Questions and Answers
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A WordPress plugin is basically like a mini application (using the term application very loosely here) that is designed to perform a specific function in WordPress that is not already included in the core WordPress application. I thought this would be a very easy question to answer, but I'm scratching my head a little bit – too funny since I've actually written a WordPress plugin. I'll explain it in a way that is much easier for me as a coder (in layman's terms) and hopefully it will give you the full picture of what a WordPress plugin actually is.
I'm a website developer (WordPress as well as every other type of website out there) and I wanted to be able to do a couple of things a lot quicker and easier with WordPress that were costing me too much time when building and setting up new WordPress websites for clients. I looked around and no one had already created a WordPress plugin that did the things I wanted so I created the plugin myself. The 2 main things I wanted to be able to do quickly and from within the WordPress Dashboard were:
1) Add an .htaccess security file without having to FTP to the client's website and be able to quickly switch between secure .htaccess modes and the WordPress default .htaccess modes as needed.
2) Put a client's WordPress website that I was working on, directly on the client's web host server, into website maintenance mode (HTTP 503 status) that only allowed me access to the site until it was finished. It is much quicker to work directly on the client's web host and you don't EVER want the client looking at the site until it is done (to a point where you want the client to see it anyway) or you're just asking for headaches.
So the plugin I wrote allows me to do all of these things from within the WordPress Dashboard. I can switch between these modes without having to leave the WordPress website and jump back and forth between FTP and the WordPress Dashboard (less chance of errors too). And more importantly not have to worry about the client poking around (cuz they do it every time LOL).
So if you're not a coder and you want your WordPress website to do a particular thing that it does not already do then you are going to have to look for an existing WordPress plugin that someone else has already created that does what you are looking for. You can find a WordPress plugin already created by someone for just about anything you can imagine. And if a particular plugin doesn't do exactly what you want then you can custom tailor the code in the plugin file or files to do specifically what you want for only your specific WordPress site.
So anyway you can install WordPress plugins from within the WordPress Dashboard by clicking on your Plugins Panel and then clicking Add New and then you just do a search using the search terms you are looking for. For example let's say you want to add a calendar to your WordPress website sidebar. You would just type in calendar and then click search plugins. You will then see a bunch of WordPress plugins that pertain to calendars.
So where are these plugins stored? All WordPress plugins that are searchable and installable from within WordPress are stored in the WordPress Repository on the WordPress.org website. Coders submit a WordPress plugin for approval and once it is approved it will then be accessible for anyone who wants to install it.
Anyway this is the plugin I wrote and that is stored in the WordPress Repository (Directory) >>> BulletProof Security >>> Http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/Bulletproof-security/
Hope this info helps make the whole WordPress plugin thing less of a mystery. 😉