What Exactly is a WordPress Plugin? What is Software?

WordPress Plugins

Here’s the definition on WordPress.org

WordPress Plugins allow easy modification, customization, and enhancement to a WordPress blog. Instead of changing the core programming of WordPress, you can add functionality with WordPress Plugins. Here is a basic definition:

WordPress Plugin: A WordPress Plugin is a program, or a set of one or more functions, written in the PHP scripting language, that adds a specific set of features or services to the WordPress weblog, which can be seamlessly integrated with the weblog using access points and methods provided by the WordPress Plugin Application Program Interface (API).

So here’s my Short and Sweet definition

And here’s all you really need to know about what a WordPress plugin is and what it does:

A WordPress plugin is a short computer program (or software program)  that adds functionality to your WordPress blog or website.  That’s it!

And here’s the definition on Wikipedia


One very popular feature of WordPress is its plugin architecture which allows users and developers to extend its abilities beyond the core installation. WordPress has a database of over 26,000 plugins,[10] each of which offers custom functions and features enabling users to tailor their sites to their specific needs. These customizations rangeSEO (Search Engine Optimization) enhancers to content displaying features, such as the addition of widgets andnavigation bars.


Example of a WordPress plugin

There are thousands of free plugins to be found at WordPress.org.   Examples would be the Yoast SEO plugin for improving your onsite SEO.   That’s a free plugin and a great plugin.  There are also plugins that are not free but are worth every penny that you must pay for them.   Examples of pay or premium plugins that are invaluable are BackupBuddy by iThemes and Gravity Forms plugin for creating those form on your “Contact Us” pages.   You really cannot go wrong using any of the plugins I have listed here.  I have have a lot more listed at my blog secrets page!

So what exactly is a software program?

So if a plugin is a software program, then what exactly is software? Right?

Here’s my simple definition of software: lines of computer code that tell a computer what to do.

This definition of software is from Wikipedia:

Computer software, or just software, is any set of machine-readable instructions that directs a computer’s processor to perform specific operations. The term is used to contrast with computer hardware, the physical objects (processor and related devices) that carry out the instructions. Computer hardware and software require each other and neither can be realistically used without the other.

Software is a general term. It can refer to all computer instructions in general, or to any specific set of computer instructions.

Please Contribute to the Conversation!

So before you read this article, were you able to articulate exactly what a WordPress plugin is?   Were you able to define exactly what is meant by the words “computer software”?

Please share with us your favorite free and premium plugins for your WordPress blogs and websites!

Meet the Author

56 comments… add one
  • August Oct 1, 2013, 3:49 am

    Yeah, a computer software is a programme that helps you complete a task, help your computer run smoothly etc. Simply put, they are those things that are not physical (can’t be felt or touched) that help your computer run smoothly. 🙂

    • jupiterjim Oct 1, 2013, 4:00 am

      Well said!

  • August Oct 1, 2013, 9:57 am

    Thank you. All I wanted to say is thank you.

  • William Earl Amis, Jr. III Oct 1, 2013, 11:13 am

    WOW! great summary above and I can not say it better.

    I volunteer 2 hours each Saturday for some years now helping adults navigate through various platforms and always have to explain the difference between applications and stuff.

    This helps me very much and you have always been one to keep it simple. I thank you!

  • Julieanne van Zyl Oct 4, 2013, 9:09 pm

    Hi Jim, having studied programming back in the 90s, it’s been interesting to see how software programs have evolved. In those years, most “users” of software applications (or programs) had no idea how things worked on their computers, and it was so much easier for users to troubleshoot problems.

    It was easier to install applications on DOS rather than Windows, although nowadays the software developers have to make applications work on a number of different operating systems.

    I still remember when we got everything to work from DOS with no mouse and just by running commands. But now, we have people downloading apps from their mobile devices, and it’s easier for the “users” but more complicated for developers. Although, even the developers have it easy because they are building their apps on top of other software applications made especially for developing those apps!

    Like the Wordpress software for example – someone developed it initially, then hundreds of developers started developing themes for it and other applications, they’re all built on top of Wordpress.

    It sill amazes me how quickly technology has advanced in the last 20 years, it’s very exciting! And, to think that all the hardware “knows” is the zeros and 1s or the “on” and “off” switches!

  • The Food Curator Oct 5, 2013, 4:01 am

    Jim, great post I think we all need to get back to looking at things in a simple way sometimes 🙂

  • Sarupa Shah Oct 5, 2013, 5:05 am

    OMG Jim reading this post I could feel my body tensing up…I kind of new the difference but bury my head in the sand about the technical stuff way too much….so phew glad I read this and feel like I have graduated to ‘bird who doesn’t bury her head about technical stuff…’ Great post and great site!

  • Nile Oct 6, 2013, 5:05 pm

    A WordPress plugin is a series of functions, filters, hooks, and actions that add dynamic functionality outside the default bounds of the WordPress core.

    • jupiterjim Oct 7, 2013, 6:30 am


      That is the perfect definition of a WordPress plugin. Thank you for sharing.

