PlugInfo: User Manual

While intentionally simple in appearance, PlugInfo offers a number of helpful advanced features. Everything from the basics to details not as obvious at a glance is covered below.

Basic Functionality

(The basics may seem obvious, but you might be surprised at some of the details below! If you're sure you want to move on, more advanced topics are covered under Filtering, Exporting Data, and Managing Plug-Ins with Finder. There are also Frequently Asked Questions, and if all else fails visit the support section on the main PlugInfo page.

When PlugInfo starts, it immediately scans your plug-in collection and displays a table of information, one plug-in per line, that reveals details about the software you have available.

About the Table Columns

The majority of PlugInfo's window is taken up by a table with the following columns, each of which may be hidden or revealed again using the View menu.

  • Name: The name of the plug-in on disk, initially chosen by its publisher but may be renamed using the Finder.
  • Publisher: The name of the plug-in's publisher, which is inferred by PlugInfo from a collection of over 400 known publishers. Double-click on a publisher's name to visit their web site. (See the FAQ at the end of this manual regarding publishers that show up as something like "com.publishername.pluginname". These are not currently known to PlugInfo but can be added to the database with your help.)
  • Version: Version number for your installed plug-in as provided by the publisher, normalized to display in #.#.# format whenever possible.
  • Type: One of AAX, VST, Audio Unit, or CLAP.
  • Architectures: A list of all CPU architectures directly supported by the publisher in this revision of the plug-in. Types are abbreviated as "Apple" for Apple Silicon including M1 and M2, and "Intel 64" for modern 64-bit Intel support which Apple Silicon hardware can typically run using Rosetta. Legacy CPU architectures include "Intel 32" for 32-bit Intel code, plus "PowerPC 32" and "PowerPC 64" for Mac hardware produced up until around 2005.
  • Dated: Inferred from the installed plug-in, this is typically the date the installed version of the plug-in was released for sale by its publisher. Depending on the plug-in distribution method, it can sometimes reflect the date the plug-in was installed.
  • Size: The amount of disk space occupied by the plug-in. Takes many factors into account, such as whether the disk its installed on uses automatic compression.
  • Path: The full path on disk where the plug-in is located. This column is hidden by default.
Sorting

The table is always presented in sorted order. The sort order may be changed by clicking on a column header, which will initially sort in ascending order by the data in that column as indicated by a small upward pointing indicator at the right of the column header. Clicking a column header that is already sorted in ascending order will reverse the order, as reflected by a downward pointing indicator.

While not immediately evident, the table is actually sorted by multiple columns. If you click the Publisher column header and then the Type column header, the result is a table that is sorted primarily by type, but among plug-ins with the same same it will remain sorted by publisher. This can be handy for a number of tasks.

Sorting by size in large plug-in collections may take a moment initially, as plug-in sizes can take time to determine and are computed only as needed.

Type-to-Select

You can quickly navigate the table by typing a few initial characters to advance the selection to the next match in the column currently used as the primary sort order. For example, when sorted by name, typing Kon will select the Kontakt plug-in if you own it (or some other plug-in with the same initial three letters.)

Since multiple letters typed in sequence are considered a single prefix, you must wait a second or more before typing a new initial sequence of letters for the system to infer that you're starting an unrelated selection. This behavior is consistent across many macOS applications.

Reordering and Resizing Columns

Columns may be placed in any desired order by clicking and dragging in their headers. They may be resized by clicking and dragging on the divider between columns.

PlugInfo starts with a compact window layout that may not be wide enough for every possible piece of information, so it will remember your preferences as you rearrange or resize columns. Each new session will start with the last layout used in terms of window size and location, column order and width, column visibility, and sort order.

Context Menu and Other Alternatives

Holding the control key while clicking on a plug-in, or right-clicking when enabled in macOS, will display a context menu with quick access to several common menu actions. When invoked on a selected row the action will apply to all selected rows. When invoked on a previously unselected row it will act only on that one plug-in while leaving the prior selection undisturbed.

In addition to double-clicking on a publisher name, a publisher's web site can be visited using the File > Open Publisher Web Site menu item, or by typing the shortcut ⇧⌘O.

Filtering: Basics and Beyond

PlugInfo can quickly focus in on a subset of your complete plug-in collection by typing into a textual filter field that can be displayed at the top of the window, just about the plug-in table. When hidden, it can be revealed with the Edit > Show Filter menu option, which will appear as Edit > Hide Filter once the field is visible. Typing ⌘F is a quick shortcut to toggle the filter on and off. PlugInfo will remember whether you the field was visible from one run to the next.

So long as the filter field is hidden or nothing has been typed into it, all plug-ins are displayed. Typing text quickly narrows the list to just those that match (see below for a more detailed discussion of what is considered a "match" by PlugInfo.) Clicking the magnifying glass icon reveals a list of recently used filters, and a pair of suggestions: one for finding plug-ins that require Rosetta on Apple Silicon systems, and the other for finding obsolete plug-ins that can't be used on a modern system.

When the filter is visible you can switch keyboard input between the filter and the table by pressing the tab key.

Advanced Filtering

PlugInfo versions up to and including 1.8.1 had an extremely simple filtering strategy: the complete phrase you entered had to be found within one of the name, publisher, type, or architecture columns for a plug-in. Differences in case and accents were allowed, but that was the extent of its flexibility.

Starting with version 1.9.0 things work a little differently to enable more advanced searches. Don't worry if this sounds more complicated than you need, as you can generally just type text you're looking for and ignore the subtleties and additional features.

