What Is a CMS "Plugin"?


In a content management system (CMS), a plugin is a collection of code files that adds one or more features to your web site. After you install the core code for your CMS, you can install your choice of plugins.

This is the basic meaning of "plugin." Unfortunately, the precise meaning of "plugin" varies, depending on your CMS.


In WordPress, "plugin" is the general term for "code that adds a feature to your site." You can go to the mammoth WordPress Plugin Directory and browse thousands of free plugins.


Joomla is more complex. In Joomla, a "plugin" is only one of several kinds of Joomla "extensions".

According to the documentation, "Plugins are more advanced extensions, and are in essence event handlers."

If that doesn't make sense, here's a simpler definition. A plugin is the kind of extension that you manage in the "Plugin Manager," as opposed to the "Component Manager" or the "Module Manager." That's about all you need to know for day-to-day work.


Drupal is easy. Drupal doesn't talk about "plugins", only "modules". As far as I can tell, a Drupal "module" is basically a WordPress "plugin." Different terms, same idea.

Choose Plugins Carefully

Most WordPress sites rely on a few critical plugins, but you need to choose plugins wisely. The wrong plugin can break your site.

Check Out the CMS Term Table

"Plugin" isn't the only term that has different meanings depending on your CMS. Check out the CMS Term Table, a quick overview of how a few key terms are used in different CMSs.

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