Modules/Plugins/Components – What Are They?

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Modules, plugins, components - what are they

Customization is a crucial factor, when choosing a content management system. Some of the leaders in the CMS industry posses an extremely wide array of features, allowing the users to satisfy even their most ambitious aspirations. However, none of the platforms can provide the support for absolutely all desired functions out of the box. This is when various additions come into play. Therefore in this article we have decided to talk about the different kinds of components that are created to add specific functions to the existing software applications.

The Terminology – Plugin vs. Module vs. Extension

Generally speaking, an extension, a plugin or a module are all just different names that platforms use to refer to the code that adds certain new features to the website. However, due to the fact that those new features can be very diverse, there are still notable distinctions between the meanings of these terms, and the fact that major CMSs use different words to describe the same key ideas only hikes up the confusion.

To clear things up we have decided to create the following term table

modules, plugins, components

Now let’s look at what these terms mean in each of the the aforementioned platforms.


This CMS presents a fairly simple categorization of all it’s addons dividing them into plugins and widgets.

By plugins WordPress means a very general term that comprises anything from the minor back-end improvements to components with full front-end functionality.

A widget in turn is a small block, that can be added to the sidebar and aims to perform a specific function. Some examples of the standard WordPress widgets are calendar, navigation menu, search, etc. Most widgets are standalone areas of code, but some may be added by your installed plugins to display their functions.

There are more than 38000 various plugins up to date in the official WordPress Plugin Directory, which makes this platform an absolute champion in the category of addon quantity. Another benefit worth noting is the ease of installation. With WordPress you can serch and download plugins right from the back-end of your site.


Joomla offers a slightly more complex structure, introducing the category of extensions and further breaking it into three subcategories based on the features they introduce.

  1. Components are the most complex of all Joomla additions that are engineered to extend the core platform’s features greatly. They often come loaded with their own set of plugins and modules, representing a whole new system inside the Joomla framework. Some examples of components are Joomla K2 and VirtueMart.
  2. Plugins tend to be the simpler improvements or function additions for the platform which mainly modify the front-end part of the site. Typical examples are contact forms, galleries, WYSIWYG editors, etc.
  3. Modules in Joomla is just a synonym for widgets in WordPress.

In total there are almost 9000 extensions available in the official Joomla Directory. They can be installed using one of the three possible ways:

  • by uploading a package file;
  • from directory;
  • from URL.


As for Drupal, it categorizes its addons using the same logic as that of WordPress. The term module corresponds to what is called a plugin in WP and the term block represents the same idea as widget.

The number of modules available to download for Drupal-powered sites slightly exceeds 17000. The only disadvantage is that due to this platform’s enterprise oriented roots, many of the modules are not free of charge.

Final Thoughts

Now that we have straightened up the terms, you’ll know what to look for next time you go searching for add ons. However, be extra careful about what you install and don’t overload your site with tons of unnecessary components. The rule of thumb is to add as few extensions as possible. Make sure to also check the ratings of the chosen extension, it’s last updates and whether or not it is compatible with your version of the platform. Remember, a single poor quality addon can cause serious damage to your website, compromise its security or slow the site down. Choose wisely and make your site flourish!

P.S. Left with a strong desire to switch to a different platform? Give a try to CMS2CMS, an automated migration service, that will make your transition as stress-free as possible.

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Valentyna Tysiachna

Valia is a vivid CMS platforms observer, that’s why she found her dream job of marketer manager at CMS2CMS migration service. Keen English learner, music lover and passionate content writer, she enjoys constant improvement and is open to challenges.
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