughts?