Last week I wrote about why building your WordPress website locally is the smart way to go. I also showed you how you can easily setup the local dev environment using the free app – Local By Flywheel.
In this article, I’ll walk you over the features of Local By Flywheel that will simplify your development workflow and save you a ton of time when building out WordPress websites.
1: Blueprints to simplify your setup process.
This is by far my most favorite feature of Local By Flywheel. It helps you save a complete WordPress installation as a ‘blueprint’. You can this ‘blueprint’ to build out exact replicas at a later time.
How to use blueprints:
- Create a starter WordPress site in Local.
- Install the starter theme you use for your WordPress website development.
- Install the common plugins that you install every time you build a WordPress website.
- Create the basic pages that every one of your WordPress websites has -home, about, services, contact, privacy, etc.
- Delete Sample Posts and Pages from the WordPress site.
- Go through WordPress > Settings and customize it the way you most commonly do for your WordPress websites.
- Once you are satisfied with your starter site setup, go into Local app, right-click on the starter site name in the left panel and select ‘Save As Blueprint’.
- Give your BluePrint a recognizable name and save it.
- Next time you create a new site from Local, go into the ‘Advanced Options’ from the site setup screen. Select the drop-down under ‘Create a site from Blueprint?’. You will see the name of the BluePrint you created in the previous step. Select that and click ‘Continue’. This will replicate the complete Starter site set up on to the new site you are creating.
- You can create Blueprints for different types of websites you build such as portfolio site, business site, e-commerce site.
- Your Blueprint is saved as a snapshot in time. If your plugins and themes need to be updated, make sure you do that in the Starter site and resave the site as a new Blueprint.
2: Live Link to share your local site with your designer, remote team or client.
One drawback when you are building your sites locally is not being able to share your work in progress with your designer or remote team or even your client without creating a staging server and deploying all your local files to the staging server. Not with Local by Flywheel.
How to use Live Link:
- Click on the ‘Enable’ button next to ‘Live Link’ in the bottom left hand of the Local app screen.
- This creates a new ngrok link for your local site.
- Once your client/designer/remote team is done viewing the local site, you can click on the ‘Disable’ button next to the url and the live link will not be available anymore.
You can share this URL with your clients or anyone not on your local machine and they can view your site. This feature is super helpful if you wanna debug an issue or want to walk through your website with your designer or remote team.
It saves you a lot of time going back and forth between migrating files from local to staging and vice versa when you are doing multiple revisions of website development.
Each time you enable the ‘Live Link’, Local creates a different URL and once you ‘Disable’ the ‘Live Link’, that URL is no more available for viewing outside your local machine.
3: Dev Mode to prevent aggressive caching
By default, Local by Flywheel uses caching to speed up your local site. However, this causes your changes not to show up immediately when you refresh the browser after editing a file.
To help around with this, you can turn on the ‘Dev Mode’ from the top right-hand corner of the Local by Flywheel app.
4: New Site Defaults to save your preferences for future site setups
How to use New Site Defaults:
- Go to Local By Flywheel > Preferences from the top left corner of the MAC OS window.
- Customize this screen to add in your preferences that will be used every time a new website is created using Local. This includes the WordPress admin email, path to the Local Sites, the domain suffix for your local websites.
- You can also set the environment preferences including the PHP, MySQL versions, your choice of Nginx/Apache webserver. If you customize the development environment here, make sure to select ‘Custom’ instead of ‘Preferred’ when you create a new site.
5: Easy to Connect to the Database
You can easily connect to your local site’s database by clicking on the ‘Database’ tab on your Local app for the selected website and clicking ‘Adminer’ button. This will open up a browser window with all the database info of your local site similar to PHPMyAdmin.
If you’re on a MAC, you also have the option to download Sequel Pro
6: MailHog tool to test out emails
When you develop your website locally, WordPress won’t send out the transaction emails that you can verify. To get around this problem, Local has a tool called MailHog.
Go to the ‘Utilities’ tab on your Local app for the selected website and click ‘Open MailHog’. This will open a browser tab showing all the outgoing emails from WordPress.
This feature is great for viewing the outgoing eCommerce emails, contact form emails, payment processing emails etc. Its been a time saver when I was building out payment processing with Stripe and helped to test out the transaction emails before deploying the site live.
7: SSL setup on Local for secure access
By default, Local by Flywheel sets up HTTP for your site. You need to enable it by going to the ‘SSL’ tab on your Local app for the selected website and clicking on ‘Trust’ button.
Once the SSL certificate is enabled, in your browser, you will see a green padlock next to the URL of your local site. You can get your live and development versions of your site pretty close by doing this.
Having the HTTP setup on your local is super helpful when you’re building eCommerce sites or taking payment processing on your website. You can set everything up on the local and then you can easily transfer those settings to your live Flywheel Hosting account.
This feature might not be useful if you are NOT using the Flywheel hosting account, though.
8: One-click push/pull between local and flywheel hosting account
If you’re using Flywheel’s hosting service, copying the live site to your local is easy peasy.
Click the second icon in the left-hand panel to connect to your Flywheel account. Once you log in and connect, you can select the site from the list and click on ‘Pull To Local’ to get your live site files on to the local.
You can also click on the icon in the bottom right-hand corner to connect to your Flywheel account and pull the files to your local. Importing sites will restore all WordPress files, databases, and configs automatically.
Flywheel users can also use Local to push your local site changes to their Flywheel account with one-click using the push icon at the bottom right-hand corner. Exporting will include WordPress site files, databases, config files, log files, and Local settings.
9:Changing up your dev environment
It’s easy to switch your dev environment including the PHP versions, MySQL versions or even the webserver. This feature is helpful for eg: if you are developing a plugin and wanna check that it runs with different versions of PHP.
- From the ‘Overview’ tab in the Local app for the selected website, click ‘CHANGE’ next to the Local environment.
- From the drop down, select ‘Custom’.
- Now you can simple change the PHP versions or even the web server.