12 WordPress Plugins for Theme Development

One of the great things about using WordPress as a content management system is the huge community of users and all of the resources that are available. While all plugins could be used by theme developers, the ones featured in this post have features that can be especially helpful for various aspects of theme development.

If you design and develop themes for you own use, custom themes for clients, premium themes for sale, or free themes to distribute, I think some of these plugins will be very useful to you.

Looking for hosting? WPEngine offers secure managed WordPress hosting. You’ll get expert WordPress support, automatic backups, and caching for fast page loads. Visit WPEngine.

Theme Switch

When you’re designing and developing a WordPress theme, you obviously won’t want the public to see your theme until it is ready. However, it’s helpful to also be able to test the theme in a live environment in attempt to find any flaws before officially changing over to the new theme. The Theme Switch plugin will allow you to control what theme is seen by logged in users with specific access privilege, and what theme is shown to regular visitors. This is a great way to test your theme before going live. It’s especially useful when you’re designing a new theme for an existing site or blog.

Theme Switch

Theme Test Drive

Theme Test Drive is another plugin that was created for testing a theme without showing it to everyone. It works in a similar fashion to Theme Switch, so you can look at the details of each, test them and see which one you like best.

Theme Test Drive

WordPress Theme Demo Plugin

WordPress Theme Demo was developed to help web designers who want to showcase demos of their themes. If you visit sites of premium themes sellers, or those who give away free themes, there is usually an option to view the theme on a demo blog. This plugin allows you to showcase demos of multiple themes on one WordPress installation.

WordPress Theme Demo Plugin

Maintenance Mode Plugin

Although theme development will be done in a way that doesn’t impact an existing site, there may be some times when you need to make changes that would be better to not be visible to everyone. The Maintenance Mode is a good plugin to have handy for times when you would like to temporarily prevent visitors from seeing the site or theme in it’s current state. With this plugin visitors will get a customizable message until you are ready for the site to be viewed.

Maintenance Mode Plugin

User Switching

If you’ve developed themes in a test environment you may have found that you tend to login and logout a lot, or login as different users. The User Switching plugin was created to make this a quicker, less painful process. With one click you can swicth from one user to another.

User Switching

Raw HTML

This is a plugin that I just came across and have not used yet, but it looks promising. Raw HTML allows you to use raw HTML or any other code in your posts or pages. This may be especially useful if you are converting an existing static site to WordPress. There have been times when I worked on a project like this and had extra work because of the way WordPress dealt with code that was pasted from an existing page.

Looking for hosting? WPEngine offers secure managed WordPress hosting. You’ll get expert WordPress support, automatic backups, and caching for fast page loads. Visit WPEngine.

Raw HTML

Advanced Category Excluder

If you’ve developed a number of different WordPress-based sites you know that each site tends to have it’s own unique needs and challenges, especially when focusing on using WordPress as a CMS more so than just a blogging platform. Advanced Category Excluder allows you to easily have control over what content is available in specific places. You can exclude certain categories from the front page and/or RSS feeds. You can control what content will be included or excluded from search results.

ACE

Simply Exclude

Simply Exclude offers similar functionality to Advanced Category Excluder. If you’re interested in this type of plugin, take a look at both and see which one looks like it will meet your needs.

Simply Exclude

WP sIFR

Looking to use sIFR with WordPress? This plugin makes it easy. You can handle pretty much everything from within the WordPress dashboard and take advantage of sIFR’s ability to have more control and wider choices with fonts.

WP sIFR

FLIR for WordPress

Much like the previous plugin, FLIR for WordPress will give you more control over the fonts used, but obviously it uses FLIR (Facelift Image Replacement) instead of sIFR. Again, with this plugin almost everything can be controlled from within the WP dashboard.

FLIR for WordPress

TDO Mini Forms

With TDO Mini Forms you can set up forms for visitors to fill out that are used to create posts. Non-registered users can enter data into highly customizable forms, this information is then stored in drafts until an administrator approves it for publishing. Many sites that include a community news section are using TDO Mini Forms.

TDO Mini Forms

Sample WordPress Content

This isn’t technically a plugin, but I wanted to include it because it can be so helpful for theme designers and developers. WPCandy has put together a set of posts that will help you by providing sample content that can easily be imported into your WordPress blog (importing is very easy in the WP dashboard). If you’re working on a theme on a WordPress installation that has no content, this will save you some time as opposed to entering your own dummy content.

