ChatGPT plugins became available a few weeks ago and I have been testing them to see what they can do. They offer interesting new features from all walks of life, so let’s take a look at these new gadgets.
What are ChatGPT plugins and how you can get them?
You can imagine these as apps on your phone: little extra programs that give ChatGPT extra skills.
How to enter the beta features?
You need to have GPT-4 access, which comes with the paid accounts. If you have GPT-4, click on your name on the bottom left, go to settings, click on beta features and allow them with the slider.
How to add the plugins?
Adding plugins also works similarly to adding new apps to your phone: there is a “plugin store”, and you can pick whatever you fancy. When you start a new chat, hover over the GPT-4 section and you will see 3 options:
1. Default chat, 2. Browse with Bing and 3. Plugins. Click on the plugins option if you want to use (or search for) them.
How to use them?
From that point when starting a new chat you can always choose any of the beta features, and once you are in the plugins-mode, the downward arrow will show you where the plugin store is.
One limitation though: you can only have 3 active plugins – meaning plugins available in the specific chat thread – at any time, so you often need to unclick one to use another one.
Here I will list several plugins that show useful directions for scientific or medical work. But apart from these “boring” ones, there is a plugin for literally everything, from games to diets, from Aussie surf reports to fetching the latest prices of Pokémon Cards in Japan. Feel free to look for whatever you fancy!
It is important to note that they are not necessarily very useful now. For a number of reasons, most of these plugins fall short as of yet. But they let us peek into a future when we all will have the most capable personal AI assistant at hand.
What are the problems for now?
They either don’t work reliably enough; pose such privacy threats that I’m not willing to take – or, often, the combination of these two. Be mindful of the privacy risks, and don’t just click through everything without paying attention!
I’ve set up a test Gmail address and Google profile for this article, as letting OpenAI – with due respect and my heartfelt gratitude for their amazing work – and these app developers access my main profile would have felt way too much.
So, what can you do with plugins?
Here are a few interesting ones:
Zapier – Interact with Gmail, Sheets, Docs, HubSpot, Salesforce
It promises to “Interact with over 5,000+ apps like Google Sheets, Gmail, HubSpot, Salesforce, and thousands more”. In theory, you only need to ask it to draft and send an email using your Gmail account directly from ChatGPT and voilá, no need to switch between browser windows. Again, in theory, you can connect it to your other Google gadgets, like your documents or google sheets library.
In practice, I straightforwardly failed when setting up automations (Zaps – as they call it) over the most simple ones. You can see my last attempt here.
My verdict is that at this point – at least for users like me – this is rather a game and not a useful tool.
- First, I could not justify the privacy price
- Second, it doesn’t really simplify the workflow until I can use ChatGPT to trigger actions, but I wasn’t able to do that. Which means that I have to switch between windows anyways.
- In theory, I could set up automations like sending an email to Berci to review my new articles whenever I place them in a specific Google Drive folder, but the Zap was unable to access the folder
- And so on, I’m sure you see my point, it is a very exciting idea, but needs to mature in many ways until it can become your omnipotent personal assistant for mere mortals without coding backgrounds.
Access Link / Link Reader
These are supposed to do similar things.
You can just ask Link Reader a question and it will start browsing the web trying to find the answer for you, while you need to provide a specific link for Access Link and can ask questions about its content.
They both kind of work, but not very reliably, they randomly can’t access some pages at one time and can access it a day later. In theory, these plugins can be good if you want a quick summary of a very long text (one that would surpass the upper limits of a ChatGPT prompt for example), but I wouldn’t totally trust them.
To be honest, as we already have the new beta features, for such tasks the other “Browse with Bing” option seems to be working more reliably but tends to be quite slow. In this regard, I have the best experiences with perplexity, which is typically very fast and it delivers correct answers quite often. Both the Bing option and perplexity.ai let you see the source(s) of their answers, which is great.
“Unleash scientific research: search 40M+ peer-reviewed papers, explore scientific PDFs, and save to reference.”
