8 things you should know about editing WordPress with Microsoft WebMatrix
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1. It's free
This was the number one reason that I chose it. Not being a developer, I didn't have a high-end solution like Visual Studio – so, price was definitely a factor. Of course, there are several other text editors and development environments that are also open source, and price wasn't the only factor in my hunt for a decent editor. Still, one of my requirements was that it needed to be inexpensive, if not free.
2. It's simple
It couldn't be any easier to create a WordPress site with WebMatrix. It's integrated with the Microsoft Web Platform Installer, so you've already got everything you need -- and if you haven't installed PHP, MySQL or Web server software on your developer machine yet, it's doesn't take long. If you've got a subscription to Azure, it will create an Azure website connected to a local development site. Using this setup, you can work out all the bugs and tweak things on your development site before you publish to the Azure site.
3. Auto formatting is user-friendly
Auto formatting is necessary for any editor, and WebMatrix does a great job. It color codes your text and indents automatically when you're stepping into a for-loop. The editor indicates if an error is found in your code, and where to find it. You can also select an opening or closing statement, such as a header or div; the other end of the statement will also be highlighted, making it easy to find.
4. Searching is a cinch
Locating functions isn't always the easiest task, whether it's a plugin or part of the parent theme. When all I have is an ID or a class that's being added to a DIV, I can search entire sections of my site for that code. Results are displayed in a list, complete with references to the relevant file. Double-clicking opens that file and takes you right to the line, making it a breeze to find and fix problems.
5. Direct connections are made via FTP
I don't have to use a separate FTP program for moving the files down before I can edit them. WebMatrix makes a direct connection via FTP to the website, and I can edit the files directly. I can immediately see the results of my edits, because they happen live on the site.
6. IntelliSense reduces errors
PHP functions and constructs are all included in the IntelliSense, so if I'm working with a string or an array, it's easy to call methods and make sure that I've got all of my required parameters. Variables that I've added to my code come up as soon as I begin typing them, and in cases where I have several parameters with similar names, all options are presented so that I can choose. This not only speeds up my typing but it reduces errors, keeping me consistent and protecting me from overlooking important components. Of course, WebMatrix isn't without its flaws, which brings us to some of those not-so-great features...
7. No version control on FTP sites
WebMatrix isn't perfect, and it should be noted that the issues I've encountered are only present when I'm managing a website through remote FTP connections. I like the ease with which the connections are made, but once that happens I'm missing two features that drive me crazy. The first is this: When I create a new site through WebMatrix, adding version control is as simple as could be, with a Version Control tab right on the ribbon. But on my remote site, the version control tab of the ribbon is missing. All that remains is “File” and “Remote,” and a lot of pain with having a simple mistake turn into taking down the whole site. I have learned to adapt, and now I create a backup of the file I'm working with manually before I edit, but it's far from an ideal solution.
8. IntelliSense forgets about WordPress functions on my FTP site
It's a pleasure to work with a local site with WordPress installed because IntelliSense prompts you with all of the functions that are built into the latest versions of WordPress. Unfortunately, this is also gone when I'm working with my FTP site. I'm constantly referring to the WordPress documentation to find the right function to fit my needs.
If you're looking for an inexpensive, easy-to-use option to build and deploy your websites, WebMatrix is a solid pick. As you can see, there are a few things about it that drive me crazy -- but it is free, and it's easy to learn, thanks to this insightful introduction course.