Plugins are separate pieces of software that can be added to computer programs, applications, and web browsers to add extra functionality and feature that was not originally built into the program.
Plugins are important because they add flexibility to programs by adding additional functions that were not originally supported.
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As a website administrator, I have always worked closely with plugins. I knew that they were the little helpers that gave a lot of apps and computer programs the extra kick to function better, but that was all. Well, I finally decided to take a deeper look into it to answer the question “What are plugins?”
In this article, I will be sharing the results of my research so stick around if you want to know more about plugins.
What are Plugins?
Plugins are separate pieces of software that can be added to computer programs, applications, and web browsers to add extra functionality and feature that was not originally built into the program. A key thing to note is that plugins add these features and functionalities without altering the original program.
Abode Photoshop integrated one of the first plugins to provide special effects and filters for photo editing. Over the years plugins have also been used to display media and special code on browsers.
You can think of plugins as the perfect accessory, capable of adding functionality and style to a program.
What are Extensions?
Extensions are small pieces of software specifically for customizing web browsers but unlike plugins, extensions do modify the core features of the original software (browser). When installed they can alter browser settings.
Extensions are products of specific applications that extend their functionality to another. Think of the Grammarly extension on Google Chrome, after installing the extension you now have access to Grammarly’s features directly in the browser.
Difference Between Extension and Plugins.
Many people use plugins and extensions interchangeably but they are two slightly different things.
The key differences between extensions and plugins include:
- Plugins do not modify the core functionality of the original program while extensions do.
- Extensions have access to sensitive information such as your browser and catch history while plugins do not.
- Extensions can be malicious, adding malware and spyware, or redirect your browser to harmful sites.
It is important that you only download extensions directly from your browser’s official site.
Why are Plugins Important?
Plugins are important because they add flexibility to programs by adding additional functions that were not originally supported by the program or app. It is difficult for software designers to think of all the possible functions users may need in the future so plugins allow programs to support new functions and features without making significant changes.
With plugins, a program can provide all the necessary functions a user might need within its own environment. This can be a big help to users because now they are able to get all they need in one place. Photoshop is the perfect example of this, it supports hundreds of plugins that perform various functions allowing users to complete their entire workflow within the software.
WordPress is also a perfect example.
In recent years it seems like whenever you mention the word plugin you are referring to WordPress plugins.
Plugins are the lifeblood of WordPress. They are available to improve the overall quality of your WordPress website by adding an extra layer of functionality. The plugins integrate and run alongside WordPress performing functions that WordPress can not do by itself.
WordPress has a wide variety of plugins available, they currently have over 50,000 free plugins along with thousands more for paid use. Whatever your needs might be I am certain that there is a plugin for you. If by some random chance a plugin is not available at the moment then it is likely in development while you are reading this.
With the help of plugins, you can literally create any type of website such as:
- Blog website
- Ecommerce website
- Online courses
- Business website
- Job Board websites
- Podcast websites
- And so much more
You can easily download plugins directly from your WordPress admin area by simply selecting the Plugins selection on the dashboard and clicking the “Add new” option. You can then search for a plugin’s name or the functionality you are interested in.
We have a category dedicated to reviewing different WordPress plugins so feel free to check it out here.
Well there you go, a basic rundown of plugins. Hopefully, this information provided a clearer picture of what plugins are and why they are important, especially if you have a WordPress site.