Customizing a WordPress plugin can become a necessity, especially when you are concerned with your website’s security vulnerability and maintenance aspects. For sure, to customize a plugin for your website, you need to pose the technical knowledge and level of understanding on how plugins work. I am sorry there is no plugin to customize a plugin. So, the best way of customizing a WordPress plugin stands with the hooks and overriding the plugin callbacks. Let us explain them here:
Method 1# The first method of customizing WordPress plugin involves adding custom hooks to your plugin. For this you need to replace the developers original callback hooks. You can hack it down completely and add your own hooks as a replacement to it. In some plugins this method will work while for others this may not work. For safety, you can save all the functionalities of a plugin separately and hack down the original callback hook and then replace with yours. If the plugin is allowed to have custom hook addition then it should work. If it does not work, then contact with the developer of the plugin to have your hook enabled in their next release. You can get your desired functionality from the next plugin upgrade or the developer can send you required patches to make your modifications. Having the patches secure your customization in all sense.
Method 2# In addition to the hook described in above, WordPress plugins use callbacks to restrict changes and customization of plugins unless it is an open source based one. The easiest way of modifying and customizing the WordPress plugins is to override those callbacks. Callbacks connect the plugin with its original developer’s development. Simply remove all the callbacks and put up yours inside and test the functionality. If callbacks removal does not satisfy your required implementations, then consider hacking the plugin all the way down and then making your removals. Things should work this time.
Method 3# The third method involves making no change with the plugin but simply utilizing your own custom hook with the plugin. Many publisher provides hook customization, if you get them with your plugin you can make the necessary changes quickly. Extending your plugin will let you incorporate your hooks in the plugin. Chances are high that you will rarely get to add your custom hooks and in most of the cases you will have to hack the plugin completely and then use your custom hooks.
Method 4# The most friendly way of doing some modification and changes with an existing WordPress plugin is to directly request the original developer to do the job for you.
Method 5# If the method 4 in above does not satisfy or fulfill your needs then consider extending the plugin without any modification in it and only adding your required functionality. It works but occasionally depending upon the original developer’s choice.
Apart from the above mentioned methods, there are other things you can utilize to edit or customize a WordPress plugin without affecting its integrity. They are Fork, Extension and Pluggable functions. Before going to them, I would like to describe the hooks that we referred so frequently in above methods.
Hooks are the easiest way of controlling a plugin functionality. There are two types, action hooks and filter hook. In the plugin script wherever you find do_action, it is action hook. Similarly wherever you get the apply_filter, it is the filter hook.
Now Fork, it is also known as the Patch and works mostly in open source repositories. You make modifications to the plugins and submit it to the plugin thread and the original developer reviews it and can include the modification in his next update. However, fork or patch type modifications follow a norm of edit; you do not make extensive changes to it but only the required one.
Extensions work when developers use specific codes for specific tasks. And the customizable plugin comes with overriding facility enabled. So, for your specific task you make the changes and the architecture of the plugin will get overridden without hampering its performance.
Lastly the pluggable functions refer to the conditional arrangements where it says If (function_exist()). You need to make your changes without changing the name of the function. It should be working fine.
If a plugin does not fulfill your requirement or expectation, it does not mean it is bad. Plugin and WordPress both are the result of open source network movement. You are allowed to make changes and you have lots of method to do the customization alongside the tools we described here. Should you feel you need to customize the plugin, contact the developer, or propose your modifications; you will get it in next release. Happy wordpressing!