Flywheel has relaunched Local Pro, the commercial upgrade for its free local WordPress development product. The first version of Local Pro, launched in July 2019, was heavily geared towards Flywheel customers, but the tool has gradually evolved to be more host-agnostic. This major update focuses on pre-launch features that allow developers to check links, optimize images, share a live link, and make changes with live reload.
“We saw an opportunity to build new tools into Local that pivot away from focusing on Flywheel customers and towards solving common WordPress developer pain-points,” Local product manager Jack Sellwood said.
“Our focus from here will be helping developers with pre-launch tasks like gathering feedback, testing, and optimizing their site before they go-live.”
More than 300,000 developers have tried Local since it first launched in 2017 and active users are up 90% year over year.
“We attribute that increase to Local ‘Lightning’ which is the more reliable, performant version of Local that we launched last year,” Sellwood said.
This update also expands Local’s MagicSync capabilities to include both Flywheel and WP Engine. MagicSync allows developers to push or pull the files and/or database from staging and production environments. It gives an overview of which files are different and includes controls for ignoring certain files.
“We’d love to bring this to other hosts and we continue to explore how to do that, but the biggest challenge in doing this is maintaining the same, quality experience Local users have come to expect from Local Connect,” Sellwood said.
Live Links Revamped, More Cloud-based Services Coming in 2021
Local Pro also introduces a completely revamped solution for sharing local sites, built specifically for WordPress. For the past 12 months, the team has been building an alternative to ngrok to power its Live Links feature.
“We explored a few ways to improve the existing Live Links experience and found that this was a core technology, and we needed to own the whole stack of technologies involved,” Sellwood said. “A similar notion pushed us to build Lightning, which gave us better insight and ability to tackle bugs. VirtualBox was a black hole.”
Flywheel launched hub.localwp.com for users to manage their Local subscription for services like Live Links Pro that require a cloud component to function. The team plans to launch more later this year and in 2021. The Local Hub is a Laravel project that connects to custom infrastructure on Google Cloud.
“Local’s tunnel, like Local itself, is written in Node.js,” Sellwood said. “As a result, Live Links Pro handles 2x the number of HTTP requests in 50% less time. Live Links Pro is also secure by default with SSL and Privacy Mode (aka basic auth).”
The image optimizer and live reload features are coming soon to the Pro subscription. Building these pre-launch tools into Local allows users to leverage the power of their local machines, instead of relying on plugins. The image optimizer will be able to work offline and can tap into the user’s available computer resources.
Over the past three years, Local’s popularity has largely eclipsed that of other local WordPress development apps and packages like DesktopServer and InstantWP. Sellwood said the app’s most formidable competitors are advanced developer tools like Laravel Valet or custom Docker/VirtualBox setups.
“If you’ve invested a lot of time in a custom stack or setup, it’s hard to abandon that sunk cost,” Sellwood said. “Local abandoned virtualization completely in Lightning, and we knew, before we even launched, that some users would miss virtualization, so we’re exploring Site Environments powered by Docker as an option for advanced users.”
In addition to supporting more advanced development tools, the Local team aims to make advanced parts of WordPress development simpler and more approachable.
“Local has always been about providing an elegant UI that helps people dive deeper and level up as developers,” Sellwood said. “For example, WordPress developers might manage their database or interact with WP-CLI for the first time in Local because these advanced capabilities are available without any configuration. We’ll continue to make advanced parts of WordPress development simpler.
“Obviously, there’s a lot happening in WordPress right now with FSE (Full Site Editing) and headless, so we’re working with the other teams at WP Engine and elsewhere to help Local support this new future.”