Sample WordPress Content

What Plugins Do You Use for Theme Development?

If you use any plugins in your own theme development, please feel free to share in the comments.

Published March 31st, 2009 by

Looking for hosting? WPEngine offers secure managed WordPress hosting. You’ll get expert WordPress support, automatic backups, and caching for fast page loads. Visit WPEngine.

Join Our Newsletter!

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter chalked full of useful tips, techniques, and design goodies. We have 20,000+ loyal readers and counting! We’ll even send you a free e-book (Freelance Designer’s Guide to Multiple Income Streams) and a $10 discount on our most popular product the Freelance Starter Kit.

97 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Tommy Day, March 31, 2009

    I use a lot of these in addition to LaunchPad – it’s a theme instead of a plugin, but I use it with Theme Test Drive so I have a nice coming soon landing page while I’m working on my themes.

  • Bogdan Pop, March 31, 2009

    I do not really use any plugins for development. I do it myself. I am way faster like that.

  • Paul Menard, March 31, 2009

    Hey Thanks for mentioning my Simply Exclude. I have a ton of changes going into the next version. Need to find some time to finish it.

    Also, you might be interested on my newest plugin Media Tags. It lets you tag you uploaded media for filtering in the template.
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/media-tags/

  • Predator7, March 31, 2009

    I only use Theme Switch and the Maintenance Mode Plugin when I design. WordPress Theme Demo another great plugin for showcasing your work.

  • izzatazizdotcom, March 31, 2009

    waw.. thank a lot.. only some of the plugin i ever heard.. thank again.

    @bogdan pop but sometime you need to use it for test or something like that. :D

  • desu, March 31, 2009

    Raw HTML is a life saver, i imported a blogger blog with lots of embeds not your regular youtube, and it really does what it promises. Highly recommend it.

  • Noura Yehia, March 31, 2009

    I am seeing many WP plugin posts lately but I think your post comes to be very helpful . I specially wish I knew about the user switch plugin and the demo plugin before, it would have saved me a lot of time. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Mayur, April 1, 2009

    Great post! Keep up the great work! Your posts are a real life saver and source of inspiration for new ideas and designs.

  • Mario, April 2, 2009

    I’ve just finished my last WP blog and I must say most of these tools were very very useful! Thanks for the great post!

    Mario / NeoSublime

  • Daniel, April 2, 2009

    Wow, great posts thank. I normally do all my development on my local server. There are some great tutorials on setting them up.

  • Vikash Dhankar, April 2, 2009

    That’s really nice post, I was searching the Plugin Directory of WordPress to improve my blog. here I find most of
    Thanks

  • Darryl ODonnell, April 2, 2009

    Maintenance Mode and Mini Forms – fantastic! I’m going to use them today. This is a really great list of plug-ins. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jimmy, April 3, 2009

    Thanks. This is great for wordpress fans like myself.
    I’m bookmarking this post and your blog right now!

  • Undelete Software, April 4, 2009

    Your posts are a real life saver and source of inspiration for new ideas and designs.

  • Bronson, April 4, 2009

    Awesome list of super useful resources, thanks for posting this.

    WP sIFR and Sample WordPress Content look particularly useful.

  • Ruslan_Moscow, April 6, 2009

    nice, thank a lot
    but for me some of the plugin very difficult to set up

  • romeo, April 6, 2009

    it’s really great list of plug-ins, thx for sharing

  • ghillie suit, April 8, 2009

    Great advice. This has been my future goal in blogging…this post may have boosted my motivation. Thanks.

  • Obagi Clear, April 11, 2009

    Hey Looks like U also changed the theme from the last time I visited. Yeah it was long ago.

    One thing I would like to tell you is surely the plugins you listed are great for testing themes, but the major problem is that a quite a few of these are not officially supported in 2.7.1. till date. Some of them do work even though the themes are not officially supported but some don’t.

    Infact a lot plugins are still not supported in WP 2.7.1. I could not install “Homepage Excerpts” plugin on my blog. Infact I did, but had to resinstall WP because the plugin broke it. It was my good luck that I was only starting that blog and it had no post.

    So, don’t install “HOPMEPAGE EXCERPTS” on a 2.7.1. Its risky.

