Best Free WordPress Plugins for Theme Development

One of the great things about using WordPress as a content management system is the huge community of users and all of the resources that are available. While all plugins could be used by theme developers, the ones featured in this post are specific WordPress plugins for theme development to aid & improve the dev process.

If you design and develop themes for you own use, custom themes for clients, premium themes for sale, or free themes to distribute, these plugins will prove to be very helpful.

Device Theme Switcher

When you’re designing and developing a WordPress theme, you obviously won’t want the public to see your theme until it is ready. However, it’s helpful to also be able to test the theme in a live environment in attempt to find any flaws based on mobile devices before going live.

The Device Theme Switcher plugin will allow you to control what theme is seen by logged in users with specific access privilege, and to display certain themes to certain devices.This is a great way to test your theme before going live and to check for bugs in different browser environments.

Theme Switch

Theme Test Drive

Theme Test Drive is another plugin that was created for testing a theme without showing it to everyone. It works in a similar fashion to Theme Switch, so you can look at the details of each, test them and see which one you like best.

Theme Test Drive

WP Demo Builder

WordPress Demo Builder was developed to help web designers that want to launch live demos for their themes. If you visit sites of premium themes sellers, or those who give away free themes, there is usually an option to view the theme on a demo blog.

This plugin allows you to showcase demos of multiple themes on one WordPress installation.

WordPress Theme Demo Plugin

Maintenance Mode Plugin

Although theme development will be done in a way that doesn’t impact an existing site, there may be some times when you need to make changes that would be better to not be visible to everyone. The Maintenance Mode is a good plugin to have handy for times when you would like to temporarily prevent visitors from seeing the site or theme in it’s current state. With this plugin visitors will get a customizable message until you are ready for the site to be viewed.

Maintenance Mode Plugin

User Switching

If you’ve developed themes in a test environment you may have found that you tend to login and logout a lot, or login as different users. The User Switching plugin was created to make this a quicker, less painful process. With one click you can switch from one user to another.

User Switching


This is a plugin that I just came across and have not used yet, but it looks promising. Raw HTML allows you to use raw HTML or any other code in your posts or pages. This may be especially useful if you are converting an existing static site to WordPress. There have been times when I worked on a project like this and had extra work because of the way WordPress dealt with code that was pasted from an existing page.


Advanced Category Excluder

If you’ve developed a number of different WordPress-based sites you know that each site tends to have it’s own unique needs and challenges, especially when focusing on using WordPress as a CMS more so than just a blogging platform.

Advanced Category Excluder allows you to easily have control over what content is available in specific places. You can exclude certain categories from the front page and/or RSS feeds. You can control what content will be included or excluded from search results.

advanced cat exclude

Simply Exclude

Simply Exclude offers similar functionality to Advanced Category Excluder. If you’re interested in this type of plugin, take a look at both and see which one looks like it will meet your needs.

Simply Exclude

Easy Google Fonts

Looking to use custom fonts with WordPress themes? This plugin makes it easy.

You can handle pretty much everything from within the WordPress dashboard and take advantage of Google’s Web Fonts library. You have more control and wider choices with fonts.

wordpress easy google font

WP Smush

WP Smush will minimize the size of all images uploaded through the media manager. Once activated it’ll operate automatically but this plugin can be controlled from within the WP dashboard.

wp smushit

WP Example Content

This free plugin offers an easy way to add or remove content for testing purposes.

But for real content WPCandy has put together an XML content file that will load sample content into your WordPress blog(importing is very easy in the WP dashboard). If you’re working on a theme on a WordPress installation that has no content, WP Example Content or WPCandy’s XML file will save you some time writing dummy content.

Sample WordPress Content

Bonus! List of Plugins And Tools That Will Improve Your Work And Save You Time

Responsive Navigation

JQuery Engage, A Better Flow For Blog Readers

Draggabilly Plug-In – Make Elements On Your Site Draggable

Simple YouTube Menu Effect Tutorial

Sudo Slider JQuery Plugin – Add More Dynamism To Your Pictures

Mouse Wheel Event In HTML5 – Rediscover Mouse Wheel Functions

Sly- JQuery Plugin To Showcase Your Portfolios

Picture Tooltip Plug-In – Explain Every Image

Bespoke.Js – A New Approach To Slides And Presentations

HeapShot JQuery Plug-In – Flip Your Pictures

Chart.Js – Graphs For Designers And Developers

Simple Slider – JQuery Plug-In

JQuery Tooltipify

Full Content – Plug-In For Full Screen Single Page Sites

Responsive Multi-Level Menu

Flexnav – A JQuery Plugin For Responsive Menus

Tooltipster – A JQuery Plug-In For Attractive Tooltips

Pimax 1.0 – Show All Picasa/G+ Albums On Your Site

What Plugins Do You Use for Theme Development?

If you use any plugins in your own theme development, please feel free to share in the comments.

Also check out these related WordPress dev links:

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