How to Develop, Release and Update Your WordPress Plugin on macOS

Are you ready to bring your creative ideas to life within the dynamic world of WordPress plugins on your macOS? Whether you’re a coding novice or an experienced developer, this comprehensive step-by-step guide will lead you through the entire process of creating, publishing, and updating your own WordPress plugin.

By the time you complete this tutorial, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to craft and publish your plugin on the WordPress Plugin Repository. Let’s dive in and embark on the exciting journey of plugin development, where your innovative ideas seamlessly integrate with the WordPress ecosystem.

Set Up Your Local WordPress Development Environment

Developing and testing your WordPress plugin in a controlled local environment is a crucial step to ensure its functionality and stability before releasing it to the broader WordPress community. In this step, we’ll guide you through setting up a local development environment using MAMP (macOS, Apache, MySQL, PHP), which emulates a web server on your macOS system.

Install MAMP (macOS, Apache, MySQL, PHP):

MAMP is a widely-used tool that enables you to create a local server environment on your macOS machine. This allows you to run websites and web applications as you would on a remote server.a. Download MAMP: Visit the official MAMP website (https://www.mamp.info/) and download the free version of MAMP.b. Install MAMP: Double-click the downloaded installer and follow the on-screen instructions to install MAMP on your macOS system.

Create a WordPress Database:

Now that MAMP is installed, let’s set up the database for your local WordPress installation:

  • After installing MAMP, launch the MAMP application. It provides a user-friendly interface that allows you to start and stop the Apache and MySQL servers with ease.
  • Once MAMP is running, click on the “Start Servers” button to activate both the Apache and MySQL servers.
  • Open your web browser and navigate to http://localhost:8888/phpMyAdmin/. This will launch phpMyAdmin, a popular tool for managing MySQL databases.
  • In phpMyAdmin, click on the “Databases” tab and create a new database for your local WordPress installation. Give it a descriptive name (e.g., mywordpress) and click the “Create” button.

Download and Install WordPress:

With the database ready, let’s install WordPress on your local environment:

  • Visit the official WordPress website (https://wordpress.org/) and download the latest version of WordPress.
  • Once the download is complete, locate the downloaded ZIP file and extract its contents.
  • Move the extracted WordPress folder to the htdocs directory of your MAMP installation. By default, this directory is located at /Users/Username/Sites/localhost. You can change this location in MAMP.

Configure WordPress:

With WordPress files in place, it’s time to set up your local WordPress site:

  • Open your web browser and navigate to http://localhost:8888/your-wordpress-folder. Replace your-wordpress-folder with the name of the WordPress folder you placed in the htdocs directory.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the WordPress installation process. You’ll be prompted to provide details such as your preferred language, database name (which you created earlier), database username (usually root), and database password (usually root as well).
  • Create an admin account by providing a username, password, and email address. This account will be used to access your local WordPress admin dashboard.
  • Once the installation is complete, click the “Log In” button to access the WordPress admin dashboard. Congratulations, you now have a fully functional local WordPress installation!

Create Your Plugin Directory and Files

Now that your local WordPress environment is set up, let’s create the foundation for your plugin:

Navigate to the Plugins Directory:

Access your local WordPress installation’s wp-content/plugins directory using the command line. If your WordPress installation is located at /Users/Username/Sites/localhost, for instance, you can use the following command:

cd /Users/Username/Sites/localhost/wp-content/plugins
Code language: Bash (bash)

Create a Plugin Directory:

Create a directory for your plugin. Replace your-plugin-name with your actual plugin’s name:

mkdir your-plugin-name
cd your-plugin-name
Code language: Bash (bash)

Create Your Main Plugin File:

Inside your plugin’s directory, create the main plugin file (e.g., your-plugin-name.php) using your preferred text editor. This file serves as the entry point for your plugin and holds essential metadata. Add the following code:

   <?php
   /**
    * Plugin Name: Your Plugin Name
    * Description: This is a description of your plugin.
    * Version: 1.0.0
    * Author: Your Name
    */

   // Your plugin code goes here.
Code language: PHP (php)

Develop Your Plugin Functionality

Add Your Plugin Functionality:

Add your desired plugin functionality within the your-plugin-name.php file. For example, let’s create a simple shortcode that displays a welcome message when used in posts or pages:

   function welcome_message_shortcode() {
       return 'Welcome to My Plugin!';
   }
   add_shortcode('welcome', 'welcome_message_shortcode');
Code language: PHP (php)

Test Your Plugin Locally

Before sharing your plugin with the world, ensure it works flawlessly in your local environment:

  1. Activate Your Plugin:
    • Log in to your local WordPress admin dashboard.
    • Navigate to the “Plugins” section and activate your newly created plugin.
  2. Test Thoroughly:
    • Create a new post or page within WordPress.
    • Add the [welcome] shortcode (or any other functionality you added) to the content.
    • Preview or publish the post/page and verify that the expected output appears.

Prepare Plugin Files for Deployment

Now that your plugin’s functionality is in place, let’s prepare it for deployment:

Create a Trunk Directory:

To structure your plugin for version control, create a subdirectory named trunk within your plugin directory. Move your main plugin file (your-plugin-name.php) into this directory.

mkdir trunk
Code language: Bash (bash)

Move your main plugin file (your-plugin-name.php) into the trunk directory:

mv your-plugin-name.php trunk/
Code language: Bash (bash)

Set Up Version Control with SVN

Version control is crucial for maintaining and tracking changes to your plugin. We’ll use SVN (Subversion) for version control:

Install SVN (Subversion):

If you haven’t already, install SVN on your macOS. You can do this using Homebrew, a package manager for macOS:

brew install svn
Code language: Bash (bash)

Navigate to Your Plugin Directory:

In the Terminal, navigate to your plugin’s directory:

cd /Users/Username/Sites/localhost/wp-content/plugins/your-plugin-name
Code language: Bash (bash)

Initialize Your Plugin as an SVN Repository:

Initialize your plugin as an SVN repository by running the following command:

svn import trunk https://plugins.svn.wordpress.org/your-plugin-name --message "Initial commit"
Code language: Bash (bash)

This command imports the contents of your trunk directory into the WordPress Plugin Repository.

