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Defining your own Plugin Types in Plugin Commander


Plugin Commander 1.5 introduced a new feature that lets you add your own plugin types to the Preferences dialog. With this feature you can extend the functionality of Plugin Commander by making it recognize plugin types it didn't understand before.

This tutorial shows you how to define a new plugin type in Plugin Commander. QuarkXpress plugins will be used as an example for illustrating this task. They are already defined in the Plugin Types tab sheet in Preferences, but this is just for demonstration purposes.


Step 1: Determining the file extension of the new plugin type

Start by pointing Plugin Commander to a folder with the new unknown plugin type.

Here (see image above) we have three plugin files. As you may notice they have the extension XXT. This is a good observation that will help us.

If the plugins have a common file extension like DLL which is used by other files and not only our specific plugin type, this will be a problem. For example f you define a DLL file as a IrfanView plugin Plugin Commander will identify all DLL files as IrfanView plugins even if they are just simple DLL files. A future Plugin Commander version will probably let you specify criteria for distinguishing between different plugins which have the same file extension.


Step 2: Checking the version information of the new plugin type

Please select one of the plugins and press the Alt and Return key or right click on the plugin and select Properties from the context menu.

Some plugins may show a Properties dialog with only the General tab sheet like the image above. This means that the plugin file doesn't contain any special information about its version and name.

Other plugin files like the one above will display a Properties dialog with an additional Version tab sheet. This sheet displays the plugin's version number, a description, copyright information and other lines of information. Plugin Commander can read this information which is contained in the file's version resource. So we need to decide which of these information fields are to be extracted by Plugin Commander and used as the name of the plugin.

In the above mentioned case the best fit is the information under 'Description:' in the second line where "Nudger XTension for QuarkXPress 3.1 for Microsoft Windows" is written. The 'Product Name' line only contains the string "Nudger" which isn't very descriptive.

You will have to look at the Version information of many plugins of the same type to find out, wheatherthe Description, Internal Name, Product Name fields or none of them contains the best fit for the plugin name.

In this case we decide to use the Description field.


Step 3: Defining the new plugin type in Preferences

Please switch to the Plugin Types tab sheet of the Preferences dialog and press the Add button.

With the information collected from Step 1 and 2, we can finally add or own new plugin type in the 'Plugin Type' text field of the Add Plugin Type dialog. We can enter "QuarkXpress XTension" which is the name of the new plugin type. In the 'File Extension' field we can enter "xxt" which helps Plugin Commander to identify this plugin type (see Step 1). In the 'Get Plugin Name from' frame we decide to choose 'Description' (see Step 2).

In Step 2 we also found out that there are plugins of this type which don't contain any version information. But we don't have to worry about that, because Plugin Commander will automatically use the file name as the plugin's name if there's no version information available.

To the left you can see another frame which invites you to share your newly defined plugin type with others. If you click on the Announce button an email with your plugin type definition will be created. All you have to do is to press the Send button to send the definition to the author of Plugin Commander. The announced plugin types will be available in the next version of Plugin Commander for everyone.

After pressing the OK button, the new type will be displayed in the list box of the Plugin Type tab sheet.

You can see that the new plugin type is displayed as "QuarkXpress XTension (xxt|0)". The xxt in the brackets stands for the file extension and the 0 stands for the Description field. If you deactivate the check box in front of this plugin type entry, Plugin Commander will ignore this plugin type and do as if it would not exist. So assure yourself that the check box is activated, if you want that Plugin Commander recognizes this plugin type.

Finally press the OK button.


Step 4: Testing the new Plugin Type

On the main window of Plugin Commander select one of the plugins and choose Plugin Information from the Commands menu or just double click it.

The appearing Plugin Information dialog will show you that Plugin Commander recognized the new plugin type. Now you can press the Plugin View tab to display the plugins in Plugin View.

In addition you can now disable plugins of this new type in Plugin Commander to keep them from being used and displayed in the appropriate host application.



If you have any further questions or comments or if you don't understand something, then contact me.


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