Web Development

The top WordPress tools for developers, designers, and consultants

Check out this list of WordPress tools that developers, designers, and consultants can use to write plugins, develop themes, and coordinate with team members and clients.

I was a Joomla! user who converted to WordPress in 2010, and I have contributed at least four sites to the WordPress statistic that it powers more than 68 million websites around the world. This year, I took the plunge into the WordPress codex and began writing my own plugins and getting comfortable with the code behind the ever-evolving WordPress platform.

Viewing PHP code in your cPanel's file editor can only go so far before you want to use real-world tools that professional WordPress developers, designers, and consultants use. Rather than doing an endless Google search, I reached out to the WordPress community to find out which tools professionals use to drive their businesses. These are the suggestions I received. (All prices listed are in US dollars.)

Integrated development environments and text editors

If you’re writing code, you need a good text editor. I’ve been working with NetBeans for my development projects, and I like the built-in FTP features. Many of the development tools in this table support FTP capability within the editor, in addition to database and version control software.

ApplicationPricingPlatform
PhpStormFree to $199Linux, Mac, Windows
Sublime Text$70Linux, Mac, Windows
NetBeansFreeLinux, Mac, Windows
Coda 2$75 (for a limited time)Mac
Espresso$75Mac
TextMate$53Mac
Notepad++Go to the site for details.Windows
TextWranglerFreeMac
(View the PDF version of this table.)

Figure A

NetBeans_MakarFigA_081613.jpg
 NetBeans for PHP development

MySQL database management tools

For the WordPress developer, understanding the underlying MySQL tables and supporting data is a must. Popular hosting accounts such as Bluehost and HostGator provide myPhpAdmin to administer the database. However, I like the client-based tools for query execution and basic table changes.

ApplicationPricingPlatform
Sequel ProFreeMac
MySQL WorkbenchFreeLinux, Mac, Windows
(View the PDF version of this table.)

Figure B

SequelPro_MakarFigB_081613.jpg
 Sequel Pro

Local WordPress hosting environments

When developing on a WordPress platform, you have the choice of using a hosted account or working faster by managing your own local Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP environment (LAMP). Macintosh, Apache, MySQL, and PHP (MAMP), XAMPP, and DesktopServer provide local installations of the common LAMP configuration. I’ve been running MAMP on my MacBook Pro, and working locally saves time when migrating PHP files and images.

ApplicationPricingPlatform
MAMPFree to $59Mac
XAMPPFreeLinux, Mac, Windows
DesktopServerFree to $49.95Mac, Windows
(View the PDF version of the table.)

Utilities

Other useful WordPress development tools include FTP utilities, screen capture tools, and debugging tools. Firebug is an indispensable tool when you're trying to tweak a theme before editing the CSS file. Its live editing capability ensures you edit the correct CSS tag and are happy with the result before you start editing your child theme or modifying a custom.css file.

ApplicationFunctionPricingPlatform
Forklift 2FTP utilityGo to the site for details.Mac
TransmitFTP utility$34Mac
Paparazzi!Screen captureFreeMac
DroplrShare and host images

ScreenFlowDesktop screen capture video tool$99Mac
FirebugEdit and debug CSS, JavaScript, and HTML LiveFreeMultiple, Firefox

(View the PDF version of this table.)

Figure C

Forklift2_MakarFigC_081613.jpg
 Forklift 2 - FTP in Finder

WordPress plugins

Several WordPress plugins are must-have tools. In my informal discussions with developers, Gravity Forms is the most referenced plugin, as it allows developers to establish a base form and then extend it for more complex functionality.

PluginFunctionPricing
Types and ViewsCustom post type and view toolGo to the site for details.
Gravity FormsForm generator$39 - $199
BackupBuddyBack up, restore, and migrate WordPress$80 - $150
AkismetComment spam blockerGo to the site for details.
WordPress SEO by YoastSEO toolFree
(View the PDF version of this table.)

Project management and collaboration tools

Developers, designers, and consultants don’t work in a vacuum -- projects often require collaboration and coordination with clients, freelancers, and distributed development teams. I asked Rebecca Gill of Web Savvy Marketing about the popular tools used in her Michigan-based website design company. She said:

"We use Basecamp, GitHub, Dropbox, and Amazon for some backups. We could not live without Basecamp and GitHub. Every project, regardless of type, is in Basecamp. Basecamp manages to-do lists, time tracking, and file transfers. Any coding files that require collaboration are housed in GitHub. Since we have a virtual team these software packages are priceless to me. Between Basecamp, GitHub, and Skype my virtual team feels like they are across desk and not all over the globe."

