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Toolbox of the Smart WordPress Developer: Series Introduction

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This post is part of a series called Tools of the Smart WordPress Developer.
Toolbox of the Smart WordPress Developer: Kirki

Is the core of WordPress enough for you? No, probably not. Almost all the time, we install WordPress plugins and themes to help build our websites. And that's all right, because WordPress isn't meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution. We do need extra functionality and design elements, and we meet our needs with plugins and themes... and more.

WordPress help doesn't necessarily have to come in the form of a plugin or a theme. In this series, we're going to have a look at several great tools and utilities that we can use with our WordPress websites. We will go over plugins, themes and other scripts that will help you build better websites with WordPress.

But every series needs an introduction. In this article, we're going to discuss the strengths of WordPress and the tools that we'll see in the future parts.

The Advantages of an Enormous Community

Is WordPress the best content management system in the world? Is it the best-coded one? Does the user experience of WordPress trump that of every other CMS?

While I believe the questions above should be answered "yes", it's generally a hard thing to determine "the best" of a kind. Not only because it's impossible to reach a consensus with everyone in the area, but also because we can't choose "the best" among the ones that are known. "The perfect CMS" may have been developed in a Turkish web design agency (that they use exclusively for their clients), or may be hosted in the localhost of a Chinese teenager. And, philosophically speaking, that single possibility makes it impossible for us to say that WordPress is definitely the best CMS ever made.

Anyway, I'm babbling. The point I'm trying to arrive at is that WordPress doesn't have to be the best content management system in the world, but it surely has the biggest community.

It goes without saying that WordPress is WordPress because we brought it to this day. We designed themes, we developed plugins, and we shared our knowledge—just as I'm sharing my knowledge with you right here, right now. The community made WordPress bigger and, recursively, a bigger WordPress attracted (and still attracts) a bigger community. Every single person in the WordPress community is responsible for the fact that in every four websites, one of them is built with WordPress.

The "Tools" of WordPress

In the beginning of this post, I told you that we meet our needs in WordPress with plugins and themes and more. What does that mean?

It means that there are "tools" made for WordPress that don't necessarily have to be defined as "plugins" or "themes". Yes, some plugins (and even themes) can be defined as a "WordPress tool". But there are "tools" that don't fall into the "plugins" or "themes" category.

Take the "WXR File Splitter" tool, for example. It helps you break your XML backups into pieces so you don't have to upload a single, gigantic backup file. WXR File Splitter comes in the form of a Windows app and a Mac app. So there's no question that we can't call it a plugin or a theme.

Or let's take GenerateWP: It's a website where you can generate WordPress-related code like custom post types or the "readme" files for plugins. It doesn't come as a plugin or a theme—it's just a website.

Now, what do we call these things? The word "tool" is the most proper and widely-used one among the community (though we also use "utility", which isn't a bad choice either). And what do we mean by "tool"? Well, think of it as an actual handheld tool, like a hammer or a screwdriver: We make or change things with these tools.

Although you can include plugins within the area of "tools", not all plugins can be accepted as a "tool" in the WordPress community. (Keep in mind that a WordPress tool can come in the form of a plugin or a theme.) It's a bit tricky to have an exact definition, but it's no hassle to know when a WordPress tool is a WordPress tool.

The Tools We'll See Over the Course of the Series

In future parts, we're going to go over 13 quality tools for WordPress. Without spoilers, let me just list them:

  1. Kirki: A framework to develop Theme Customizer controls with.
  2. Theme Check: A WordPress plugin that you can use to test your theme to see if it complies with the theme review standards of (which are also respected at ThemeForest).
  3. A website where you can build WordPress code—and even share the snippets you created.
  4. WP Quick Install: A little tool that installs the latest version of WordPress in your server, including plugins, themes, custom options and even custom content.
  5. WordPress Plugin Boilerplate: A quality library that you can use to build plugins with an OOP approach.
  6. Envato WordPress Toolkit: A useful library for those who sell themes on ThemeForest.
  7. WXR File Splitter: A Windows and Mac app that allows you to split the default WordPress XML backup files.
  8. WP Serialized Search & Replace: A PHP utility that you can use to perform search & replace operations in WordPress tables without breaking serialized fields.
  9. WordPress GitHub Plugin Updater: A library to enable plugin updates in communication with GitHub.
  10. Instant WordPress: A portable Windows tool to instantly create WordPress installations.
  11. Vafpress: An extensive options framework that you can use for your plugins and themes.
  12. CMB2: A library that you can use to create custom meta boxes working with custom fields.
  13. WP-CLI: A set of command-line tools to manage WordPress installations.

We'll also be covering a few tools that have been written about before on Tuts+ Code in a single part, including links to the original articles.


I can already feel that it's going to be a fun series—it's also going to be the biggest series I've written yet. I'm sure I'll enjoy writing about the tools I've mentioned above, and I hope that you'll like what you see.

Are you as excited as I am? Better yet, do you have any more "tool" suggestions that I can add to the series? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments section below. And if you liked the article, don't forget to share it with your friends!

See you in the next part, where we'll be going over Kirki, a Customizer framework!

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