For the adventurous and those who always wanted more flexibility, here's what has changed:

  • All words entered must still be present, but each word is now matched independently. Typing Audio Unit does still match any audio unit, but it now also matches something like Unitary Audio Inc. Each word has to occur somewhere in the relevant fields of the plug-in for there to be a match but, since they're matched independently, each one can be in any of the searched columns (name, publisher, architecture, plug-in type.) This means you can now search for Universal Audio Apple and PlugInfo will find plug-ins by Universal Audio that support Apple Silicon, which wasn't possible previously.
  • To match only an exact multi-word phrase as before, just put it in quotes. Typing "Audio Unit" would no longer match Unitary Audio Inc. and "Universal Audio Apple" probably won't match anything - unless you have a plug-in with that unlikely name.
  • An initial exclamation mark means "must not include." You can prefix any search word or quoted string with an exclamation mark and it inverts the usual requirement so that it must not be present. Filter with !AAX and you'll see only plug-ins that aren't of type AAX (it would also exclude plugins whose name or publisher happens to include the string AAX, but hopefully those are few and far between!) The initial exclamation goes outside the quotes for a quoted phrase, so !"Spitfire Audio" matches all plug-ins where this full phrase does not appear.

Some examples to help illustrate how combining these options can be useful:

  • vst !"vst 3" shows plug-ins that match VST - unless they also match VST 3.
  • "Audio Unit" !Apple filters to Audio Units that don't support Apple silicon, though keep in mind that it'll also exclude plug-ins published by Apple or that happen to have Apple in their name. It's still a decent first approximation.

If qualifying statements like "it'll also exclude plug-ins published by Apple" sound annoying, and you were hoping for even more flexibility? There's great news...

Even More Advanced Filtering

If matching any of the four columns filtering normally uses is too ambiguous, you can actually constrain a search term to apply to a specific column. Just prefix it with one of four qualifiers:

  • name: will specify that the word or phrase should be searched for only in the name column.
  • pub: does the same thing, but for the publisher column.
  • type: ditto for the type column.
  • arch: likewise, for the architecture list.

These qualifiers come immediately after the exclamation mark, if any, and just before the initial quote, if any. There must not be a space before or after the colon that separates the qualifier from your search word or quoted phrase. So our examples above can be made more robust as follows:

  • type:vst !type:"vst 3" shows only VSTs that aren't actually VST 3, and will get this right even in the unlikely event that you have something like an Audio Unit whose name contains the letters vst in order.
  • type:"Audio Unit" !arch:Apple filters to Audio Units that don't support Apple silicon. No qualifications required, because the filter is very specific about what it's looking for.

Exporting Data from PlugInfo

Data is exported from PlugInfo using the clipboard, which makes it easy to get relevant information into any other app. Select one or more plug-ins and use one of two options:

  • Copy paths. Selecting Edit > Copy Path (renamed to Copy Paths when multiple plug-ins are selected) will copy the full location of the plug-in to the clipboard, separating multiple paths across different lines. To do so quickly, use the usual Copy shortcut ⌘C.
  • Copy Full Details. Selecting Edit > Copy Full Details will copy all available information for the selected plug-ins to the clipboard. Each field in for a single plug-in is separated by a tab, and multiple plug-ins are separated across different lines. To do so quickly, use the shortcut ⇧⌘C. These tab separated values, sometimes referred to as TSV format, are readily recognized by many applications. Try pasting the result of a full details copy into a spreadsheet like Numbers or Excel and you can quickly fill out a table with natural rows and columns with this data.

Managing Plug-Ins with Finder

Finding where your plug-ins are stored on disk is easy with PlugInfo. Just select one or more table rows, and use the menu item File > Select in Finder, or type its shortcut ⇧⌘F. A new Finder window will be opened for each relevant location (more than one window will always be required when multiple types of plug-ins are selected, so consider working on one type at a time.) Once Finder is open with the plug-ins selected, you can perform a wide range of actions.

Proceed with caution! Deleting plug-in types that you don't need is a common goal as it can free up disk space and improve startup performance for plug-in hosts, but watch out for wrappers. A few publishers choose to have only one real copy of their plug-in while other types are just wrappers that depend on what the one true plug-in. The Size column can be a useful clue when this is the case.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why doesn't PlugInfo provide a more direct way to delete plug-ins? Apple restricts applications from making arbitrary changes to your system, which should be reassuring as it protects your plug-in collection. While it would be possible to grant PlugInfo the necessary permissions, it turns out to be much more complicated than just using "Select in Finder" and deleting them there. Finder will prompt for administrator privileges as needed, which PlugInfo cannot do, and it allows a wide range of other meaningful actions in addition to deletion.
  • Why do some of my plug-ins have a strange looking publisher? PlugInfo attempts to recognize publishers based on information it can gather rapidly, which enables it to present a consistent publisher name and links to publisher web sites. It relies on a database of over 400 publishers to do this task, but new publishers emerge regularly. If you encounted a publisher that can't be automatically recognized, you can always help expand the database. See the support section on the main PlugInfo page for details.
  • Why is PlugInfo accessing the Internet? Since the plug-in publisher database is constantly expanding, PlugInfo will attempt to get an updated list if it has been more than a week since it last checked. No information about you or your plug-ins is sent, this is just PlugInfo requesting a simple document list all known publishers.
  • How do I restore PlugInfo to its default appearance? Hold the shift key immediately after launching PlugInfo, and all default window layout settings will be restored. This includes window position and size, column visibility, order, and size, sort order, and filter field visibility.