If you are a WordPress freelancer interested in the business side of WordPress, then you need to listen to the MattReport, a WordPress podcast for entrepreneurs, startups, and freelancers.  Matt Medeiros is the host of the MattReport, and each interview provides a "What's in Your Toolbox?" segment where WordPress developers and consultants list their favorite software tool to manage their day-to-day activities. Within Matt’s company, Slocum Design Studio, his team uses Trello, GitHub, and Droplr to collaborate, share files, and manage client projects.

Summary

Software engineers, designers, and consultants are always looking for tools to make their jobs easier. You may have to spend a few dollars to use the commercial features, but you’ll also find free tools that will help you complete the job.

If you have a favorite WordPress development tool, please tell us what it is in the comments.

About

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

15 comments
johnpereless
johnpereless

Great information, but I want to ask a question regarding this. I have a Netbeans, TextWrangler (free tools) etc. then why should I go for any paid tool. If you are providing any new features in these tools then please explain. I'am so curious to listen up something from your side. Our director Mr. John Pereless (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:John.Perelessusa) will like to use some new tool in there firm.  

seorypaci
seorypaci

great post ! i appreciate .. keep posting .. thanks for sharing this idea ..


rypacimarketingsolution.com

seorypaci
seorypaci

great post ! i appreciate .. keep posting .. thanks for sharing this idea .. 

beowolf741
beowolf741

Komodo Edit for text editing/coding. Filezilla for FTP, Online Technology for bacup of WP sites that aren't horribly big.

ronwaran
ronwaran

Great summary of tools - I liked the breadth of tools listed - from software editing tools all the way till collaboration tools. We use sublime as our ide (one of your recommendations), google docs for cloud storage and Conversites as our collaboration tool for design

fahadrafiq
fahadrafiq

Firebug is awesome tool for me. Very Helpful. Highly Recommended.

Duke E Love
Duke E Love

 Editors:

Eclipse/Aptana - Aptana is OUTSTANDING. It offers support for HTML5 and CSS3 as well as JavaScript, JS libraries/Frameworks like jQuery and Prototype. Also has support for PHP, Ruby on Rails, PyThon/Django

DreamWeaver -  Outstanding but pricy. It also supports PHP/HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript and JS libraries/Frameworks. There are all  sorts of third party Wordpress plugins and Extensions.

Mysql Tools (all) free)

Heidi SLQ - My Favorite 
Toad for MySQL - Outstanding
SQLyog Community Edition - Excellent 
EMS SQL Manager for MySQL Lite

Servers
Uniform Server - Provides a GUI for most all of Apache PHP and MySQL features and it is actually Secure and very easy to Administer. 
EasyPHP  - Is what the name suggests 
WampServer - Excellent

FTP
WinSCP - The  best Free FTP/SSH for windows. It is integrated with PUTTY as an added bonus.
FileZilla -  Excellent

Debugging

Web Developers tool bar - It is just as useful and indispensable as FireBug
Fiddler 2 - Couldn't live with out it.

Jeff George
Jeff George

MySQL database management tools -  Toad for MySQL? It's free as well.

bseddon
bseddon

Eclipse is missing from your list of IDEs.  It includes an extremely rich set of plugins to handle almost any development requirment including PHP (Eclipse for PHP Developers), MySQL maintenance and queries (Eclipse SQL Explorer ), FTP uploading, editing HTML and Javascript and much more.  VJet (VJET JavaScript IDE ) is an Eclipse plugin originally created by EBay which adds code complete (intellisense to VS users) to Javascript so it's not necessary to commit every library you use to memory and there is out-of-the-box support for many libraries including JQuery.  Eclipse is open source and maintained by it's users which include major organizations like IBM.
 

So you could go and learn many different products or just one that does most of what any developer needs. Eclipse has it's way of doing things which may be intimidating to begin with but once you've learned the Eclipse way of doing things, you will know how any other functionality you need is likely to work.


Eclipse is available for and works on most major platforms.  So if you want to develop at home on Windows or a Mac and plan to move your creation onto a machine running some flavor of Linux in the cloud, you are good to go.

daniel
daniel

For those of us who are rightly or wrongly wedded to Visual Studio, I would recommend the PHP Tools addon http://www.devsense.com/products/php-tools. I have been using the free version to make minor changes to my child theme:  functions.php and styles.css.  The Pro version has the remote ftp deployment which would be nice ( and negate the use FileZilla) 

mattmedeiros
mattmedeiros

Great list Andrew! I'd also add that Sublime Text 2 is also free and Vagrant would be another great tool for the local development environment. 

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