WP Cumulus released!

WP Cumulus

WP-Cumulus has moved to WordPress.org. The information on this page is no longer maintained. Please see http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-cumulus/ for the latest version of the plugin and documentation.

A little while ago I posted a Flash based tag cloud frontend here that was hoping to convert into a plugin for WordPress. I had some time on my hands tonight, so I decided to finish it. The actionscript needed a major overhaul, and in order to allow decent integration into as many layouts as possible the plugin itself needed an options page. Thanks to WP’s brilliant documentation, and lots of helpful posts by people who’s PHP skills far exceed mine, it’s now done.

You can see it in action here.

Version history

Version 1.12+Moved to WordPress.org/extend.
Version 1.11Restores an earlier fix for IE to force loading of the Flash movie.
Version 1.1
  • Complete rewrite of the Flash movie (Actionscript 3, requires Flash Player 9 or better).
  • Better mouse detection.
  • Adds option to distribute the tags evenly over the sphere.
  • Adds support for categories.
  • Adds the ability to pass parameters to the WordPress wp_tag_cloud function.
  • Several smaller enhancements.
Version 1.05
  • Fixes several issues with IE, including an issue where it was impossible to use the regular version and the widget on the same page. Thanks to Fadi for alerting me to these.
Version 1.04
  • Fixes the “it kills my blog” error for people using PHP 5.2 or newer. Thanks to Mujahid for helping me debug this.
  • Speed improvements in the Flash code.
Version 1.03
  • Removes the wp_head hook in yet another attempt to fix issues with some other plugins and themes.
  • Reduces system overhead by storing less options.
  • Adds setting for speed.
  • Adds a widget with seperate options (size, colors, speeds, etc).
  • Attemps to detect when the mouse leaves the movie, reducing the ‘spinning, but not out of control’ effect.
  • Several minor fixes.
Version 1.02Fixes issues with sites not loading after activation, reduces server load and fixes lost spaces in tags. Thanks to Dimitry for helping me debug these issues.
Version 1.01Fixes an issue where the cloud would spin out of control when the browsers loses focus on OSX.
Version 1.00Initial release version.

Here’s what you should know about “WP Cumulus”:


  1. Make sure you’re running WordPress version 2.3 or better. It really won’t work with older versions. Really.
  2. Download the zip file and extract the contents.
  3. Upload the “wp-cumulus” folder to your plugins directory (wp-content/plugins/)
  4. Activate the plugin through the ‘plugins’ page in WP.
  5. See “Options->WP Cumulus” to adjust things like display size, etc…

Using WP Cumulus

In order to actually display the tag cloud, you have three options.

  1. Create a page or post and type [WP-CUMULUS ] anywhere in the content, but without the space before the last bracket. This ‘tag’ will be replaced by the flash movie when viewing the page.
  2. Add the following code anywhere in your theme to display the cloud. <?php wp_cumulus_insert(); ?> This can be used to add WP Cumulus to your sidebar, although it may not actually be wide enough in many cases to keep the tags readable.
  3. The plugin adds a widget, so you can place it on your sidebar through ‘Design’->’Widgets’. The widget uses a separate set of settings, so it’s possible to have different background colors, sizes, etc.

About the options

WP Cumulus options screen

The options page allows you to change the Flash movie’s dimensions, change the text color as well as the background.

Width of the Flash tag cloud
The movie will scale itself to fit inside whatever dimensions you decide to give it. If you make it really small, chances are people will not be able to read less-used tags that are further away. Anything up from 500 will work fine.

Height of the Flash tag cloud
Ideally, the height should be something like 3/4 of the width. This will make the rotating cloud fit nicely, while the extra width allows for the tags to be displayed without cropping. Text is horizontal by nature, which is why the ideal aspect is slightly landscape even though the could is circular.

Color of the tags
Type the hexadecimal color value you’d like to use for the tags, but not the “#” that usually precedes those in HTML. Black (000000) will obviously work well with light backgrounds, white (ffffff) is recommended for use on dark backgrounds.

Background color
The hex value for the background color you’d like to use. This options has no effect when “Use transparent mode” is selected.

Use transparent mode
Turn on/off background transparency. Enabling this might cause issues with some (mostly older) browsers. Under Linux, transparency doesn’t work in at all due to a known limitation in the Flash player.

Rotation speed
Allows you to change the speed of the sphere. Options between 25 and 500 work best.

Distribute tags evenly on sphere
When enabled, the movie will attempt to distribute the tags evenly over the surface of the sphere.

Choose whether to show tags only, categories only, or both mixed together. Choosing ‘both’ can result in ‘duplicate tags’ if you have categories and tags with the same name. These words will appear twice, with one linking to the tag and the other to the category overview.

wp_tag_cloud parameters
This setting allows you to pass parameters to the wp_tag_cloud function, which is used to fetch the tag cloud. Use caution with this setting. Everything you enter will be passed to the function. Be sure to read the function’s manual. Please also note that these parameters affect tags only. If you’ve chosen to show categories or both, the category ‘tags’ will not be affected.

WP-Cumulus widget options

Troubleshooting / issues / other

I see a regular tag could and a line of of text about how I need the Flash plugin
It appears you either do not have Flash Player 9 or better installed, or you’ve disabled javascript. If you’re absolutely positive that both are available, try enabling the “Insert SWFObject include into header” setting in the WP Cumulus options page.

Hey, but what about SEO?
I’m not sure how beneficial tag clouds are when it comes to SEO, but just in case WP Cumulus outputs the regular tag cloud (and/or categories listing) for non-flash users. This means that search engines will see the same links.

I’d like to change something in the Flash movie, will you release the .fla?
No. You can contact me about doing custom versions if you like, but I won’t be releasing the source code for the Flash movie.

My theme/site appears not to like this plugin. It’s not displaying correctly.
Older versions had issues with PHP 5.2 (or better). This has been fixed. If you’re having trouble getting WP-Cumulus to work, please try a different theme and check for HTML markup errors. If this does not help, please contact me with as much info as you can.

Some of my tags occasionally hit the sides of the movie and are cropped
If this happens you should change the aspect for the movie to make it wider. This can be done by increasing the width, but also by decreasing the height. Both will make the movie “more landscape” giving long tags more room.

Some characters are not showing up
Because of the way Flash handles text, only Latin characters are supported in the current version. This is due to a limitation where in order to be able to animate text fields smoothly the glyphs need to be embedded in the movie. The plugin download includes the Flash movie’s source code, which wil allow you to create a version for your language. There’s a text field in the root of the movie that you can use to embed more characters. If you change to another font, you’ll need to edit the Tag class as well.

More info here

I’m not using WordPress…

  • Steve Springett has ported this to Movable Type. More info over on his site.
  • Michael Robinson has ported WP-Cumulus to RapidWeaver, see his tutorial here.
  • I wrote this post on how to use the flash movie in other contexts.

When I click on tags, nothing happens.
This is usually caused by a Flash security feature that affects movies served from another domain as the surrounding page. If your blog is http://yourblog.com, but you have http://www.youblog.com listed as the ‘WordPress address’ under Settings -> General this issue can occur. In this case you should adjust this setting to match your blog’s actual URL. If you haven’t already, I recommend you decide on a single URL for your blog and redirect visitors using other options. This will increase your search engine ranking and in the process help solve this issue :).


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