      • Nile Oct 13, 2013, 8:27 am

        This is the definition I give when I speak at WordCamps. You’d be surprised on the various answers people say in a lecture when you ask them for their own definition…and they always end up sounding like you’re building code for any CMS, but the definition of a plugin especially for WordPress has to include exactly what it consists of.

    • Clint Butler Oct 9, 2013, 12:15 pm

      yeah, what she said. Get him Nile!!!

      Interesting topic Jim. What made your present it in this manner?

      • jupiterjim Jan 2, 2014, 3:50 pm


        Thanks for all your valuable feedback! Have a great 2014!

  • Shelley Alexander Oct 13, 2013, 3:45 pm

    Hi Jim, great post! I love using plugins on my site because they offer so much function and ability to customize my WordPress site to suit my needs. Thanks again for the excellent breakdown and definition.

  • marquita herald Oct 16, 2013, 3:56 pm

    Thanks for this Jim. I’ve been coaching several new authors and while I’m doing okay managing my own sites, this is an area I’m not experienced in when it comes to teaching others. Funny how the simplest things can trip you up some times. Thanks again!

    • jupiterjim Nov 4, 2013, 12:34 am


      Glad I was able to help! Love the stuff on your blog, too!

  • Trevor Oct 16, 2013, 11:53 pm

    I think one of the reasons a majority of bloggers choose Wordpress is largely because of their vast supply of amazing plugins. I’ve used other blog platforms in the past and recommend WP to most of our clients. What’s great, is that almost anyone can set it up, even if you don’t have a technical background – just a little patience and willingness to learn. Great post, thanks!

  • Rajesh Server Oct 18, 2013, 6:37 am

    Hi Admin,Its a very nice article about this type of topic,I seems you have a better experince over this.A well written and explained article..keep it up would love to read more like this form you

  • Ansh Nov 6, 2013, 4:18 am

    Ahh… Great insights especially for any newbie in this filed to understand both of them properly…

  • Anetta Bursh Nov 8, 2013, 9:13 am

    Very nice introduction and it is not only helpful to the WordPress newbies but to us too. I also use Plugins and they have been of great help. that is why I use WordPress. ~ Anetta

  • Ishan Patel Nov 20, 2013, 7:34 am

    You made it easy for plugin developer like me. Good article bro. 😀

  • Manpreet Kashyap Nov 22, 2013, 4:50 am

    Hi Jupiter Jim

    I have recently started to learn about wordpress plugins to customize my wordpress blog. I am searching for few reliable and free/relatively cheap wordpress plugin development tutorials.

    I believe you are a wordpress expert and can guide me to right way. Plz Suggest…!


  • The Food Curator Nov 24, 2013, 6:20 am

    Wow…glad I wasn’t alone in being a bit woolly about plugins,.. great explanation…thanks Jim!

  • Yorinda Wanner Nov 28, 2013, 12:09 am

    Hi Clint,
    great definitions!
    There are so many clever people who know how to write computer language to create these fantastic programs which make it so much easier to do thing.

    The amazing thing, just like with WordPress a lot of it is available at no cost.

    Thank you so much for putting this in easy understandable language!

  • tai sach hay Jan 9, 2014, 5:34 am

    Thanks for good article. I realy understand about wordpress plugin 🙂

  • Nithin Upendran Jan 12, 2014, 12:49 pm

    Yea clear article on the difference between a plugin and software. When i came to blogging field i was quiet rattled by hearing this word plugin now am quiet sure about the difference between software and a plugin. Thanks howdy for sharing this with us.

  • Rahul Chouhan Jan 27, 2014, 6:58 am

    Nice article admin. I think Due to credit of all most successful wordpress site is only goes to the Plugin. They not only easy to use but they are a perfect backbone of a wordpres site. Overall nice article i world say

  • Twisha Jan 28, 2014, 8:25 am

    Like a Wp plugin may be used to screen recent comments, or even as a spam avoidance tool. WordPress themes are proving to become extremely popular with regard to externally hosted web sites, so having the capability to include more features the actual WordPress plugins an extremely handy way to obtain free development!, So this information will help newbie very well, thanks for that !

  • jupiterjim Feb 1, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Thanks for dropping by and thanks for your comment. I appreciate all my loyal blog followers such as yourself. Without guys like you, there is no blog here! Have a great Super Bowl Sunday!!!

  • jupiterjim Feb 1, 2014, 2:27 pm


    IT’s a pleasure to write for people like you!!! Glad you found it helpful!!!

  • Mike Nichols Feb 1, 2014, 2:37 pm

    This is a great explanation of what plugins are. As always, thanks for a great article!

    • jupiterjim Feb 1, 2014, 2:38 pm

      Mike, so glad I could help!!! Drop by anytime!!!

  • joe arrigo Feb 1, 2014, 2:48 pm

    Plug-ins can be a godsend, allowing the layman to apply sophisticated applications to Wordpress, and also allowing the blogger to do more of what the site was created for…writing.

