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On March 10, 2021, Justin Ferriman, CEO of LearnDash, sent out an email promoting a new plugin called PowerPack for LearnDash. In just 48 hours, the plugin is already being used on over 500 sites.
I’ve seen several questions already about what the plugin does, and if it’s a replacement for the Uncanny Toolkit for LearnDash. Spoiler Alert: It’s not. This article will explain what the PowerPack is, what it is not, who is behind it and how it differs from the Uncanny Toolkit.
Who Built the PowerPack for LearnDash
The plugin was built by Immerseus, a company founded by Jack Kitterhing. Jack is also the Product Manager for LearnDash. If you’re curious why a guy who works for LearnDash released a LearnDash plugin through his own company instead of releasing it under the LearnDash name… yeah, me too.
PowerPack for LearnDash Features
The PowerPack basically takes 50 code snippets that have been written & collected by LearnDash since June 2016 (here), and provides an easy-to-use interface to enable them… so you don’t have to worry about messing with the code.
This is without a doubt a beneficial service for a lot of people, as many who use LearnDash are not overly technical, and don’t understand PHP, code snippets, etc.
But these are mostly super-small changes & tweaks, where the Uncanny Toolkit provides larger features that transform how you use LearnDash, and how your visitors interact with major elements on your site.
Uncanny Toolkit vs. PowerPack
Honestly, there is almost no point in comparing the two. They are completely different plugins that have almost no overlap in features.
- If you’ve been using & enjoying the Uncanny Toolkit, continue to do so. PowerPack changes nothing with your Toolkit features.
- If some of the things on the PowerPack’s feature list sound useful, install the PowerPack and give it a try.
It’s almost that simple. There is, however, one similarity between the two plugins, and it’s the one that might be the main reason for the confusion. The PowerPack uses a very similar UI to that of the Uncanny Toolkit. I think it’s pretty hard to argue against the fact that they straight up copied the Uncanny Toolkit’s UI, which Uncanny has been using for at least the past 5 years, if not longer. See for yourself.
- The same type of category dropdown to filter features
- The same grid layout with 3 cards per row
- The same toggle switch to turn features on/off
- The same “Settings” button, designed almost the same way, in the same place
- The same format of a title + short description for each feature
- The same concept of using a modal for the additional settings
Is this illegal or does it break any rules? No.
Is it unethical? That’s for each person to decide on their own. If I built a similar plugin, would I have designed it this way? Absolutely not.
Does it cause confusion between PowerPack & the Uncanny Toolkit. Almost certainly, yes.
I guess you could say the names are similar, too. In the world of WordPress plugins, a “toolkit” and a “powerpack” are often thought to offer similar features… essentially extending an existing plugin’s feature set to make it even more powerful. But in this case, each plugin provides a very unique set of additional tools.
Using the LearnDash Name
This isn’t really related to the comparison between the Uncanny Toolkit & the PowerPack, but I think it’s worth mentioning.
Back in April 2020, LearnDash asked all third-party developers to refrain from using the LearnDash name at the beginning of their plugin names. So “LearnDash XYZ” would become “XYZ for LearnDash.” It’s a perfectly valid request to protect their trademark and help curb confusion between official LearnDash add-ons and those provided by third parties.
They stated that any plugin continuing to use LearnDash at the beginning of their plugin name would not be included on LearnDash’s new website, which launched in early November 2020.
PowerPack for LearnDash currently violates this request in 2 places, and previously in one other (it has since been changed).
- The sidebar menu in the WordPress admin area is titled “LearnDash PowerPack”
- The title at the top of the features page says “LearnDash PowerPack.”
May 2021: All instances of using the LearnDash name first have been corrected.
Versions 1.0 and 1.1.0 used “LearnDash PowerPack” as the first two words in the plugin description on the wordpress.org plugin page. This was changed to “PowerPack for LearnDash” in version 1.1.1. (source).
Yet the PowerPack is currently listed in the #9 spot on LearnDash’s add-ons page, 1 spot ahead of the Uncanny Toolkit. Also interesting to note:
- LearnDash calls it the “Toolkit for LearnDash” instead of the “Uncanny Toolkit for LearnDash”
- LearnDash says the Uncanny Toolkit “Adds up to 10 extra features for your LearnDash site.” It adds 16, and has for quite some time.
- LearnDash says the PowerPack adds 50 modules. This is 100% accurate, but placed right next to the Toolkit’s “up to 10” (which is not accurate), it paints the wrong picture. The Uncanny Toolkit provides far more in terms of its features.
So, PowerPack for LearnDash vs. the Uncanny Toolkit for LearnDash… there’s no comparison. 2 completely different plugins that offer unique features. Use one, use the other or use both—it all depends on the functionality your site requires.
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I just wanted to address a couple of points raised in the article.
Regarding the naming, we’re going to be updating that in the next release to move the powerpack menu within the LD menu and to rename it to the correct “PowerPack for LearnDash” in all places.
Regarding it being built by me and I work there, this is something that was checked before my company proceed with any LearnDash development. I have 4 full time devs that I hire to build plugins and solutions for a variety of things in the WordPress world along with a range of contractors.
All my LearnDash plugins are plugins that we would wouldn’t put in core and wouldn’t have the immediate man-power to build ourselves as our priority is enhancing LearnDash for the both existing and new users rather than be distracted with many additional add-ons.
Some of our development work both plugin based and custom does go back into LearnDash including in upcoming future releases which I can’t provide concrete details on at this time as it’s still in-progress.
Hope this clarifies everything and feel free to reach out for any comments etc. Thanks. 🙂
Hey Jack. Thanks for jumping in to provide more information and clarification.
I’m glad to hear you will be updating the name to “PowerPack for LearnDash” in all places 👍.
I have no doubt you got LearnDash’s permission before building the PowerPack. And I understand that LearnDash is focused on enhancing the core LearnDash product and not building big add-ons that add specific functionality. However, the PowerPack seems like a bunch of tiny enhancements and tweaks to LearnDash core, and not at all like any big add-on or additional functionality. If this were gamification, coupons, payment gateways, course reviews, enhanced quiz questions, etc., it makes perfect sense for a third-party to build those, and LearnDash to focus on LearnDash. But to me, the PowerPack does focus on LearnDash core, thus why I find it a little odd that LearnDash themselves wouldn’t have released it under the LearnDash umbrella.
But hey, if your company is willing to develop and support it for free, I admire that, and the entire community appreciates it. I have my opinions, but it’s not my place to tell you or LearnDash how to run your business. The PowerPack does a lot that would have previously required PHP coding, so it’s definitely a valuable plugin for a lot of LearnDash amateurs.