Local Mac WordPress Development Environment


Imagine if…

Let me start this post with the disclaimer that I have not set up my perfect local WordPress development environment yet, partly due to a lack of know-how and partly due to the cobbler’s kids needing shoes. I recently switched from a 74lb Dell laptop to a sweet Macbook Air, and I thought I should take the opportunity to streamline the way I build WordPress sites and plugins locally. Ideally, I would have:

  • All local files linked via SVN to the latest stable release of WordPress (support for multiple versions of WordPress would be good practice as well)
  • A single copy of the WordPress software
  • A symlinked copy of each theme and plugin folder in another physical location (by project, presumably), that WordPress would recognize
  • A quick and easy way to swap out wp-config.php files to point at different sets of db tables
  • Support for WordPress networks
  • Ability to keep my code in sync between my computer and the production server

I am sure I would tire of this if I ever wanted to work on a couple of projects at once, but that is my ideal for now…can it be done?


I’ve tried MAMP. I’ve tried XAMPP. I’ve even tried them with a LAMP. But I digress. All the server setup details get in my way of producing websites.

Current solution…


I landed on DesktopServer after reading about it on WPMU.org, and quickly moved to the $49 paid version for WordPress multi-site support, better support options, and unlimited virtual hosts. The support was phenomenal when I needed it, BTW. One of the coolest features is the automatic creation of .dev domains, so I can work offline at http://lukerumley.dev and move code to production with ease.

I am currently swapping back and forth between Aptana Studio and Sublime Text as my code editor of choice, and there are pros/cons of each.

Have you found your local WordPress development happy place? Have any brave souls setup Nginx instead of Apache for local dev?


  1. I’m on Windows for now, but I hope to move to Mac someday. I haven’t yet had a compelling need for local dev environment, so I use Notepad++ and Aptana Studio with SFTP.

    1. You must have a sandbox on a server then, right? That’s crazy talk to do plugin development and debugging on a live site. I also find local development to be my plan B when just trying to tweak some styling, etc, but it is faster for development than saving a file over SSH and refreshing a server page.

  2. I just installed the free version of DesktopServer, then grabbed a copy of my site to run locally. This will be my backup for my WordCamp Grand Rapids presentation, in case the Internet connection is saturated or down. Thanks for the tip!

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