ChatGPT: The Best and Worst of Third-Party Plugins

In the world of ChatGPT, there’s always something new. When we last touched on ChatGPT, GPT-4 had just been unveiled, and we approached it with an even mix of enthusiasm and trepidation. Fast-forward a few months, and this tool has pulled another rabbit out of its hat, introducing a ‘marketplace’ of plugins designed to supercharge your ChatGPT experience.

Every day, a plethora of AI tools are launched into the digital cosmos, and we miss about 95% of these. Why? Well, ChatGPT continues to hog the limelight like a seasoned superstar. With its widespread recognition, it has become somewhat of a household name. Consequently, we tend to assume that any new iterations of this product, including its plugins, can be trusted and relied upon, much like we trust Google to generate search results.

I had anticipated that the plugins within the tool would be a carefully curated and diverse set of add-ons, designed to complement its capabilities and enhance its effectiveness. As of today, there are 693 plugins available in the store. From big names like Expedia to a diverse array of offerings, including PDF readers and tarot readers, there seems to be something for everyone. It’s like a bustling digital bazaar.

What are Plugins?

Plugins are software add-ons that extend the functionalities of a program without interfering with the program’s code. According to OpenAI, ChatGPT plugins, also known as OpenAI plugins, “are tools designed specifically for language models with safety as a core principle, and help ChatGPT access up-to-date information, run computations, or use third-party services.” In simpler terms, they’re supposed to make a good thing even better.

Plugin vs. Extension

The terms ‘ChatGPT extensions’ and ‘plugins’ are often used interchangeably. However, they can have different meanings depending on the context and specific software or systems. While both add functionality to ChatGPT and other programs, their differences lie in scope and purpose.

In terms of scope, ChatGPT plugins are designed to add specific features or knowledge to ChatGPT, often related to a specific domain or task, such as eCommerce, automation, or productivity. It’s like adding a new skill to your repertoire. ChatGPT Chrome extensions, on the other hand, have a wider scope and can improve performance, provide customisation options, and enhance other applications, such as browsers. It’s like getting a new toolset that can be used for various tasks.

ChatGPT plugins are built and installed on the ChatGPT interface, making them less portable. It’s like having a desktop computer – great to have, but not something you can carry around. On the other hand, ChatGPT Google extensions are typically installed on different browsers and can be used across different websites or applications. It’s like having a laptop that you can carry anywhere.

Now, let’s jump into the hits and misses within this marketplace, hopefully saving you some time and effort. Please note that I didn’t test out every plugin available. I chose the ones that could most realistically be used in a financial planning back-office. Also, there is a hard limit on how many plugins can be active at once. You can switch them around, but the maximum is three active plugins at any one time.

The Best

Wolfram: The Mathematical Maestro 

Wolfram Research, a private company that specialises in mathematical and scientific software, is a heavyweight in the world of computational technology. Founded by British scientist Stephen Wolfram in 1987, the company has been at the forefront of creating innovative products and technologies that have revolutionised the way we approach complex computations. 

The Wolfram Universe 

Wolfram’s suite of products is like a well-orchestrated symphony, each product playing its part to create a harmonious whole. Here’s a brief overview of the key players: 

Mathematica: This is the virtuoso of the group, a modern technical computing system that spans a multitude of areas including neural networks, machine learning, image processing, geometry, data science, and more. It’s the go-to tool for many scientific, engineering, mathematical, and computing fields, and it’s not hard to see why. With its powerful capabilities, Mathematica can tackle complex problems with ease, making it a valuable asset in any computational toolkit. 

Wolfram Alpha: Imagine having a conversation with a genius who has an answer to every factual question you can think of. That’s Wolfram Alpha for you. This online service answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from structured data, rather than providing a list of documents or web pages that might contain the answer as a search engine might. It’s known as a computational knowledge engine and it’s like having a personal fact-checker at your fingertips. 

Wolfram Language: This is the language that Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha speak. It’s a programming language that emphasises symbolic computation, functional programming, and rule-based programming and can manipulate a wide variety of objects directly including formulae, algebraic equations, and visualisations. It’s like the Rosetta Stone for computational programming, allowing you to translate complex ideas into actionable code. 

Wolfram Cloud: This is the stage on which all of Wolfram’s tools perform. It’s a cloud service that allows you to run Wolfram Language computations and deploy Wolfram Language-powered APIs, web pages, etc., in the cloud. It’s like having a supercomputer in your pocket, ready to crunch numbers at a moment’s notice. 

Wolfram|One: This is the world’s first fully cloud-desktop hybrid, integrated computation platform. It’s the ideal entry point to using the full capabilities of the Wolfram technology stack. 

The Wolfram Plugin: A Symphony of Computation 

The Wolfram plugin for ChatGPT is like a backstage pass, giving you direct access to the power of Wolfram’s suite of tools. It provides two main functionalities: 

**getWolframAlphaResults:** This function allows ChatGPT to send natural language queries to WolframAlpha, which can provide answers to a wide range of questions in various domains such as mathematics, science, geography, history, and more. It can perform calculations, unit conversions, solve equations, and provide data about various entities. It’s like having a direct line to a super-smart friend who always has the answers. 

**getWolframCloudResults:** This function allows ChatGPT to evaluate Wolfram Language code on the Wolfram Cloud. This can be used for more complex computations, data analysis, plotting, and information retrieval that may not be possible with a simple natural language query to WolframAlpha. It’s like having a personal assistant who can perform complex calculations on demand. 

