Review of the Simple History Plugin for WordPress

We recently looked at many different plugins to find the best one for tracking content changes.

The Simple History plugin was our favorite. Simple History allows site administrators to keep a log of all tasks performed within a WordPress site.

This plugin generates two tables in the WordPress database and these store all the changes to your site. These records will be deleted after 60 days to stop your database getting too big.

You can also download a copy of all records in JSON format or in a CSV file, to work with this data in a desktop application like MS Excel or LibreOffice Calc.

Step #1. Install the Simple History Plugin

  • Click Plugins > Add new.
  • Type comments lazy load in the search box.
  • Choose the Simple History plugin.
  • Click Install Now.
  • Click Activate.
WordPress Simple History plugin installation

Step #2. The Module Settings

The system will redirect you to the Plugins page after activating the module.

  • Click Settings.
WordPress Simple History plugin settings

The plugin has its configuration options organized in 3 tabs:

  • Settings
  • Export
  • Debug 

The Settings tab contains options relevant to the log history, where to take a look at the log, and the possibility to clear the database tables to start from 0, for example, in case you are monitoring your site on a weekly or monthly basis.

  • Leave the default values.
  • Click Enable RSS Feed.
  • Click Save changes.
WordPress Simple History plugin settings screen

The Debug tab contains information concerning the database tables, in which the logs are stored. Furthermore, it shows how many rows are stored in the database for each one of the actions (each action has a logger). You can keep track of normal WordPress actions, like plugin installations, or posted comments, however Simple History records and stores also actions related to other plugins like Jetpack, Duplicate Posts or Beaver Builder.

WordPress Simple History plugin results

Take a look at this whole page, so you can get an idea of the global scope of the plugin.

Step #3. Test the Plugin

Perform the following actions on your site:

  • Write a Post.
  • Write a Page.
  • Change the theme of your site.
  • Install a Plugin.
  • Write one comment as an anonymous user.
  • Approve the comment

Now let's see how Simple History has recorded those changes.

  • Click Dashboard.
  • Scroll down.

You will see the Simple History widget on the Dashboard screen. The widget shows the 5 most recent actions. There is a pager, to check the 5 actions before that on the second page, and so on. It contains a select filter, to filter by date and a word search box. That way, it is easy to search and find actions with a keyword.

WordPress Simple History plugin dashboard widget
  • Click Dashboard > Simple History

This is the Simple History page. It will display the same information as the widget, plus you get a stats widget on the right sidebar. It compares the number of events between days over 28 days. The page contains 20 logged actions – this is the default setting (Settings tab – Step #2).Hint: The graphic will look less empty after 28 days.

WordPress Simple History plugin settings screen

Step #4. Export the Simple History data

Simple History deletes records after 60 days. If you want to keep this data, you can export it to CSV or JSON files.

  • Click Visit the settings page on the right sidebar.
  • Click the Export tab.
  • Select the CSV radio button.
  • Click Download Export File
WordPress Simple History plugin data export

This will download a CSV file. You can edit this file with a spreadsheet application.

WordPress Simple History plugin CSV output

With a stored backup, you could, in theory, clean the tables and make a fresh start. Then you repeat this process after 15-30 days and add those new records to the first table. This can be very useful, for example, to analyze the time of the day or night your site gets traffic from a particular user. Also to focus, on what kind of actions is each user performing on the site,. particularly the ones to more advanced settings on the backend of the site.

  • Click Settings > Simple History > Settings tab > Clear log now, if you want to clear the log. But hold on a second until the next step.

Step #5. The Simple History RSS feed

The use of RSS feeds has declined in the past years. However, RSS feeds are very useful. RSS feeds are a simple way to present data over the web. Some things are still cool, despite the fact of not being a new super modern technology.

  • Click Settings > Simple History.
  • Scroll down and take a look at the RSS link provided by the plugin
WordPress Simple History plugin RSS feed

Copy and paste this link into an RSS reader application on your smartphone. You will be able to keep track of all activities on your site through the RSS feed. This link has a long string at the end. These characters are there for security, so nobody can have access to the information of your site without permission.

More useful WordPress plugin recommendations

PublishPress Revisions allows you to manage your revisions

The Pro versions of PublishPress plugins (especially PublishPress Revisions) are packed with extra features to help you manage your content. Get a PublishPress membership today for full access:

  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of PublishPress. He's been working with open source software for over 20 years. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. This profile is generated by the PublishPress Authors plugin.

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