10 Top Local WordPress Development Environments 2023
Are you searching for the best (free) local WordPress development environments because you’d like to perform changes and tests safely?
While there are many solutions available, we found these ten to be the absolute best.
And what’s best – most are FREE!
You don’t need to rely on an internet connection (except if you work with cloud-based tools) anymore. And you don’t need to worry about breaking your website.
You can install WordPress in a few clicks and start testing themes, plugins, bug fixes, improvements – whatever – immediately. You can then share your creations with your team (to collaborate) or your (potential) customers (to boost sales).
We have the best tools for macOS, Windows and Linux users, so let’s dive right into them.
Best (Free) Local WordPress Development Environments
As a loyal user of Kinsta hosting, we’re excited to share with you DevKinsta as the first tool you can use to create a local WP environment. First and foremost, this is a 100% free-of-charge solution that you can use as much or as little as you want.
It is available for macOS, Windows and Ubuntu users (freelancers and agencies).
Creating a new WordPress site takes only one click with default settings. But you can also configure settings or import a site directly from Kinsta.
The user interface is very beginner-friendly, so everyone easily gets the most out of it.
DevKinsta supports the latest WP and PHP versions, allows you to test emails and gives you more control through the convenient database manager.
While you don’t have to be a Kinsta user to work with DevKinsta, it makes it so much more effortless if you are.
What we like about DevKinsta: It’s one of the most accessible solutions to test themes, plugins, and more that anyone can use. Plus, it’s translated into ten languages!
Local makes your workflow a piece of cake when creating and launching WordPress sites. Why? Because of the endless features it has in store for you. And do you know what makes things even better? That Local is a free-to-use WordPress development environment.
You don’t need to set up WordPress when using Local manually; it does it automatically. This also includes SSL certificate. Moreover, you can be safe and sound by connecting with Dropbox and Google Drive to create cloud backups at your free will – making your environment clean and secure.
Four of Local’s handier features are a broken link checker, live links (to test your website on different devices), image optimization and automated refresh after saving a CSS file.
However, this is still just a tiny portion of all the goodies Local has available. This also contains advanced developer tools, so you can comfortably work on complex tasks.
What we like about Local: Outstanding collection of features, from quick one-click WP install and admin to cloning and practical pre-launch tools, to name a few.
3. WP Engine Local
You don’t need to learn to work with a local WordPress development environment when using WP Engine Local. It was designed and developed with a newbie in mind, but they also made it powerful enough to fit advanced users.
We were impressed by how quick and simple the setup process was. The installation is a breeze, and all the tasks you want to perform don’t require asking yourself first, “Hey, where’s that function?” because everything is neat and organized. This guarantees your development work will be fast and straightforward.
The included demo URLs allow you to share all your creations with whomever you want without them needing to be part of the environment.
If you’re already a WP Engine user, then we recommend going with this local WP development environment because you’ll have everything under the same roof.
What we like about WP Engine Local: The friendly and speedy support that WP Engine Local offers (even to the most newbie questions).
Vagrant is 100% open-source, free and self-managed for your convenience. You can create your virtual WordPress environment without prior experience, thanks to its user-friendliness.
Vagrant’s tools will boost your productivity through the roof, from quick installation to any advanced tasks you’d like to perform and test.
We also like the insightful tutorials, so you can get the gist of it first before you start working on your project. Or you can access the extensive online documentation where you can read about all the ins and outs of Vagrant.
Vagrant makes working with virtual machines much more comfortable through the easy-to-use command-line client, where you can manage all your environments. Remember you can have multiple running at the same time without interference.
What we like about Vagrant: You can quickly return to any past environment if you want to reconstruct it with a simple action.
MAMP offers you a free and premium local server environment for macOS and Windows. What we noticed when reviewing MAMP is that it’s a solution with one of the fewer features.
This might get you thinking, “Why then are you adding it to the list?” Because it’ll probably work best for someone who doesn’t need advanced functionality for testing and development.
When you use the pro version, you can install WordPress with a single click and publish your website directly to your server from the environment.
Furthermore, you can also save your creations (complete websites, themes, etc.) and reuse them as many times as you want.
