10+ WP-CLI Tricks to Manage Your WordPress Site (Updated for WP-CLI 1.2.0)

Note. WP-CLI 1.2.0 has just been released, which makes it the perfect time to have a deeper look into what WP-CLI has to offer in general, as well as how to best start working with it. Let me warn you, though, if you haven’t experimented with WP-CLI yet, get ready to be impressed when you see what’s possible.

WordPress is a wonderful project, but as with any software you may find yourself wishing you had some kind of backdoor access to your code and database. Those of you who have ever tried resetting your admin credentials with a broken reset password link know what we’re talking about!

Thankfully, there is a solution that can help. The WP-CLI project gives you command-line access to your WordPress installation, which means you can manage most of your website using a few quick instructions within the terminal.

For example, if your “reset password” link is broken, you can simply change your password using the WP-CLI instead. There are many similar situations where WP-CLI comes in handy. Plus, we just love the hacker-like feeling that comes with working in the command line.

In this article, we’ll introduce some of the typically irritating tasks that WP-CLI makes almost a fun experience, and show you how to accomplish them using the tool. Let’s get cracking!

 

TL;DR on the WP-CLI project

WP-CLI stands for WordPress Command Line (homepage), since this tool gives you access to WordPress’ management system via the command line.

Typically, you have to use the online user interface to manually manage a WordPress website (the wp-admin). And with that, taking care of a broken site or managing transitional periods often involves digging through files using FTP or trying to write custom PHP code. WP-CLI simplifies the process of working on your site by giving you a direct-access shorthand, circumventing the need for extra plugins.

WP-CLI homepage
 
If you’ve never used the command line before, there is a small learning curve. However, once you get going, WP-CLI can significantly speed up the way you work with your website. You’ll be able to manage complex database, plugin and theme changes with a few keystrokes. If you like the plain-text interface, you can even use it to moderate comments, options, and menus. (All of which we’ll cover further in this guide.)

Long story short, WP-CLI makes many difficult tasks simple and fast. What’s more, WP-CLI is also extendable. If you have custom needs, it is possible to write unique scripts that run using WP-CLI to your specifications.

Before we move forward, it’s important to realize that WP-CLI is not a plugin for your WordPress site, but a tool that is installed on your server. In other words, if you want to use WP-CLI, you will need to install it both on your local development environment and your live hosting server for consistent access. This may mean finding a host that offers WP-CLI pre-installed.

 
 
(Note; out of our top recommended web hosting choices for WordPress, SiteGround, A2 Hosting, and WP Engine all have WP-CLI installed by default for their customers; in other words, you can begin using WP-CLI as soon as you’re done setting up your hosting account with those companies).
 
 

How to manage your WordPress site using WP-CLI

Once WP-CLI is installed, you can use the command line to open the folder for the WordPress website you’d like to manage. If you’re working live on your hosting server, you’ll need secure shell access.

However, we recommend trying these commands out in a development environment first! There is no undo button, so you’ll want to feel fairly comfortable with this tool before using it on a live server. To get you started, here are four useful ways to practice using WP-CLI on your site.

1. Have a quick look into the wp-config.php file

(Note. This is a new addition to WP-CLI 1.2.0. Make sure you’re running the most recent version of WP-CLI to get it.)

WP-CLI has always been quite efficient when it comes to letting you configure a fresh site. For instance, the handy wp config create command lets you create a fresh config file and put all the important details in it. Usually much quicker than doing this the traditional way, especially if you’re a fast typer.

But WP-CLI 1.2.0 takes it a step further.

There are two new subcommands for the main wp config command.

 
 
The first one is this:

wp config get
  • lists constants and globals as defined in your current wp-config.php file.
WP-CLI config get
 
The other one is this:

wp config path
  • simply displays a path to the current wp-config.php file.
 
 
If you want to get even more hands-on with your WordPress install, you can also use another new WP-CLI 1.2.0 command:

wp db size --tables

Quite useful in helping you decide whether you need some database optimization or not.

WP-CLI db tables
 

2. Run core updates

Usually, running an update involves logging into your admin and clicking through a couple of pages to update your site.

With WP-CLI, updates are easily run with one simple command:

wp core update

What makes this approach unique is that it can accept arguments to customize what happens when you run it. Let’s say you recently updated to a WordPress version that broke a critical plugin on your site. The author of that plugin hasn’t had the chance to update yet, but you need your site to work properly. While it’s best to keep an updated site, you can change the core by adding the version flag to your command and rolling back to the point where there wasn’t a conflict:

wp core update --version=4.7.1

Another useful feature of a script-based solution like WP-CLI is that you can schedule it to run on a regular basis for all the sites you have installed. It is incredibly scalable for those who manage multiple sites. For example, using a WP-CLI add-on like WP Tools from Bluehost allows you to automatically run updates for every website on your server.

