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Reader Interactions


  1. What are the odds? Just experienced my first white screen trying to setup WP manually, albeit locally. Turns out it was a Smart Quotes issue using TextEdit on my Mac….turned them off and it worked however, evaluating other text editors now. Thanks for the tip on DesktopServer, MAMP was a little challenging to configure, I’ll see how this goes.

  2. Great post, Carrie! I confess I used the built in editor on a site a while ago because I was being lazy. Paid for it last week in cleanup time. Somehow it inserted a blank line after every existing line in the stylesheet. O.o

    Also, Filezilla and SublimeText are cross platform, not just for Macs. 🙂

  3. Good post. I was going to ask how you were getting on with Desktop Server, but clearly you’re doing OK or you wouldn’t have mentioned it. I’m a fan; useful as you say, for cloning sites from your preferred set-up(s). Also good for taking a backup of a client’s site with (say) Duplicator and then working on it locally; Desktop Server’s Direct Deploy feature is very good too.

    • Thanks for mentioning Duplicator – I didn’t know that was available! I’ve been using Migrate DB Pro for live to live duplications and Desktop Server for dev to live deploys, but Duplicator looks perfect for pulling a live site into a local environment. What’s your workflow for pushing changes back up to a client’s live site? Do you take the DB or just upload editing theme files?

      • I’m curious to hear more about Desktop Server and others’ workflows. I’ve been using BackupBuddy to go back and forth. I think it has the ability to move it in pieces, but I’ve always done a full move, which seems a pain – so I do tend to tweak my CSS on my live site. I use the Advanced Code Editor plugin, which helps. I sometimes miss the good ol’ days of simple HTML websites and getting/putting individual files with Dreamweaver!

        • Jodi, the Advanced Code Editor plugin shows not tested on the latest/greatest version of WordPress, so let me ask you – has it ever caused you any problems? I’m tempted to use it – but primarily on my desktop for tweaks here. Thanks – and I agree with you about sometimes missing the good old days, but it *is* only sometimes. 😀

          • Oh, it does look like it’s getting kind of stale and hasn’t been updated in awhile. I’ve never had any problems with it though. The only thing I don’t like about it is the window you’re working in gets a little wonky and moves below the file listing on the right side, sometimes causing some scrolling confusion.

      • Hi Carrie, only just saw your query. Workflow for pushing changes back kind of depends on what I’m doing, i..e. how major the surgery. If it’s theme work (and maybe moving widgets around to suit, then I’ll upload the theme files and change the widgets. If it’s a major job then I’ve used Desktop Server’s Direct Deploy to overwrite the complete old install. It also allows me to do things like change to custom table prefixes offline, and then Direct Deploy will keep them, overwriting the default wp_ etc.

        Just noting some other comments, I’ve not had a problem with php time-outs on Duplicator (yet). I’ve just been using it for an install with a a few thousand CPT entries (Events Manager) and it took about 2 minutes to create the archive (hardly any images on that particular site…yet).

  4. A white screen is more often that not is just a php syntax error. Usually easily found if you know what you are looking for if notnthat is what the error logs are for. I always recommend running a development version, always good to run upgrades and development changes the first.

  5. I’ve never had much luck with Duplicator. 9 out of 10 times the archive ends up timing out.

    Another good rule, don’t touch any PHP code without first setting WP_DEBUG to true.

  6. I can vouch for DeskTop Server. After struggling mightily with alternatives, I’ve found that it works like a charm–installs effortlessly. It’s a n00b-safe way (aka so simple even Steve can do it) to start, stop, access your local dev site. Also, it’s a great way to noodle around with a WordPress site clone while trapped on a non-stop flight (how DO you get off a ‘non-stop flight’?) over the ocean with no GoGo wifi, etc. I’ve installed a dev site on my dropbox folder too–for access via different PC’s, laptops, etc. Cool.

    In addition to the FTP/SFTP–very safe and smart–way to go about things like you suggest, I’ve found that I can quickly go to cpanel>file manager and make a copy (renamed to functions_orig.php in the same directory) or whatever file I’m playing with, er editing…like functions.php or custom.css…and then I have an easy fix if (when) I break something.

    It seems quicker to be working on my site with cpanel live in another tab, etc for emergency fixes. I don’t see this cpanel method talked about much as an alternate means of accomplishing backup safety, etc. Is it because it’s a bad idea?

