Plugins are added and maintained via Lightroom's Plugin Manager, which is accessible from Lightroom's File menu, and also from a button on the Export Dialog itself.
Here's a screenshot of the Plugin Manager on my system, after I installed half a dozen plugins. At the moment, it's showing my “Metadata Wrangler” plugin selected. Mouseover the labels at left to highlight areas of the screenshot...
(Mouseover items below)
Installing a New Plugin
Installing a plugin for use with Lightroom usually involves these steps:
- Downloading a zip file from a trusted plugin source.
- Unzip the plugin, and move the resulting “...lrplugin” folder to wherever you'd like to store your plugins.
- Bring up Lightroom's Plugin Manager and tell Lightroom about that folder via the Add button.
Installing a New Plugin
0. Clean out old versions of the plugin, if applicable.
1. Download a zip file from a plugin source
Plugins are available from a variety of sources. My plugins are available from my Lightroom goodies page. I also list there other notable sources.
Some browsers unzip the download automatically for you, and with others you unzip it yourself. In either case, you should end up with a folder whose name ends in “.lrplugin” or“.lrdevplugin”. (On a Mac, a “.lrplugin” folder actually appears as a “module” package.)
You don't normally ever need to be concerned with the contents of a plugin folder, but if you need to confirm that the folder actually contains a plugin in the first place, check for an “Info.lua” file. (On Macs, you may need to “Show Package Contents” in Finder to view the files inside.) I mention this because some programs that produce zip files create a “....lrplugin” folder into which they drop the actual plugin “.lrplugin” folder, which can cause confusion.
2. Move the plugin folder to wherever you'd like to store your plugins
Lightroom allows you to keep the plugins wherever you like — you just have to tell it where you place each one — so it's up to you to pick a spot to save them. Perhaps a “Lightroom Plugins” folder in your “Documents”?
When you “Add” the plugin to Lightroom, you're just adding a reference to the location. It's only natural to think that a copy of the plugin was made when you “Add”, but Adobe doesn't do that, so be sure not to delete the plugin files from disk.
3. Tell Lightroom where the plugin is
Bring up Lightroom's Plugin Manager, either from the File menu, or from the Plugin Manager button on the Export Dialog. Click the Add button, then navigate to the “.lrplugin” item from the previous step.
Plugins can add functionality in any combination of the following:
A Publish Plugin adds a new publish service to the list available in the lower left of the Library Module, in the “Publish Services” panel.
An Export Plugin adds a new destination to the list available in the “File > Export...” dialog. See here.
A plugin can add export filter modules that can be used with any Export or Publish action. See here.
A plugin can add features to the “File > Plug-in Extras...“ and/or the “Help > Plug-in Extras...“ menus.
Again, a plugin can have any combination of the above. In particular, plugins that send files to remote photo-hosting sites can be Publish only, Export only, or both Publish and Export.
A plugin might not provide services through any of the methods shown above. My Folder Watch plugin, for example, provides all of its services from the Plugin Manager itself.
An export plugin can be selected by bringing up Lightroom's export dialog, then clicking on the “Hard Drive” popup menu at the top...
That brings up a list of the export handlers available, the three built in items (Email, Hard Drive, and CD/DVD), as well as any added by plugins that are both installed and enabled...
Some plugins provide generic support that can be used with any Publish or Export action. For example, my Metadata Wrangler plugin allows you to strip selected metadata from exported copies as they are produced. It can be used with any Export or Publish action, whether via Lightroom standard methods or unrelated plugins.
Adobe calls these “Post-process Actions”, but most people call them “Export Filters”.
Once you've added and enabled a filter plugin via the Plugin Manager, it shows up in the lower-left of the export dialog....
Click on its name, then the Insert button at the bottom, and you'll see it added to the main dialog. In the screen snippet above, the “Metadata Wrangler” dialog section is shown collapsed, so you only see its banner. If you were to click on the little triangle beside the name, you'd see the full dialog for the plugin, which, in this case (my Metadata Wrangler filter) is huge (see here for a screenshot).
Plugin Maintenance & Upgrades
Once a plugin has been installed with Lightroom, you can enable or disable it from the Status section of the Plugin Manager. A disabled plugin can't be used from within Lightroom, but remains available in the Plugin Manager, so it can be easily enabled when you want to start using it again.
You can have Lightroom forget about a plugin with the Remove button, on the bottom of the left-hand column.
If the Remove button is grayed out for a particular plugin, it's because the plugin is located in Lightroom's system area. Such plugins can be removed only by deleting the plugin files from disk.
The Status section might also display plugin version and web-site information, if the plugin provides it (such as in the screenshot above).
Upgrading a plugin
Upgrading a plugin to a newer version is similar to installing the first time, except that if you replace the original “.lrplugin” folder with the new one, you don't have to re-register the location with Lightroom. In that case, you simply need to restart Lightroom, or click the “Reload Plug-in” button in the Plugin-Manager's “Plug-in Author Tools“ section.
If you install the new version in a new location, and register it via the Plugin Manager, the previous version will remain, but be disabled. You can enable only one version of any particular plugin at a time. Simply Remove the older versions when you no longer need them.
I've built an upgrade mechanism into my plugins, such that when a new version is available, you can simply press the Upgrade Now button in the Plugin Manager. That causes the new version to be downloaded and unzipped in place over top of the old version. You then press the Reload Plug-in button, or restart Lightroom, to have the new version take effect.
(If something goes wrong with the upgrade process, you'll have to manually download and install the new version. In such a case, you might want to inspect the log file left in the temporary-files area of the system, named for the plugin, e.g. “flickr-log.txt” for my Flickr plugin).
Please do not report bugs or other comments related to my plugins here. Please do those on the appropriate per-plugin page (linked from my Lightroom Goodies page).