Managing Themes and Plugins (for entire WordPress site)

As our basic composer project is ready with desired version of WordPress, we can proceed to add themes and plugin to our project.

As WordPress ecosystem has tons of free and paid themes/plugins from different sources, we need to follow few different methods to handle them. We will see them one-by-one.

Managing WordPress.org hosted themes and plugins

Composer makes it easy to use anything as dependency, even if target library/repo is not a composer package!

This involves fair amount of work, as we will see later in this chapter alone. But thanks to wpackagist.org – a composer package repository created  by fine folks at Outlandish, working with WordPress.org hosted themes and plugins becomes cakewalk!

wpackagist.org homepage explains usage in nice details but we will try to over-simplify things for composer newbies here by breaking process in two steps.

Adding wpackagist.org repository to composer.json

Composer by default only looks for packages hosted on packagist.org. So first thing we need to tell composer is to look for WordPress themes and plugins at wpackagist.org. This can be done by adding following lines to composer.json file:

 "repositories":[
        {
            "type":"composer",
            "url":"http://wpackagist.org"
        }
    ],

You can add above lines automatically by running command composer config repositories.0 composer http://wpackagist.org/ So composer.json file will look like:

{
    "name": "rtcamp/wordpress-composer-template",
    "description": "Using Composer to manage complete WordPress Project",
    "license": "MIT",
    "repositories": [
        {
            "type": "composer",
            "url": "http://wpackagist.org"
        }
    ],
    "require": {
        "johnpbloch/wordpress": "4.2.2",
    }
}

Adding actual wordpress.org themes and plugins

Each wordpress theme and plugin has a unique slug. You can use that slug to search theme/plugin on wpackagist.org.  wpackagist.org will show you a result page with versions available trough composer. You can click on a version and composer will give one-line statements like:

  • "wpackagist-plugin/nginx-helper": "1.9.3" – for nginx-helper plugin
  • "wpackagist-theme/twentyfifteen": "1.2" – for twentyfifteen theme

You can copy code blocks to require section in composer.json like below:

{
    "name": "rtcamp/wordpress-composer-template",
    "description": "Using Composer to manage complete WordPress Project",
    "license": "MIT",
    "repositories": [
        {
            "type": "composer",
            "url": "http://wpackagist.org"
        }
    ],
    "require": {
        "johnpbloch/wordpress": "4.2.2",
        "wpackagist-theme/twentyfifteen": "1.2",
        "wpackagist-plugin/nginx-helper": "1.9.3"
    }
}

Once composer.json file is updated, you can run composer install/update to download dependencies. Command Line Way Alternatively, you can run following composer command to add dependency without opening composer.json file

composer require wpackagist-theme/twentyfifteen:1.2 wpackagist-plugin/nginx-helper:1.9.3

Please note that composer require will update composer.json and also download packages right away.  If you want to prevent automatic downloading of dependencies, you can pass flag --no-update to above command.

Managing non-WordPress.org themes and plugins

Unlike above, this is very broad. Mainly we need to deal with:

  1. Theme/Plugin published as composer package via packagist.org
  2. Theme/Plugin under version control – with composer support
  3. Theme/Plugin under version control – without composer support
  4. Theme/Plugin without version control e.g. zip file

Let’s deal with each of above with an example.

Theme/Plugin published as composer package via packagist.org

As an example, let’s use github-updater WordPress plugin which is not allowed on wordpress.org repo but available as composer package at – https://packagist.org/packages/afragen/github-updater You can add a line like below to composer.json file’s require section and it will work just fine

"afragen/github-updater": "^4.6"

Or can run composer command composer require afragen/github-updater

Above works so easily because github-updater is composer package. Things will not be easy for remaining cases!

Theme/Plugin under version control – with composer support

There could be a case that a project is neither hosted on wordpress.org or in some composer repo but still has composer.json in it.

As an example consider this plugin – https://github.com/rtCamp/rtAntiSpam we use on our sites but did not release it on wordpress.org! This plugin has a composer.json file you may like to have a look at.

To install such theme/plugin, we need to perform two steps:

Add version control project as a new composer repository (like wpackagist.org)

We can do that by adding following to composer.json file:

    "repositories": [
        {
            "type": "composer",
            "url": "http://wpackagist.org/"
        },
        {
            "type": "vcs",
            "url": "git@github.com:rtCamp/rtAntiSpam.git"
        }
    ],

Please note that repo type isvcs (or we can use git). For wpackagist.org it wascomposer since wpackagist.org is a composer repository.

Above can be done via command line as well:

composer config repositories.rtantispam vcs git@github.com:rtCamp/rtAntiSpam.git

Adding repos via command updates composer.json file in slight different way:

    "repositories": {
        "0": {
            "type": "composer",
            "url": "http://wpackagist.org/"
        },
        "rtantispam": {
            "type": "vcs",
            "url": "git@github.com:rtCamp/rtAntiSpam.git"
        }
    },

The difference really don’t matter so ignore it if it’s not making sense.

