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

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.

Application Pricing Platform
PhpStorm Free to $199 Linux, Mac, Windows
Sublime Text $70 Linux, Mac, Windows
NetBeans Free Linux, Mac, Windows
Coda 2 $75 (for a limited time) Mac
Espresso $75 Mac
TextMate $53 Mac
Notepad++ Go to the site for details. Windows
TextWrangler Free Mac
(View the PDF version of this table.)

Figure A

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.

Application Pricing Platform
Sequel Pro Free Mac
MySQL Workbench Free Linux, Mac, Windows
(View the PDF version of this table.)

Figure B

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.

Application Pricing Platform
MAMP Free to $59 Mac
XAMPP Free Linux, Mac, Windows
DesktopServer Free to $49.95 Mac, Windows
(View the PDF version of the table.)


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.

Application Function Pricing Platform
Forklift 2 FTP utility Go to the site for details. Mac
Transmit FTP utility $34 Mac
Paparazzi! Screen capture Free Mac
Droplr Share and host images
ScreenFlow Desktop screen capture video tool $99 Mac
Firebug Edit and debug CSS, JavaScript, and HTML Live Free Multiple, Firefox

(View the PDF version of this table.)

Figure C

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

Plugin Function Pricing
Types and Views Custom post type and view tool Go to the site for details.
Gravity Forms Form generator $39 – $199
BackupBuddy Back up, restore, and migrate WordPress $80 – $150
Akismet Comment spam blocker Go to the site for details.
WordPress SEO by Yoast SEO tool Free
(View the PDF version of this table.)

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.


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.