Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Add-on and Plug-in

software_pluginWhenever we buy software for our computers, we always want the one that has the most features that are already included. But oftentimes the problem with software is either they don’t have the right functionalities that you are looking for or they have too many features that it is impossible to find the one that you are looking for quickly. In order to customize the look and feel of their programs, software makers have allowed the use of plug-ins or add-ons.

Plug-in and Add-on are two terms that are pointing to the same functionality; they are simply extensions that extends the usability of the program. It just depends on the software maker on what to call the software extensions of their programs. These extensions could be made by other companies, individuals, or by the software makers themselves.

Plug-in is the term that is usually used when referring to third party software that is meant to interact with a certain program. Take for example your web browser; you would need to install a plug-in called flash player in order to play videos. Flash player is not native to any browser but is made by a separate company altogether. It is also compatible with all of the popular web browsers like IE, Firefox, and Opera.

An Add-on also extends the functionality of a certain program but they are usually meant to function on a certain program. Taking the web browser for comparison, add-ons that are meant for Firefox would only work with Firefox and so would for other browsers. These are usually not full blown software but are simply pieces of code that you can use to modify the interface. The most common add-ons for browsers are toolbars which take a little bit more space and give you instant shortcuts to certain online services. Add-ons are also very prominent in online games like World of Warcraft, where players who have a little know-how can create their own add-ons to help other players.

The separation between an add-on and a plug-in is not really that clear. They are both made to do specific functions that are suited to a certain user’s preference. The primary reason why these codes are not embedded into the program in the first place is that they are not really that essential and while some people might appreciate having that, others might not and find it a nuisance. These are also tools that a software maker can utilize to motivate the members of their community to get involved in improving the software.

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  1. After reading this,, i have an idea about plugins and addons.!

  2. Nice article

  3. Firefox is confusing with extensions add ons and plug ins, but I can see a difference being what “the browser would have put in if they owned it” vs “just tools that you add to your browser that server more personal needs, or tools that aren’t required to surf the net”.

    Cool website.

  4. Nice, thanks.
    Now next level :), what about difference between
    Add-in x Add-on x Snap-in x Plug-in

    Is it only different name for same thing in different applications..?

  5. Nice article 🙂 Thanks

  6. You generally interact with a “plugin-in” INSIDE a web page (e.g., a Flash plugin for playing videos).

    You generally interact with an “extension” OUTSIDE a web page (e.g., a toolbar or button in the browser’s navigation menu).

    Mozilla considers plug-ins and extensions to be types of “add-ons”.

    It’s a little confusing, I admit. Hope this helped.

  7. very well written, all my confusion is lost in the wilderness

  8. thanks for these information

  9. After reading this article i have an idea about plug-in and add-on…thanks for your valuable information….

  10. thank you
    v good article

  11. “Add on’s and plugin’s are pieces of code to modify the interface.”

  12. Thanks a lot 🙂

  13. Perfect
    It is really useful for me
    Thanks a lot

  14. Am agree with you but my question is Add-on and Plugins are different in all aspects and field if we compare in Mozilla firefox but rather from it, is this process is applicable for different browser like Google Chrome and Safari.
    Thanks in Advance.

  15. Thank you for this brief and precise explanation of plugins and add-ons. Nice!


  16. Really the firefox explanation from Dimitri cleared it up for me.
    Plugins (in a web page) versus Extensions (outside a webpage) and both are considered add-ons. Thanks for making it clear.

  17. Thank you! This cleared up some confusion, but I still am trying to find out why my browser tells me my there is no plug-in for java. And what is the difference between javascript and java plug-ins. All of this because of this message on my browser:

    Java Plug-in is not supported by this browser. More info

    (Both Opera and Chrome tells me, Firefox sends me directly to Oracle to download, but I have both jre 8 v.111 and jdk 8 v.111 installed)

  18. This is a poor explanation, suggesting that plugins act on a certain application, while add-ons also act on a certain application – making unclear what the difference is. It is also too focused on web-browsers which have their own definitions for what plugins, add-ons, and extensions are. Plug-ins shouldn’t be considered as a necessity or otherwise – they are merely augmentations of a program’s functionality.

    In my opinion, and at a more abstract level, a plug-in is written for a program that is designed to receive it. In the sense that it “plugs in” to an existing socket or interface.

    If “add-on” is supposed to have a different definition, then one might assume that it is a type of extension that might not necessarily be expected by the program. Perhaps programs that modify the host program operation through memory injection (e.g. game trainers/cheats), or by modifying program files operation (e.g. game content mods or themes for software GUIs).

    A personal example: I wrote a lyric extension for Spotify once they removed the in-built feature that added the ability to bring up a pretty “smoked” transparent pane over the central area of the Spotify window with the lyrics for the currently playing song and the album art. The feature was toggled using a little green button in the title bar of the window – however the extension was not written using any Spotify interface or API, it merely tracked the window location and the currently playing song and sat on top of it, appearing to be part of the host program. It did not “plug-in” to a waiting socket, it was more “added on” top of the existing system. This is why I think the original explanation is a bit off, but maybe I am too. Either way there are extensions for software that are both expected and not expected by the developers and this for me is a better way to differentiate between the two types – add-ons and plugins.

    • Wow, Rory, I think your explanation is better. I am a programmer and the way you said it makes me think of interfaces specially designed for changes coming for third parties (kind of OOP inheritance principle), versus the hacks to the code. Great, definition!

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