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I've downloaded a Wordpress theme, but I want to edit it before uploading it to my live server. I read I need to run a server in order to test the PHP files, but I don't know what to use in order to do so. Or would it just be better to upload then edit it?

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The WordPress Codex documentation on Installing WordPress and Editing Files give you pretty much all information you need.

You will need a web server to test the code and changes. So you can either do this on your web server (assuming you have some sort of hosting package, because you mention 'upload'), or on your local machine. For easy setup, there is XAMPP or WampServer on Windows, or MAMP for Macs and LAMP for Linux based machines (and many, many more).

Basically, there is no right or wrong way to do this, as long as it works for you. Some people will never edit a single file on a live website, simply because they fear things will break on the live website version. That's why they always test changes on a local web server (using one of the previously mentioned packages). But if you're only making small changes in CSS for example and just starting out, there is no harm in experimenting a bit in the live install. :)

Good rule of thumb: Make backups before you do anything, so if you run into any trouble, you always have a backup of the original files to restore.

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    Things to add, On Linux there is LAMP. Also for clarification, you may want to set up a second WordPress install next to your live site for testing (on your current web sever). If you need help installing a server the people at serverfault.com are pretty awesome. – Brooke. Jul 1 '13 at 18:54
  • I would add that I have long considered the built in file editor to be very dangerous. Editing files on a live site using the built in editor is like working on an airplane while it is in flight. Don't do it. – s_ha_dum Jul 1 '13 at 19:10
  • In my opinion the easiest way to setup and manage local servers on Mac or Windows is ServerPress. – JPollock Jul 3 '13 at 18:42

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