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User Guide: How Do I Add Plugins To Craft CMS?

10 min read
How do I add plugins to Craft CMS

Struggling to extend Craft CMS with plugins? This guide provides a foolproof walkthrough of finding, installing, managing and troubleshooting plugins for your Craft CMS website. Gain actionable techniques to seamlessly add both free and paid plugins, keeping your site optimized with the latest tools. Discover insights for smooth plugin integration.

Access the Plugin Store in the Craft CMS control panel. Browse or search for free and paid plugins. Install free plugins directly or purchase commercial ones first. Configure and test plugins after installing. Keep your Craft CMS plugins updated on the Plugins tab. Troubleshoot issues via logs and developer support. Uninstall unneeded plugins cautiously.

Accessing the Plugin Store

Navigating to the Plugin Store

The Plugin Store is Craft CMS's built-in marketplace where users can discover and install plugins to extend Craft's functionality. To access the Plugin Store, log into your Craft CMS control panel and click on the "Plugin Store" link in the main navigation menu on the left-hand side.

Once in the Plugin Store, you'll be taken to the main browse page, which displays featured and popular plugins. For first-time users, this browse page provides a great introduction to the breadth of plugins available. The clean, visual layout makes it easy to identify plugins at a glance before clicking through to view more details.

To aid navigation, the main menu at the top allows jumping straight to certain sections like Best Sellers or New and Updated plugins. A search bar is also conveniently positioned at the top to enable searching for specific plugins by keyword. Overall, the Plugin Store is intuitive to navigate and gives users a fulfilling browsing experience listing many Craft CMS plugins.

Browsing and Searching for Plugins

The Plugin Store interface offers several options for discovering new plugins tailored to your needs. The default browse view displays a grid of plugins sorted by popularity. Icons indicate each plugin's rating and number of installations, providing social proof.

You can filter plugins using the categories on the left, such as Marketing, Sales & CRM, Social Media and System & Utilities. Filters like Free and Paid plugins, Craft CMS version compatibility, and first-party plugins are also available to narrow your search. Enabling multiple filters simultaneously lets you drill down to the most relevant plugins efficiently.

The search functionality matches plugins against keywords in the title, description and reviews. Searching for a generic term like "SEO" returns SEO plugins like SEOmatic, while a more specific query like "sitemap generator" surfaces relevant results quickly. Advanced operators like quotes for exact phrase matching are supported.

Overall, between browsing by category and leveraging search with filters applied, users can efficiently discover niche plugins tailored to their needs. The Plugin Store experience converges discovery with purposeful searching.

Plugin Information and Details

Each plugin listing in the Plugin Store displays key information to help inform your decision, without having to navigate away from the page. The title, developer name, rating, number of installations, compatibility info and a concise description all provide a snapshot view.

Clicking on a plugin surfaces additional details in an overlay popup. Tabs organize info into Sections like Description, Reviews, Support and Pricing. The Description tab elaborates on the plugin's features and functionality, often with screenshots and videos for richer insight. The Reviews tab displays ratings and feedback from other users to gauge quality and reliability.

Pricing and licensing details are transparently displayed, so you know what to expect before installing a commercial plugin. Some plugins even offer trial periods to test before you buy. The Support tab indicates available support channels like email, forums or Slack for assistance pre-and-post purchase.

By consolidating all this info in the Plugin Store itself, users can make informed plugin choices without having to browse elsewhere. The breadth of details empowers evaluative comparison and speeds up the selection process. With the Plugin Store, exploring plugins and gathering key info is centralized for a smooth discovery experience from start to purchase.

Installing Plugins

Preparing for Installation

Before installing new plugins in Craft CMS, it's advisable to take some preparatory steps to ensure a smooth process. Performing a full site backup beforehand is recommended, providing a restore point if issues arise. Disable caching temporarily and switch the site to maintenance mode to avoid conflicts.

Check the system requirements of each plugin to confirm your Craft CMS installation and server meet the minimum PHP version, database engine and other dependencies. Some plugins require additional components like ImageMagick for image processing. Understanding compatibility upfront prevents unexpected errors during installation.

Take stock of any existing plugins that may overlap in functionality with new ones. For example, installing an SEO plugin alongside another SEO tool can cause conflicts. Check for redundancies and disable/uninstall superseded plugins where required. A streamlined plugin setup avoids overlaps.

Allocating sufficient time for installation and testing is wise. Rushed installs risk plugins misbehaving if configurations are incorrect. Set aside dedicated time for a measured installation approach. Advance preparation provides assurance before initiating the installation process.

Installing Free Plugins

Installing free plugins from the Plugin Store in Craft CMS is straightforward. From the Plugin Store, navigate to the desired free plugin and click the "Try" or "Install" button. For popular free plugins, a prompt may appear to add the plugin to a project to streamline installation across multiple Craft sites.

