New Media Vocabulary: Plugin
“In computing, a plug-in (or plugin) is a set of software components that adds specific abilities to a larger software application. If supported, plug-ins enable customizing the functionality of an application. For example, plug-ins are commonly used in web browsers to play video, scan for viruses, and display new file types. Well-known plug-ins examples include Adobe Flash Player, QuickTime, and Java Applets.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug-in_(computing)
To expand on the description above, plugins aren’t usually complete programs in themselves, but rather programs that run inside of — and expand the features of — other software. Plugins are very popular because they allow the extension and addition of new features to software without have include the feature directly in the base product. This also allows you to add only those features you most want or need to a product. This reduces complexity of the software and also allows you to limit how much memory the software might take to run. There is no need to load all the features when you use only 2 or 3 of the added functions.
For New Media producers, you will often see plugins as part of audio and video recording/editing software. Most all software provides for a plugin structure which allows other companies to produce niche features that might only be needed by a limited number of users who purchase the overall software.
One important item to remember is that plugins need to updated, just like the software they extend. Keep track of plugin updates to insure that you don’t run into issues with existing bugs or miss new features. Also, be aware that plugins often only work with one specific version of the base software. If you rely on a particular plugin, you may need to postpone upgrading your base software until the plugin manufacturer releases an update to work with that newer version.
Do you have questions, comments or clarifications to this New Media Vocabulary term? Add them to the comments!
Previously on New Media Vocabulary: