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How to Tell Which WordPress Plugins a Website Uses

Following on from a previous post, in which we wrote about how to find out which WordPress theme a website uses, we figured the next thing to cover is how to find out which plugins a WordPress-powered website is using. Why would you want to know this? Well, in all likelihood, sooner or later you’ll come across a website displaying some kind of feature or function you like so much you’ll want to use/replicate it on your own website — if only you could work out which plugin is responsible…

The first thing to mention here is a) unfortunately, not all such functionality will be produced by plugins (some functionality, for example, may very well be inherent to the theme itself), and b) there is no sure-fire way of finding out absolutely ALL of the plugins being used on a site: although there are a number of ways to go about trying…

Starting with the easiest and finishing with some more involved methods, let’s take a look at the various means at our disposal and see how far we can get!

Using automated tools

The easiest way to find out which plugins a website uses is by using automated online detecting tools. Unfortunately however, such tools are far from able to detect all plugins. What’s more, many of these tools aren’t particularly forth-coming about this, which often leads to people giving up their detective activities all too soon. Still, because these types of online detection tools are SO quick and easy to use, they are, nevertheless, a great place to start.

In no particular order, the most popular of these tools capable of detecting WordPress plugins are perhaps: WordPress Plugin Checker, WPThemeDetector (a service primarily aimed at detecting WordPress themes that we’ve already covered in an earlier post), What Theme Is That and Built With.

Built With

To give you a quick idea of their accuracy, try using one or two to do a quick scan of this very site, WinningWP. We use somewhere in the region of about fifteen plugins; the best of these tools can only detect four of them!

It’s also well-worth mentioning that each of these tools works slightly differently — meaning some can detect plugins that others can’t: so it’s always worth using more than one tool in order to yield a more comprehensive list of results — note: even combined these tools can only detect about five or six of the plugins used on this website.

Looking for tell-tale signs within the source code

All websites use HTML to display their content. The browser sees this code and displays it to us in a way that we can recognize it (i.e. in paragraphs and images, etc). But with a little know-how, it’s not hard to view — and understand — the code itself; and when it comes to looking for WordPress plugins this is often exactly where you’ll find traces of them.

Let’s take a look at three ways to find the tell-tale signs some plugins leave behind using Chrome (although the same principles will also work in many other browsers):

Looking for plugin directories:

Right click somewhere on the website in question (not above an image) and select ‘View Page Source’ from the resulting drop-down menu. Now do a quick search* in the resulting code for “wp-content/plugins/”. Whatever comes after this term in the code (note: there will likely be multiple instances of this term on the page if more than one plugin is being used so you’ll need to search more than once to cover them all) could very well be the name of a plugin.

WP-Content-Plugins Search Example - Screenshot

(click to enlarge)

Note: in similar fashion, it can also be worth watching out for either any stylesheet or JavaScript file names (look for anything that comes immediately before either “.css” or “.js” within the code) as these can also occasionally indicate plugin names.

Simply Google anything you find and hope for the best!

Looking for HTML comments:

Some plugins will leave their own code on the page wrapped in HTML comments to help developers understand their output — Yoast’s SEO Plugin is an excellent example of this. Using the ‘View Page Source’ method outlined above, scroll through the code looking for lines of green text: these green lines are the HTML comments!

HTML Comments Search Example - Screenshot

(click to enlarge)

Assuming such comments exist, they will often lead you directly to more info on a particular plugin being used — easy!

Looking at specific web elements:

This last method is often an absolute winner when trying to find which plugin is responsible for generating a particular feature on the page — and can often succeed when all else fails!

Using Chrome, hover directly over whatever feature on the page you’re interested in and right click. Select “Inspect Element” from the resulting drop-down menu and you’ll be presented with a split view of the page and the underlying code. Take a look at the code and try to find ‘ID’ or ‘Class’ names, which will often looks something like ‘class=”‘ or ‘ID=”‘. Whatever comes directly after either of these code attributes could very well be the name of the plugin responsible for the feature!

Inspect Element Example - Screenshot

(click to enlarge)

In the above screenshot, for example, you’ll see ‘div class=”jp-relatedposts-posts…’, this is an abbreviation of the name of the plugin we’re using to generate the related post images shown under each of the posts on this blog. Googling ‘jp-relatedposts’ will lead you to the exact plugin we’re using to achieve this: Jetpack.

Taking an educated guess…

Is it possible to guess which plugin produces a specific part of a site’s functionality? Yes, sometimes it is.

Let’s say you’ve noticed a cool-looking fly-out feature animate in from the bottom right of a web page and none of the above-mentioned methods are yielding anything to work with — for example. If you can find a way to categorize or describe this functionality, you may then be able to find a list (via Google for example) of plugins that might be responsible for producing this particular feature. A bit of a long-shot perhaps, but worth a try all the same. What’s more, if you can find just one plugin that does something similar, there’s then the option of Googling the name of that plugin followed by the word “alternatives” (for example) to try to find more/similar plugins — and with any luck, you’ll be able to then pinpoint the one you want from the candidates that appear by looking through the documentation (such as screenshots, etc) of each.

Asking in a forum

I know, this one may seem like a hopeless idea, but showing the site with the functionality you’re interest in to the members of a forum like Reddit, Quora (or even a WordPress-focused Facebook group — assuming you happen to be a member of one, as these are usually ‘closed’ groups) can, if you’re very lucky, result in someone recognizing the feature. What’s more (and this is way more likely), even if no one can tell you which plugin is being used, it’s often the case that someone will know of a plugin that does something similar (or better)!

Emailing/asking the site owner directly

Yes, you can always just ask! Some website owners won’t have the time (or inclination) to respond to an email asking them for details about their website/s, but some will, and some may even be genuinely pleased you’ve taken such an interest in their site!

*to search for a specific term in Chrome, go to the “Edit” tab in the main menu (above the page of code), select “Find” and then “Find…” (view a screenshot), type the query (in this case “wp-content/plugins/”) and hit return.

Is that everything? Know of any other ways to tell which plugins a site uses?

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By Brin Wilson

Founder of WinningWP - passionate about all things WordPress! Active on both Twitter and Google+ (preferred).
Comments (policy)
  • In some cases where minification and concatenation is used extensively, it can be next to impossible to identify the specific WordPress plugins that are used on a website. Some optimization plugins take all CSS and JS files and merge them into only a few, uniquely named files. So unless you know some specific CSS classes or IDs, or some of the JS variables or functions used by certain plugins that you are trying to identify. You won’t be able to identify anything in some sites.

  • Brin, thanks for the post!

    Builtwith is not just a web technology information profiler tool, it also provides the lists of website of chosen technologies for your marketing needs. With this tool you can get the list of your competitor’s customers and try to steal some of them.

    Or for example, if you build apps for WordPress, then you can get the list of all WordPress-based websites and promote your app to them.

    We used it for a long time. Now we moved to Allora.io (we was also thinking about Datanize, but Allora is significally cheaper).

  • What would be interesting is to easily be able to determine which a WordPress theme’s included .js and .css files aren’t being used on a live site. WordPress themes usually include every conceivable bell and whistle, often not used on any of the site’s pages. It would be nice to be able to easily know which of the files could be removed without affecting the site’s functionality.

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