How to Use the WordPress Command Line Interface

by Montel Anthony

WP-CLI (the WordPress Command Line Interface) is an invaluable tool that enables both developers and administrators to remotely administer WordPress websites from a command line interface. WP-CLI features several commands which can help developers install plugins, manage database migrations and automate repetitive tasks; in this comprehensive guide we’ll cover everything from installation through advanced usage scenarios of WP-CLI.

WP-CLI can offer several advantages over the classic WordPress administrative dashboard:

  • Faster Execution: WP-CLI commands run considerably more rapidly than performing similar tasks through the web interface.
  • Automation: WP-CLI makes repetitive tasks more efficient while decreasing risk and time spent performing them manually.
  • Remote Management: With WP-CLI’s SSH access feature, it allows for remote WordPress website management without using an Internet browser or web interface.
  • WP-CLI allows you to write custom scripts that extend its capabilities and integrate it with other tools or workflows, further expanding its functional capabilities and expanding integration possibilities.

Through this article, we will delve deep into various aspects of using WP-CLI effectively, equipping you with all of the knowledge and resources to take full advantage of this dynamic tool.

What is the WordPress Command Line Interface (WP-CLI)?

WP-CLI, short for WordPress Command Line Interface, is an open-source command-line tool which enables WordPress website administrators and developers to directly manage their WordPress websites directly from a terminal interface. With WP-CLI’s set of commands available to manage plugins, themes, core updates as well as database operations and content manipulation it offers developers and administrators all-inclusive control of WordPress websites from within their terminal session.

Some of the key features of WP-CLI include:

  • Comprehensive command set: WP-CLI provides a vast array of commands that cover almost every aspect of WordPress management, from simple tasks like creating posts and users to more complex operations like database search-replace and content migration.
  • Extensibility: WP-CLI can be extended with custom commands and packages, allowing developers to tailor it to their specific needs and integrate it with other tools and workflows.
  • Cross-platform compatibility: WP-CLI works on various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux, making it accessible to a wide range of users.
  • Integration with popular tools: WP-CLI seamlessly integrates with popular development tools and platforms, such as Composer, Git, and Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines.

WP-CLI allows developers and administrators to streamline the WordPress development and management processes, saving both time and effort while creating an error-free workflow for faster development of WordPress sites.

How To Install WP-CLI

Before you can start using WP-CLI, you need to install it on your system. WP-CLI has a few system requirements:

  • PHP 5.6 or later
  • WordPress 3.7 or later
  • Secure Shell (SSH) access to your WordPress server (for remote management)

To install WP-CLI, follow these step-by-step instructions for your operating system:

How To Install on Windows

  1. Download the wp-cli.phar file using your web browser.
  2. Create a new directory for WP-CLI (e.g., C:\wp-cli).
  3. Move the downloaded wp-cli.phar file into the newly created directory.
  4. Open the Windows Command Prompt and navigate to the WP-CLI directory.
  5. Run the following command to verify the installation:
php wp-cli.phar --info

Installing on macOS and Linux

  1. Open the Terminal.
  2. Download the WP-CLI package using the following command:
curl -O
  1. Make the file executable:
chmod +x wp-cli.phar
  1. Move the file to a directory in your PATH, such as /usr/local/bin/:
sudo mv wp-cli.phar /usr/local/bin/wp
  1. Verify the installation by running:
wp --info

If you encounter any issues during the installation process, consult the official WP-CLI installation guide for troubleshooting steps and additional information.

Basic WP-CLI Commands

Once you have installed WP-CLI, you can start using it to manage your WordPress website. WP-CLI commands follow a simple structure:

wp command subcommand [--argument=value] [--flag] [parameter]

Here are some essential WP-CLI commands for managing WordPress:

  • wp core: Manage WordPress core, including installation, updates, and version checks.
  • wp plugin: Manage plugins, including installation, activation, deactivation, and updates.
  • wp theme: Manage themes, including installation, activation, and updates.
  • wp post: Manage posts, pages, and custom post types, including creation, editing, and deletion.
  • wp user: Manage users, including creation, deletion, and role assignment.

For example, to install a new WordPress plugin, you can use the following command:

wp plugin install plugin-name --activate

This command will download and install the specified plugin and activate it on your WordPress site.

To create a new post, you can use the wp post create command:

wp post create --post_title="My New Post" --post_content="This is the content of my new post." --post_status=publish

This command will create a new post with the specified title, content, and status (published).

Advanced WP-CLI Commands

WP-CLI also features advanced commands specifically tailored towards developers that make life easier by facilitating more complicated tasks or directly interacting with WordPress database. These allow them to directly manipulate WordPress database tables.

An example of advanced WP-CLI commands includes:

  • wp db: Manage the WordPress database, including exporting, importing, and optimizing tables.
  • wp search-replace: Perform a search-replace operation on the WordPress database, useful for updating URLs or migrating content.
  • wp cron: Manage WordPress cron events, including listing, running, and deleting scheduled tasks.
  • wp scaffold: Generate boilerplate code for plugins, themes, and other WordPress components.

For instance, to export your WordPress database using WP-CLI, you can use the following command:

wp db export backup.sql

This command will create a new file named backup.sql containing a complete dump of your WordPress database.

To perform a search-replace operation on your WordPress database, you can use the wp search-replace command:

wp search-replace '' '' --all-tables --verbose

This command will replace all occurrences of with in all database tables, and provide verbose output during the process.

Before using advanced WP-CLI commands, it’s critical to exercise extreme caution and create an adequate backup of your WordPress website before making changes to its database.

