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.

View all posts in this series

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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