Mac and web based tools for WordPress theme development

It was a whopping month and a half ago that I announced my project to build a WordPress theme from scratch, and share the process as I go. You haven’t seen much since then (unless you follow me on Twitter), but I’ve been super busy working on what’s become the Happy theme. The picture above is my all-too-familiar evening view.

An unexpected consequence of sharing that I would basically live-blog my progress on developing Happy is that the development hasn’t been a strict, ordered process. Therefore, I’ve held off sharing things until I’m able to do so confidently knowing that I’m providing useful information to other theme developers. Consider this post a primer. I’ve got a slew of blog posts upcoming on how I’ve made decisions, processed them, what I’ve learned, etc.

Anyway, in this post, I want to share with you some of the tools I’m using while working on the Happy theme, and for my WordPress development in general. They’re not really WordPress specific, but I use them for my WordPress development.

I’ll list my tools of choice below, but definitely check out these posts on ThemeShaper by Ian Stewart and on WPTuts+ by Tom McFarlin that go into far more detail on WordPress-specific development tools. I use many of those they list, and I’ll likely do another post with a list similar to this, on my exact WordPress setup.

Web Dev tools – both web and Mac based

  • Machine – 2011 Macbook Pro, 16GB Ram, running Mountain Lion. I originally had the standard 4GB RAM and it was unusable when running tools a Web Developer needs. 16GB is now more than sufficient. SSD would be nice, but I’ll wait until my next machine. I’m usually hooked up to a 22″ external LED monitor (shown above), but sometimes I like to use the laptop by itself to see how things look on smaller screens.
  • Editor – Coda 2. Sublime Text 2 is enticing, but I’ve spent a year on Coda and am used to it. The PHP & Web toolkit is a must, as well as the WP Syntax plugin. The only major downside of Coda is that it doesn’t have autocomplete for all functions in a project (aka WordPress), but only those in the file you’re in. Hence the need for the WP Syntax plugin.
  • Local – Mamp Pro and Codekit. Codekit is a new addition and it is freaking amazing.
  • File Transfer – I usually use the one built in to Coda, but for large transfers I have Transmit.
  • Version control – Tower makes working with Git a breeze. Managing Github or Bitbucket repos is no problem at all.
  • Browser – Chrome and the built-in inspector. The Web Developer extension is also a nice addition.
  • Alfred – Alfred is great. I use the calculator for px to rem conversions constantly. I also love how easy it makes it to find files and programs. Here’s a great writeup on Alfred.
  • Photoshop – for basic image manipulation or quick sketches, or for breaking down comps if that’s what you start with.
  • Sequel Pro – for managing databases. It’s easy to use and fairly powerful. Packs all the punch I need at least.
  • IE testing – I use CoRD because we have it connected to Windows at work. I’ve used Browserstack before too, and it’s very nice. Completely worth the small investment for a professional developer.
  • Device testing – other than my desktop, my initial mobile tests are always with my iPhone. We also have an iPad at work I test on. And my non-Apple fanboy coworkers have a couple different Android model phones and a large Android tablet. I would love to have a small tablet like a Kindle Fire or Nexus 7 to test on, but unfortunately I don’t.

I know this post isn’t WordPress specific, and I promise I’ll get to those : ) But I hope this is valuable for perspective on future posts on the theme build series, and maybe you picked up on a tool or two you didn’t already know about.

11 thoughts on “Mac and web based tools for WordPress theme development

  1. Glad that you shared this – I’m currently working on one of my own (it’s constantly in draft status 😉 but I dig seeing what the rest of you guys are using, too.

  2. I used to use Code (before Coda 2 came out) and I moved to PHPStorm IDE. It’s pretty fast and solid and I really like it. It is a true IDE so does autocomplete perfectly. In a future version it will recognize text in action hooks. For theme development Coda 2 is probably better, but once you start to do complex plugin development a true php IDE is probably best.

  3. This is a great write up. I use a lot of the tools you listed (Actually, I believe I started using Alfred after you mentioned it before).

    I haven’t used CodeKit before, but it sounds very interesting. How does it fit into your workflow?

    1. For what it’s worth, I’m still using one, as well. I had a 2010, and then had to get a new one thanks to a, uh, coffee incident so now I run a mid-2012.

      Still the best machine I’ve owned (especially with an external monitor).

      And I agree with Brian. If you can splurge to upgrade the RAM, then go for it – especially if you do a lot of video / media intensive work.

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