Using the command line with WordPress with to WP-CLI

If you’re a WordPress developer, you’ve probably installed the CMS, updated it, and activated themes and plugins hundreds of times. While these routine development and maintenance tasks are quite easy to perform with the graphical user interface of WordPress, doing them over and over isn’t very efficient.

The good news is that you can easily and effectively speed up the development and maintenance of WordPress with the WordPress Command-Line Interface (WP-CLI). In this post, we’ll explore the various ways you can use WP-CLI and look at some useful WP-CLI commands to help you get started in the right direction.


If you’ve been in web development for a while, you’re probably familiar with the command-line interface. WP-CLI is the command-line interface for WordPress. For those of you who haven’t delved much into programming, WP-CLI is a tool that allows you to manage WordPress installations without using a web browser.

WP-CLI lets you do anything from installing the WordPress CMS on a brand new site to performing site-level operations on an existing WordPress website. The best part is that the set of steps you need to follow to complete such tasks will, in most cases, be reduced to a single line of code.

Now that we’ve seen what WP-CLI is and how it can help speed up the development of your next project, let’s look at how you can get started with this powerful tool.


The first thing you need to do to start with WP-CLI is to ensure that your hosting environment meets the minimum requirements:

  • UNIX environment.
  • PHP 5.3.29 (or later).
  • WordPress 3.7 (or later).
  • Secure Shell (SSH) enabled on your web server.

After confirming those essential elements, go ahead and download the wp-cli.phar file using the following command:

$ curl -O

And voilĂ ! WP-CLI should now be installed on your hosting environment. If you want to make sure it works correctly, simply run the following command:

$ php wp-cli.phar --info

If everything goes well, you should see something similar on the command line specifying which version of WP-CLI is running in your hosting environment:

PHP binary: /usr/bin/php5
PHP version: 5.5.9-1ubuntu4.14
php.ini used: /etc/php5/cli/php.ini
WP-CLI root dir: /home/wp-cli/.wp-cli
WP-CLI packages dir: /home/wp-cli/.wp-cli/packages/
WP-CLI global config: /home/wp-cli/.wp-cli/config.yml
WP-CLI project config:
WP-CLI version: 1.3.0

However, if you find that WP-CLI has not been installed correctly on your system, I recommend checking some alternative installation methods for more information on how to set it up.

Finally, we’ll create an executable file for WP-CLI and move it to its directory so that you can run it from anywhere:

$ chmod +x wp-cli.phar
$ sudo mv wp-cli.phar /usr/local/bin/wp

For simplicity, we’ve named the directory wp. Now, whenever you need to use WP-CLI, all you have to do is run the wp command from the command line.


Now that WP-CLI is installed and ready for use, let’s look at some of the most useful things you can do to speed up routine development and maintenance tasks in WordPress.


Navigate to the directory where you want to install the WordPress CMS and run the following line of code:

$ wp core download

You’ll need to create a wp-config.php file to proceed with your installation. Here’s how you can do it:

$ wp core config --dbname=databasename --dbuser=databaseuser --dbpass=databasepassword --dbhost=localhost --dbprefix=prfx_

(I used sample text for the database name and user credentials. Be sure to replace them with your database information before running the code.)

Finally, you can start the actual installation by running the main installation command below. Remember to replace the sample parameters with your site information before running the code.

$ wp core install --title="Your WordPress Site's Title" --admin_user=admin_username --admin_password=admin_password --admin_email=[email protected]


Sooner or later, a new version of WordPress will be released, and you’ll need to update your installation to the latest version. If you’re not sure which version of WordPress is currently running on your site, simply run the following command:

$ wp core version

If you believe your site does need to be updated, it’s best to perform a full backup of its database before proceeding. Here’s how you can do it with WP-CLI:

$ wp db export my-db-backup.sql

Running this command will create a complete backup of your site’s database and save it in the main directory in a file named my-db-backup.sql.

Finally, you can update your site’s core files and its database by running the following lines of code:

$ wp core update
$ wp core update --db

For those of you managing multiple sites or multisite networks, run the following script to update all sites at once:

$ declare -a sites_to_update=('/var/www/wordpress_site_1' '/var/www/wordpress_site_2' '/var/www/wordpress_site_n')
for site in "${sites_to_update[@]}"; do wp --path=$site core update done

(Remember to replace the sample text with the main directory names of your WordPress websites.)


One of the best things about WP-CLI is that it connects your web server to the official WordPress Theme and Plugin directories. This means you can manage theme and plugin installations using only the command line.

WordPress Theme Commands:

  • To install a theme: wp theme install theme_name
  • To activate an installed theme: wp theme activate theme_name
  • To update an installed theme: wp theme update theme_name
  • To update all installed themes: wp theme update –all

WordPress Plugin Commands:

  • To install a plugin: wp plugin install plugin_name
  • To activate an installed plugin: wp plugin activate plugin_name
  • To update an installed plugin: wp plugin update plugin_name
  • To update all installed plugins: wp plugin update –all

(Remember to replace the sample text with the name of the theme or plugin you want to interact with.)


WP-CLI takes the heavy lifting out of creating custom post types in WordPress and reduces it to a simple line of code.

Instead of downloading a plugin to help you get the job done, why not try the following line of code:

$ wp scaffold post-type cpt_slug --label=CPT_Label --theme=theme_name

All you have to do is replace the sample text with the slug, label, and theme name of your custom post type, and voilĂ !


If you’ve ever created a child theme, you’ve had to access the control panel and create folder and file structures within the site. WP-CLI allows you to create a child theme with a single line of code:

$ wp scaffold child-theme name-of-child-theme --parent_theme=name_of_parent_theme --theme_name='My Child Theme' --author='Your Name' --author_uri= --theme_uri= --activate

(As always, remember to replace the sample text with the child theme and parent theme information.)


With WP-CLI, you can get more done by doing less. If you want to increase your productivity by speeding up routine development and maintenance tasks in WordPress, then WP-CLI is definitely worth trying.

I’ve shown you how to install the tool in your hosting environment, and we’ve looked at some scenarios where WP-CLI beats the WordPress GUI in terms of efficiency. Now all that’s left is for you to try it out!

Oh, it might sound obvious, but NEVER TEST IN A PRODUCTION ENVIRONMENT, use STAGING or do it LOCALLY.

Happy coding!