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How to Install WordPress Themes and Plugins From GitHub

Updated on Nov 22, 2022

Many WordPress theme and plugin developers use GitHub to manage their projects' version control. This means that all of their code and files are available for viewing and downloading by anyone. However, manually installing WordPress plugins from GitHub can be inconvenient.

As you might expect, there are tools that can help you speed up the process of installing plugins and themes from GitHub. You can ensure that each piece of software you install will automatically update whenever the developers make changes to its repository, depending on the method you choose. You can then experiment with each project to your heart's content.

This article will discuss why you should use GitHub for your WordPress development projects.

Then we'll show you how to install WordPress plugins from GitHub (and themes, too) using WP Pusher, a dedicated tool. Let's get to work!

This post includes:

What is GitHub?

To understand what GitHub is, we must first define Git. Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, created Git, an open-source version control system. A version control system assists developers in managing project revisions and stores those changes in a central repository.

Version control systems are extremely useful when multiple people are working on the same code or when the project is open-source, as every developer can see the changes in the code, download it, and modify it.

Reasons to Use GitHub

For those who are unfamiliar, GitHub is a platform built on the Git version control system. This software allows multiple developers to work on the same files at the same time. Developers can use it to upload their code and files to a repository that anyone can access. They have control over who has access to it, but others can 'fork' these repositories and make changes to the code.

In a nutshell, GitHub is the ideal platform for open-source collaboration. Here are just a few of the reasons why developers should use GitHub for their WordPress projects:

It keeps track of the modifications made to each project. Developers can use GitHub to see when each file in their repository has been modified and updated last.

It makes collaboration easier. Working on a WordPress project with others can be difficult. Developers working with others may need to share files back and forth while ensuring that no one is working on the same ones at the same time. This is no longer an issue with GitHub.

It's an ideal environment for open-source projects. Forking and accessible repositories on GitHub make it ideal for open-source platforms like WordPress. This makes it an excellent resource for free plugins and themes.

The platform has thousands of commits for the popular open-source page builder, indicating that the developer is committed to the workflow:

If you are a developer, having your visitors download the plugin from GitHub is extremely useful.

Issues, stars, forks, and contributions are all available. It is based on SVN and has fewer active developers on the WordPress Repo. GitHub is a great place to get feedback and contributions from other developers.

How to Download WordPress Plugins and Themes from GitHub Manually

Using GitHub to download a plugin or theme is no more difficult than using WordPress.org. To begin, determine whether the plugin or theme you want to download has a public repository. As you might expect, this is often the case for free plugins and themes but not for premium ones. Many developers will even include links to their repositories on their WordPress.org pages.

When you've found the plugin or theme you're looking for on GitHub, simply click the Clone or Download button above the file list. Then you can select whether to open that repository with GitHub's desktop client or to download it as a zipped file:

Once you've downloaded the zip file, simply upload, install, and activate it like any other plugin. That's all there is to it.

As you can see, this method is remarkably straightforward. However, this does not preclude us from making improvements. After all, you may find yourself frequently needing to download themes and plugins from GitHub. As a result, in the following method, we'll install using a tool that helps to automate the process.

How to Install WordPress Plugins and Themes from GitHub Using WP Pusher

At its core, the WP Pusher plugin automates the steps outlined in the previous section. All it requires is access to your GitHub account and a link to the repository containing the desired theme or plugin. WP Pusher then takes those files and assists you in installing WordPress plugins from GitHub.

(SCREENSHOT OF PLUGIN)

This tool, however, does more than just install files. It can also automatically update any plugin or theme you've installed with it whenever a new version is released. Furthermore, if you can locate their respective repositories, it can 'take over' and manage plugins you've already installed from other sources. Overall, WP Pusher is an excellent choice if you want to test your own projects or use plugins that are constantly being developed.

To get started, first download WP Pusher from its home page, then install and activate it. After that, go to the new WP Pusher tab on your dashboard and look for the GitHub option. Inside, you'll find a field where you need to type in a GitHub token to connect your account. Click on the Obtain GitHub Token, and a new window will pop up asking for your credentials:

Connect your GitHub Account

After signing in, you'll need to authorize the WP Pusher application by clicking on the green button:

Authorize the WP Pusher Plugin

Finally, you'll receive your GitHub token. Just copy it, paste it in the field we mentioned earlier, and click on the Save GitHub token button below it:

Type in Your GitHub Token

Now the plugin is ready to roll. To install a theme, for example, go to the WP Pusher → Install Theme tab on your dashboard. Inside, you'll need to indicate which repository you want to use:

Install a Theme from GitHub

Keep in mind that you don't need to paste in the full URL for any repository. Just the account name and the repository's name will do. For example, if you wanted to install the Twenty Twenty-one theme, you'd type in WordPress/twentytwentyone into the relevant field.

The exact name for each repository appears at the top of its GitHub page, so all you have to do is copy it over. You can also indicate if you want to use a particular ‘branch' of that repository. However, we recommend leaving this option as the default in most cases. After all, the default will usually be the version that's ready for the public.

Indicate the Branch you Want to Install

Finally, you can enable the settings to automatically update your plugin or theme every time there's a new push to its repository. You can also set it to take over existing plugins or themes you've already installed from a different source, as we mentioned earlier:

Configure your Theme to Update Automatically

At this point, simply click on Install theme and then choose the Activate option. After that, it will show up on both your Appearance → Themes and WP Pusher → Themes tabs.