WP-CLI Packages and Extensions

One of the hallmarks of WP-CLI’s power lies in its flexibility; developers can build custom packages and extensions that extend its capabilities with new commands or functionality.

Some popular WP-CLI packages include:

  • wp-cli/scaffold-command: Generates boilerplate code for plugins, themes, and other WordPress components.
  • wp-cli/db-command: Provides additional database management commands, such as exporting and importing databases in different formats.
  • wp-cli/media-command: Offers commands for managing WordPress media attachments, including regenerating thumbnails and importing media from external sources.

To install a WP-CLI package, you can use the wp package install command:

wp package install wp-cli/scaffold-command

This command will download and install the specified package, making its commands available for use.

To find more WP-CLI packages, visit the official WP-CLI Package Index.

Automating Tasks with WP-CLI

One of the most significant benefits of using WP-CLI is the ability to automate repetitive tasks, saving time and reducing the risk of human error.

Some common tasks that can be automated using WP-CLI include:

  • Database backups: You can create a script that regularly exports your WordPress database using the wp db export command and saves the backup file to a remote location.
  • Plugin and theme updates: Automate the process of updating plugins and themes by writing a script that checks for updates and installs them using the wp plugin update and wp theme update commands.
  • Content migration: Automate the process of migrating content between WordPress sites by exporting and importing the database and media files using WP-CLI commands.

To create a custom WP-CLI script, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new PHP file with a descriptive name (e.g., backup-script.php).
  2. Begin the file with the following shebang line to indicate that it should be executed using PHP:
#!/usr/bin/env php
  1. Write your WP-CLI commands and any necessary PHP logic in the file.
  2. Save the file and make it executable using the chmod command:
chmod +x backup-script.php
  1. Run the script by executing it in the terminal:

By automating tasks with WP-CLI, you can streamline your WordPress development and management processes, saving time and ensuring consistency across your projects.

Best Practices for Using WP-CLI

WP-CLI requires best practices to protect both its users’ security and performance of WordPress websites, here are a few recommendations:

Security Considerations

  • Limit access: Make sure that only authorized users have access to the server where WP-CLI is installed, using secure authentication methods like SSH keys to prevent unauthorised entry.
  • Update regularly: Keep your WordPress core, plugins, and themes up-to-date to minimize security vulnerabilities. Use WP-CLI commands like wp core update, wp plugin update, and wp theme update to streamline the update process.
  • Backup your site: Always create a backup of your WordPress site before making any significant changes using WP-CLI. Use the wp db export command to create a database backup, and store it in a secure location.

Performance Optimization

  • Limit query results: When using WP-CLI commands that retrieve data from the database, limit the number of results returned by using the --limit flag to prevent memory exhaustion and improve performance.
  • Use specific commands: Instead of using generic commands like wp post list, use more specific commands like wp post list --post_type=page --fields=ID,post_title to retrieve only the necessary data, reducing the amount of processing required.
  • Optimize the database: Regularly optimize your WordPress database using the wp db optimize command to improve query performance and reduce database size.

Integrating WP-CLI into Development Workflows

  • Version control: Integrate WP-CLI commands into a version control system like Git to monitor changes and create an accurate historical account of your WordPress website’s configuration and content.
  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): Incorporate WP-CLI commands into your CI/CD pipeline to automate tasks like running tests, deploying changes, and updating your WordPress site.
  • Collaboration: Share custom WP-CLI scripts and packages with your development team to ensure consistency and promote collaboration.

By following these best practices, WP-CLI can be utilized effectively and safely – thus optimizing WordPress development and management processes.

Troubleshooting Common WP-CLI Issues

WP-CLI is generally reliable; however, you may encounter errors while using it. Below are a few common WP-CLI errors and their solutions:

  • “Error: Could not create directory”: Permission denied”: This error occurs when WP-CLI doesn’t have the necessary permissions to create a directory. To resolve this issue, ensure that the user running WP-CLI has write permissions for the directory in question.
  • “Error: The ‘wp’ command requires WordPress to be installed.”: This error occurs when you try to run a WP-CLI command in a directory that doesn’t contain a WordPress installation. Make sure you’re running WP-CLI commands from within a WordPress site’s root directory.
  • “Error: Alias ‘@all’ was not registered.”: This error occurs when you try to use an unregistered alias in a WP-CLI command. Double-check the alias name and ensure that it’s correctly registered in your wp-cli.yml configuration file.

If you encounter an issue that you can’t resolve on your own, consult the following resources for help:

  • WP-CLI Official Documentation: The official documentation provides detailed information on WP-CLI commands, configuration, and troubleshooting.
  • WP-CLI GitHub Issues: Search the WP-CLI GitHub issues to see if your problem has been reported and resolved by others.
  • WordPress StackExchange: Ask questions and search for solutions on the WordPress StackExchange community, which has a dedicated tag for WP-CLI.


WP-CLI, or WordPress Command Line Interface, is an invaluable resource that can significantly speed up WordPress development and management workflows. By learning to effectively use WP-CLI you can automate repetitive tasks, streamline processes, save time and energy and ultimately save both money and effort in doing so.

We’ve covered everything in this comprehensive guide from installing WP-CLI to using advanced commands and creating customized scripts, along with best practices for using WP-CLI safely and efficiently, as well as troubleshooting any common issues.

Start using WP-CLI now in your WordPress workflows to experience its many benefits firsthand! Share this article with those who would also benefit from learning WP-CLI, and post comments below sharing any personal tips, experiences or queries related to it.

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