The VLC player allows you to install extensions, plugins and skins without the need of the Debian, Ubuntu, Arch or Fedora package managers. You simply install .lua files by copying them into a directory. These .lua files work as extensions on most versions of the VLC media player and some users actually trade ones that they’ve made, similar to themes for most other pieces of software. Some plugins are simply artistic skins, while others provide additional functionality like music matching, lyrics finding and subtitling for videos. Subtitles often come as separate files that accompany videos themselves.
While it can be tempting to install many of these plugins, you may wish to go through and remove some of them when you’re done with testing them out. Only leaving ones installed that you actually use will ensure that the VLC media player window always starts up very quickly. That being said, a minimal interface theme or a small skin may actually help you start your player faster. Keep this tip in mind while you install VLC extensions on your Linux system.
Installing .lua Extensions on VLC
Make sure that the extensions you’ve downloaded end with .lua, because otherwise VLC might not be able to read them properly. Once you’re sure that they’re correctly formatted and are safe to use, you’ll need to decide whether you want to install the extensions for all users or just for yourself. You’ll have to extract the .lua files if they’re in an archive. You can use a graphical tool to perform this or gunzip if they’re in .gz format. If you receive a tar file after using gunzip on the archive, then you can simply extract this a second time to find the extensions in question.
Move the .lua files, using either a graphical tool or the mv command, to the ~/.local/share/vlc/lua/extensions/ if you only want to use them for yourself. This is the preferred way of doing it on a single-user system, because there’s no chance you’re going to be running VLC through gksu or anything of the sort.
Extensions for all users go in /usr/lib/vlc/lua/extensions/, but you’ll probably need root access to get there. You may wish to hold down the Windows or Super key and push R then enter gksu nautilus or gksu thunar to get a root-accessible file manager. Dragging them over from a window you have user access to might create extensions with regular user permissions, which you probably don’t want on a /usr/lib/ scale, so you can instead use a simple command to fix it. Issue sudo chown -R root /usr/lib/vlc/lua/; sudo sudo chown -R root: /usr/lib/vlc/lua/ from a CLI prompt once you’re done to make sure they have root permissions. You won’t need to do this if you’re only using them in your home directory at ~/.local/share/vlc/lua/extensions/, however, since you want these to have normal user permissions anyway.
Once they’re installed, start up VLC and click on the View menu. You should be able to find VLsub, Lyrics Finder, Add Similar, Subtitles, Media Context, musiXmatch, Show Me the Meaning and any other extension you’ve installed right there in that menu. When you install custom skins, you’ll need to go to the Tools menu and then select preferences. Click on the Use Custom Skin option and then select the skin file you’re using.
Technically, you could put these in other directories, since this window gives you the option to browse, but doing so just creates clutter so you’ll probably not want to. You may wish occasionally to try one that’s in your ~/Downloads directory before installing it permanently just to see what it looks like. This widget is perfect for that. Select the custom skin you want to use from here, and then click on okay.
Try the skin out by playing a video and watch if the resolution is low or the video quality is poor. You might not want to use a skin that causes either of these, but try dragging and resizing the window before giving up. Alternatively, you could push the F11 key or double click on the center of the video to go into full-screen mode and see how it plays.
Some skins don’t have visible controls or they’re vanishing. A few skins alternatively mimic the video player style of other programs, like GNOME Player.
Once you’re satisfied, you can remove the skins you don’t plan to use from the same directories that you’ve installed them. While some of these skins can make the program more bloated, some might actually instead make VLC player move even faster. A good rule of thumb is that the lighter and more minimalist any given skin is, the faster it will run.
Very few of the VLSub extensions are actively working, and few are actively developed, but VLSub and a few others are worth adding. If you’ve upgraded to VLC 2.2 or higher, then you have the capability to search for and install extensions under the Tools menu. Select plugins and then head to extensions under it. Once you select a plugin that you like, you can click on the Install button and the program will do the work for you. This is just like the same system that installs these plugins inside of Mozilla Firefox. Pay special attention to the version numbers when you install a plugin, however, since some of these versions aren’t actually the latest and you’ll need to look through the program’s on-board repository to find a later one. Then again, the older versions might actually work a bit better with your installation depending.
Sometimes you’ll need to replace existing extensions under the /usr/lib/vlc/lua/extensions/, and the program can’t do so automatically. Find out the .lua file’s name, and then issue the command sudo rm /usr/lib/vlc/lua/extensions/filename.lua, replacing the file with the actual name in question. Since you’ll be operating as root in order to do so, you’ll want to double-check and make sure that the command name you wrote is indeed correct.