What is a WordPress Plugin?
WordPress has become one of the most powerful, simplest, and widely used website and blogging Content Management System (or CMS). The compelling reason behind WordPress’s popularity is a powerful plugin architecture and a template system. In this guide, you will also learn different methods to Install WordPress Plugins.
Nowadays, WordPress covers more than 33% of all the websites in the Internet world.
Let’s first grasp the basic concept behind the WordPress plugin and how its useful for web developers to quickly develop a website or blogging site.
Why WordPress Plugin?
As the name suggests, a “Plug-in” is a separately developed and tested software component that “Plugs-Into” an existing running application which in this case is a WordPress website or blog.
In computer software terminology, a plug-in is a software component that adds specific functionality to an existing computer application. When a program supports plug-ins, it enables customization. Plug-in acts like an add-on or extension that is installed on a program to extend its capabilities. For example, if you want to watch a video on a website, you need a plugin to play it because your browser doesn’t have the tools it needs.
WordPress plugins rage from a small “adding an image to the sidebar” to “creating an e-commerce store”.
In nutshell, a WordPress plugin is a PHP based script containing a set of functions that can be added to an already developed WordPress website/blog. This can either extend the existing functionality or add new features to running a WordPress website.
All the WordPress plugins are written in PHP programming language and integrated seamlessly into a WordPress website.
WordPress provides a rich set of plugins from different third-party vendors for all categories, like SEO plugin, WordPress Plugin to Protect website from spam comments, etc.
Main Applications of WordPress Plugin:
- Separate source code from an application because of incompatible software licenses.
- Enable third-party developers to develop abilities that extend an application.
- Flexibility to easily add new features.
- Reduce the size of an application.
- Component re-usability – having a separate plugin for specific functionality.
WordPress Free vs Premium Plugins
WordPress offers plugins in two basic categories – free and premium (premium with minimal fees from third-party providers). These plugins allow users to customize functions and features enabling users to tailor their sites to their specific needs. For, an example you can extend or enable your website/blog to protect from spam comments “Akismet”
WordPress allows the plugins to be updated from time to time.
How does WordPress Plugins Work?
WordPress plugins once installed, can be activated, deactivated or deleted from the WordPress website/blog.
Note that plugins are active across the different WordPress themes. For example, if you have changed your current WordPress theme, then still the WordPress plugins which were already activated will continue to work seamlessly.
WordPress plugins architecture works on the concept of hooking mechanism which allows developers to insert custom code into WordPress website.
What are WordPress hooks and types?
WordPress hooks are functions that can be executed at a particular point of time when a WordPress page is loaded. There are 2 types of hook functions – actions and filters. Action hooks are used to hook actions and filters are to hook filters.
1. Action Hooks:
used to hook actions. when a WordPress page loads, it first checks for if you have registered any hook function, it then executes that code.
Here is a complete list of actions from WordPress site.
2. Filter hooks:
These type of hooks have some content associated with them. Filer hook functions are used to modify the content at run-time, i.e either add/remove content or modify before the page is loaded.
How to Install WordPress Plugin – Steps to install
Now, you have learned that WordPress plugin is a software component that adds specific functionality to website or blog.
To extend the WordPress website, you have to first Install, Activa ate and Configure the required plugin, e.g WordPress SEO by Yoast.
If you have a self-hosted website, then you can install a number of plugins. But, if you are using WordPress.com then you cannot unless you upgrade to their business plan.
Here you will find step by step guide to install a WordPress plugin.
3 different ways to install WordPress plugin:
1). Install a WordPress Plugin using WordPress Plugin Search (Search & Install)
The simplest and quick way of installing the WordPress Plugin is using the plugin search functionality. The search result will show only the list of plugins which are in the WordPress plugin directory. This method of installing a WordPress plugin is called Search & Install. Following are steps and picture showing the same.
Step1 – Click on the Plugins->Add New option in the left sidebar of the main dashboard
Step2 – Go to the Search area and type a name like – SEO, it will show a list of SEO related plugins that you can download and install.
Step3- Select the desired plugin and click on Install Now like shown in below picture.
Step4 – After the plugin installation, configure the plugin’s settings to use.
WordPress will now automatically download and install the selected plugin. After this, you will see the final success message having a link to activate the plugin or return to plugin installer.
2). Install a WordPress Plugin using the WordPress Plugin Upload (Upload & Install)
The third party plugins which are not listed under the WordPress plugins directory are installed using Upload feature. These plugins are not installed using the Search & Install method.
No worry, WordPress has the Upload Plugin option to upload the plugin source code.
How to Upload WordPress plugin
Step1 – Download the plugin source code (.zip file)
Step2 – Click on the Plugins->Add New option in the left sidebar of the main dashboard
Step3 – Click on Upload Plugin Option
Step4 – The step3 will open Upload page. Now, browse the source code file and click on Install Now.
After these steps, WordPress will automatically upload the plugin (.zip) file from your computer to the WordPress site and install it there.
3. Install a WordPress Plugin using FTP (Manually)
This is the rarely used method to install WordPress plugin. It is used when you are not able to install or upload a plugin using the WordPress Admin dashboard.
Following are steps to manually upload and install the plugin:
Step1 – Download the plugin source code (.zip file)
Step2 – Extract the .zip file locally on your computer (Linux command unzip -a <zip-file-name>)
Step3 – Upload the extracted plugin folder using any FTP tool (WinSCP, or FileZilla, etc) to
Step4 – After uploading the plugins, it will appear in the list of Installed Plugins
Step5 – Activate the plugin and Configure.
I recommend using the dashboard’s search and install feature. Other 2 methods are used only in specific cases.
We hope that this article helps you to understand WordPress Plugin basics ->Types of Plugins ->How to install WordPress Plugin?