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Postby BlueWater on Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:55 pm

Introduction

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.

Add-on (or addon) in computing is often considered the general term comprising snap-ins, plug-ins, extensions, and themes for software applications.

Applications support plug-ins for many reasons. Some of the main reasons include:

-to enable third-party developers to create abilities which extend an application
-to support easily adding new features
-to reduce the size of an application
-to separate source code from an application because of incompatible software licenses.
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plugins

Postby BlueWater on Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:04 pm

Extensions differ slightly from plug-ins. Plug-ins usually have a narrow set of abilities. For example, the original impetus behind the development of Mozilla Firefox was the pursuit of a small baseline application, leaving exotic or personalized functionality to be implemented by extensions to avoid feature creep.

Firefox also supports plug-ins using NPAPI. When the browser encounters references to content a plug-in specializes in, the data is handed off to be processed by that plug-in. Since there is generally a clear separation between the browser and the plug-in, the results are discrete objects embedded within a webpage. Since plug-ins and extensions both increase the utility of the original application, Mozilla uses the term "add-on" as an inclusive category of augmentation modules that consists of plug-ins, themes, and search engines.

Plug-ins appeared as early as the mid 1970s,The plug-in program could make calls to the editor to have it perform text-editing services upon the buffer that the editor shared with the plug-in. The Waterloo Fortran compiler used this feature to allow interactive compilation of Fortran programs edited by EDT.

Very early PC software applications to incorporate plug-in functionality included HyperCard and QuarkXPress on the Macintosh, both released in 1987.Currently, programmers typically implement plug-in functionality using shared libraries compulsorily installed in a place prescribed by the host application.
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