Regenerate Thumbnails Plugin Passes 5 Million Downloads, Rewrite in the Works

Regenerate Thumbnails, written by prolific plugin developer Alex Mills, has passed 5 million downloads. The plugin was first released nearly a decade ago in August 2008 during the days of WordPress 2.6. Regenerate Thumbnails is used to retroactively generate new thumbnail sizes for past uploads. It has become an indispensable utility over the years, helping millions of users successfully transition between WordPress themes that have different featured image sizes.

Regenerate Thumbnails version 1.0.0

“I was freelancing at the time and according to an ancient post on my blog, I apparently wrote it as a client needed the functionality,” Mills said. “I don’t remember that though and I certainly never figured it’d be installed and activated on over a million sites like it is today!”

Regenerate Thumbnails is downloaded thousands of times every day, and, fortunately, it is the type of plugin that doesn’t generate too many support issues. Mills said he is thankful for the many volunteers on the WordPress.org support forums who have also helped manage the load. Despite the continued and widespread use of the plugin, Mills has never considered cashing in on it.

“I’d never monetize any of my plugins,” he said. “I write them for fun not profit. It would be a conflict of interest anyway due to my employment at Automattic.”

Regenerate Thumbnails is a fairly straightforward plugin that rarely requires updating, but this year Mills said he has tried to give it a lot more love and will soon be releasing a complete rewrite.

“The rewrite is currently taking place on GitHub and is a complete rethink of the plugin, both in terms of the interface and underlying technologies,” Mills said. “The interface is powered by Vue.js, which I’m learning and using for the first time, and the WordPress REST API. I also have a full suite of unit tests for PHPUnit to verify that the plugin code is working as intended, both now and into the future. Those have been incredibly useful while writing the plugin and I highly recommend other plugin authors make use of them too. WP-CLI makes it very easy to set up.”

After nine years of supporting Regenerate Thumbnails, and many other plugins, Mills said he doesn’t consider himself the best example when it comes to maintaining plugins. His advice to other developers is “try to make sure to write your plugins to be future-proof.”

“Outside of some updates last month, the last real changes to the plugin were made in 2012!” Mills said. “I wrote the plugin well the first time around and it’s just worked mostly fine ever since because it uses built-in WordPress code to do the work.”

This is the reason why Regenerate Thumbnails has already blazed past its major milestone at 5,762,713 downloads and is well on its way to 6 million before the end of the year. Users still find the plugin to work as reliably as it did in 2008.

Mills said that making a plugin future proof is key if you write code all day for a living and then find it difficult to write more in the evenings and weekends for WordPress.org plugins. However, due to his current illness, he hasn’t worked in nearly a year since October 2016.

“While I’m still battling the leukemia, I’m at least feeling better than I was at the beginning of the year so I’ve gotten the itch to code again,” Mills said. “Working on personal projects such as Regenerate Thumbnails has been a good way to brush off my coding skills in anticipation of returning to work. Plus it’s just fun to code again!”

16 Comments


  1. Great plugin, great person, and a great attitude. He’s got a ton of people rooting for him to beat the Leukemia, I included.

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  2. It has become an indispensable utility over the years, helping millions of users successfully transition between WordPress themes that have different featured image sizes

    At 5 million installs, maybe this should be in core…

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    1. +1 Perhaps if it would be in the core, it could be invisible and at the moment user would change settings, or themes that affect images, prompt would pop up with the option to also regenerate images.

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  3. I understand why it’s called Regenerate Thumbnails and given how many times it’s been used maybe that is the correct name. But the name “Resize Images After Changing Themes” really would have done it for me.

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    1. Nope. Because then nobody would find it as easy as of now.

      There are lots of different reasons for regenerating thumbnails, e.g. a new slideshow plugin adding different image sizes , or in my case, a daily update / rebuild of the WooCommerce products of the site of one of my clients. In the latter case it turned out its less time- AND resource-consuming to regenerate everything directly after the update, instead of just processing image resizes per individul updated or added product.

      cu, w0lf.

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  4. Note: The reason why most of us are using this version of a Image Size Regenerator is, that its so straigh-forward. I tested quite a few different variations by other authors, including the oh-so-famous wp-cli variation, but non worked as reliable as the original.

    I’ve been very happy with its performance so far, installing whenever there is a need for custom-sized images in a project of a client, and been recommending it ever since I first stumbled upoon it.

    The only grieve I got is that there seems to be no way of “cron-jacking” the plugin. No, the wp-cli variation is much too complicated. Not everyone – or more like, most of the rest of the world – does have a server to themselves. And setting up the “remote” version is a PITA and huge struggle as well. So one has to stick to the GUI version of the original plugin .. for now.

    cu, w0lf.

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  5. I love simple, indispensable plugins like this – I’ve used it many times when making changes to my site.

    Thinking positive thoughts for your health, Alex!

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  6. indeed a very useful plugin especially when you change your website’s theme and need other sizes for your uploads ;)

    Glad a new version is on the time … I bet it’ll be better

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  7. As someone who systematically firewalls off the RPC and REST “APIs” to WordPress in order to significantly reduce the attack surface, I find it unpleasant when a key plugin (or a core feature for that matter) wants to depend on those risky features for things that are already running inside the server with authorized direct access (from PHP) to all the data.

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  8. Very nice tool.

    A nice addition would be an option to remove images with “old” image sizes, to reduce server space.

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  9. Awesome plugin that is indespensible for me, hey Alex maybe you should setup a patreon account? There would be a tonne of people willing to help you out.

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    1. Thanks but I’m good! I have a non-compete clause in my employment contract anyway meaning I can’t make money off things in the same area of work as my job.

      I’m enjoying coding for fun again anyway. :)

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  10. Kudos to Alex Mills for passing 5 million downloads and thank you for giving us this wonderful plugin.

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