Plugins... safety

Any potential for viruses, bloated file sizes, or other issues related to downloading and using plugins in general?

Very, very unlikely from reputable sources such as the Extension Warehouse or SketchUcation Plug-in Store.

For plugins that are purely written in the Ruby scripting language and interpreted by the SketchUp core, probably no technical risk. For plugins that include external binary images (e.g., compiled C/C++ libraries) then theoretically yes that code could do bad things on and/or to your computer. The author of the code might not even know about it, due to devious evil people who infect and then distribute corrupted development tools.

In practice, I have not heard of any examples of actual malware in a SketchUp plugin or extension in the past ~8 years when I have been paying attention. I don’t know what kind of security audit is performed by Trimble for the Extension Warehouse, or if SketchUcation postings are audited at all. But as @john_mcclenahan noted, those two sources have very good reputations.

Malware danger probably not,

There is one thing you should have in mind though: try not to install too many plugins at once. (especially ‘non reputable’ ones.) Otherwise you run the risk of finding out there are conflicts/ crashes and not knowing which of the last 15 plugins you installed is the culprit!

Also, for each thing you want to do, there are probably 2-3 plugins that can do it and you might find yourself trying all of them. When you decide which one fits you best, uninstall the rest instead of letting them be. Plugins make startup slower if you accumulate a lot of them.

Plugin Management will become a thing as you start using a lot of them.

(btw, does anybody know if there is a way to know WHEN you installed each plugin?)

For me that’s easy. Within the last week. I’m sure this will help you.

Thanks everyone. That gives me some confidence with using. With CAD I’ve always avoided using too many “extensions” because of just generic concerns… Too skeptical I guess. But also a part of it is over the years I’ve developed this mindset that too many tools makes life more difficult… too much more to think through. I even on some level apply this to my real world mechanics tool box.
Regardless, yes there are definitely some special tools (J tools… doubtful anyone will get this) that I’m seeing that could be beneficial just don’t want the box to become too cumbersome.
Thanks!

Plugins/Extensions are an essential part of Sketchup. There is a rather odd school of thought out there that believes that the only true way to use SU is without plugins, you see many people lording it over others with their, I did all this without using extensions. Yes, well, I could too but I would get it done much more efficiently by using extensions.
The core idea of sketchup is that it gives you the platform with many basic tools to which you can add as many other tools as you want. This allows the software to remain simple and easy too learn without being overwhelmed by millions of tools and options. Then as you get more advanced you add the tools that you need, not the tools that I need.
It is even possible to add ‘sets’ of tools, so you can swap out one set of extensions for another depending on the type of modelling you are doing. (this is an option available in the Sketchucation tool)

Ideally you should learn how to do everything manually, then use extensions to automate what you already know how to do manually. Realistically that aint going to happen. But it is important to fully understand the fundamentals before leaping into extensions. Many people end up unable to do simple things because that can’t find an extension to do it.
Personally I teach people to learn from the ground up, only looking for extensions for things they really can’t do, or for things they know how to do but don’t really need to do it over and over again. Understanding what you want to do makes it easier to find the most appropriate extension rather than just filling up with lots of the same, similar or just plain wrong ones.
Once you have a good grounding and are really working comfortably, then branch out and try some of the more exotic ones or learn to write your own.

Well, I’m in that odd group minus stating it is the only true way. I do think there are many people that simply load plug-ins because they think they need it when they don’t.

I use a couple plug-ins, but I mainly use native tools. I do think it is important to understand native tools to help you better choose what you actually need.

Relying on plug-ins is a mistake unless you know the developer will always be there to support and update, which is why it is so important to understand the native tool selection first.

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Don’t get me wrongs, I also don’t use many plugins, but the ones I do I know pretty well how and when to use. I have no plugins installed that I don’t use or don’t remember what they do.

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No doubt, I was definitely not referring to you specifically.

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Everyone-
Sounds reasonable on your approaches to using extensions. I’m basically on board with your stances and coming from autocad background it has also been my approach.
Before they came preloaded I used some “express tools” that were beneficial and even toyed with writing lisp routines to create my own extensions. Ultimately I pretty much dropped all extensions that weren’t preloaded for a lot of the reasons you mention.
That being said, certainly some extensions are useful (thinking in cad terms) but I also recognize as I’ve alluded to earlier that you can have too many tools and it actually makes things more cumbersome and ultimately slower. But that’s my opinion.