    Thanks and i hope i will hang around more this time.
    See ya.

  • web design preston, April 12, 2009

    Another great post, simple and understandable and the most important as great time saver..

  • Free Web Hosting, April 13, 2009

    Is it possible to use these by all and to develop the theme when that person is totally illiterate about coding.

  • Vandelay Design, April 13, 2009

    No, it’s not possible to develop a theme when you’re totally illiterate about coding. The plugins will help to make some tasks in the development process easier, but they’re not magic.

  • joyoge designers' bookmark, April 14, 2009

    realy nice useful plugins, thanks a lot..

  • Yuuko, April 18, 2009

    Very good site. I will install it now in my wordpress site.
    Thanks a lot.

  • Binny V A, April 18, 2009

    Thanks for the list. Next, do a list on plugins for Plugin Development rather than Theme development.

  • Andrew, May 7, 2009

    Is there a plug-in which lets you specify the theme based on the category, so the look can change when the user clicks to navigate to a different category?

  • Vandelay Design, May 7, 2009

    Andrew,
    Not that I am aware of.

  • George Serradinho, May 11, 2009

    I like the idea of the maintenance plugin although I have not really used it. I have used the Theme Test Drive theme but I guess with the new release of WP, you can test it before you activate it. Kind of view pages and see how it would look like.

    Thanks for the details, this will surely help theme designers

  • Chandima, May 12, 2009

    One of the frustrating things about theme development is the lack of built-in logging / debugging support. After getting annoyed with using ‘print_r’ statements from PHP to hone in on coding errors, I developed a plugin to display log messages to the Safari debug console or the Firefox firebug console.

    http://www.turingtarpit.com/2009/05/wordpress-logger-a-plugin-to-display-php-log-messages-in-safari-and-firefox/

  • abiazka, June 30, 2009

    thanks for the wp plugin’s list … i think i will use WordPress Theme Demo Plugin for my blog … thanks again

  • wow, July 21, 2009

    thanks for you to share . it is so useful for us

  • botox, July 28, 2009

    but for me some of the plugin very difficult to set up

  • Bill, September 23, 2009

    Thanks for the list.

    Anyway, I use WordPress Theme Demo Bar Plugin to preview theme. I think it has more features than the Theme Switch plugin.

    In the latest version you can edit other theme’s option without activating it.

    Cheers.

  • Digitalmalay, October 5, 2009

    Nice list of pugins.How about advertising plugin?

  • Work group collaboration, October 13, 2009

    hey it is really nice word press plugin to create theme.
    It helps me a lot…

    thanks a lot for post such a valuable information.

  • Aymen, November 3, 2009

    Hello mate
    Those listed are a must have
    Thznks for sharing them

  • London Osteopaths, November 25, 2009

    These plugins look like they will really will come handy. thanks for this its great

  • Central Heating, December 8, 2009

    Thanks mate these plugins are really handy thanks for sharing them with us

  • Ryan, January 16, 2010

    Thank you for sharing.
    Let me use this cool theme.

  • John, January 25, 2010

    Hey Thanks for mentioning my Simply Exclude. I have a ton of changes going into the next version. Need to find some time to finish it. John.

  • domain transfer service, January 25, 2010

    I can’t explain that how this post is informative because i was searching for any tool to create wordpress themes. This post is really helpful for me and for other people also who wants to create their own wordpress themes.

  • Daniel, January 31, 2010

    Thanks for sharing this great article with us. I love your site :)

  • Makale, February 1, 2010

    Great information for us. Thanks

  • sniper, February 21, 2010

    I ussually mantenance mode plugin and TDO mini forms, I like used this plugins ,because can helpfull on webblog development.thanks to informations

  • sarah lee, February 21, 2010

    Yes…,nice information, since ago I used wordpress to developing my sites,because wordpress is powerfull cms, I also usually TDO mini forms plugin ,this plugin very good….thanks sir.

  • chelly lorend, February 21, 2010

    Today, Iam using WordPress and Joomla to my CMS, I think WordPress is powerfull cms ,because many support plugins ,I used theme switch plugin…,this plugin make easy to developing my sites….thanks…

  • Andrew, February 27, 2010

    Wow!this was really a good collection for WP plug-ins.Thanks for sharing this to us.It really helps a lot..

