You’re browsing around, looking for ideas to improve your bland website and you come across a page with a feature you’ve always wanted.
You’ll naturally want that same feature on your website but how do you find out what plugin was used?
There are actually several methods you can employ to determine the WordPress plugin that is responsible for the feature or functionality that you want to replicate in your site.
These range from automated tools, to code digging, to direct communications.
Use Automated Tools
The easiest and quickest way to determine the plugins a particular website is using is through online detecting tools. You really don’t have to do anything but type in the URL or website address, the technology being used, or even just a keyword.
However, none of these tools will be able to find out all the plugins. And most these tools don’t even tell you which plugins they can detect so you may end up with deficient information about the site.
This might be the biggest reason why some people give up detecting plugins too soon.
But using online detecting tools is a good place to start since they’re designed to be newbie-friendly.
And many of those who have just started their website-snooping activities really don’t want to tinker with code just yet.
Given that, there are quite a few online detecting services available on the Internet. The more popular amongst the lot are Built With, What Theme Is That, WPThemeDetector, and WordPress Plugin Checker.
We’ve discussed that these tools are not really that accurate in coming up with all the WordPress plugins being used by a website.
To give you an idea, try each one of the tools and detect the plugins on one website. The best of these tools can only come up with four plugins on a site which may have around 20 plugins embedded.
Each of these tools also works differently in detecting the plugins. That means they will yield different results. One can detect plugins that the others can’t and vice versa.
So what if you use all these tools to detect the plugins?
Will you be able to come up with a more comprehensive result?
Sadly, no. Even when combined, they can only detect a total of around 6 to 8 plugins when ran against the same website.
Detecting a handful of plugins in a website is better than nothing, though, and is a good starting point.
Cracking the Code
Here is where you’ll have to get your hands dirty. If those online detecting tools aren’t enough to extract the plugin you want, it’s time to dig deeper into the code and look for tell-tale signs.
HTML is the default code for displaying content on a website. Your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, etc.) reads this code, interprets it, and then display the page in a format that you can recognize.
That is text, images, videos, and other objects are properly arranged for easy comprehension of the visitor.
HTML can be daunting at first but after doing it for some time, you’ll be able to read and understand the code.
Understanding the tags within the HTML code is the key to looking for traces of the WordPress plugins used in a website.
There are actually three ways to search for these signs of WordPress plugins.
Let’s use Chrome, a very popular browser, as our tool although the same methods can be used with other browsers as well.
Look for Plugin Directories
Open the website containing the plugin you want to detect. Right-click anywhere on the website as long as it is not on an image.
A drop-down menu will appear where you can select and click ‘View Page Source’. Voila! You’ve got the code in front of you.
Now you need to do a search within the code for the text ‘wp-content/plugins/’. You can do this by simultaneously pressing Ctrl-F and typing in the text in the box that pops out.
What comes after this text is very likely the name of a plugin used on the website. Remember that there will be multiple plugins on that page. You can jump into each one using the scroll buttons in the search text box.
Plugin names can also come in .css or .jss filenames so you have to jot down those down to. Open the Google page and search for those files until you find the plugin you need.
Look for HTML Comments
Using the same method mentioned earlier to display the HTML code, look for comments indicating the name of the plugin used.
These are usually highlighted in green color and serve as a reference for the developer on which plugin was embedded.
If these comments are there, meaning the developer decided to leave them for all to see, you’re in luck.
Searching for the name of the plugin is easier than scouring Google for the files.
Look for Specific Web Elements
This method can very well be the best of the three if you’re trying to determine a plugin that is responsible for a webpage’s particular feature. This is also the one to try when the other methods have failed.
Open the page using Chrome and hover directly on the feature you are interested in. Right click on the feature and select ‘Inspect’.
You’ll then be presented a split view of both the page and the HTML code. Check the code and try to search for ‘Class’ or ‘ID’.
It will often look like ‘ID=’ to and ‘Class=’. What follows these code attributes could be the plugin that creates this feature in the page.
Take an Educated Guess
Without using the tools and methods mentioned above, will it be possible to guess the plugin that is producing the feature or functionality in a webpage?
As an example, let’s say you were amazed by a marquee feature on a webpage.
After trying those online detecting tools and scrubbing the HTML code for clues about the plugin responsible for that feature, you’ve reached a blank wall.
If there’s a way in describing or categorizing this particular functionality or feature, you can do a quick search via Google using the description or category and come up with a list of possible plugins.
You might think this is somewhat a long-shot but it’s definitely worth the try.
Also, if you found a plugin that does a similar action, adding ‘alternatives’ after the plugin name in a Google search will yield more plugins that have the same feature or action.
With luck, you might find the exact plugin you’re looking for by looking through its features or screenshots. You might even find a plugin that does the same action and more.
Ask in Forums
You might think this is a hopeless idea but there are actually people in forums who are willing to help and share their knowledge and resources.
Look for Quora or Reddit forums, or even Facebook Groups focused on WordPress plugins. You might need to apply for membership because these groups are often ‘closed’, meaning you can only view the content if you’re a member.
Once you’re in the group, ask around by describing the plugin. Someone might recognize this plugin and point you in the right direction.
Even more likely, someone in the forum might have used a similar plugin with even better features.
Ask the Site Owner
This is perhaps the easiest of all methods since you don’t have to run detecting tools, snoop inside the HTML code, and ask blindly in forums.
You can always directly ask the site owner about the WordPress plugin you are interested in.
This is not a sure thing, though, as the website owner might be busy or not interested in sharing with you some information about the website.
But there are others out there who will be genuinely pleased that you’re showing interest in the website and are willing to share with you some tips and perhaps the name of the plugin.
Wrapping it Up
WordPress plugins add functionality and features to the page that may not be possible using plain HTML code.
There are thousands of plugins out there and it might be difficult to search for a particular one.
So when you see a feature that you’d like to replicate in your site, you’d want to find out the name of the plugin so you can use it as well.
There are automated tools but they’re not that accurate and don’t produce detailed results. You can also dig deep into the code and do a Google search on the plugin’s category and features.
You can also ask in a forum or email the site owner directly asking for the plugin’s name.
There is no particular method that can be successful in finding out all the plugins in a WordPress page but if you combine all these methods, your search will be more successful. Who knows?
You might even find other plugins along the way which has the same features and other functionalities that you can utilize in your website.