The plugin follows a set of guidelines to ensure the correct and efficient use of these services. For example, it uses simplified keyword queries whenever possible, uses only single-letter variable names, and uses named physical constants without numerical substitution. It also provides guidance on how to handle cases where the initial result from WolframAlpha is not relevant to the query. 

In the world of financial planning, the Wolfram plugin can be a game-changer. Whether you’re calculating complex financial projections, analysing market trends, or simply trying to make sense of a mountain of data, Wolfram’s computational prowess can help you find the answers you need. It’s like having a team of mathematicians and scientists at your disposal, ready to help you tackle the toughest problems. And the best part? They’re just a chat message away. 

ChatwithPDF: Your Personal Document Analyst for Financial Planning 

Imagine wielding the power of GPT-4’s impressive summarisation capabilities, but this time, in the realm of PDFs. That’s precisely what the ChatwithPDF plugin brings to the table. Once installed, it’s akin to having a deep-dive conversation with a financial planning expert who’s well-versed in the content of your PDF document. 

Want to understand the risk assessment models discussed in a financial report? Need to extract specific information about a particular investment strategy? Looking to distill an entire PDS into a concise summary? If the traditional Ctrl + F function feels rusty, ChatwithPDF will impress you. While alternatives like exist, ChatwithPDF is the reigning champion in terms of popularity. 

Here’s a quick tour of its capabilities: 

Load a PDF document: This function is the friendly gatekeeper for your PDF document. Users need to provide a publicly accessible URL of the PDF document, and just like that, the document is loaded into the system, ready to be queried and analysed. 

Query a loaded PDF document: This function is one that you’ll use repeatedly. Users can ask questions or make queries based on the loaded PDF document. The system then extracts relevant parts of the document in response to the user’s request. 

You will notice from the rest of this article that I’m not a huge fan of plugins that feel like they’re playing a game of digital ping-pong, bouncing you off to other websites. However, this one is an exception for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this plugin walks the talk – it delivers on its promises. Secondly, once you sign up, you’re smoothly redirected back to your ChatGPT account. 

The Worst
(and Most Misleading)

Now, these aren’t necessarily the worst plugins available, but I’ve put them in this category because they’re misleading. The plugin marketplace is jam-packed, and there is no intuitive way to filter through all the options available. There is a search bar, but quite frankly, it’s useless. You want your browsing experience to be efficient; each plug-in’s description should be clear enough to give you an idea of what it does. 

Show Me Diagrams: The Visual Storyteller That Couldn’t 

Show Me Diagrams was the first plug-in I installed after gaining access to the marketplace. In a digital landscape overflowing with content, standing out often means going visual. A well-crafted diagram can seize attention far more effectively than a verbose description. As a fan of tools like LucidChart and MindMeister, I was motivated by the prospect of delegating the task of manual design to an AI tool.

The capabilities, as listed in the Plugin store, were simple yet promising: “Create and edit diagrams directly in chat”. The prospect of using this tool not just for my own purposes but also to demonstrate to the financial planning community the creative potential for presenting advice was exciting. 

The reality, however, was a different story. I tasked ChatGPT with creating a concept map for a complex Excel calculator, a behemoth consisting of 15 worksheets, each brimming with detailed breakdowns, projections, and requiring complex formulas and VBA code. 

The good news is that the plug-in did generate a concept map in three different layouts. So, the “create” part of the claim held true. However, the “edit” part was where things fell apart. The plug-in led me out of ChatGPT and into a different plug-in called Redstar, which had an interface that looked like it was straight out of a 90s computer game. Editing diagrams is a visual exercise, and this editing capability seemed to strip that factor away completely. You can still edit, but you’d need to spend time learning how to use the interface before anything else. And for me, that’s where I abandoned this plug-in. 

Exporting your design is also limited. You are restricted to PNG, SVG, and KROKI formats – if anyone can tell me what KROKI is, I’d be delighted to learn! 

This plug-in is in the ‘Most Popular’ list within the marketplace. Either I am not using it correctly, or a lot of people installed it based on the description and then, just like me, realised it was a dud. I have tested at least 100 AI tools this year and, if I can leave you with any parting words, it would be that there are better options out there. 

A partially open laptop, on a dark surface and set amongst a black background. The only visible light is emanating from the partially-open laptop screen.

Yay! Forms: The Misleading Maestro 

Yay! Forms was another plug-in that I simply couldn’t get to work. But that’s not my main gripe. As with the Show Me Diagrams plug-in, Yay! Forms is misleading.  

Yay! Forms is an online tool that allows you to create and manage forms, surveys, quizzes, and questionnaires. It’s designed to be user-friendly and versatile, making it suitable for a wide range of applications, from gathering customer feedback to conducting academic research.  

However, the reality is that while you can create a prompt through ChatGPT, the result will be a link to the Yay! Forms website, and you’ll need to create an account if you want to access your creation. If you want to use Yay! Forms, I suggest that you circumnavigate ChatGPT and use it via their website instead. 

In Conclusion: The Importance of Security and Due Diligence 

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of AI and its applications, it’s essential to remember that not all that glitters is gold. The ChatGPT plug-in marketplace, while brimming with potential, is also a minefield of hits and misses. It’s crucial to approach each new plug-in with a healthy dose of skepticism and due diligence. After all, a tool is only as good as its user. 

Moreover, it’s important to remember that while these plug-ins can enhance the capabilities of ChatGPT, they also come with their own set of security considerations. Always ensure that the plug-ins you choose to install are from trusted sources and do not compromise your data’s security.  

Want to know more about using AI in your financial planning business? Contact us today.