10 Best and Most Essential Tools for WordPress Bloggers

Summary: WordPress blogger's must-have tools: 10 Tools for analyzing performance, editing text files and images, optimizing images and transferring files and images


I've been working on the WordPress optimization stuff for quite some time now. I've turned the things I've learned into a WordPress Speed Challenge, but before we begin the speed optimization, let's do some prep work and get our bloggers' toolbox in order.

On this post, I show the 10 must-have tools for WordPress bloggers, essential for any web development - website optimization included - and plenty of alternatives and optional tools as well.

I compiled the list based on my personal prerefences, which over the years have been heavily influenced by the info from the choiced on the Lifehacker's "Hive Mind" lists.

This post is part of, and the preparation for the WordPress Speed Challenge, but these tools are essential for any WordPress blogger, let alone developer. And of course, these same tools work even if you don't blog on WordPress, since these tools are not connected to WordPress itself (e.g. the recommended WordPress plugins are listed elsewhere).

Essential tools for bloggers

As a WordPress blogger you need tools for

  • analyzing performance
  • editing text files and images
  • optimizing images
  • transferring files and images

So in short, we need

  • A FTP program to connect to the web/file server
  • A text editor to edit files
  • A browser with addons for website performance analyzis
  • Image editing and optimization tools
  • Optional: Productivity timers, e.g. a stop watch and a egg-timer
  • Optional: A frosty beverage (and/or cup of something hot)

As you see, you don't need fancy tools for blogging or to optimize your WordPress blog.

All the tools listed on this post are free, with the most of the tools being open source as well - with the exception of the frosty beverage and other drinks, which probably costs a bit. But the drinks are optional anyway, and not included in the "must-have" category.

Other optional tools, the stop watch and the egg timer, are for productivity and seeing how much time goes into what we're doing. I don't like to waste time, an egg timer lets me to work in dashes (e.g. 10 minutes to finish a post) and a stop watch will help me see where the time goes when I don't set a timer.

Basic set of tools for WordPress optimization

WordPress blogger can do well with what's inside the WordPress blog, but using separate tools for certain tasks is essential in order to staying productive and getting stuff done. I've tried a lot of tools and ended up using the ones I've listed on this post, I have listed some alternatives below on the details, but make sure you have:

If you don't have these tools, or your personal choice of tools to do the same tasks, install the 10 tools listed to this post right now and start using them.

10 Must-Have Tools for WordPress Bloggers

With the above, here's the shortlist of the 10 must-have tools for bloggers:

The details, alternatives and optional tools are below.

Building the Blogger's Toolbox

Now that you know what the tools are, it's time to get'em.

Get a FTP Program

FileZilla is the BEST and the easiest way to access the files we need to modify and edit. FileZilla is available for all platforms, including Windows, Linux and Mac.

Get FileZilla at http://filezilla-project.org/


Get an Awesome Text Editor

Next, we need an awesome text editor (for editing the files and the code). Any text editor will do, but download and install one of these if you don't have a good one yet:

You only need one, so choose one based on your preferences. My choice is Notepad++ on Windows.


Get Firefox and Addons

In order to make the most out of the challenge and learn stuff, you also need:

Install the website performance analyzing addons to Firefox

  1. (if you don't have Firefox yet) Go to http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/ and install Firefox
  2. Open Firefox
  3. Go to http://getfirebug.com/ and install Firebug
  4. Go to http://developer.yahoo.com/yslow/ and install YSlow
  5. Go to http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/download.html and install Google's Page Speed
  6. Re-start Firefox
  7. Look to the bottom right of the browser window (status bar) for the Firebug and YSlow icons
  8. (Open your blog and try the tools out)


Get an image editor

Primary purpose (from WordPress speed point of view) for an image editor is resizing and scaling the image. For that simple purpose, and for super-simple processing of images, you can use Shrink O'matic.