On the installation page, tick the checkbox to agree to the plugin's license if required. Click the "Install" button to initiate the installation process. A progress bar will track the status, and a success message will display upon completion.

Once installed, navigate to Settings → Plugins in the Craft control panel. Locate the newly installed plugin and click the "Settings" cog icon to access the configuration screen. Refer to the plugin documentation and set the options as desired to achieve the intended functionality.

On the Plugins page, tick the "Enabled" checkbox for the plugin to activate it. The plugin should now be installed correctly and ready for testing. Free plugins eliminate licensing headaches, offering a direct path from installation to configuration.

Installing Commercial Plugins

Installing commercial Craft plugins follows a similar workflow but involves purchasing the plugin first. From the Plugin Store, navigate to the desired premium plugin and click the "Buy" button. After completing the purchase via Stripe at checkout, a license key is emailed to you.

On the plugin’s page, click "Install License" and enter the newly acquired license key. This links the plugin license to your Craft CMS install. Click the "Install" button to begin the installation process, just like free plugins. A success message appears after the install finishes.

Under Settings → Plugins, tick the license agreement checkbox for the new commercial plugin. Verify the license status reads “Licensed” to confirm activation was successful. Enable the plugin to start using it.

Some paid plugins also require registering a site URL under the license for usage tracking. Follow the plugin’s documentation to complete any additional licensing steps required. Though extra work is involved, commercial plugins unlock powerful functionality worth the investment.

Verifying Installation

After installing a new plugin, verifying everything works as expected is a critical next step. Navigate to the plugin’s settings and configurations. Make incremental changes and test each one in the front-end to confirm functionality. For example, enabling an SEO component and testing the sitemap builds without errors.

Check the control panel for any plugin warnings or errors. Debug messages often appear if required settings are incorrect or dependencies are unavailable. Refer to technical requirements in the plugin documentation to resolve common validation issues.

Browse key front-end pages to check for conflicts or unexpected behaviour arising from the new plugin. Plugins modifying the same elements like CSS or JavaScript can cause interference and bugs. Isolate any problem areas and troubleshoot the source(s).

Monitoring Craft CMS logs, web server logs, browser console and network requests can pinpoint errors for diagnosis. For complex plugins impacting multiple areas, a step-by-step validation and testing process is prudent to achieve stability.

Updating Plugins

Like other software, Craft CMS plugins periodically release updated versions with improvements, bug fixes and new features. It’s recommended to keep plugins updated to maintain optimal performance, security and compatibility. You'll need to know how to update Craft CMS plugins

The Updates tab in Settings → Plugins displays available plugin updates and allows updating them with one click. Updates include bug fixes, compatibility with newer Craft releases and front-end user experience improvements.

Some updates contain breaking changes that require additional configuration tweaks after updating. Always reference the plugin’s release notes or changelog to understand the changes before updating. Significant version jumps like 1.x to 2.0 deserve more testing.

Periodically check the Plugin Store for updates, or enable email notifications on My Account to stay on top of new releases. Keeping plugins current contributes to a healthy, robust Craft CMS website.

Troubleshooting Installation Issues

Despite best efforts, plugin installations don’t always go smoothly. Common issues encountered include:

Forbidden error on installation – Likely a file permission issue. Check write permissions on the craft/plugins folder. The web server user needs write access.

License validation errors – Make sure the license key, email and installation URL match between Craft and the plugin license. Double-check for typos.

Front-end conflicts – If a new plugin causes front-end issues, systematically disable other plugins one by one to isolate the conflict. Leverage Craft’s debugger toolset to pinpoint JavaScript/CSS clashes.

500 server errors – Check Craft Logs and web server error logs for more details on internal server errors stopping pages from loading. They typically point to syntax errors in newly installed plugins.

Functionality not working – Ensure you complete all post-install steps like configuring the plugin settings and templates. Review the plugin documentation thoroughly for missed requirements.

Compatibility issues – Sometimes recently updated plugins break on newer Craft CMS releases. Contact the developer’s support channel for assistance with compatibility conflicts.

Troubleshooting installations requires methodical elimination of variables through testing and logs analysis. If you are unable to resolve an issue, don’t hesitate to tap into the active Craft community forum or the developer’s support channel for guidance in resolving plugin installation headaches.

Managing and Licensing Plugins

Managing Plugin Licenses

Craft CMS provides a central interface under Settings → Plugins to manage licenses for commercial plugins. The Licenses tab lists all installed premium plugins along with license details like expiration date and status.

Clicking on a license displays options to edit, transfer or delete that license. The Edit option allows updating the license key and optionally attaching a note like the purchase order #. Users can renew an expired license with the new license key here.

The Transfer option is handy when migrating a Craft CMS install to a new server, allowing reassignment of existing licenses. Deleting a license removes it completely from Craft, which can be useful for a permanent uninstall or transferring to another environment.

