Every WordPress developer has his/her own stash of tools, plugins and processes that make their life easier and save them time when developing or managing sites. One that you will hear crop up time and time again is DesktopServer. In a nutshell DesktopServer creates a web server environment on your local computer and allows you to quickly and easily spin up WordPress sites that run locally. It was created by ServerPress, and is available for both Mac and PC in a free & premium version.
Prior to DesktopServer you would have to install MAMP, WAMP or XAMPP and configure it yourself for each new site you wanted to run (edit host file, create database, etc). For non-developers especially, it's not a very user-friendly process, particularly if you want to run multiple sites. Even for developers that have no problem tinkering with Ports, databases and the like, DesktopServer is preferred because it makes the process so much faster. DS can create a new site with a couple of mouse clicks and a few seconds. It installs all the necessary WordPress files and creates the database for you. But that's just where the awesome begins.
Why Run WordPress Locally?
For non-developers, having a local version of your site provides a sandbox – a safe area where you can play with your site. You can test out plugins, change themes etc without disrupting your live site. You can try out the latest WordPress upgrade and preemptively see if it's going to cause havoc with your site. You no longer have to fear the Update Button, because you will be prepared for what's going to happen!
For developers, a local environment allows you to write and test your custom code before pushing it to a staging or live server. You can also get work done without needing to be connected to the internet.
A secondary advantage is having a local backup of all the sites you've worked on. This is handy when a client comes back with a problem or new task – you have your development and testing environment ready to go. Since these sites are not live on the internet you don't have to worry about maintaining and updating them for security purposes.
Chances are you have some favorite plugins or configurations that you like to use on almost every WordPress site you build. The blueprint feature of DesktopServer allows you to create this base configuration so that when you create a new site, it already has all the plugins you want ready to go, saving you extra time.
Import An Existing Site
Many times you're not building a site totally from scratch – you're working with a site that's already live on the internet and you want to bring it into a local environment in order to play with it or do some modifications without 'cowboy coding'. There are numerous plugins, such as Duplicator, BackWPUp and others that you can run on your live site to create a zip file of your entire site including the database. The import feature of DesktopServer is compatible with many of these, thus allowing you to easily bring your existing site into your local setup and get to work on it right away.
After you've built your spiffy new local site you need to get it back up to the server. There are numerous ways to do that including using plugins and/or manual labor. But the premium version of DS comes with a Direct Deploy feature that simplifies the process. This is especially great for non-developers.
Support Awesome People
The DesktopServer team is straight up awesome. Stephen Carnam, the developer behind DesktopServer has been known to call people personally in order to help them out with problems (I know because when I was a new user he called me to assist, on a weekend no less) and provides wonderful support. These guys are active members of the WordPress community and simply rock. So not only do you get a great product, but you're also supporting an awesome team.
That's Not All
I haven't covered all the features in detail here, but to give you an idea of what else DesktopServer can do – you can also: make a copy of any of your existing local sites with the click of a button, share a local site over a LAN for testing on mobile devices, integrate DesktopServer with the live preview features of Dreamweaver and Coda2.
Try It For Free
DesktopServer comes in both free and premium flavors. The free version doesn't have all the features, but it will be adequate for some users. Developers or people managing multiple sites will probably want to get the Premium version (which is currently priced at $99.95).
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