Add actual composer package

Once we add our git repo, we can add it as a package like below.

    "require": {
        "rtcamp/rtantispam": "dev-master"
    }

dev-master will point to git’s master branch. This is really bad practise but we are explaining it this way because many developers (including us) do not use git tags for internal projects. 😐

For command-line interface, we can achieve above by running:

composer require rtcamp/rtantispam:dev-master

If you have taken look at composer.json for rtAntiSpam plugin, you may notice it has package name equal to rtcamp/rtantispam.

We need to match package name with composer.json.

Please note that composer.json in your project is different than composer.json in other project.

Theme/Plugin under version control – without composer support

Composer allow you to dynamically include any version controlled repo as a package, even if destination doesn’t contain composer.json file!

As an example, we will use a https://github.com/digitalmedia/rollbar plugin which is neither hosted on wordpress.org, nor has composer.json.

Again this will need two steps.

Add version control project as a new composer repository

{
    "type": "package",
    "package": {
        "name": "digitalmedia/rollbar",
        "type": "wordpress-plugin",
        "version": "dev-master",
        "source": {
            "type": "git",
            "url": "git@github.com:digitalmedia/rollbar.git",
            "reference": "master"
        }
    }
}

If you have taken look at composer.json for rtAntiSpam then some fields like name and type are similar.

You may notice repo type is now package, earlier it was vcs and before that it was composer. So when a target repo is not a composer package, we can declare it as a package on our own end by adding it to repositories list.

To avoid confusion and clear context, below is complete repositories block from composer.json

    "repositories": {
        "0": {
            "type": "composer",
            "url": "http://wpackagist.org/"
        },
        "rtantispam": {
            "type": "vcs",
            "url": "git@github.com:rtCamp/rtAntiSpam.git"
        },
        "rollbar":{
            "type": "package",
            "package": {
                "name": "digitalmedia/rollbar",
                "type": "wordpress-plugin",
                "version": "dev-master",
                "source": {
                    "type": "git",
                    "url": "git@github.com:digitalmedia/rollbar.git",
                    "reference": "master"
                }
            }
        }
    },

Notes:

  1. In reality, package type wordpress-plugin has dependency on composer/installers but wordpress-core composer package already satisfies it. So we are avoid duplicate lines in our composer.json file to keep it lean.
  2. We really don’t know how to define entire package via composer command. But as you can see it has plenty of lines, we will prefer to copy-paste and edit.

Add actual composer package

Once we add our git repo, we can add it as a package like below.

    "require": {
        "digitalmedia/rollbar": "dev-master"
    }

dev-master will point to git’s master branch. Rollbar git repo also doesn’t have any tags. For command-line interface, we can achieve above by running:

composer require digitalmedia/rollbar:dev-master

Note: when defining package like this, you can use any package name. It no need to be githuborg/githubrepo. Only care you need to take is to keep githubrepo unique so it won’t conflict with any other WordPress package.

Theme/Plugin without version control e.g. zip file

This applies to packages available without any version control. This is common for premium themes and plugins which are often delivered as zip file.

For sake of example, let’s take example of our premium product rtBiz Helpdesk. We sell this plugin using easydigitaldownloads.com which generates a zip file link like below for each download:

https://easyengine.io/index.php?eddfile=[FILE]&ttl=[TTL]&file=0&token=[TOKEN]

We can add such zip file links directly as a composer package by following two steps like above.

Add zip file as a new composer repository

{
    "type": "package",
    "package": {
        "name": "rtcamp/rtbiz-helpdesk",
        "type": "wordpress-plugin",
        "version": "1.0.0",
        "dist": {
            "type": "zip",
            "url": "https://easyengine.io/index.php?eddfile=[FILE]&ttl=[TTL]&file=0&token=[TOKEN]"
        }
    }
}

Above example will look familiar.

Notes:

  1. If you do not have a unique download link for zip file, you can upload zip file on a private server and use that link. As long as it’s a valid link, composer won’t complain.
  2. You may notice version field is set to 1.0.0. This won’t matter as zip packages won’t have version control data. You may keep this version updated to remind yourself which package version you are using.

Add actual composer package

Once we add our zip repo, we can add it as a package like below.

    "require": {
        "rtcamp/rtbiz-helpdesk": "dev-master"
    }

Again version won’t matter for zip files. For command-line interface, we can achieve above by running:

composer require rtcamp/rtbiz-helpdesk:dev-master

Note about private git/svn repos

Composer can works transparently with private git/svn repo, provided machine on which composer running is pre-authenticated.

As an example, if you are cloning git repos from Github using git-based URL and SSH public key for that machine is already added to your Github profile, composer will work without any issue.

Please avoid HTTP based URLs when defining vcs repositories in composer.

Summary

As you can see, we tried to cover all cases so you can define all themes and plugins as composer dependency and manage entire WordPress projects from a single composer.json file.

Composer by default will only download dependencies. In next chapter, we will deal with theme/plugin activation, again with the help of composer!