Plug-Ins 101
Author : Paul G.    -   Subject : Internet

    How Plug-Ins Work, and Where To Get Them
    What are Internet Plug-ins?

    While a plain web browser allows you to view static HTML pages, Plug-ins are optional software additions that enhance and/or add functionality to the browser. This means that above and beyond reading a basic web page, plug-ins let you watch Internet movies and animation, hear sound and music, read special Adobe documents, play online games, and do 3-D interaction.

    What Plug-ins I should have?

    Although new plug-in software is released every week, there are about 11 key plug-ins and add-on software that will serve you 99% of the time:

    Adobe Acrobat Reader (for .pdf files)
    Java Virtual Machine (JVM to run Java applets)
    Macromedia Flash Player (to run .swf movies)
    Macromedia Shockwave Player (to run heavy-duty .swf movies)
    Real Audio Player (to listen to .ram files)
    Apple Quicktime (to see 3d Virtual Reality schematics)
    Windows Media Player (to run a variety of movies and music formats)
    Windows WinAmp (to play downloaded .mp3 and .wav files)
    "Pop-Up Killer" software (to reduce the annoying advertisements)
    Anti Virus software
    WinZip (to compress/decompress downloaded files) (although technically not plug-ins, WinZip and AV software work as silent partners to help you download web files, and to prevent nasty programs from infecting your computer)
    What do these Plug-Ins Do For Me?
    Anytime you visit a web page that includes more than simple HTML content, you are likely to need at least one plug-in.

    For example, on a daily basis, Flash Player is perhaps the most needed plug-in. 75% of the animated advertisements you see online are Flash .swf “movies” (Shockwave format).

    The second most common plug-in need is for Adobe Acrobat Reader .pdf (Portable Document Format) viewing. Most government forms, online application forms, and a multitude of other documents use .pdf format on the Web.

    The third most common plug-in would be a movie/audio player to run .mov, .mp3, .wav, .au, and .avi files. Windows Media Player is perhaps the most popular for this purpose, but you can use a multitude of other movie/audio choices.

    The fourth most common enhancement to get is WinZip, which allows you to download large files in “compressed” (shrunken file size) .zip format, and then expand the compressed files for full use on your computer. This is the smartest tool for sending either large files, or batches of many smaller files. Technically, WinZip is not a "plug-in", but it certainly is recommended as a web browsing partner tool.

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