Create a Version Tag:

After importing your initial commit, create a version tag for your plugin:

svn copy https://plugins.svn.wordpress.org/your-plugin-name/trunk https://plugins.svn.wordpress.org/your-plugin-name/tags/1.0.0 -m "Tagging version 1.0.0"
Code language: Bash (bash)

This command creates a copy of your trunk directory and labels it with the specified version number.

With version control in place, you’re ready to update the readme, test your plugin again, and prepare for publication on the WordPress Plugin Repository.

Test Your Plugin Again

Before proceeding further, it’s important to ensure that your plugin functions as intended within your local WordPress environment. Follow these steps to test your plugin:

  1. Activate Your Plugin: Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard. Navigate to the “Plugins” section. Find your plugin in the list and click the “Activate” link.
  2. Test the Functionality: Create a new post or page within WordPress. Add the [welcome] shortcode (or any other functionality you implemented) to the content. Preview or publish the post/page and verify that the expected output appears.
  3. Inspect the Logs (If Applicable): If your plugin involves logging or output, check the logs for any errors or unexpected behavior.

Publish Your Plugin

With your plugin successfully tested and ready, it’s time to share it with the broader WordPress community by publishing it on the WordPress Plugin Repository. Before submitting your plugin, ensure that you have the necessary assets ready, including a banner image (772×250 pixels), screenshots, and a detailed readme.txt file that follows the WordPress Plugin Repository guidelines.

Create a Readme.txt:

A readme.txt file is essential for providing clear and detailed information about your plugin. To generate a well-structured readme.txt file, you can use the WordPress Plugin Boilerplate Generator at https://wppb.me/. This tool will help you create a standardized readme.txt template for your plugin.

Log in to WordPress.org:

Log in to your WordPress.org account to access your plugin developer profile.

Submit Your Plugin:

  • Access the plugin submission page directly using the following link: https://wordpress.org/plugins/developers/add/.
  • Fill out the required information, including the plugin name, description, and other details.
  • Upload your plugin’s ZIP file, which should include the trunk directory containing your plugin files.
  • Submit your plugin for review.

Plugin Review Process:

  • Your plugin will undergo a review by the WordPress team to ensure it meets the guidelines and standards.
  • During this review, you may receive feedback or requests for adjustments.

Approval and Availability:

  • After passing the review process, your plugin will be approved and made available on the WordPress Plugin Repository.
  • Users can now discover, install, and use your plugin directly from the WordPress admin dashboard.

Updating and Publishing Your Plugin via SVN

Once your plugin is live on the WordPress Plugin Repository, you’ll likely encounter scenarios where you want to enhance its features or fix any issues that may arise. Updating and publishing your plugin using Subversion (SVN) is the key to keeping your plugin current and offering the best possible experience to your users. Here’s how you can achieve that:

Prepare Your Development Environment:

Before making any updates, ensure that you have your local development environment set up and ready to go. This includes having your plugin files organized within a structured directory, and your WordPress installation running smoothly on your local machine.

Navigate to Your Plugin Directory:

Using the command line, navigate to the directory where your plugin is located. For example:

cd /Users/Username/Sites/localhost/wp-content/plugins/your-plugin-name
Code language: Bash (bash)

Update Your Plugin Files:

Before making any updates, it’s a good practice to check the status of your plugin’s files using the svn status command. This will provide you with a clear view of which files have been modified.

Next, update your plugin to the latest version available in the repository using the svn update command. This ensures you’re working with the most recent codebase.

Make Code Changes:

Now that you’re working with the latest version of your plugin, start making the necessary code changes to introduce improvements, fix bugs, or add new features.

Commit Your Changes:

Once you’re satisfied with the updates you’ve made, it’s time to commit your changes to the SVN repository. Use the following command:

svn commit -m "Updated plugin to version 1.0.1 - include detailed description of changes"
Code language: Bash (bash)

Craft a meaningful commit message that describes the changes you’ve made. This message will help you and others understand the purpose of the update.

Create a New Version Tag:

To mark your updated plugin with a new version number, create a new version tag using the svn copy command. This ensures that users can easily identify and access the latest version of your plugin:

svn copy https://plugins.svn.wordpress.org/your-plugin-name/trunk https://plugins.svn.wordpress.org/your-plugin-name/tags/1.0.1 -m "Tagging version 1.0.1"
Code language: Bash (bash)

Plugin Review and Availability:

Once you’ve committed your changes and created the new version tag, your updated plugin will be available on the WordPress Plugin Repository. Users can now benefit from the improvements and changes you’ve introduced.

Continued Maintenance:

As you receive feedback and continue to develop your plugin, you can follow the same process to release subsequent updates. Regularly updating your plugin ensures that it remains compatible with new versions of WordPress and provides users with the best experience.

By effectively using SVN, you’ve mastered the process of updating and publishing your WordPress plugin. Your dedication to providing valuable enhancements contributes to the growth of the WordPress community.

That’s it! You’ve successfully added your plugin to WordPress without relying on plugins and adhering to WordPress coding standards. By following these steps, you’ve empowered users to install and activate your plugin directly from the WordPress admin dashboard. Keep your plugin updated, engage with user feedback, and continue honing your WordPress development skills. Your contributions to the WordPress ecosystem are invaluable. Happy coding!

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