Usually I don’t like working on sites created by other developers. In general, I find that they use odd methods of accomplishing things and often they aren’t the best way. Probably because a lot of developers are “newbies” and just try anything that will work. And there is the lack of commenting and not using proper naming conventions that makes it harder to find your way around an unfamiliar theme.
But every once in a while, I’ll find a developer has done something that I like and put into my own toolbox. Usually that means using a plugin that I wasn’t aware of. Since there are thousands of plugins in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory, it is impossible to sift through them all to find the really good ones. Finding one on another developer’s site lets me see how it works and tells me that at least that developer thinks it works well.
This happened to me today when I found the What The File plugin installed on a new site I was working on. A client has asked me to make changes to the header of the site and because it was one of those one-theme-fits-all themes with several built in options for the header, I found the header section was controlled by over a dozen files. My work included figuring out exactly what files I needed to change to affect the particular choices the client had made in the theme. Usually that’s a big job of trial and error which can be sped up a little if the theme author has named the files wisely, but still a big job none the less. That’s when I realized the previoius developer must have had exactly the same issue and was using the What The File plugin.
With this plugin, when you view any of your pages when you are logged in, it will tell you exactly what files are being called on that page. If the file is editable through the wordpress admin, it can also take you to that file, although I highly recommend that you don’t edit PHP files here. All PHP edits should be made through ftp or cpanel or you risk the white screen of death in which you will no longer be able to access the wordpress dashboard of your site.
As you can see here, I just use the admin bar at the top and click on the What The File link and a dropdown will display of all the files being called. Then, clicking on any file that is editable in the dashboard will open that file.
While the plugin doesn’t tell you exactly what part of the page is controlled by what file (still detective work to do there), it does narrow things down a little.
Do you have a way of figuring out which file needs to be edited? I would love to hear about it.