How to find out if a WordPress plugin is compatible with your website

Posted on June 28, 2018

Did you ever find a cool WordPress plugin that would be perfect for your website but had no idea if your website would even support it?

Well, the truth is you probably can’t be sure until you try it. But you can remove at least some of that uncertainty by checking the plugin requirements and making sure your WordPress installation meets those requirements before you try the plugin on a live site.

 

And how do I do that?

You can start by simply finding the plugin on WordPress plugin repository. Once you find the plugin and click on it you will end up on a similar page as the one on the image below.

WP plugin repository plugin page example

On the right side of the description you can find the plugin details section (marked with red). What you need from here is “Requires WordPress Version” , “Tested up to” and “Requires PHP version” lines.

Those will tell you the range of WordPress versions your plugin will work on and the minimum required PHP version you need to have installed on your server. If you have a lower version of WP than the one stated in the “Requires WordPress Version” line there is a good chance your plugin can break your website or at least show some nasty errors to your visitors (which is equally embarrassing in my opinion…). Same goes for the PHP requirement – some of the functions that your plugin uses are not supported in the lower versions of PHP and will cause problems.

Unfortunately this approach only solves the problem partially (if at all).

 

What if I can’t find the plugin on WordPress plugin repository?

Some websites that sell plugins offer similar plugin details sections as the one on WP plugin repository. If you purchase a plugin on Code Canyon for example you should find compatibility information on the right side of the description as well.

But what if you don’t have access to some sort of plugin details section? Perhaps you got the plugin from a friend or you just can’t find any information on the plugin’s website?

You can (should) always check the readme.txt file.

But where to find it?

  • If you have access to the plugin’s .zip file simply open (or extract) the zip and open the plugin’s folder inside.
  • If you installed the plugin through your WP dashboard and you have FTP access to the server find your WordPress installation and navigate to your plugin’s folder (usually at /wp-content/plugins/). Find the plugin you installed and open its folder.
  • If you don’t have access to either the .zip file or FTP you can open your WP dashboard and navigate to Plugins -> Editor. In the top right corner find your plugin and click select. You can find more information about the plugin editor here.

Once you successfully navigated to your plugin’s folder look for a readme.txt or a README.txt file and open it. The first few lines (readme header) will have the information you are looking for:

 

=== Custom Products for WooCommerce ===
Contributors: grrega
Donate link: https://grrega.com/projects/custom-products-for-woocommerce
Tags: woocommerce, customize, component, e-commerce, ecommerce, sales, sell, store
Requires at least: 4.7.0
Tested up to: 4.9.6
Requires PHP: 5.4
Stable tag: 1.0.1
License: GPLv3
License URI: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html

WordPress has recently added the option to add a required PHP version to the readme file. Because of that some plugins may not have a “Requires PHP” line in their readme – it’s up to the plugin developer to add that information. In such cases you should assume your plugin requires the same PHP version as supported by the oldest WordPress version that your plugin supports (“Requires at least” line).

 

But what about WooCommerce compatibility?

WooCommerce can be a bit more tricky because their compatibility information is not necessarily in the readme.txt file. In fact, WooCommerce Plugin Developer Handbook encourages developers to add the compatibility information in the header of the main plugin file, instead of in the header of the readme.txt file.

But not all developers will respect this, which means you may have to check both files. A good example to this rule is WooCommerce Subscriptions extension, which has the compatibility information in the readme header.

You can find the main plugin PHP file in the same folder (root) as the readme.txt file. It usually has the same name as the plugin’s folder, but not necessarily. Therefore if you plugin’s folder is named example-plugin the main plugin file will most likely be named something like example-plugin.php. If you can’t find that file you will have to open each .php file until you find the one with a header similar to the example below.

Here’s an example header of the main plugin file, taken from WooCommerce Plugin Developer Handbook:

/**
* Plugin Name: WooCommerce Extension
* Plugin URI: http://woocommerce.com/products/woocommerce-extension/
* Description: Your extension's description text.
* Version: 1.0.0
* Author: WooCommerce
* Author URI: http://woocommerce.com/
* Developer: Your Name
* Developer URI: http://yourdomain.com/
* Text Domain: woocommerce-extension
* Domain Path: /languages
*
* Woo: 12345:342928dfsfhsf8429842374wdf4234sfd
* WC requires at least: 2.2
* WC tested up to: 2.3
*
* Copyright: © 2009-2015 WooCommerce.
* License: GNU General Public License v3.0
* License URI: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.html
*/

 

There is an easier way though…

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably gathered a nice collections of plugins on different websites over the years. Sure you get a notification when a plugin update is available so you can go ahead and update it as soon as you can.

But how do I know which plugins are outdated and may cause problems in the next WordPress update? Am I supposed to check every plugin’s readme file every time WP gets updates? Am I supposed to keep a log somewhere to keep track which plugins were updated and when?

That is doable (although not preferable) if you have one website and a few plugins, but it can get messy really fast when you start adding more plugins.

You could just use a plugin and stop complicating things.

At least that’s what I told myself when I decided to build WP Plugin Helper.

This way I always have all the information in front of me when I visit the plugins page in a compact table. The table is also color coded, so I notice problematic plugins at a glance. If a column is colored red I know I have to check that plugin out and disable it if necessary.

WordPress, WooCommerce and PHP compatibility table

WordPress, WooCommerce and PHP compatibility table

 

In addition to that I wanted to say goodbye to sticky notes and writing down comments in notebooks never to be found again. So I added a “Notes” column to the plugins table and now I can add a note to each plugin and also color code them so I instantly notice important notes the next time I open the plugins page.

The whole thing look something like this:

WP Plugin Helper example

WP Plugin Helper example

It sure makes my life easier and hopefully it will help you as well 🙂

 

You can get it here:

 

WP Plugin Helper WP Plugin Helper

With Plugin Helper you can add notes to help you keep track of all your plugins. A color coded compatibility table informs you about problematic plugins.

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