Our Favorite Developer Plugins

“Developer” plugins are WordPress plugins that are not necessarily useful to the average WordPress website owner—they’re plugins made by developers for other developers. We use and love a number of developer plugins: in development, of course, but also in our QA and customer support teams.

As you’ll see, even seemingly-simple plugins can provide immense utility. If you’re anyone who works “under the hood” with WordPress in any capacity (freelancers, developers, QA technicians, customer support technicians, etc.), you could be saving yourself a ton of time and energy by finding and using the right developer plugins.

In no particular order, here are four of our favorites.

Transients Manager

One of the great things about developer plugins, in my opinion, is their simple and straight-to-the-point nomenclature. Transients Manager is a great example: it helps you manage transients on your site.

The plugin is made by Pippin Williamson and is administered on a page that sits under the “Tools” wp-admin menu. The page provides a handy GUI for managing transients, as shown in the following screenshot.

The Transients Manager GUI

Transients Manager’s graphical wp-admin interface for managing transients.

Just the ability to see all of the transients on your site is helpful enough, but with Transients Manager you have the power to delete and modify transients, too—you can even temporarily suspend all transients with a single click.

It’s a time-saver to be able to see and edit transient values quickly without having to go spelunking in your database. For example, if you click the “edit” link on any transient in the admin GUI, you get a simple form like in the following screenshot where you can view and edit transient values.

Viewing the Details of a Single Transient

Viewing the details of a single transient in the Transient Manager admin screen.

Transients Manager is proof that even a simple plugin can make a huge impact on productivity. By bringing transients into the admin for easy perusal and modification, you can save yourself a good deal of time and effort.

Query Monitor

It hurts to imagine life without John Blackbourn‘s Query Monitor plugin. Query Monitor is extremely helpful, because it is extremely comprehensive.

The plugin adds an unobtrusive menu item to the admin toolbar that displays basic information about the current page’s queries, requests, and other details. Upon hovering over this menu item, some more items drop down as shown here:

Query Monitor's Simple Toolbar Item

The admin toolbar item from Query Monitor that shows basic information about the page you’re on.

When you click any of those menu items, a whole new section of content under the admin footer opens, revealing a plethora of insightful details about the current page. In an easy-to-read set of tables you get to see details like:

  • All of the database queries performed on the current request
  • All of the hooks fired on the current request
  • Active theme templates and their respective filenames
  • PHP errors and notices
  • All of the rewrite rules and query vars for the current request
  • All enqueued scripts and stylesheets
  • What language files were loaded
  • PHP environment information like memory limits and server details

For a complete list of things the Query Monitor displays, check out the official plugin page here. Having so much data at your fingertips saves time and affords more opportunities for having insights when trying to understand bugs. The plugin is free, incredibly helpful, and once you get used to having it on one site, you will want it on every site—I promise!

User Switching

Another indispensable tool created by John Blackbourn, User Switching lets you effortlessly switch to user accounts of any user level on your site.

The utility of this is immense, as many features within WordPress generally (and within plugins and themes specifically) look and behave differently based on what user level the current user is.

Differences in appearance and behavior based on user level can only really be tested by manually logging into user accounts of different user levels. If you do this more than once or twice, the repetitious logging in, testing, logging out, logging back in, and so on starts to become tedious.

User Switching reduces a multi-step process to just a few clicks. From your main Administrator account, you can switch to any user with the “Switch To” button seen here on the wp-admin Users page:

The "Switch To" Button from User Switching

The “Switch To” button provided by the User Switching plugin.

In the example above, the account I’m switching to is of the Contributor user level. Once I switch to this user, I can test things and explore my site on both the front and back ends, and see everything as a Contributor user would. When you’re ready to return to the Administrator account, all that’s needed is one more click: you simply hover your admin toolbar’s user card and click “Switch Back to {username}”, as shown here:

User Switching's "Switch back to" Functionality

The “Switch back to” link in the toolbar when User Switching is activated.

If you’re building or debugging a project where the user levels of various users matters, do yourself a favor and ensure that User Switching is active at all times.

WP Crontrol

A third plugin by the superhero John Blackbourn, WP Crontrol does for WordPress cron events what Transients Manager does for transients. Like transients, cron events in WordPress are not easily manageable unless you dive into the database or tinker via code directly. But once WP Crontrol is installed, you can view and manage cron events from right within your wp-admin.

After activating the plugin, a new “Cron Events” menu item will appear under your wp-admin’s “Tools” menu item. It leads to a single, well-made page that lists all of your site’s active cron events, as shown in the following screenshot.

The WP Crontrol Management Screen

WP Crontrol’s simple but powerful cron management screen.

As seen in the screenshot, you can manually force cron events to run on demand with the “Run Now” buttons—a huge help for debugging. You can also delete cron events, of course. But another great help is the ability to add new cron events or edit existing ones; both things are possible by way of a simple interface at the bottom of the page, as shown in the screenshots below.

There are a ton of great plugins out there for consumers and developers alike. These four plugins are just some common favorites with wide usage among our QA, support, and development teams, and are so useful and flexible that it’s hard to imagine making things for WordPress without these tools.

Each of these four plugins has many thousands of users all over the world, which makes it mind-boggling to think of how many hours these tools must collectively save the developers who use them. It’s a testament to the WordPress community and mindset that all four of the invaluable pieces of software above are completely free. Be sure to check out their authors, Pippin Williamson and Jack Blackbourn, and support their projects. I’m sure even a “thank you” over Twitter would surely be appreciated.