Plex Channels and Plugins
Plex Channels are plugins to stream and watch media from online sources. Popular channels include PBS, TED Talks, South Park, and more. They can also operate as custom plugins to extend and add functionality to Plex. This can be anything from a new Agent to help match and sort media (such as this one to add a DVD release match order for TV shows) to entire custom utilities that add several different functions in their own interface (see the WebTools plugin covered below).
Official Channels are ones that Plex has reviewed and approved for distribution directly from Plex. These are maintained and should be compatible with the latest version of Plex when it is released. Finding and installing official channels is very easy. All you need to do is select Channels from the main interface under Online Content, then click Install Channels to browse the Channel Directory. From here you can browse several different methods, such as Featured, Most Popular, or Categories. If you find a channel you want to install, click on it, then click ‘Install’.
Unofficial channels are custom channels that Plex has not reviewed and does not officially support. In other words, these are community created and maintained channels that may contain offensive or questionable content and may not be compatible with all versions of Plex. They may have special setup instructions specific to the channel as well. There are a few ways of finding and installing these channels. The most common are:
- Plex Forums: Plex maintains a Plex Channels Forum for community members to post and share their channels as well as to discuss development of new channels.
- GitHub: As many channels are also open source coding projects, you can find the code and most up to date version of many channels directly from the GitHub page of the project/channel.
- Unsupported Appstore v2 (UASv2): An unofficial channel itself, the Unsupported Appstore is a custom directory channel that lets you browse and install unofficial channels directly from the Plex Web App. It also includes options to install unofficial channels directly by providing a GitHub link as well. UASv2 is now a part of a more feature filled Webtools. See the Installing a Channel or Plugin section below for instructions on installing this.
Installing an unofficial channel
Okay, so now that we’ve gone over the various methods of finding an unofficial channel, here are instructions for manually installing a custom channel. Depending on what you are running Plex on, there may be automated installers that will do this for you. This process is the manual way that is platform agnostic. I will use the aforementioned Webtools plugin for the example.
- Open the Channel/Plugin project page and check for any special instructions. While the majority of channels are pretty easy to manually install, there may be some specific settings or requirements you need to prepare first. Webtools has a post on the Plex forums that goes over installation and usage here. There are no special prerequisites for this channel so we don’t need to do any other preparation.
- Download the .bundle folder that contains the custom channel. Plex Channels/Plugins are automatically added to the server, but need to be contained in a folder that ends in .bundle and are located in the appropriate directory. For Webtools, you can download the WebTools.bundle folder in a compressed zip file from their GitHub page here.
- Unzip (if necessary) and move the .bundle folder to your Plex Plugins directory. Depending on what operating system your Plex server is running on, the location of your Plugins directory may vary. See here for most common locations. If you installed it on Ubuntu 16 as shown in the Getting Started with Plex-Part 1: Setup and Installation guide, this will be in /var/lib/plexmediaserver/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server/Plug-ins/
- After this, you should have the WebTools.bundle file located in your Plex Plugins directory and your Plex server will see it and add it automatically after a couple of minutes. If you don’t want to wait for it to notice the change, restart your Plex server (or just the plexmediaserver service) and it will see and add the unofficial channel/plugin when it restarts. If you open the Plex Web App and browse channels you will now see the WebTools plugin!
Channel/Plugin specific settings
Some channels and plugins have settings or options specific to them. This can be something as simple as inputting a username and password to setting a port for it to use, or several other options. To adjust these settings, all you need to do is browse view your installed channels, highlight over it, then click the settings button. From there a new menu will come up and you can fill in the options or change the defaults.
Uninstalling a Channel/Plugin
To uninstall a channel or plugin, simply browse your installed channels, highlight over it, then click the remove button. Confirm you want to remove it and it will be erased from the server. For unofficial channels, you could also remove the appropriate .bundle folder from your Plex plugins directory.
Sources / Resources
Once again, Plex has excellent documentation at their support site. Check their for more information.