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What is a plug-in?

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What do plug-ins do?
What kind of plug-ins are there?

Browsers and other software are inherently powerful tools. If additional functions are required, so-called plug-ins help..

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Plug-ins are small additional programs that expand the content and functions of software such as browsers. A browser plug-in can, for example, display additional content that it was not originally designed to display. In this article you will learn what the basic functions of plug-ins are and whether you need them.

What do plug-ins do?

Plug-ins are extensions for applications, computer programs or web browsers. The term is often used synonymously with add-on and add-in and is probably familiar to you from add-ons for Firefox, Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. Common examples of a plug-in are Adobe Flash Player or the Java plug-in. Plug-ins are always connected to the main application and cannot be run individually. The main function is the same for all areas: add new functions to the software.

A software manufacturer such as WordPress defines standardized programming interfaces - the so-called API - for your product. An API is an interface that programmers make available to interact with a service by using shared libraries. In addition, external developers can program their own products to expand or change the functionality of WordPress without changing the basic source code of the application. If you would like to learn more about useful WordPress plugins, read our relevant article.

By the way: if you're wondering whether to use "plug-ins" or "plugins" as the spelling, the answer is simple. Both versions are correct. Technically speaking, plug-in is correct, but the spelling "plug-ins" is just as widespread on the web.

You can find possible plug-in variants in the following programs, for example:

  • Graphics programs such as Photoshop or GIMP represent a plug-in variant in the form of filters . If you want to display new effects, the filter palette can be expanded using additional plug-ins.
  • The most well-known variant can be found in browsers as add-ons. Typical examples here are an ad blocker or a plug-in for adapting the browser interface .
  • With free CMS applications such as WordPress, you can install plug-ins such as SEO or automatic cache memory and thus expand the scope.

What kind of plug-ins are there?

There are now different plug-ins for almost every software and program. Powerful tools like GIMP can be expanded through the targeted use of plug-ins. As a user, you are probably familiar with plug-ins from your browser - be it Firefox or Chrome. If you want to use the look of the browser or additional functions such as ad blockers, plug-ins or add-ons are required.

Browser plug-ins are required to play certain media and to add capabilities. Install the Flash Player for Flash Videos or Acrobat Reader to read PDF files in the browser. In modern web browsers and websites, HTML5 has now replaced the need for the Adobe Flash plug-in. After 2020 Adobe will no longer support Flash or the Flash plug-in. Other well-known extensions are Silverlight, QuickTime or Java. There are of course other types of plug-ins in addition to plug-ins for browsers. In the following we summarize for you where extensions can be installed:

  • Graphics plug-ins: Image processing programs such as Photoshop or Gimp are usually equipped with numerous tools by default. Nevertheless, additional filters or tools can be added via the plug-ins. By the way, read here how to find and install GIMP plugins.
  • Audio plug-ins: Audio plug-ins are used to replace instruments in the form of software. In this way, certain sound effects or even musical instruments can be simulated in digital recording studios.
  • CMS plug-ins : Content management systems such as WordPress owe their popularity to numerous plug-ins that expand functionality and enable you to create your own website without much know-how.