I have mixed feelings about this plugin, notably, I rather doubt if the studies it delivers are the most relevant or the most reliable ones. Also not sure if it has access to all (or at least most) scientific journals.
For example, when I was searching for papers with “ChatGPT” and “Healthcare” as keywords, it listed a good amount of papers, and they seem to be overlapping with the results of my other search methods. However, when I specifically asked it to list the top 5 most cited papers, the number of citations was not what I found online, and the difference was random, sometimes a lot more, sometimes a lot less.
“Unlock the power of your PDFs!, dive into your documents, find answers, and bring information to your fingertips.” I tested this plugin on our latest policy report, and it does a good job of summarising the general content. When I asked it to list the key takeaways in the form of bullet points, it did an okay-ish job.
The highest level outline was correct – what is it about, who is the target audience, etc – but then it cited some random examples from the report, which were by no means the most significant and it failed to inform me about the topics of the main chapters, which could be useful for someone asking for a summary about a new text.
Show Me Diagrams
“Create and edit diagrams directly in chat.”
I asked the plugin to show me a diagram of how to use the Show Me Diagrams plugin.
Here is the result:
While it is certainly not fancy or particularly good-looking, it shows the process correctly. This is one of the most solid of all the plugins I tried, but you will never win beauty contests with the results – and they are rather hard to personalise/tweak/improve.
“Access computation, math, curated knowledge & real-time data through Wolfram|Alpha and Wolfram Language.”
You can use the Wolfram plugin for a very wide range of tasks, including mathematics, coding, life sciences, economics, etc. While ChatGPT in general is often scolded for being not great in math, with the Wolfram plugin it gets a lot more reliable.
I asked it to calculate the monthly payments for a 5-year loan with a 5% interest rate and it came up with a pretty detailed answer, including a table about yearly ending balances, the principal paid by the end of each year and so on.
You can also ask it to show a pie chart of the distribution of elements in the human body, and together with Show Me Diagrams and several rounds of tweaking they came up with this:
By the time I reached this result, I would have made this pie chart 30 times in Excel or Google Sheets and the result would look better and would show the actual figures, but still, it points towards interesting new directions.
“Type ‘perfect’ to craft the perfect prompt, every time”
It is a plugin designed to improve your prompts. To be honest, I didn’t really experience a material difference in the quality of answers when in use and when not in use.
If I just activate it (and don’t use the “perfect” prompt), ChatGPT still decides to use the plugin every now and then to make sense of my prompt – which is interesting to see, I still try to figure out what is confusing about those specific prompts – they are typically rather innocent looking.
“Summarize YouTube video highlights. Generate summaries from YouTube video URLs.”
Very similar to the next one, works only on videos that do have transcripts, which might be trivial with the English language ones, but quite rare with such exotic languages as ours. The summaries are more detailed than what Shownotes offers.
“Turns long podcasts into quick summaries, finds specific info, highlights key points, and suggests new episodes”
It was among the most popular plugins, but it also works only on podcasts/videos that have transcripts, which is not such a huge thing, as I could already use ChatGPT in many ways to summarise that transcript for me. On top of that, I hardly see the point of summarising these podcasts in 5-10-whatever bullet points, that is just the opposite of what podcasts are about.
I also asked it to recommend me new podcasts based on my interests, but the recommendations were not on point.
I found one major difference between the latter two apps. I provided a link to a recording of a Terraforming Mars game and asked both apps who won. While Video Summary delivered the correct answer (the streamer won) and correctly informed me which game it was a recording of, and even reported some of the major turning points, Shownoted delivered this verdict:
“The video is a recording of a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. The Los Angeles Lakers won the game.”
A glimpse into the future
Despite their current limitations, these plugins represent a glimpse into the future of AI, and they are fun and interesting to play with. Just keep in mind that they are not perfect, so use their outputs with a good pinch of salt.
Most are still in their early stages and have room for improvement. It’s important to remember that privacy is a significant concern when using these plugins, and you should be mindful of the information you share and give access to.
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