 
WP-CLI core command

Successful core update via WP-CLI.


 

3. Update, disable, and delete pesky plugins

Usually, if a plugin breaks your site completely (or even just disables your admin), you have to log in via FTP and change its folder name in order to deactivate it. On the other hand, there is a simple WP-CLI command to deactivate plugins:

wp plugin deactivate plugin-name-example
WP-CLI plugin

Successful plugin deactivation with WP-CLI.

 
If a plugin is giving you serious trouble and needs to be deleted, you can do so using the delete command instead:

wp plugin delete plugin-name-example

Also, you can skip manual updates for plugins by running a command similar to the WordPress core update feature:

wp plugin update --all
 
 
And, probably something I should have mentioned at the beginning, WP-CLI also allows you to check the status of the plugins currently on your site. For that, use:

wp plugin status
WP-CLI plugin status
 
Individually, it might not seem like these commands would save you much time. However, it’s important to remember that directly accessing the server is much faster than waiting for a web browser to interpret all the scripts and styles associated with a graphical user interface. If you frequently need to manage these types of tasks, you may be surprised at how quickly your extra time adds up.

4. Reset user passwords

Imagine that you’ve lost your WordPress admin password. You’ve tried the reset password link, but for some reason the reset email won’t show up in your inbox. Are you locked out of your WordPress site forever? Not with WP-CLI.

WP-CLI offers speedy user management, including the ability to reset passwords using the following line:

wp user update adminuser@example.com --user_pass=new-password-example
WP-CLI user

Successful user credentials update with WP-CLI.

With commands as simple as this, there’s no need to panic or worry about complicated workarounds to get access to your site again. Gone are the days of manually hashing your password and inserting it directly into the database…

Moreover, since this is all done over a secure connection with your server, you’re also not sacrificing the security of your website by using this method.

5. Backup and manipulate the database

WordPress doesn’t make it easy to directly interact with your database. This can be frustrating when you want to accomplish seemingly simple tasks, like running an update without a plugin or searching for and replacing a set phrase.

You can use WP-CLI to make these jobs easier. It allows you to optimize and repair databases with simple commands like:

wp db optimize
wp db repair

If you are writing a custom query, you can quickly test it out by using the query command:

wp db query "SELECT * FROM wp_options"

However, before you get too trigger-happy with the database, it’s important that you know how to create backups. The command for creating SQL backups in WP-CLI is as follows:

wp db export

This will create an SQL file* you can use to restore the database of your site if something goes wrong. It even works well when used in combination with backup plugins.

* The name the file’s going to be given is rather random. To assign your own, use this:

wp db export yourname.sql
WP-CLI database

WP-CLI makes working with your site’s database a cinch.

6. Clean up post revisions

Post revisions are something we have a bit hard time with here at CodeinWP. Some of our most frequently updated posts have 200+ revisions, which makes managing things really tough.

 
Mainly, when you go to the standard revision comparison page in WordPress (next screenshot), you get that bar at the top. Through it, you can choose the two revisions that you want to compare. This is fine if you have sub-20 revisions on a post. But with more than 100, the bar becomes un-clickable – I mean, you can’t easily point to the exact revision that you want – requires pixel perfection in your clicks. The bar is just too dense.
WordPress revisions bar
 
To battle this in some way, you can set a limit on the number of revisions allowed per post in your wp-config.php file (eg. define('WP_POST_REVISIONS', 40);). But this only limits the revisions on your future actions. Removing all the existing revisions that are above that mark is on you. This can be done in a couple of ways. One of them is via a plugin. The other is via WP-CLI.

And the WP-CLI way is just much quicker. To get started, you need to install an additional WP-CLI package called wp-revisions-cli.

This can be done via a simple command:

wp package install trepmal/wp-revisions-cli

After that, you get to use a handful of cool new WP-CLI commands:

wp revisions clean
  • removes old revisions on all posts. It defaults to the value of WP_POST_REVISIONS – keeping only the most recent revisions.
 
 
Alternatively, if you want to be more hands-on with your revisions, you can, for instance, control the revisions for a specific post:

wp revisions list --post_id=ID
  • gives you a list of all the revisions for a given post.
WP-CLI revisions
 
Or:

wp revisions clean --post_id=ID --before-date=DATE
  • removes revisions on a given post published on or before some date (YYYY-MM-DD).

Overall, a really cool feature, and particularly if you tend to update your existing posts quite often – which naturally produces a lot of revisions. I’m really excited to see what new features the wp-revisions-cli package will bring in the future.

7. Create a child theme, like, now(!)

Granted, creating child themes is not supper difficult. But you still have to first go to the official reference at Codex – just to make sure that some fine details haven’t been changed, then create a functions.php and CSS, put that in a new directory, and so on and so forth.

