Custom Install Profiles Sounds Like A Cool Idea

wordpressqilogoOn the WordPress Hackers Mailing list, Ptah Dunbar recently proposed an idea that I think is pretty cool and would be a time saver for developers and custom installers called Installation Profiles.

Installation profiles could automatically pre configure WordPress with a set of activated plugins, change the default activated theme and could also possibly change/add some default settings/content?–all during the install process. This could be beneficial to a lot of users/developers allowing them to jump right into content creation instead of site configuration.

Users could create a profile that contains all their settings and activated plugins they’d usually have to configure after installing WP. The profile that they create could also be used across all their blogs–saving a lot of time.

I’m thinking something along the lines of being able to export my blogs configuration into an XML file just like you can with blog content into a WordPress eXtended RSS file. I use the same settings for each WordPress install I do and since I occasionally reformat my WordPress powered sites, it would be an awesome time saver to just upload an XML file and have my site setup the way it was before the reformat took place. Of course, there are other uses for install profiles so implementing an extensible way of creating them would be a good idea. What do you think of the idea?

So far, the closest thing we have to installation profiles is DD32’s newest project, WordPressQI or WordPress Quick Install which provides options to change the pre-installed plugins that are installed along with WordPress as well as configuring permalink settings up front.

16 Comments


  1. The current problem i’m having, is Who’s plugins do you install? I mean, Theres so many competing plugins, an the most common used plugin is not always the best “technically”.

    Because of that.. My initial release is not going to have any plugin-related stuff in it, I’m leaving that for the 2nd release (And even then, That will probably only be automattic-sponsored plugins (ie. wp.com stats, ATD, etc).

    After that.. I’ll probably just go all power hungry and put a selection of what -I- think is worthy of being used…. But I’d love to hear what others think on that.. If someones got a thought about any of this, PLEASE comment :)

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  2. Installation profiles are a great idea, it is insane that we have to carry out exactly the same hundred of so steps to get set up with the settings and plugins we always use.

    Ideally, we should be able to specify ANY plugin when writing our profiles, along with whether or not we wanted it to be automatically activated. The installer would not need to be pre-programmed with specific routines for specific plugins, all it would need would be to read the profile XML file which would state each plugin’s download URL and whether or not you wanted it to be automatically activated.

    If a plugin has unusual requirements, such as needing to be installed somewhere other than the plugins folder, well, that particular plugin is not going to be suited, but 99% of plugins will be straightforward enough.

    A more advanced version of the installer might also allow us to specify info that we have to submit every time, such as our Akismet API code.

    Before the installation goes ahead, each entry in our profile should be displayed to us with tick boxes and delete buttons, allowing us to make specific changes for that specific installation.

    For example, I almost always use the Sitemap generator, so, it is ticked but, this time, I don’t need it, so, I untick that box to stop it being activated or press delete to entirely remove it from that specific installation process. No changes are made to the profile file itself.

    @DD32 – I had a look at WP Quick Install a day or two ago and neither the 0.5 pre-beta release nor the nightly build seem to be working. The forum also seems to be fairly inactive, no posts within the last month. Your project has huge potential, it really is something that would be of genuine use to many, many people, but you should try to capitalize on the interest and get it moving while people are still excited by the concept, otherwise it will just become another StayPress, a burden around your neck.

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  3. @DD32 – Yeah, that sure is a problem. Who’s to say the plugins you choose are the ones I want part of my install profile? I wonder if I could just paste direct links to plugins I want to have installed to WordPressQI and it would download and unpack them as part of the install process. Perhaps that would be the open ended answer to the problem?

    @donnacha | WordSkill – Quite a few good points I agree with in terms of how install profiles should operate. It sounds to me like this idea has the potential to be built as a service which I think DD32 could easily turn WP QI into if he really wanted to with install profiles being part of a paid add-on or feature.

