This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.

Theme Development Preview


This plugin was developed to allow a client or collaborators to see a new theme (or themes) before it goes live. The plugin allows you to select a theme to preview and then select the users that will see that theme. Everyone else will see the normal theme selected for the site. The previewed theme can be configured, with that configuration stored separately from the normal theme so when the theme is previewed by another user it will use the saved configuration.

Preview is available to several WP user roles, so Authors and Editors can also preview a theme as though it were a live site.

The plugin requires the previewing user to be logged in.

Configure a Theme Behind the Scenes

This plugin differs from most “theme switcher” plugins or the Theme Customizer preview in that it allows the previewed theme to be fully configured before going live. The settings for the previewed theme are saved separately, so when the theme is switched over, all the settings are in place.

Child Themes

This plugin is compatible with the use of child themes. You can create several child themes and preview them as separate themes.


This plugin does not currently play well with the Theme Customizer. In particular, it does not store the customizations for a theme that has been changed in the Customizer. You need to use the specific items in the “appearance” menu to configure the previewing theme.

This plugin does not allow for different content for each theme, so you cannot preview content changes using this plugin. This includes page-specific layout settings and layouts generated by plugins such as Visual Composer. Previewing theme template files can be modified, however, and those changes won’t affect the public theme.

Menu configuration: you can place existing menus into locations defined by the previewing theme and that will be remembered, but you cannot change the menu itself without affecting the normal site menus because they are the same content. If you need a different menu configuration for your previewing theme, create a new menu for that purpose. You will then be able to switch back and forth and the menu configuration will follow.

The plugin does not allow for different plugin configurations, plugin activated/deactivated status, and settings. WordPress Plugin configurations are the same for the main and preview themes.

If your new theme requires you to restructure the content or plugin configuration, it may be best to preview your new theme using a separate development site.

Key Image Credit

Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F044576-0032 / Engelbert Reineke / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. In the admin for your WordPress site, click on \”add new\” in the plug-ins menu.
  2. Search for \”theme development preview\” in the WP plugin repository and install
  3. Activate the plugin through the \’Plugins\’ menu in WordPress
  4. Visit the settings page under the \”Settings\” menu in the WP admin.
  5. Choose a theme to preview, then select the users that can preview or configure the preview theme.

** or **

  1. Download the zip file, and unzip it on your computer.
  2. Upload this directory (theme-dev-preview) and its contents to the /wp-content/plugins/ directory on your web server
  3. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
  4. Visit the settings page under the “Settings” menu in the WP admin.
  5. Choose a theme to preview, then select the users that can preview or configure the preview theme.


Can users switch the theme to preview?

Only administrators can change what theme is getting previewed and who can see it.

Can different users preview different themes?

No, only one theme can be previewed at a time.

Can the theme preview be shown to not-logged-in users?

Currently, this plugin only shows a preview theme to logged-in users that have been enabled in the settings.

Can the preview be shown based on user-agent, device or other anonymous user info?

No, this plugin is not a “theme switcher” it is a tool for theme designers and developers to preview and configure a new theme behind the scenes.

Will all preview theme settings be remembered?

Any theme that uses the standard WordPress methods for saving configurations will have their configurations saved separately from the main theme. Some theme developers may have used alternative methods for saving settings, and this plugin may not work with such themes.

Can I change the page layout in the preview theme separately from the main theme?

You can change theme templates in the preview theme, but you cannot make changes that are stored in the page content, such as with “Visual Composer” and other similar page layout tools that work with shortcodes. If you do make such changes, they will show up in the main theme. The preview theme’s page/post/CPT content is the same as the main theme, so you cannot make content changes to live pages behind the scenes.

Can I configure menus and widgets in the Preview theme?

Yes, menu and widget configurations are separate in the preview theme. The same menus and widgets will be available, except any widgets that are created by the theme.

What about colors, fonts, and other stylesheet changes?

The ones that are theme-specific are separate for the previewed theme, but any settings that are under the control of plugins can\’t be switched, they will be the same for the main theme and the previewed theme.


September 3, 2016
When attempting to utilize with a standard theme available on WordPress, the preview worked but other users got switched to the Twentysixteen default. When attempting to utilize with a child theme, the site ceased to render any content or style in preview. The user select box shows an error on each line when using for the first time because the plugin tries to compare something with an $options array that is null.
Read all 2 reviews

Contributors & Developers

“Theme Development Preview” is open source software. The following people have contributed to this plugin.




Initial release of the plugin


Better handling of child themes and separate configuration storage for previewed themes


consolidation of theme select control to include child themes