WP-CLI gives you a quicker method. All you do is this:

wp scaffold child-theme NEW-CHILD-SLUG --parent_theme=SLUG --theme_name=TITLE

… and that’s all. What you get as a result is an operational, blank child theme based on a set parent theme.

WP-CLI child theme

There are some additional parameters available, too. For instance, you can do this:

wp scaffold child-theme SLUG --parent_theme=SLUG --theme_name=TITLE --author=FULL-NAME --author_uri=URI --theme_uri=URI --activate --force
  • --force overwrites files that already exist.

8. Create loads of dummy content for testing

When working on any sort of a WordPress project, dummy content is something you probably need relatively often.

  • Maybe you’re working on some new plugin that processes a number of posts and then does something to them.
  • Maybe you want to see if your pagination is working just fine.
  • Maybe you want to put more stuff in your menus, for testing purposes.
  • And so on…

Normally, what I used to do in such cases was press Ctrl+F and start looking for that pesky XML dump of example WordPress content that I have sitting around somewhere. But this takes time, and I seem to be misplacing the file every time somehow.

Anyway, as you’d imagine, WP-CLI has some options for that too:

wp post generate --count=10
  • creates 10 empty posts; but you don’t need to stop at just 10 – WP-CLI promises that 1000 is also a perfectly executable value.

Or, to make things more factual:

curl http://loripsum.net/api/4 | wp post generate --post_content --count=10
  • creates 10 posts, each having 4 paragraphs of dummy lorem ipsum text imported from loripsum.net.

9. Blank your site

There’s one really cool WP-CLI command that lets you empty your site of all its contents (including posts, comments, terms, and meta), while leaving the site configuration and users intact. It’s this:

wp site empty

If you tend to use the same dev WordPress setup for most of your tests/experiments/etc. then you know right away how much time this thing will save you.

While you can achieve the same effect by going through your content manually, or using phpMyAdmin, this WP-CLI command is in a league of its own when it comes to speed.

You can also do:

wp site empty --uploads
  • gets rid of everything in your “uploads” folder as well.

10. Remove all spam comments

First of all, WP-CLI gives you a lot of possibilities in regards to managing comments. For instance, you can:

  • create new comments with wp comment create
  • update comments with wp comment update
  • approve comments with wp comment approve
  • and a lot more

But perhaps the most interesting thing you can do here is erase all the spam comments from your site at once. This is particularly helpful if you ever wake up to thousands of new spam comments in your database.

The command is this:

wp comment delete $(wp comment list --status=spam --format=ids)

This is a neat hack. The main wp comment delete command expects an argument – the ID(s) of the comment(s) that should be deleted. So to provide the ID(s), we’re calling another command – wp comment list – which displays a list of all the comments that have been marked as spam. Quite cool, isn’t it?

11. Tame wp-cron

The standard wp-cron mechanism hasn’t been the most reliable thing. More or less, when you schedule a post in WordPress, you can never be 100% sure that it will indeed go live (at least my experience).

WP-CLI can help you tame cron just a bit with the use of this command:

wp cron event run --due-now
  • triggers all cron events due right now.

WP-CLI wp-cron

Bonus: Two “meta” tricks for WP-CLI

As awesome as WP-CLI is, it’s still a text interface, which means it’s difficult to always remember how to use this or that command.

There are two things you can do to help yourself out:

First, the standard help command:

wp help COMMAND
  • displays help on any command in WP-CLI.
 
Next, there’s the --prompt argument that works with most (or even all?) WP-CLI commands. For example, if I attempt to generate some new content like this:

wp post generate --prompt

WP-CLI will list all the arguments that are available for the generate command, and let me fill in the blanks (I can press Enter on things that are optional – inside [] brackets). Like so:

WP-CLI prompt argument
 

Conclusion

WP-CLI takes many tasks often considered cumbersome and makes them so simple they are almost fun to deal with. Rather than spending hours overcoming obstacles that are preventing you from solving the real issues, you can use WP-CLI to quickly gain access to almost anything you need within your WordPress site.

There are many situations where WP-CLI can come in handy, and the ones presented above are just the beginning, and give us only a glimpse of how useful WP-CLI can be once we truly master its capabilities.

Do you have any questions about WP-CLI? Or maybe you have some neat tricks of your own that you’d like to share with us? Hop in the comments section below and let us know!

Original text by John Hughes and Karol K. Layout and presentation by Karol K.

* This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and then purchase the product, we’ll receive a small fee. No worries though, you’ll still pay the standard amount so there’s no cost on your part.

 

CodeinWP Editorial

CodeinWP Editorial is a team of writers and WordPress experts led by Ionut Neagu. All content edited by Karol K.
  • Eric Adams

    I’ve used most of these but hadn’t thought of resetting passwords this way. That could be handy. Thanks for posting!