Plugin management advice

I searched but didn’t find anything specific to this. If I missed something, please do let me know.

I see discussion about managing hardware (cables, instruments, workflow, etc.) and sample/sound libraries, but I’m wondering how folks manage all of their VSTs, plugins, M4L, etc. Especially for me, Max related stuff gets a bit unwieldy in my DAW (Ableton). I tried making folders at one point related to use function, but there’s many that fall outside of any typical audio signal processing function or cross over into multiple uses. Working only off the alphabetical listing of plugin manufacturers can also be pretty awful depending on how many plugins you have.

So for myself and maybe anyone else wondering about this, I was hoping folks might share how they manage and setup their libraries of sound processing software to give those of us who don’t naturally come to organizational bliss some pointers. Thanks!


I think this is likely a less is more situation. Install less stuff, makes it easier to organize.


No organization necessary in Ableton - Ctrl+F and type what you want!


I don’t know about Ableton, but Bitwig lets you create custom categories and assign plugins to as many categories as you like, as well as searching all of them or within a category by name. (I know with Bitwig 5 this is changing, but the browser seems to be in flux right now during public beta, so I don’t know how it will turn out.)

I try not to keep too many plugins within a category – whether that means splitting my categories or cutting back on plugins. My biggest category is Delay since I haven’t decided on a scheme to further divide it, and I am kind of a delay junkie.

I wish VCV Rack had this kind of functionality. Unfortunately you can’t edit the tags, and some of them are not well chosen (Veils isn’t categorized as a VCA for instance!). There’s just a Favorites option. So I tend to keep the actual number of installed plugins somewhat small and Favorites even smaller.


I’ve also found I really only use a core set of plugins, so in my case it was a bunch of uninstalling that helped.


I have an excessive amount of plugins at this point, so there’s hardly any managment going on. However, it’s all installed to one folder, and in Ableton I have categories broken down in to VST purpose. Like one for Synths, one for Reverb/Delay/, Saturators, EQ etc and then a straight up “Favourites” that I always go to. I then I have M4L folder that’s also broken down with sub folders based on purposed I find that this is kind of sufficient for my needs.

Also, like @andrewhuang said, CTRL+F in Ableton, find whatever I need, even if my folders are a mess.

Honestly, VCV Rack is kind of a nightmare with this, due to the fact that I just have so much free stuff downloaded. I really don’t know what to do here and don’t really end up exploring new modules because the search is terrible.


I use collections in Live to organize my favorite plugins. VST, Max or whatever, but I only place stuff here that I actually use. As I sync the library between multiple machines this is a must have for my workflow. You can set it up and group collections however you want.


Just be careful what you download/buy/install, regularly delete/uninstall what you don’t use, and hopefully, if your DAW has it, keep things clearly organised in folders. In REAPER I have plugs listed in sub-folders by “Maker”, then I also have sub-folders by use case such as “Guitar”, “Metering” and “Mastering”.


While Logic allows me to rename and organise plugins into custom folders and sub-folders, I also second the “less is more” dogma to keep everything naturally organised:

– No 3d-party plugins replacing what DAWs already offer (most stock plugins out there are just excellent)
– A very carefully crafted (over the years) selection of external plugins
– No redundancy
– I eventually sell plugins I don’t get a lot of benefits from / that don’t get used that much
– I hide stock plugins that I’m not interested in

But organisation is, of course, very dependent on one’s brain.
I am fascinated by the highly variable assumptions of order and chaos in others minds.


This is true. And a great point.

Though especially for Max devices this does require me to remember names. Back when I was learning Max I downloaded a LOT of stuff off maxforlive…though I suppose it’s probably like the Marie Kondo method in a lot of ways.

I think this is a big chunk of my organizational problem - dividing up categories into usable divisions. I started out with some basics, like instrument, effects, sequencer, mixing, mastering, etc. Then sub divided those into things like synth, guitar, reverb, delay, compressor, etc. But then I thought, well, a sequencer can be an instrument and then there are effects that are a host of different effects…so I end up with some nicely ordered folders then some messy folders and a collection of outliers. I am certain I over analyze to a big degree.

As many have mentioned, this is probably the best solution. I did find when I was stumbling through organizing I began to see what I gravitated towards and then by extension, the redundancies I had.

It does occur to me that maybe I should just make house keeping an established part of my workflow; making the mental decision/acceptance that it’s just something I will continually wrangle with a couple times a year.

This is probably a completely separate thread, though I’d be really interested in it as well! It’s continually fascinating how one person can create in a trash heap (both physically and mentally) and another needs as close as possible to an empty space. And though generally the ends reflect the means, that’s not always the case. A friend of mine who makes these fairly reductive paintings has a mess of a studio (at least to my eyes) and one might think he’s very precise about his materials but in reality, all he cares about is the color. He’ll use stuff off of the Home Depot return/reject paint shelves if it looks good to him.


On Ableton I use tags this way. Doesn’t solve all the problems but helps a bit.

Schermata 2023-05-07 alle 18.56.56

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