For more functionality, and the recommended choice, is IfranView. With IfranView you can get simple image editing done, including resizing the images. With it's small size, and all the extensions and plugins, IfranView is the best image viewer there is.

Not so much related to image optimization, but if you're looking for an advanved image editor, get GIMP to get any image editing task done. It takes a while to get used to, but after you do, GIMP is on par with commercial (read: expensive) editors like PhotoShop.


Get image optimizer tools

A lossless image optimizer is optional (and Shrink O'matic and the other tools above do optimization too). We can take care of optimization inside WordPress with a plugin, but sometimes you'll want to crunch images to minimum size by compromizing the quality a bit.

For this job, RIOT is the tool for you. The Radical Image Optimization Tool (RIOT) is a free image optimizer that let's you visually adjust compression parameters side by side, while keeping minimum filesize. But what makes RIOT truly exceptional is that it plugs-in to IfranView and GIMP - and also XnView if you have that.

  • Get RIOT - The standalone program is Windows only, but the plugins work for on any system you can run IfranView and GIMP on, e.g. Windows, Linux and Mac.

If you're taking the WP Speed Challenge and you want a head start on optimization (do take the baseline metrics first, check the end of the post for details), you can check my detailed post on how to optimize images for the web for all the details on image optimization.


Advanced image optimization, command line tools

This is somewhat optional, but for command line, and more advanced image optimization, you should get Image Magick and possible PNGcrush and jpegtran as well.

Command line tools are not required by the WordPress speed challenge, but with these you can get image optimization tasks done on the command line (instead of using a graphical user interface), if you prefer that. And also, as these tools are run from the command line, with scripting you can automate image processing.

Command line image optimization tools:


Get a stop watch and a egg timer

This is partly for fun, but also for productivity): Get a timer so you can see how much time it takes for you do stuff, and to set yourself a timeframe to work on.

Get a stop watch closeby, or bookmark one of these online timers:

Use a "egg timer" to set how long you want to work on a task and finish until the timer runs out:

Or even better, as a combination of the above, track where all your time is going with

(optional) Get a frosty beverage

For enjoyment while doing stuff, or for post-task celebration - your choice. Get a frosty beverage before we you start doing the optimization steps (coming in the upcoming posts), or get cup of coffee/tea if you prefer something hot. Personally, I prefer to save the ice-cold beer after things are done and consume cups of coffee when I'm doing stuff.


Make sure you have the tools (all free) in order to get stuff done for your blog, and also to follow through the WP Speed Challenge

Good text editor will help you edit the files, so get one and get used to using it. Any editor will do, but editors like Notepad++ and Bluefish Editor have lot of features that will make your file editing a lot more enjoyable process (and lots of poweruser stuff for the editing- and coding-zen).

You probably had a FTP program already, but if you don't have one, or want to switch into using the best, get FileZilla and configure your blog server(s) in it.

The Firefox addons YSlow and Google Page Speed are essential for website performance analysis and for the WordPress Speed Challenge (and you need Firebug too), so make sure you have those.

You need image editor that allows you to resize images with ease. For that, Shrink O'matic gets the job done, but IfranView is probably better option with all the added functionality (and it's an awesome image viewer too).

A "local" image optimizer is optional, but RIOT does a great job reducing the size of the image while keeping you in manual control of the quality, which makes it great for non-lossless optimization (e.g. when lower quality is enough).

Get set...

At the Midsummer 2010, the WordPress Speed Challenge was announced. On this post, you learned about the tools of the trade and you can prepare for the challenge by downloading and installing them. You'll learn how to use these tools while we're doing the optimization steps.

This post was the preparation and on the next post, the challenge begins. We will begin by analyzing the performance of your WordPress blog before we do any optimization.

You'll learn how to spot site-slowing bottlenecks on your blog and what affects WordPress speed in general. As we write down the statistics when analyzing, we'll have data to compare our end-results to - which is important in order to see how well the different optimization steps worked.

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