  • Blogger Template, March 22, 2010

    hoho….great plugins. thanks

  • Tim, May 26, 2010

    I have searched for something like Simply Exclude. Now I have found it. Thanks for that article.

  • Filmdizi, July 11, 2010

    Wow!this was really a good collection for WP plug-ins.Thanks for sharing this to us.It really helps a lot..

  • kişisel web günlüğü, July 12, 2010

    nice, thank yo. I used
    but for me some of the plugin very difficult to set up

  • güzel videolar, July 25, 2010

    nice, thank yo. I used
    but for me some of the plugin very difficult to set up

  • mario oyunları, September 3, 2010

    Thanks for sharing this to us.It really helps a lot..

  • mario oyunu, September 3, 2010

    i think i will use WordPress Theme Demo Plugin for my blog … thanks again

  • mario oyunları, September 24, 2010

    good article and post thanks.

  • Travel Kefalonia, September 30, 2010

    Thankx for the list…it really helps a lot…

  • Ücretsiz Firma Kayıt, October 3, 2010

    i think i will use WordPress Theme Demo Plugin for my blog … thanks again

  • ogame, October 7, 2010

    This post is really helpful for me and for other people also who wants to create their own wordpress themes.

  • duncan, December 2, 2010

    hi,
    i used joomla to design my site http://www.ubunifucapital.com but i am thinking of switching to wordpress.
    your article was of great help.
    thanks

  • Beads, January 21, 2011

    We used joomla and xcart for our site, but we are thinking wordpress. Going to be a nightmare though…what are the database loads like when combined with xcart?

  • izmirmtsk, January 23, 2011

    Thanks !!! /23.01.2011 10:43:05

  • Gonzales, January 24, 2011

    This post is really helpful for me and for other people also who wants to create their own wordpress themes.

  • Calypso Bay, February 24, 2011

    We can help with xcart load times – it depends on the number of products. However wordpress is Free and Vandelay have pointed you in the right direction!

  • Riz, March 9, 2011

    Hey nice article, i am using Grephene Theme for my wordpress blog, but there is always a border around pics in posts. how to get rid of it.

    • Vandelay Website Design, March 10, 2011

      Riz,
      I’m not familiar with the theme, but the style.css file probably has set a border to all images within the post. You can remove the code that sets the border from that file.

  • Bursa Kimya İlaçlama, March 15, 2011

    Have a new job where I have just started using WordPress. Thanks for this article. I am trying to learn as much as I can.

  • André, April 9, 2011

    Thank you, I want to start using woldpress in my work and am researching information.

  • kırma eleme tesisleri, May 18, 2011

    nice, thank yo. I used
    but for me some of the plugin very difficult to set up

  • friv, June 1, 2011

    Thanks mate these plugins are really handy thanks for sharing them with us

  • Mark Nett, January 3, 2012

    I’m looking for a themo demo plugin where all the themes I got should be displayed with preview /download link.

    Also I want to add blogger templates,wordpress templates to it.

    Is there any plugin that can come handy to my requirements.Please let me know

  • Bharat Chowdare, July 7, 2012

    Thanks for this ultimate collection of plugins. Actually I’m looking for “Theme Switcher” plugin and luckily its there in the list.

  • böcek ilaçlama şirketi, April 10, 2013

    We used joomla and xcart for our site, but we are thinking wordpress. Going to be a nightmare though…what are the database loads like when combined with xcart?

    • Steven Snell, April 10, 2013

      böcek,
      I’m sorry, I don’t have any experience with XCart.

  • Dumbbell Aspect Lunge and Contact will be the next movement inside your Spartacus
    workout program. Take a chest press for example; the main muscle worked is the chest, secondary maybe the
    triceps. This set is performed using a set of dumbbells that can be lifted
    alternately or simultaneously.

  • metin2 pvp serverler, June 24, 2013

    We used joomla and xcart for our site, but we are thinking wordpress. Going to be a nightmare though…what are the database loads like when combined with xcart?

  • Woodrow, July 10, 2013

    Hello! I am about to start my own website and was wondering if you know where the best
    place to purchase a website url is? I am not even sure if that’s what its known as? (I’m
    new to this) I’m referring to “http://vandelaydesign.com/blog/design/wordpress-plugins-for-theme-development/”. Exactly how do I go about getting one of these for the website I’m creating?
    Thank you