What's In A (Plugin) Name

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Extension, Plugin or Module? Our At-A-Glance Guide At The Semantics of Adding Stuff To Your Content Management System.

If you've used more than one CMS in your time, there is one thing which could be confusing to most users and technical support staff:

What is an extension, a plugin or a module?

No matter which term CMS designers use, they tend to amount to the same purpose. Wouldn't it be easier if all CMSs had a standard term to define their modules or extensions. Widgets could be used as a standard term. Most users, in plain English, would understand what a Widget is (though some may think of widgets as that thing in the bottom of a can of John Smith's Extra Smooth bitter). But WordPress uses the term Widgets to define sidebar and footer modules like its calendar function, or a digest of Twitter feeds. Perhaps we could use 'stuff'. Generic, easy to understand, maybe a tad informal for some users.

Just to confuse things more, Joomla! uses Plugins and Extensions. WordPress refers to its add-ons as Plugins. Drupal refers to its add-ons as Modules. Modules in Joomlaease refers to blocks of text whereas in Drupalland, there's articles and subsections of types of article (such as 'article' or 'blog') equivalent to Joomla's modules.

On that note, what's up with 'add-ons' as a standard term? The term 'add-on' was and is often used to describe a type of peripheral. In the Good Old Days of the Commodore 64, this meant the 1541 5.25" disc drive which costed almost as much as the computer. Or a Kempston joystick interface for the ZX Spectrum to go with that Competition Pro joystick of yours for Dun Darach. At one time, there was a load of proprietary standards and connections for each of the 8-bit and 16-bit computers. A standardised term for a CMS extension/module/plugin is needed, in line with incumbent support for file formats across all CMSs.

Cheat Sheet: Which CMS And Which Plugin Name?

CMS Name Add-On Name
Drupal Modules
Joomla! Extensions
WordPress Plugins
ExpressionEngine Add-ons
Magento Extensions
TYPO3 Extensions
Atex Polopoly Plug-ins
Telerik Sitefinity Add-ons and Integrations
dotCMS Plugins
DNN Modules

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