    Thanks, Carrie, for another excellent and relevant post. You’re on a roll: You go!

    • Have you used other alternatives like WAMP, XAMPP, MAMP? If so, how does DeskTop Server compare? I currently use WAMP, but it’s slowed down for some reason, which is another reason I’m not keen on going back and forth between dev and live for small tweaks. When tweaking functions, I always use a local dev site. Okay, almost always … I have been known to break it and learned the hard way 🙂

      I do like that WAMP is free. I’m not sure I’m currently doing enough websites to justify yet another yearly subscription fee!

      • Jodi, yes. i have-WAMP, Xamp…they drive me nuts, frankly.

        Try DesktopServer, there’s a free version (for personal use?) you can at least evaluate.

        Download, install, follow prompts from the simple startup screen (stop/start/install new dev site/go to existing dev site/s) and you’ll be up and running in 3-5min. (No exaggeration.)

        Plus, it installs very cleanly (operates a fork of XampLite? or one of those), so you can delete if you dont like.

        Hope that helps! Cheers

  7. Thanks so much for the write-up and mention of DesktopServer, Carrie! Let us know if you have any questions at all for the review!

    A couple of things that were alluded to in the comments that I’ll address have to do with Duplicator and BackupBuddy. DesktopServer has the ability to import either of these formats seamlessly, so once you make your archive, download it and run the import and you’re set (Premium Version).

    Also, when you say that you can duplicate your sites, I am wondering if you knew about the blueprints feature. Did you know that if you output your configured site (export) to a .zip, you can stick it in your blueprints directory and use that to set up all of your sites? Blueprints, are one of its most powerful features.

    Lastly, there was a question about DS vs. WAMP. I actually did a very quick side-by-side video of mamp vs DS to show the speed and ease. You can check it out here:

    And lastly, lastly, I am sorry if this seems sales-y. I certainly did not mean to pitch here so much as answer the comments and most importantly, thank you for the shout out!

  8. Hi Carrie,

    Why do you use ManageWP and Backup Buddy? I use ManageWP for my backups but have been wondering whether there’s any advantage to Backup Buddy.


    • Hey Samantha,
      I originally used BackupBuddy, but after I started using ManageWP I let my license go on BackupBuddy. I think it’s a great standalone product, but yeah, if you’re using ManageWP you don’t need it (IMHO).


  9. Thanks, Carrie. I have a couple of sites that won’t backup properly with ManageWP and I haven’t sat down and figured out why (probably the cheap hosting – they are both with the same web host). I’ll try to work it out and leave BackupBuddy for another day 🙂

  10. Another tip to share….if you want to see what changes you made say to your theme files since installing or to revert something back to the way it was, you can use a free tool called DiffMerge

    This cross-platform tool lets you compare two files and see what the differences are, even if it’s just a missing semi-colon it will find it :=) For example, maybe the original theme\style.css to the one you have altered. You can also use it to compare an entire folder/subfolder/file tree.

  11. Back to “Appearance/Edit (and also Plugins/Edit) – Don’t do it” for a moment, you can easily disable this option. This is a great idea if you don’t want clients messing with things. It’s also a good security precaution. If a hacker or disgruntled employee gains access to the WP dashboard there is all sorts of mischief possible through this unlocked door.

    Simply open up wp-config.php with your freshly installed text editor, love Sublime Text by the way, and do a search for “EDIT.” You will find the following:

    define( ‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’, FALSE );

    Change the state to TRUE, as follows:

    define( ‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’, TRUE );

    Save the file and presto, temptation has been removed.

  12. I know this is an old post, but wondering what your recommended workflow is when using the Dynamik theme in a local install (via Desktop Server.) I’ve used the custom area to create hook boxes, add functions, etc. rather than a text editor to edit full files directly. Is that acceptable or risky?

    • Hey Michele! As long as you’re doing that development locally, you’re safe. Should you white screen something, you can quickly recover and nobody but you will ever know. 🙂

      If you’re using those editing tools on a live site, however, you really don’t have any more protection that using the built-in WP editor.

      If you’re working with a host that has a staging server, that’d probably make for the easiest workflow. First-time deploy is with DesktopServer and any future edits use your host’s “copy live to staging” feature. Make the changes on staging and then publish back to live.


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