The Licenses tab enables administrators to monitor, update and remove plugin licenses conveniently from one dashboard. Having an overview of all active premium licenses in Craft CMS ensures licenses remain maintained properly.

Transferring Plugin Licenses

When moving a Craft CMS site to another server, transferring plugin licenses is often required. Find out how to transfer your Craft CMS license. Rather than buying all new licenses, most plugins allow transferring an existing license to the new environment.

Within Settings → Plugins → Licenses, click the Transfer option for the paid plugin to initiate the transfer process. You will be asked to provide details like the new installation URL. You can set your site URL in Craft CMS. Some plugins require additional verification steps to prove you are the license owner.

After starting the transfer, the plugin developer manually reviews and approves the request before issuing the license transfer. Expect up to several business days for the process, depending on the developer’s workload. You cannot use the transferred license in the original environment after the move.

Some developers impose limits like only one transfer annually or charge fees for excessive transfers. Check with each developer’s policies before requesting transfers. With planning, you can migrate Craft CMS sites without repurchasing commercial plugins through license transfers.

Safeguarding Plugin Licenses

Paid Craft plugins represent a monetary investment, so it’s prudent to safeguard license keys against loss or unauthorized access. Never publicly share license keys, as they grant download access if leaked. In the same way that Craft CMS saves passwords, treat keys like passwords and store them securely. 

For storage, avoid plain text files which are easy to lose track of or inadvertently expose publicly. Password managers like 1Password offer secure encrypted storage and sharing capabilities. The license management features within Craft CMS also centralize them accessibly.

When providing licenses to clients, be selective about which team members need access. Grant only temporary access as required for installs and transfers, revoking afterwards. Use license management features built into Craft CMS where possible.

Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on your account for plugins purchased directly from developers. 2FA adds an extra layer of identity verification for critical account activities.

Being vigilant about plugin license security ensures you retain sole access and control. With licenses costing up to several hundred dollars each, investing in proper safeguards reduces the risks of misuse, unauthorized transfers or losses due to system crashes. Treat plugin licenses with the care they warrant as valuable digital assets and security keys.

Uninstalling and Disabling Plugins

Uninstalling Plugins

When a plugin is no longer needed, uninstalling it fully removes the plugin files and database tables from Craft CMS for a clean removal.

To uninstall, go to Settings → Plugins and click the "Uninstall" button for the selected plugin. A prompt will appear to back up the database first - critical for reverting if issues arise.

After confirming, Craft will begin removing the plugin's files and database tables. A success message displays once completed. The plugin will no longer be accessible.

Uninstalling strips out dormant plugins accumulating over time from experiments or replaced tools. It frees up disk space on the server too. However, irreversibly deleting a plugin can disrupt sites if content relies on it. Confirm full uninstallation is appropriate beforehand.

Disabling Plugins

Disabling a plugin leaves files intact but deactivates it from running on the front-end and Craft CMS Control Panel. It offers a reversible way to temporarily stop a plugin.

To disable, go to Settings → Plugins and untick the "Enabled" checkbox for the plugin. The plugin status will change to Disabled. Its front-end and admin functionality will cease, cutting off any processes, resource loads and database activity.

Disabling is useful for isolating performance bottlenecks or conflicts without deleting the plugin. Test performance with certain plugins disabled to quantify their overhead. Re-enabling the plugin easily restores its functionality. Disabling plugins provides low-risk testing flexibility.

Troubleshooting Uninstallation/Disabling Issues

Plugins powering critical site functionality can run into problems when uninstalled or disabled hastily. Some common issues include:

  • Broken content - Uninstalling a plugin providing fields or templates can cause missing content errors. Always backup before uninstalling field-related plugins.

  • Loss of data - Similarly, analytics or other data captured by a plugin will be deleted when it is uninstalled. Run data extraction or exports beforehand if needed.

  • Site downtime - A misbehaving plugin disabled improperly can take down the whole site. Only disable non-essential plugins first to isolate the culprit.

  • Protection modes - Craft CMS may enter maintenance mode during troublesome uninstallation/disabling to prevent errors. Override if needed via config/general.php temporarily.

  • Permanent data loss - Some discarded plugins lack uninstall routines to cleanup after themselves properly. Resulting orphaned data requires manual cleanup in the database.

  • Reinstallation issues - If a plugin was uninstalled incorrectly, subsequent reinstalls may fail due to partially removed components. Troubleshoot folder permissions, composer dependencies etc.

Monitoring logs during uninstalls and disables helps identify hiccups early. For stalled operations, SSH into the server to check for errors impeding completion. Like all server changes, prudent plugin removal demands care, testing and backups to avoid disruptions.

Shape April 2022 HR 202
Andy Golpys
- Author

Andy has scaled multiple businesses and is a big believer in Craft CMS as a tool that benefits both Designer, Developer and Client. 

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