    • jupiterjim Feb 1, 2014, 3:41 pm


      I am sorry, I have no idea why commentluv won’t give you a backlink. I just had Mike Nichols leave a comment to test the system a few minutes ago and it gave him the link back to one of his posts. Please click on the links of some of the other commenters here. Many of them use commentluv. Let me know if those sites give you a commentluv backlink, ok? Thanks.

  • Betsy Rosam Feb 4, 2014, 4:30 pm

    Jupiter Jim,
    Thanks for finally explaining explaining what a wordpress plugin exactly is. I GET IT! Yippee!

    • jupiterjim Feb 4, 2014, 4:32 pm

      Thanks, Betsy! You Da BEST!!!!

  • Justin Feb 22, 2014, 10:36 pm

    Wordpress plugins make the life of a blogger a little bit easier. Customization is easier without the need for editing some codes.

  • Gracie Ruth Feb 26, 2014, 6:18 pm

    Jim is very knowledgeable and very helpful. I have learned a lot from his on-line training videos. I am most appreciative and I would definitely recommend him.

    • jupiterjim Feb 28, 2014, 8:29 am


      Thanks so much for the kind words and have a great weekend!!! Feliz fin de semana, muchacha!!!!

  • jawad zaib Mar 16, 2014, 10:09 am

    Previously i was aware of both the terms but after reading this article my mind is more clear and now i can explain it to other people as well in a more decent way thanks jupiterjim for sharing such a nice article with us…

    • jupiterjim Mar 16, 2014, 12:45 pm


      Thanks for commenting! I still need to practice my Urdu. I like your site!

  • Sagar Mar 27, 2014, 6:28 am

    Nice and informative post

    WordPress is one of the best CMS content management system
    I have ever used. It has many good features which would easily help you to manage your blogs or websites very easily.

    One such feature is WordPress plugins . WordPress plugin is a software written in PHP language to add any feature to the WordPress weblog with out changing the core programming. This can be done with the API Application Program Interface. It is a very good way to append any feature you want in your website , you just have to search for the relative plugin and have to install it. That feature will be automatically incorporated to your website. It is best for people who are not good in programming.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Ravi Chahar Mar 29, 2014, 2:48 am

    I was pretty aware of WordPress.com and WordPress.org, fully hosted and self hosted platform respectively. Now after reading this post I have figured out some more stuffs about WordPress. As now a days it’s the most used blogging CMS bloggers try to learn about more and more about this. Thanks foe reminding me.

  • Ravi Chahar Apr 14, 2014, 4:18 am

    There are two versions provided by WordPress. One is fully hosted and another one is self hosted about what we are talking about. WordPress.org is a self hosted blogging tool by which a blogger can manage his/her blog. Bloggers can manage post writing, comments, and many other stuffs with WordPress. It is reliable to the users. Bloggers get more freedom to use it in their own way.

  • Suzanne Apr 17, 2014, 4:11 pm

    Before I added a wp blog to my website I had no idea what a plugin was. Now I really understand how each and every plugin can have a specific use. If I have needs on the html portions of my website, it is much more difficult to find solutions than if my entire website was wordpress.

    Jim, can you have too many plugins?


    • jupiterjim Oct 26, 2014, 12:26 pm

      Use as few plugins as possible. Try to keep to about a dozen if you can. The more plugins you have the more potential for plugin conflicts And problems every single time WordPress updates.

  • Peter May 16, 2014, 12:45 am

    I had no idea about the differences between software and plugins. I use wordpress plugins everyday and I have never thought “what is a plugin”. Glad to know what it is.

  • Rahul Gupta Jun 20, 2014, 10:46 pm

    thanks a lot for explaining so well. 🙂

  • vella di Jul 6, 2014, 6:27 am

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for this post about WordPress Plugin.it’s a huge platform with plenty to offer. A WordPress plugin can greatly enhance your site and help you increase your profits.
    Thanks for sharing this….

  • shounak Jul 17, 2014, 12:14 pm

    A complete and informative information about Wordpress plugin and what can be the benefit of creating one as described by the image. Thanks for sharing.

  • Gatwick Taxis Jul 28, 2014, 5:00 am

    Very nice post, helpful info, need more to know about Yoast SEO plugin & Gravity Forms plugin
    Thanks for sharing
    Have a nice day

  • Frank Aug 6, 2014, 12:52 am


    Really this post is very helpful for me because i learn worpress so plz some usefull plugins suggest me for development. thank you for this post….

  • Mian Sep 8, 2014, 10:48 am

    I agree with Gracie Ruth, Green Flag!

  • Dinesh sharma Oct 4, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Hey Jim,
    Very informative post on WordPress Plugin. This post very useful for me and other also too. WordPress plugin very useful plugin for bloggers.

  • Neeraj Oct 11, 2014, 5:06 am

    Thanks Great article !! Looking forward to learn from this website . Any suggestions to improve this website i would like to hear from you

  • Mohd Arif Dec 6, 2014, 1:25 am

    Hello jupiterjim,

    Very interesting post I love using plugins on my site and i like your trick for my WordPress site to suit my needs.WordPress Plugins allow easy modification to a WordPress blog.

    Thanks to share this useful post:)

    Mohd Arif

Leave a Comment