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  4. @Jeffro – Or he could aspire much higher and, rather than waste his time trying to hawk it as a paid add-on to the fairly small percentage of people who pay for plugins, he could offer the whole thing for free under the GPL and see his work used regularly by tens of thousands of people, possibly millions if it gets rolled into the core.

    Having such a prominent inclusion listed in your resume, something right out in front of millions of WordPress users, would be a huge boost to any young programmer’s career, worth far more than few hundred hard-won bucks he might manage shake out of the “premium” market.

    I don’t know why, but there is a craze these days for monetizing way too early, looking to cash in, playing the short game rather than taking the long-view of your life, your career and what you, as a person, are about.

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  5. This is a great idea and reminds me of the New Blog Defaults plugin for MU. I’m agreed with Donnacha that, if done right, this would not only serve many thousands of people, but also have the potential to make it into core.

    A nice feather in the hat indeed.

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  6. @donnacha – When people say things like that, it bugs me. In a perfect world, you are right. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and if you have the best implementation of an idea, you have a business, and that business should be run like any other, with the explicit goal of making money, not to use it on a resume for a job you may not derive as much passion from.

    If I could build a business through making amazing premium plugins, WordPress services, or themes, I’d do so because that’s where my passions lie. Why should I go and work for someone else?

    If you don’t have a plan for making money on day one, your business never will.

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  7. yes please! we setup a couple of specific users on every install and make the same changes over and over.

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  8. Not really a developer (only three sites for myself), but this would be a great idea. Although, like DD32, figuring out which plugins to use is the biggest problem. Trying to get used to coding styles, community around plugin and whether the developer will stick with it (are they compensated – monetarily or otherwise).

    WordPress.org could do some things other than downloads and ratings to help with this. Heck, even the Google custom search I have to check “freshness” of plugins is a start.

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  9. @donnacha | WordSkill – I think that if install profiles or this new way of making it quick and painless to install WordPress were to ever be a candidate, having it be available for all would be the way to go.

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  10. I think this kind of idea should leverage wordpress.org profiles HEAVILY — which of course would argue for it migrating to core over time.

    For a while now, I’ve wanted to mark plugins and/or themes as “favorites” in my wordpress.org profile. That would really help me track down all the plugins I have tried, especially those I’ve used for different projects. Taking that idea a couple steps further, you could use those favorites as the basis for a “custom install” profile, automatically downloading and installing the latest (compatible) versions of the plugins for use with a new install!

    Automattic seems like they might be on the verge of trying to use the .org profiles for something in future — I hope it’s something really useful like this!

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  11. You need to really think about steering this site into a major player in this market. You obviously have a good understanding of the topics everyone is browsing for on this website anyways and you could potentially even make a buck or three from some offers. I would look into following recent headlines and increasing the number of articles you put up and I guarantee you’d begin getting some awesome traffic soon. Just a brainstorm, good luck regardless!

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  12. Drupal has installation profiles and they are amazing time savers. For some of the most popular profiles, it seems like the plugins are chosen based on what Drupal developers use most, which are generally the ones that work the best. Each profile is created for a different purpose, so only the best plugins for each purpose are included. If someone wants to use the profile and does not like all of the options, they can modify it to fit their own needs. It would be really awesome to have some of these for WordPress.

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  13. Once I found out about customized install.php for WP, I actually had this in mind — creating sets of WP installs for certain types of blog installs. I’m currently doing an Internet marketing installation profile (still on the fence on making it commercial or GPL, but I’m leaning towards the latter), and plan on developing an installation profile for either e-learning or e-shop. Finding out about the Drupal installation profile got me excited even more.

    Someone should initiate building a page in WP.org listing all these installation profiles and create some sort of repository for people to check them out.

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  14. still on the fence on making it commercial or GPL, but I’m leaning towards the latter

    No reason why you can’t do both. The GPL encourages the commercialization of code, it does not restrict placing a price tag on it.

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  15. Has anyone got any further with this?

    We use installation profiles in Drupal, but getting one running for WP that a non-dev like me could use would be great.

    Perhaps I just need our devs to sort it out.

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