WordPress Theme and Plugin Editors: In Search of Excellence

In Search of Excellence: Choosing The Best WordPress Theme and Plugin Editors

In this post we're going to review the most popular WordPress plugins which are intended to replace standard plain text theme and plugin editor. If you don't have a time to read the whole article, simply jump to the Summary section to figure out the best plugin.

Why is it worth to read comparison articles

You know, it is quite annoying to install dozens of similar plugins trying to find the best one. But in most of cases we do have more important tasks rather than reviewing a bunch of different plugins. That is why we may choose not the best of available solutions, but just suitable enough for us at the moment. The worst thing is that we can use it for years because it does it’s work and we don’t have an idea about much more convenient tools. Stay with us and we will show you the best plugin for theme and plugin editing in WordPress.

1. Advanced Code Editor

Version:2.2.7
Active installs:100,000+
Last updated:6 months ago
Engine:CodeMirror
Rating:4.6 based on 63 reviews
Home:Plugin's home

Official Description

Enables syntax highlighting in the integrated themes and plugins source code editors. Supports PHP, HTML, CSS and JS.

Overview

The first impression about the plugin is good. It does exactly what it should in accordance with the description. Plain text editors for themes and plugins are converted into powerful source code editors. In addition, the plugin provides some common actions helping a user to work with the editor. For example, search, replace, go to line, create new file or remove already existing. It even has an ability to commit recent changes and restore an editing file from the previous commits.

Unfortunately, initial good impression disappears after the first 2-3 minutes of working with the plugin. For example, commit/restore feature is a bit buggy. Restored version of a file is not formatted properly and doesn’t work as expected. The overall user interface looks unprofessional and makes you have a constant feeling that it is possible to create the same things much more better. Take a look at the screenshot of this dialog:

Advanced Code Editor file versions dialog
Advanced Code Editor file versions dialog

Any idea about proposal of the brown image at the bottom? No? It removes all saved revisions of the currently editing file. Typos in the UI also don’t make this plugin better.

Conclusion

Rating: 2 of 5. Good idea, but bad implementation. You can use this plugin only if you need to add small one-time changes. If you’re going to work with the themes/plugins code in WordPress, it is better to find some other alternative solution.

2. WP Editor

Version:1.2.6.3
Active installs:100,000+
Last updated:6 months ago
Engine:CodeMirror
Rating:4.7 based on 85 reviews
Home:Plugin's home

Official Description

WP Editor is a plugin for WordPress that replaces default plugin and theme editors as well as the page/post editor.

Overview

We’ve installed WP Editor plugin with the hope that it will be much better than the previous one. And it had not disappointed us in this sense. Right after installation of the plugin we’ve opened its settings page and were impressed by the number of available options. First of all, you have the full control over the integration of the plugin with WordPress. WP Editor can be disabled for posts/pages or theme/plugins editors separately. In addition, each type of the editors has own settings page. It is a bit difficult to imagine why you may need to use a different themes for the different editors, for example, but presence of this ability makes good impression.

What about main features of the editor? Unfortunately, they are not so reach as in Advanced Code Editor. WP Editor has a minimum set of functions:

  • undo/redo
  • search
  • find next/prev
  • replace and replace all

But take a look how the main toolbar is designed:

WP Editor Toolbar
WP Editor Toolbar

To be honest, we expected to see a bit more stylish solution in 2017. In addition, UX of some functions is not very good. For example, It is quite inconvenient to use replace/replace all functions.

Conclusion

Rating: 4 of 5. Of course, WP Edit is much more better than its previously mentioned competitor. But it is still too far from the ideal. Anyway, it has proven 4 stars for the rich set of available options.

3. CodeMirror File Editor

Version:1.2.4
Active installs:1,000+
Last updated:3 months ago
Engine:CodeMirror
Rating:4.8 based on 5 reviews
Home:Plugin's home

Official Description

Replaces defaults WordPress Theme and Plugin Editors with CodeMirror with syntax highlighting and other features.

Overview

Yet another plugin for improving theme/plugin editors. We did not expect to see some new and exciting features after reviewing the first two plugins. It was interesting just to find a better implementation of the most common functions. And this plugin has not disappointed us. It is basic and minimalistic. The plugin has no options or toolbars. A user have a list of hotkeys which allows him to find/replace content in the editor. However, the implementation of search/replace functions is very similar to WP Editor and also can be improved.

Some hotkeys don’t work in Google Chrome as expected. So, it will be useful to have Options page with an ability to redefine the standard hot keys. Nevertheless, we wish to point out a general positive impression from this plugin. It has the highest rating of all above reviewed plugins.

Conclusion

Rating: 3.5 of 5. WP Editor is a good choice when you need to edit Plugins / Themes only.

4. Syntax Highlighter for WP Editor

Version:3.2
Active installs:1,000+
Last updated:5 months ago
Engine:CodeMirror
Rating:4.5 based on 2 review
Home:Plugin's home

Official Description

An easy to use WordPress plugin that replaces the default Theme and Plugin Source Code Editor with an enhanced editor by a CodeMirror library.

Overview

This plugin is almost the same as the previous one. It just has a bit different set of available options. Unfortunately, its implementation is far away from ideal. For example, after switching between Text/Visual tabs in the post editor you’ll see the following glitch:

Syntax Highlighter for WP Editor
Bad Synchronization Between Rich and Code Editors

Now you can change content in both editors and it will not be synchronized.

Conclusion

Rating: 2 of 5. Not recommended to use. CodeMirror File Editor looks much more better.

5. Ace Edit

Version:1.1
Active installs:400+
Last updated:2 months ago
Engine:ACE
Rating:5 based on 2 reviews
Home:Plugin's home

Official Description

This plugin will improve the build in theme and plugin editor in WordPress with typical code editor features like syntax highlighting.

Overview

Unlike all the previous plugins, this one is based on another code editor library called ACE. It does not have any options though, but its author has promised to improve the plugin and add a number of different settings to the plugin. It looks promising and even the lack of features doesn’t allow us to put low rating to this plugin.

Conclusion

Rating: 3.5 of 5. There are some other more powerful plugins already existing out there. But it makes sense to check out this one again in a couple of months.

Summary

It’s time to choose the winner of our small contest. In our opinion, WP Editor worth to be named the best theme/plugin editor for WordPress in 2017. It looks more professional than other competitors and has all necessary functionality for the convenient development. In addition, there are tons of options which will allow you to configure it as you wish.

There is also another reason to choose this editor. It has the integration with the standard pages/post editor, thus you don’t have to install additional plugins.

Unfortunately, we can’t say that WP Editor is a silver bullet for WordPress developer. The main reasons are:

  • Lack of integration with the other parts of the system — for example, you still need to edit content of Text widget in the plain text editor.
  • Bad support of third-party plugins and themes — the most of advanced WordPress themes also have an ability to specify some custom HTML/JS/CSS in a different places.
  • Possible incompatibilities with the other plugins — you’ve a small chance to face some incompatibility problems of WP Editor with the already installed plugins or themes.

Of course, may be you will never meet any of the problems listed above. We just want to outline that WP Editor is the best of already existing plugins, but if far away from ideal.

As you see, it still worth to install CodeHiglight extension for your browser. You can use it as the standalone editing tool or in conjunction with one of the previously mentioned WordPress plugins.

We’re going to write a standalone article which will be completely dedicated to plugins which extend the standard page/post editors.

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