Plugins That Complement Your Theme Development


These are built by developers, for developers, and will help you become more productive and to write better code that is compliant with WordPress’s standards.

When you’re developing themes for WordPress there are lots of tools that can help you out and improve your development process. There are many plugins that you can install on your development environment. These are built by developers, for developers, and will help you become more productive and to write better code that is compliant with WordPress’s standards. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some essential theme development plugins for WordPress.


Developer is a plugin from Automattic which, according to them, “helps developers develop.” The plugin optimizes your development environment by providing the tools that you need. When you download and install the plugin you’ll be asked what you want to develop:

a screenshot of the initial popup for the user testing plugin. You are asked whether you wish to develop a theme, a plugin, or a site for a VIP client

Make your selection and you’ll be provided with a list of plugins.

a screenshot with a full list of plugins. A full description follows

You can choose the ones you wish to install. Here is what they do:

  • Debug Bar – adds a debug menu to the admin bar that has debugging information such as query and cache.
  • Debug Bar Cron – an extension to Debug Bar that shows information about scheduled tasks.
  • Rewrite Rules Inspector – provides a list of all your rewrite rules, showing which rules match a given URL. You can also flush your rewrite rules to regenerate them.
  • Log Deprecated Notices – identifies and logs deprecated files, functions and function arguments, offering an alternative if one is available.
  • Monster Widget – consolidates all core widgets into a single widget so you can easily create multiple instances.
  • User Switching – allows you to quickly swap between user accounts.
  • Pig Latin – shows strings which aren’t translatable in Pig Latin.
  • Beta Tester – lets you upgrade your website to the latest beta or release candidate.
  • RTL Tester – creates an admin button that you can use to switch the text from left to right.
  • Regenerate thumbnails – it lets you regenerate the thumbnails for image attachments. It is useful if you’re changing to a theme with different thumbnail dimensions.
  • Reveal IDs – reveals the IDs of post types, taxonomies and media.
  • Theme Test Drive – test drives any theme on your website while your visitors still see the default one.
  • Theme Check – checks your theme to make sure it’s up to spec with the latest theme review standards.

Using these plugins throughout your theme development process will help you to produce a secure, well-coded theme that adheres to WordPress best practices.


If you’re creating theme options, you could check out the Options Framework plugin. If you’re just including a few options, the developer recommends trying out Ian Stewart’s sample option page instead. But if you’re planning to include multiple options, the plugin will make it much quicker for you to add them.

Demo Your Themes

If you’re demoing a selection of themes to a client, you might want a quick and easy way to switch between them. The Theme Demo bar plugin adds a bar to the top of your front page where you can quickly switch between themes. If you are familiar with any theme shops or theme marketplaces, you’ll probably have seen this before. Many shops use functionality like this so that customers can quickly browse through themes.


If you’re doing it wrongly, developing themes can be a long and painstaking process. That’s why finding the right tools is essential to help make your life a little bit simpler. The above plugins should help you at different stages of your development process to improve the ease and speed at which you work and make your themes even better.

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