What is WP-CLI and what can it do for you?

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So what is WP-CLI?

WP-CLI or the WordPress Command Line Interface is a PHP based tool that allows you to manage your WordPress site via SSH (Secure Shell) interface.

In simpler terms, it is the back-door to your website. WP-Admin is the GUI or Graphical User interface gives you something nice to look at, with buttons and colours that can be accessed via a web page. WP-CLI drops the GUI and works with simple commands, providing more control and speed.

Why should you use WP-CLI?

This will depend on whether you manage one site or multiple sites but there is always benefit to using WP-CLI. When I am doing regular maintenance on a site or inspecting a client site for the first time there are several commands I always run.

# shows the current plugins and their status
wp plugin status

# shows the current themes and their status
wp theme status

# check the core WordPress install and if there are any updates available
wp core check-update

Fundamentals of a WP-CLI command

wp <command> <subcommand> –<option-with-value>=<option-value> –<option-without-value>

# force install of specific WordPress version
wp core update --version=4.9.1 --force

WP-CLI install page has details on how to add tab completions so you just hit tab and get a list of available commands, sub-commands and options. https://wp-cli.org 

Let’s dig deeper and see what we can do!

Managing Users.

# show all the current users 
wp user list

# update a user password
wp user update 2 --user_pass=Its@Secret!

# create a new user with userid, email and role
wp user create iamnewuser iamnewuser@users.com --role=editor

# delete a user by username
wp user delete iamnewuser

Database management

# export the database to pluginupdate.sql
wp db export pluginupdate.sql

# import a previous or new database overwriting the current install
wp db import pluginupdate.sql 

# search the database for old url and replace with the new one
wp search-replace "//mrwilde.com" "//mrwilde.webdevstaging.site" --dry-run

Also a number of maintenance tools for DB as well but be very careful running them. Best rule if you are not sure, don’t run them.

# repairs the db with mysqlcheck utility with --repair=true
wp db repair

# Optimizes the database running mysqlcheck with optimize true
wp db optimize

# Reset the current database.
wp db reset

# Drop an existing database.
wp db drop


# list all pages
wp post list --post_type=page --fields=post_title,post_statuses

# List posts in CSV
wp post list --post_type=post --posts_per_page=5 --format=csv

# create a list of post types in a csv format then save to a file
wp post list --post_type=post --posts_per_page=5 --format=csv > posts.csv

Building and Scaffolding Sites

Here are some more detailed commands for building and setting up your sites. You will need a database in place before you begin.

# download wp core
wp core download 

# create and configure wp-config.php
wp core config --dbname=mrwilde_database --dbuser=mrwilde_user --dbpass=mrwilde_password --dbhost=localhost --dbprefix=mrwilde_

# complete the WordPress install
wp core install --url=mrwilde.com  --title="Mr Wilde's Website" --admin_user=admin_user --admin_password=admin_password --admin_email="robert@mrwilde.com"

# Install several plugins and activiate 
wp plugin install query-monitor developer php-compatibility-checker theme-checker --activate

# create a child theme for the WordPress default Twenty Seventeen Theme
wp scaffold child-theme mrwilde-theme --parent_theme=twentyseventeen --theme_name='MrWilde New Theme' --author='Robert Wilde' --author_uri=https://mrwilde.com --theme_uri=https://mrwilde.com --activate

Advanced commands and Piping

Here a some more advanced commands that you can use for testing and fault finding. I would highly advise you don’t use these on a production server as they will change your site and possibly prevent it from being accessed via a web page.

These commands are for development & staging environments only and make sure you do a wp db export database-name.sql first as insurance.

// regenerate thumbnails for PDF files added before WordPress 4.7
wp post list --post_type=attachment --post_mime_type=application/pdf --format=ids | xargs wp media regenerate

// Combining wp post list with wp post delete lets you easily delete all posts. 
// In this example, $() lets us pass the space-separated page ids to wp post delete
wp post delete $(wp post list --post_type='page' --format=ids)

// run a commands remotely on a site
wp user list --ssh=robert@mrwilde.com/var/www

// installing the current version in development
wp core download --version=nightly --force

That is only a small sample of commands for WP-CLI. Here are some links for beginners and advanced users as well as a few posts on how to install WP-CLI on your host.


Home of WP_CLI – https://wp-cli.org/

Beginners Guide to WP-CLI

WP-CLI Tips by John Blackbourn (Creator of Query-Monitor)

WP-CLI – Advanced WordPress Management

Other External Resources

Installing on Shared Host

About Mr Wilde

Technology has been in my blood for as long as I can remember. Started with Dick Smith kits when I was 10, I was making FM wireless bugs in high school. After several years working, Electronics Technician, Sound and Lighting Technical Director and then IT Sysadmin, I am going with the flow and leaving the hardware behind, mostly. I am now developing solutions for the cloud, focus on WordPress, SharePoint and Mobile devices. Learning more and more every day.

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