A lot of WordPress theme and plugin developers use GitHub to implement version control for their projects. This means all their code and files are available for anyone to see and download. However, having to install WordPress plugins from GitHub manually can be frustrating.
As you can probably imagine, there are tools that help you streamline the process of installing plugins and themes from GitHub. Depending on the method you opt for, you can even ensure that each piece of software you install will update automatically, whenever the developers make changes to its repository. This way, you can tinker around with each project to your heart’s content.
In this article, we’re going to talk about why you should use GitHub for your WordPress development projects.
Then we’ll show you how to install WordPress plugins from GitHub (and themes too!) using WP Pusher, a dedicated tool. Let’s get to work!
Why you should consider using GitHub
For the uninitiated, GitHub is a platform built on top of the Git version control system. This type of software enables multiple developers to work on the same files simultaneously. Using it, developers can upload their code and files to a repository that they can share with anyone. They get control over who has access to it, but other people can also ‘fork’ these repositories and make their own changes to the code.
In short, GitHub is the perfect vehicle for open-source collaboration. Here are just some of the reasons developers can benefit from using GitHub for their WordPress projects:
- It keeps track of the changes to each project. With GitHub, developers can see when every file in their repository has been modified, and when it was updated last.
- It simplifies collaboration. Working on a collaborative WordPress project can be a headache. Developers coding alongside other people may have to share files back and forth, and yet make sure that no one is working on the same ones simultaneously. With GitHub, this is no longer an issue
- It’s a perfect platform for open-source projects. GitHub’s forking feature and accessible repositories make it ideal for open-source platforms just like WordPress. This makes it a perfect resource when working on free plugins and themes.
We spoke with Ben Pines from Elementor about using GitHub. The popular open-source page builder has thousands of commits on the platform, so it’s clear that the developer is dedicated to the workflow:
You can get issues, stars, forks, and contributions. On the WordPress Repo it is based on SVN, and there are less active developers using it. GitHub is great both for getting feedback and contributions from fellow developers.Ben Pines
For these reasons and more, GitHub is well worth checking out, and is the perfect initial step to becoming a WordPress developer. The first thing you’ll need to do is learn how to install WordPress plugins from GitHub!
How to download WordPress plugins and themes from GitHub manually
Downloading a plugin or theme from GitHub isn’t any more complicated than using WordPress.org. To begin, you’ll want to check to see if the plugin or theme you want to download has a public repository. This is often the case for free plugins and themes, but not for premium ones, as you might expect. A lot of developers will even link to their repositories from their respective WordPress.org pages.
Once you’ve found the plugin or theme you’re looking for on GitHub, simply click on the Clone or Download button above its list of files. Then you can choose whether to open that repository using GitHub’s desktop client, or download it as a zipped file:
Once you have the zip file saved, simply upload, install, and activate it as you would any other plugin. With that, you’re in business!
As you can see, this approach is remarkably simple. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t improve on it. After all, you may find yourself needing to download themes and plugins from GitHub quite frequently. That’s why in the next method, we’ll perform the installation by using a tool that helps to automate the process.
How to install WordPress plugins from GitHub using WP Pusher … and also themes
However, this tool does more than simply install files. It can also automatically update any plugin or theme you’ve set up using it, and this will happen whenever someone pushes out a new version. What’s more, it can even ‘take over’ and manage plugins you’ve already installed from other sources, if you can find their respective repositories. Overall, WP Pusher is an excellent option if you want to use plugins that are in constant development, or if you want to test your own projects.
To get started, first download WP Pusher from its home page, then install and activate it. After that, go to the new WP Pusher tab on your dashboard and look for the GitHub option. Inside, you’ll find a field where you need to type in a GitHub token to connect your account. Click on the Obtain GitHub Token, and a new window will pop up asking for your credentials:
After signing in, you’ll need to authorize the WP Pusher application by clicking on the green button:
Finally, you’ll receive your GitHub token. Just copy it, paste it in the field we mentioned earlier, and click on the Save GitHub token button below it:
Now the plugin is ready to roll. To install a theme, for example, go to the WP Pusher → Install Theme tab on your dashboard. Inside, you’ll need to indicate which repository you want to use:
Keep in mind that you don’t need to paste in the full URL for any repository. Just the account name and repository’s name will do. For example, if you wanted to install the Twenty Seventeen theme, you’d type in WordPress/twentyseventeen into the relevant field, like this:
The exact name for each repository appears at the top of its GitHub page, so all you have to do is copy it over. You can also indicate if you want to use a particular ‘branch’ of that repository. However, we recommend leaving this option at the default in most cases. After all, the default will usually be the version that’s ready for the public:
Finally, you can enable the settings to automatically update your plugin or theme every time there’s a new push to its repository. You can also set it to take over existing plugins or themes you’ve already installed from a different source, as we mentioned earlier:
At this point, simply click on Install theme and then choose the Activate option. After that, it will show up on both your Appearance → Themes and WP Pusher → Themes tabs:
This process works exactly the same if you want to install WordPress plugins from GitHub. The only difference is that to install one of those, you’ll want to go into the WP Pusher → Install Plugin tab instead. Then simply rinse and repeat for any other themes and plugins you want to download!
GitHub is a great platform for learning the ins and outs of your favorite WordPress plugins and themes. It’s an invaluable resource for first-time developers, since you can easily poke around ‘under the hood’ of each project everythime you make a WordPress website, do some tweaks if you’d like, and even get involved in collaborations. Later, you’ll be able to upload your own themes and plugins to the website, and get feedback from other developers.
In summary, there are two ways to install WordPress plugins from GitHub (and themes also work in the same way). You can either download their repositories as zipped files and upload them to your site, or you can use WP Pusher to automate the process. The former method is simpler, but the advantage of the latter is that once you’ve installed a plugin or theme, the tool will automatically take care of updates for you.
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