Email testing, cloning, site migration, friendly editor, multiple PHP versions, you name it, MAMP delivers it. And if you want to test your projects’ responsiveness, you can do that with the mobile tester.
What we like about MAMP: Its simplicity use- and features-wise make it one of the most manageable local WordPress development environments to handle.
Laragon ensures speediness, which is something we’re all after when working on and testing new WordPress projects. The entire method of installing and using Laragon takes no challenging work, including extending it to meet your needs.
As far as starting with WordPress goes, it only takes a single click, and you can get things moving forward. The same goes for enabling or disabling PHP extensions.
When using links to your test projects, Laragon equips you with pretty URLs to make them appear more professional.
What’s more, Laragon also supports installing multiple versions of PHP, MySQL and Nginx.
What we like about Laragon: Its modernism and flexibility with a lightweight foundation – but exclusive to Windows users (which is a bit of a bummer because we’re mac fans).
Besides supporting macOS and Windows, you can also install InstantWP and run it on a USB. This ensures complete portability, so you can work on your projects from anywhere or share them with everyone.
InstantWP permits you to install it as many times as you want on your device, but you need to rename the files to work properly. Also, only one installation can run at a time with default settings. But you can change configurations for every website if you want to run multiple simultaneously.
You can access all your WordPress themes and plugins via InstantWP’s GUI and user-friendly Web File Manager.
InstantWP’s interface is clean and organized, so you can get familiar with it on the fly (no need to read through documentation first).
What we like about InstantWP: You can easily install InstantWP on a USB drive, which makes your local WordPress development environment highly portable. It’s entirely independent without hosting it on a web server.
We wanted to add an exception to this list, WPSandbox, which isn’t a local WP environment per se but still has all the options to test themes and plugins on a temporary and private WordPress installation.
It takes seconds to create a demo site for yourself or your clients/customers with WPSandbox, and testing can begin.
One of the significant advantages of WPSandbox is that your potential customers can live in the virtual environment of your WordPress project before buying it.
What does that do? I can increase your conversions by a lot. Hey, reading reviews and checking ratings is one thing, but experiencing it first-hand (without paying for it) is an entirely different story.
Besides customers, WPSandbox is also an excellent solution for the support staff, developers and everyone else behind the project when investigating issues or expanding the application with new functions and features (all tested and proven before going live).
What we like about WPSandbox: The effortless access to demo sites for potential customers to see WordPress sites, themes, demos, etc., before purchasing.
The only con is that WPSandbox is a bit pricey (no free plan). However, it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you have all the time you need to test it and see if it works for you.
Docker is a well-respected tool that will help you develop, test and run WordPress applications like a pro from the get-go. With a wide variety of packages, you can easily find the right one, starting with the free, Personal one.
Docker creates a development environment on a desktop or cloud-based, giving you more freedom to improve your workflow. You can build and share your projects more efficiently with Docker, which is a big plus. And it also works with some other local WP development environments, like DevKinsta. (Plus, it’s compatible with VS Code, CircleCI and GitHub, to name a few.)
You can build and publish or pull extensions from the Docker Hub, expanding the possibilities over and beyond.
Last but not least, Docker’s community is extremely helpful, where you can learn everything about the tool, contribute, connect, whatever.
What we like about Docker: The capability of working on endless ongoing projects inside and outside WordPress locally or in the cloud (100% secure).
InstaWP gets your WordPress projects going speedily, so you can begin testing, optimizing and working on improvements as quickly as possible.
The process of launching a WordPress site (sandbox) takes no more than a few clicks. It’s really more or less selecting the WP and PHP versions, and off you go. Of course, you can also choose preset configurations, but you can also set custom parameters for your exclusive project.
We enjoyed the ability to save the template after you’re done working on it, so you can reuse it later (and not start all over again – time-saver!). And you can also create a shared template, so your teammates and customers can use it to test and try your themes and plugins.
Finally, to make it even more exciting, you are welcome to kick things off with the generous free plan. But you can upgrade to a premium plan (InstaWP grows with you) anytime.
What we like about InstaWP: From the most straightforward solutions to advanced developer tools, InstaWP has everything in store for you, whether you’re a freelancer or run an enterprise.
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