Regardless of whether you are a WordPress beginner or an advanced developer, DesktopServer from ServerPress is a powerful and convenient tool that can greatly speed up your website development process. Even better news is that the trial version of DesktopServer is free, runs on both Windows and Mac, and allows three WordPress sites to run locally on your computer.
Advantages of local WordPress website development environments
When I first started using WordPress, the only way that I could carry out my design experiments was to set up a testing site in a subdirectory on my live server. This is a functional solution, but it is not optimal. Because I was editing code on a live site connected to the internet, there was sometimes an annoying lag between editing, saving and refreshing the site to see the changes take effect. It never felt very efficient.
Thankfully that changed when I discovered MAMP — and suddenly my eyes were opened to the advantages of developing WordPress without an internet connection. Ryan Olsen wrote an excellent article about working with MAMP, in which he explains:
MAMP, which stands for Macintosh, Apache, MySQL and PHP, is an application that allows you to install a local server-type environment in order to construct websites that would normally require you be on a live server somewhere. Ever opened a contact form in a browser from your desktop and wondered why it doesn’t work? The server-side components cannot operate without (in this case) the PHP back end, and this is where MAMP comes in. By installing this application, we can have a virtual server locally as our development sandbox.
I tried MAMP and loved it. Working locally was definitely faster, with my changes refreshing almost instantly. The only downside was that suddenly I felt isolated from some important support networks that I often use, because I could not share links to my site for forum members to provide advice on my development problems.
Also, MAMP (which also has a version for Windows called WAMP), takes a reasonable amount of technical knowledge to set up. Thankfully Ryan’s article is a great guide, but for a WordPress beginner the whole process may still seem quite intimidating.
DesktopServer is so easy to set up
While I still love MAMP, I would highly recommend DesktopServer to beginners, as it is such a breeze to get up and running. DesktopServer operates with the same basic principles as MAMP, but all of the more technical set up features are taken care of for you. I first discovered DesktopServer through a great article on WordPress deployment by Carrie Dils, and thought that it sounded too good to be true. But sure enough, after a quick download procedure from the ServerPress website, I was up and running with the app after a series of simple mouse clicks.
For a beginner who may be interested in getting to know WordPress, but has not yet set themselves up with a domain name and hosting package, this is an ideal solution. A beginner can now download DesktopServer for free and work with up to three installations — plenty of playground for someone who wants to get familiar with the WordPress dashboard and interface and see what all the fuss is about.
All of the features of a live WordPress installation are there to see and experiment with, including the full capability of editing code and uploading content. This is a great option for a learner to experiment without any initial costs.
Further benefits for advanced developers
After being very impressed by the free download I quickly decided to upgrade to the premium version of DesktopServer. Outlaying US$99.95 was not a decision to take lightly, but I am very happy to report that I am thrilled with this investment. I can now set up as many WordPress installations as I like to run locally on my computer, and the ease and freedom that this gives to my experimentation is fantastic.
For example, I can now happily download and set up any of the Genesis child themes on their own, unique installation and take them for a spin to see how they run. I can also hack away at code files without any fear of breaking the site — if the worst happens, I can just dump the site and set up a new one.
But an even greater function is the live deploy feature. Now I can work up a development website on my Mac, and when I am ready, I can migrate it to a live server really easily. This is not something that you can do with very easily with MAMP, but DesktopServer makes it a breeze, and the benefits are fantastic.
For one thing, I no longer feel isolated from development support forums. If I get stuck with a local coding problem, I can upload the site to a live preview environment and enable forum members to provide feedback and suggestions.
And if I’m working on a client site I can also do a live deploy from DesktopServer so that they can see the work in progress. Further changes and modifications that I make on my local development site can be implemented on the live site by simply cloning over the top of the first one.
This is great stuff. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying out DesktopServer, head over to the ServerPress site and take the free version for a spin. But be careful — it only took a few days of playing with it for me to decide to pay for the upgrade.
If you love the idea of being able to spin up WordPress installs at light speed, and then deploy them to where you need them, you’ll be in your element with this great tool.