The Best Free Image Slider Plugin for WordPress

Best Free Image Slider Plugin for WordPress

Image sliders are one of the most requested features from my clients but try Google-ing for a good one and you’ll find more than you know what to do with. One blog post promised 125 of them!! Don’t wade through that crap. Here are my top choices.

Let me first clarify what I mean by image sliders. This is not a “featured content” slider – so they don’t automatically show your latest blog posts or anything dynamic like that. You manually choose what images you want to put in your slider. This is not for image galleries so there’s no light boxes. This is simply for showcasing images in a rotating display.

Since I have my clients in mind, my basic criteria are pretty simple:

  • Is it free?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is it responsive?

My Absolute Favorite: Meta Slider

Since I discovered Meta Slider I haven’t looked back because it always seems to do the job. Even on sites where other slider plugins had conflicts, Meta Slider just works and it’s super-easy to use.

A few of its features:

  • Allows captions for images, including HTML
  • A healthy set of options such as choosing auto-play (or not), randomizing the order etc
  • Can turn on or off both the navigation arrows and the pagination dots
  • Drag n’ drop reordering of images
  • Adds toolbar button for easy embedding into your posts/pages
  • 4 visual themes each of which includes multiple effects/ transitions to choose from
  • Very easy to use
  • Responsive
  • Has a widget for easy placement in sidebar areas
  • Shortcode or template tag for embedding a slider anywhere in your site or theme files
  • Can add custom css classes to use in styling


Close, But No Cigar: Soliloquy Lite

The free version of Soliloquy has pretty limited features. I’m including it mostly because it’s  talked about and recommended so much. It does the job and is similar to Meta Slider but has significantly less options. However if I were to buy a slider or need one for development purposes I would mostly likely consider the Pro version of Soliloquy since it has a slew of features and is well-liked by WordPress developers I respect.

Similarities with Meta Slider

  • Allows captions for images, including HTML
  • Responsive
  • Drag n’ drop re-ordering of slides
  • Shortcode or template tag for embedding a slider anywhere in your site or theme files
  • Toolbar button for easy embedding in posts/pages
  • Easy to use
  • Can add custom css classes to use in styling

What It Lacks Compared To Meta Slider

  • No option to remove slider navigation or arrows. This especially becomes a problem if you do captions since in the Base theme, the dots at the bottom overlap the captions – doh!
  • It defaults to auto playing the slides and you cannot choose to turn that off in the free version
  • Just two themes to choose from: Base and Classic
  • Only one transition offered (fade)
  • A widget is not included in the Lite version. You can use a short code in a widget either if your theme has already enabled that, or if you enable it yourself.

For Power Users: Slideshow

Slideshow (quick note – there are a couple of plugins with the same name so make sure you’re installing the right one – the author is Stefan Boonstra) is a really solid plugin but I would only recommend it to “power” users who can handle looking at more options that wouldn’t mean much to a beginner (such as what HTML tag to wrap the title and description in) and perhaps need a few more advanced features like role-based controls for which user levels can Add, Edit and Delete slideshows.

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However, the big bonus for some users would be being able to include YouTube videos (but specifically YouTube, not Vimeo or other providers) in their sliders along with images and also the option of text slides. It’s perhaps not quite as slickly designed as Meta Slider but intermediate users shouldn’t have any issues figuring out how to use it. It is responsive, has its own sidebar widget and is developer friendly in terms of being able to customize the slider skins.

For Power Users: Cyclone Slider 2

Cyclone Slider 2 goes a step beyond Slideshow in that of the free options listed in this post, it has the most flexibility of content types. Cyclone Slider 2 would be worth a look if you want to be able to mix n’ match images, YouTube videos, Vimeo videos, custom HTML and testimonials in your slideshow.

I looked at a number of other plugins as well, but weeded them out for one reason or another. Do you have one that you love that I missed? Leave a comment if so!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Ghania

    Lucy, thank you so much – you really helped because I was close to giving up on my search for sliders.
    Best regards from Berlin and congratulations on a really good blog!

  2. @HughOSmith

    This was huge, you saved me a ton of time, thanks Lucy. You're my go-to WP site from now on.

  3. howard

    Lucy thanks for the update, three days ago I bought the Envira Gallery and it seems to work great. But I would have like to try the free ones you talked about first. Crap. Are you giving any classes soon?

    1. LucyBeer

      Hey Howard – none of these plugins are a substitute for Envira. These are slider plugins whereas Envira is more for galleries so they work a bit differently. I've heard good things about Envira.

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