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VST Manager

VST Manager is a program which automates the process of downloading and installing VST plug-ins from specially-crafted web sites called "VST Stores". (VST is a trademark of Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH.)

For example, browse to the VST Store at This web site presents information about a large number of free VST plug-ins. There is a page for each plug-in, which includes a screen shot image, some additional information, and a download link. To install a VST, you need to find and then click its download link, then locate the downloaded .zip archive, unzip it, and move the files to wherever you keep VSTs.

Using VST Manager, you would start by entering the store URL into the "Store" box and clicking the "Select" button. All of the VSTs available at that store would then appear in the list below, as shown in the following screen shot:

You would then browse the list to find the name of the plug-in you want, click its checkbox, and click the "Install" button. VST Manager takes care of the rest.

Of course it's not quite as simple as that, because you must also specify the folder where you want your installed VSTs to go. This is done by selecting the "Local" tab instead of the "Store" tab. You can either click the "..." button to browse to the right folder on your PC, or type the path in the box, and then click "Select". If you had already installed some plug-ins in that folder, they will appear in the list below, as shown here:

If the folder you define does not yet exist, VST Manager will ask if you want it to be created. In this way, you can easily create as many VST folders as you wish. Most DAWs have their own default VST folders, but allow you to define one or more of your own, which are then scanned to build a list of available VSTs for easy access within the DAW. Refer to your own DAW's documentation for guidance on where to keep VSTs on your system.

Downloading and installing VST Manager

VST Manager is open-source software, distributed under the MIT License. If you don't want to download the source code and compile it yourself, you can download a pre-built version using this link. There is no formal installer; you simply put the VSTManager.exe file wherever you want, and run it by double-clicking its icon. It's best to put it into a folder all by itself, because the program needs to create some files in that folder. Make sure to put this folder into a location where you have write privileges--your Desktop is a good choice.

You probably already have one or more VST folders on your PC, but VST Manager won't know about these or be able to manage their contents. It's best to create new VST folder(s) for use with VST Manager.

A tour through the VST Manager GUI

Tabs Used to change between the two tabs. The Store tab is for installing VSTs from NetVST stores, and the Local VST is for managing installed VSTs.

"No install currently in progress" text Used to keep track of installations, and the text will change depending on the progress of the installation.

Store tab - Store box Enter a URL in the box and press the "Select" button to connect to the store. (VST store web sites will normally provide a URL that you can simply copy and paste from your browser.) If it is a valid NetVST store, the available VSTs box will fill up. Press the "Remove" button to remove the store from the list.

Store tab - Available VSTs box A lix of all the available VSTs in the selected store. You can select as many as you like, or select/deselect all using the buttons underneath. The "Install" button will install the checked VSTs.

Local tab - Install location box Enter a filepath in the box and press the "Select" button to see all VSTs currently installed using NetVST in that folder. The "..." button next to it will allow you to browse for the folder. The "Remove" button will remove that folder from the list and unlink all VSTs in that folder from NetVST, although they can still be accessed if the folder is added again.

Local tab - Installed VSTs box A list of all VSTs installed using NetVST in the selected folder. You can select as many as you like, or select/deselect all using the buttons underneath. The "Uninstall" button will uninstall the checked VSTs, and the "Reinstall" button will reinstall the selected VSTs.

Some details

VST Store web sites provide a downloadable text file called store.csv which contains names, download links, and some other information about their VSTs. Each time you select a new store, VST Manager downloads a copy of this file into its own folder (the folder where VSTManager.exe lives). It also creates two other files: past_stores.csv is where it remembers the list of VST stores you've selected before, and locations.csv is where it remembers your list of VST folders.

In each VST folder you define, VST Manager will create a file called local.csv which contains details about each of the VSTs you have installed into that folder. Each VST is installed into its own sub-folder (whose name is usually the same as, or similar to, the VST name), which contains that VST's .dll file(s) and any other files/folders that VST requires. This approach is not only tidy; it is what enables the program's uninstall capability. Uninstalling a VST simply means deleting that VST's whole folder, and also removing the line describing it from the local.csv file.

Creating a VST Store web site

Any web site that hosts freely-downloadable VSTs can be made compatible with the VST Manager program, by adding a single text file called store.csv in the site's top-level folder, so that its URL can be formed by simply appending "store.csv" to the site's base URL.

The store.csv data file is like a simple database with one table. It's a simple text file (preferably using the UTF-8 encoding, which allows you to use e.g. accented characters). The first line is a list of "column names" separated by commas. Subsequent lines are comma-separated lists of values for each column; these correspond to individual records in a database.

The meaning of the columns is as follows:

Column name Meaning
name Name of the VST
creator Who created/published it
folder Folder name (see below)
url Link to download URL
tags List of descriptive tags separated by stile ("pipe") characters
desc Short description of VST in a few words
refurl Link to creator's original page, for more information

Each download url (in the url column) should link to a downloadable .zip file, which contains exactly one folder, whose name is given in the folder column. Everything the VST needs to run (32-bit and/or 64-bit .dll files, .fxb/.fxp patch files, etc.) should be inside that one folder.

Following these conventions exactly ensures that the VST Manager program can be used to simplify the process of downloading, installing, updating, or uninstalling your VSTs.

If you run into trouble

If you need further assistance, contact the author: samdm {at} kingston {dot} net.

List of compatible web stores

The following web sites with free VSTs are compatible with VST Manager. (If you know of others, please let me know so I can expand this list.)


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