What is a WordPress plugin? » bits meet bytes

September 11, 2014

A WordPress plugin is a module that can be used to add functionality to a WordPress installation.

Depending on its range of functions, it consists of programs, scripts, control and image files.

For example, there are plugins for

  • the translation of the output language,
  • increasing the security of a WordPress installation,
  • the output of sliders and images in popups (lightbox) or
  • the integration of advertising blocks.

If you miss a function in WordPress and the theme used, there is actually a plugin for (almost) everything.

Depending on the functionality of a plugin, new menu items and functions are added to the backend.

A WordPress installation

  • also works without a single plugin and
  • comes with two plugins that are disabled and don’t need to be used.

There are plugins like sand on the sea, free but also paid.

You can get a small overview in the WordPress plugin directory.

There are very simple plugins with few setting options up to complex plugins with many options that can be set on several pages in the backend.

One can probably assume that every WordPress in the world has at least one or even more plugins activated.

Install WordPress plugins

Any number of plugins can be installed in WordPress.

To use a plugin, it must be activated after installation.

Any number of plugins can be activated at the moment.

Plugins can be managed in the backend under the menu item “Plugins”, i.e. uploaded, installed, uninstalled, activated and deactivated.

The files of the plugins installed in a WordPress are in the folder

/wp-content/plugins/.

Each plugin has its own subfolder here.

A plugin can also be installed by uploading it via FTP to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder without using the backend.

Activate and configure WordPress plugins

Depending on its function, a plugin must be configured after activation.

The option for this can be found in the backend menu under Tools, Settings or a new menu item.

A plugin can be activated or deactivated with one click. This allows you to try out different plugins very quickly.

The effects of activating or deactivating a plugin or making changes in its settings can be significant depending on its function. If you already have a well-visited WordPress site, you should be careful when changing the configuration of plugins.

Update WordPress plugins

Since WordPress is constantly being developed, plugins are also maintained and further developed by their developers. This is important to keep them compatible with WordPress.

When a new version of a plugin is available, it will be announced in the WordPress backend under Dashboard > Updates displayed.

Plugins are not only created by WordPress, but by many private and commercial developers. Since a developer can stop supporting a plugin at any time, there is a chance that one day it will stop working.