Best GitHub plugins for WordPress

WP Pusher

WP Pusher is an excellent tool that allows you to automatically deploy the changes you make to your Git repository to your WordPress site. This way, you can install and update themes and plugins directly from GitHub, Bitbucket, or GitLab, regardless of the hosting you use.

This is very useful for developers because every time they push a new change to the Git repository, it will automatically update your plugins and themes without having to use an FTP client. Additionally, WP Pusher is multisite and doesn't require you to have Git installed on your server; any hosting service you use will do.

The free version only supports public repositories, while the premium plans include private repositories and email support. On top of that, they all have a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you don't like the product, you can get a full refund.

GitHub Updater

This tool isn't in the WordPress repository, but it's one of the most powerful WordPress GitHub plugins. You can use GitHub Updater to update any plugin or theme hosted on GitHub. You can use this tool to enable automatic updates for GitHub, Bitbucket, GitLab, and Gitea plugins, themes, and language packs.

This tool's magic is that it allows you to update your WordPress plugins and themes whenever you release a new version, just like your users do when they download an add-on or theme from the WordPress repository. It also allows you to remotely install themes and plugins.

So, how do you make use of this plugin? The only requirement is that your plugin or theme include a header in the style.css or plugin's header indicating its GitHub location.

It's worth noting that this plugin was originally created by Joey Kudish, but because it hadn't been updated in a while, it was taken over by another group of developers called Radish Concepts.

VersionPress

VersionPress is an excellent open-source plugin that brings all the power of Git to WordPress. What makes VersionPress one of the best GitHub plugins for WordPress is that it adds version control to files and to the database allowing you to track every change you make to your site. This means that you can undo any change you made or even bring your site back to a previous state by reverting all the changes to that point.

VersionPress also allows you to create staging environments for testing and merge them with the live database. Despite its complexity, this tool is fairly simple to use and generates Git commits for both file and database changes in natural language, making it usable even by non-technical users.

The tool is free and you can also download it from GitHub. VersionPress is also one of our Software Partners and we have a tutorial section for the most frequently used actions.

GitHub Actions for WordPress

GitHub Actions for WordPress is one of the best plugins for plugin developers who use GitHub. Every time you tag a new version on GitHub, this tool will deploy your new releases directly to the WordPress plugin repository. You can do so via the command line or the GitHub releases interface.

This has great benefits because it lets you manage all your developments directly from GitHub. For more information, check out this documentation page.

GitHub Actions for WordPress is 100% free.

GitHub Embed

GitHub Embed is a simple but effective plugin for embedding GitHub details in a WordPress page or post. Simply paste the code into the URL as you would any other embedded source. You can currently embed the following using this tool:

  • Repositories
  • User profiles
  • Project milestone summaries
  • Project contributors

In terms of design, GitHub Embed provides basic styling but adds classes so you can customize it to match the look and feel of your site.

GitHub Embed is free, and you can download it from the WordPress plugin repository.

Gist GitHub Shortcode

As its name suggests, Gist GitHub Shortcode allows you to add GitHub Gists to your posts via shortcodes. For example, you can include a full Gist with the following shortcode:

[gist id="3837669"]

Additionally, you can insert a file in a gist:

[gist id="3837669" file="index.php"]

Even though it doesn't receive updates very often, the last one was more than 24 months ago, Gist GitHub Shortcode is free and you can download it from the WordPress repository.

GitHub Release Downloads

This plugin allows you to get the download count, links, and other information for releases of GitHub repositories via shortcodes.

For example:

  • The shortcode [grd_count] gives you the sum of all download count values for a selected release (a GitHub repository).
  • [grd_list] returns the download list for the selected releases including the tag name, description, and the list of files that can be downloaded.
  • [grd_latest_version] gives the tag name of the latest published release.

Before you start using this tool, go to your WordPress Dashboard → Settings → GitHub Release Downloads and set values for the GitHub username and the repository name you'll use by default in the shortcodes.

GitHub Release Downloads is a free tool that you can download from the WordPress repository.

Embed Block for GitHub

Embed Block is an excellent tool for those who want to embed GitHub repositories in their sites. It allows you to easily add a GitHub Repository embed block to the Block Editor and display a card with the repository information. Using the Gutenberg Editor, you can add a GitHub repository to any page or post on your website.

Additionally, Embed Block is very easy to use. Simply enter the repository URL, and the plugin will embed a card with all the repository details. The block includes some basic CSS styles, but you can easily change it with a bit of CSS.

This tool is free, and it's available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

GitHub Commit Contribution

With this plugin, you can display all the contributions you've made in GitHub. This can be useful to create more authority and show your clients or potential employers that you're a respected source of knowledge in your field.

GitHub Commit Contribution can be easily integrated with any portfolio or resume website, and it's fully responsive, cross-browser compatible, and retina ready. Additionally, it comes with two predefined layouts and supports shortcodes.

This tool is available in Code Canyon for 13 USD.

Writing On GitHub

The last tool in our list of the best GitHub plugins for WordPress is Writing on GitHub. As its name suggests, it allows you to write content collaboratively with other authors and let your users propose improvements to your WordPress content via GitHub.

Writing On GitHub is a very useful tool for teams as it allows them to write and edit posts collaboratively using GitHub. Additionally, teams can sync the content of two different WordPress installations as well as stage and preview the content before deploying it to production.

The best part is that Writing On GitHub is 100% free.

Conclusion

We hope this guide assisted you in installing GitHub WordPress plugins or themes.

If you like the plugin or theme you're using from GitHub, don't forget to star it on GitHub. This will show the developers that you value their efforts. Leave a comment below to tell us about any interesting WordPress projects you've discovered on GitHub.

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