The top WordPress tools for developers, designers, and consultants

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 align with team members and clients.

I was a Joomla! User who switched to WordPress in 2010 and I have contributed at least four websites to WordPress stats that support 68+ million websites around the world. This year I took the plunge into the WordPress Codex and started writing my own plugins and familiarizing myself 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 start using real world tools used by professional WordPress developers, designers, and consultants. Instead of doing an endless Google search, I reached out to the WordPress community to find out what tools professionals are using to drive their business. These are the suggestions I received. (All prices quoted are in US dollars.)

Integrated development environments and text editors

When you write code, you need a good text editor. I’ve used NetBeans for my development projects and I like the built-in FTP functionality. Many of the development tools in this table support the database and version control software as well as the FTP functions in the editor.

(See the PDF version of this table.)

Figure A.

NetBeans for PHP development

MySQL database management tools

Understanding the underlying MySQL tables and supporting data is a must for the WordPress developer. Popular hosting accounts like Bluehost and HostGator offer myPhpAdmin to manage the database. However, I like the client-based tools for running queries and making basic table changes.

(See the PDF version of this table.)

Figure B.

 The top WordPress tools for developers, designers, and consultants

Continuation 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 on-premises Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP (LAMP) environment. Macintosh, Apache, MySQL and PHP (MAMP), XAMPP and DesktopServer provide local installations of the general LAMP configuration. I ran MAMP on my MacBook Pro and doing the local work saves time migrating PHP files and images.

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


Other useful WordPress development tools include FTP utilities, screen recording tools, and debugging tools. Firebug is a must-have tool when trying to tweak a theme before editing the CSS file. The live editing feature ensures that you are editing the correct CSS tag and that you are happy with the result before you start editing your child theme or modifying a custom.css file.

(See the PDF version of this table.)

Figure C.

 The top WordPress tools for developers, designers, and consultants

Forklift 2 – FTP in Finder

WordPress plugins

Several WordPress plugins are essential tools. In my informal conversations with developers, Gravity Forms is the most referenced plugin because developers can create a base form and then extend it for more complex functionality.

(See 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 couldn’t live without Basecamp and GitHub. Every project, regardless of type, is located in Basecamp. Basecamp manages task lists, time tracking and file transfers. Coding files that require collaboration are located in GitHub. Since we have a virtual team, these software packages are invaluable to me. Between Basecamp, GitHub and Skype, my virtual team feels like on the desk and not all over the world. ”

If you’re a WordPress freelancer interested in the business side of WordPress, then you need to check out the MattReport, a WordPress podcast for entrepreneurs, startups, and freelancers. Matt Medeiros is the moderator of the MattReport and each interview includes a “What’s in your toolbox?” Segment where WordPress developers and consultants list their preferred software tool for managing their daily activities. At Matt’s Slocum Design Studio, his team uses Trello, GitHub, and Droplr to collaborate, share files, and manage client projects.


Software developers, designers and consultants are always looking for tools that make their work easier. You may have to spend a few dollars to take advantage of the commercial features, but you can also find free tools to help you get the job done.

If you have a favorite WordPress development tool, please let us know in the comments.

March 30, 2021