Setting up WordPress Coding Standards (WPCS) Globally

Install Homebrew

This guide is for developers how are using a Unix like system, more specifically macOS is the system I am using.

Using Homebrew to Install Composer

brew install composer

Install PHPCS

Install PHPCS using composer, follow the instructions found on the phpcs github page.

composer global require "squizlabs/php_codesniffer=*"

Create Utilities Directory

Create a directory in your user folder called utilities. Then clone down the WPCS and PHPCompatibility repos.

mkdir ~/utilities
cd ~/utilities
git clone
git clone

Now change directories into the WordPress-Coding-Standards repo. Then use git to checkout the latest release. You can find what version is the most recent on the main projects releases page. For me this would be v0.14.1.

cd ~/utilities/WordPress-Coding-Standards
git checkout 0.14.1

Do the same thing for PHPCompatibility. Change directories into PHPCompatibility and checkout the most recent or the version your team is using. For me this would be v8.2.0.

cd ~/utilities/PHPCompatibility
git checkout 8.2.0

Access PHPCS Globally

In order to access PHPCS globally you need to add composer to your global $PATH. Add the following to your ~/.bash_profile or if you are using ZSH to your ~/.zshrc. The $HOME variable will default to your user directory similiar to when you type cd ~.

export PATH="$PATH:$HOME/.composer/vendor/bin"

Now when you run phpcs --version, you will get the current PHPCS version output. If you don’t, then look back at the instructions for the above tools to be sure they have installed successfully.

phpcs --version
PHP_CodeSniffer version 3.3.0 (stable) by Squiz (

If you run phpcs -i you’ll get the default coding standards list.

phpcs -i
The installed coding standards are PEAR, Zend, PSR2, MySource, Squiz, PSR1, PSR12

To add our WPCS and PHPCompatibility standards to this list run this command.

phpcs --config-set installed_paths $HOME/utilities/WordPress-Coding-Standards,/$HOME/utilities/PHPCompatibility

Now when you run phpcs -i you will see WPCS and PHPCompatibility standards listed after the original standards.

phpcs -i
The installed coding standards are PEAR, Zend, PSR2, MySource, Squiz, PSR1, PSR12, WordPress-VIP, WordPress, WordPress-Extra, WordPress-Docs, WordPress-Core and PHPCompatibility

Setup the WordPress Theme for PHPCS

At the root of your WordPress Theme or Plugin create a file called phpcs.xml and add the following configurations. Feel free to change these to best suit your needs.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<ruleset name="WordPress Theme Coding Standards">
    <!-- See -->
    <!-- See -->
    <!-- See -->
    <!-- See -->
    <!-- See -->

    <!-- Set a description for this ruleset. -->
    <description>A custom set of code standard rules to check for WordPress themes.</description>

    <!-- Pass some flags to PHPCS:
         p flag: Show progress of the run.
         s flag: Show sniff codes in all reports.
         v flag: Print verbose output.
         n flag: Do not print warnings.
    <arg value="psv"/>

    <!-- Strip the filepaths down to the relevant bit. -->
    <arg name="basepath" value="./"/>

    <!-- Check up to 8 files simultanously. -->
    <arg name="parallel" value="8"/>

    <!-- Only check the PHP files. JS files are checked separately with JSCS and JSHint. -->
    <arg name="extensions" value="php"/>

    <!-- Check all files in this directory and the directories below it. -->

    <!-- Ignore these directories -->

    <!-- Include the WordPress ruleset, with exclusions. -->
    <rule ref="WordPress">
        <!-- Getting error on placeholder files, index.php -->
        <exclude name="Squiz.Commenting.FileComment.SpacingAfterComment" />

    <!-- Verify that the text_domain is set to the desired text-domain.
         Multiple valid text domains can be provided as a comma-delimited list. -->
    <rule ref="WordPress.WP.I18n">
            <property name="text_domain" type="array" value="wp_foundation_six" />

    <!-- Allow for theme specific exceptions to the file name rules based
         on the theme hierarchy. -->
    <rule ref="WordPress.Files.FileName">
            <property name="is_theme" value="true" />

    <!-- Verify that no WP functions are used which are deprecated or have been removed.
         The minimum version set here should be in line with the minimum WP version
         as set in the "Requires at least" tag in the readme.txt file. -->
    <rule ref="WordPress.WP.DeprecatedFunctions">
            <property name="minimum_supported_version" value="4.5" />

    <!-- Include sniffs for PHP cross-version compatibility. -->
    <config name="testVersion" value="7.1-99.0"/>

    <!-- Verify that everything in the global namespace is prefixed with a theme specific prefix.
         Multiple valid prefixes can be provided as a comma-delimited list. -->
    <rule ref="WordPress.NamingConventions.PrefixAllGlobals">
            <property name="prefixes" type="array" value="wp_foundation_six,wpfs" />

    <rule ref="PHPCompatibility">
        <!-- Whitelist PHP native classes, interfaces, functions and constants which
             are back-filled by WP.
             Based on:
             * /wp-includes/compat.php
             * /wp-includes/random_compat/random.php
        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewClasses.errorFound"/>
        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewClasses.typeerrorFound"/>

        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewConstants.json_pretty_printFound"/>
        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewConstants.php_version_idFound"/>

        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewFunctions.hash_equalsFound"/>
        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewFunctions.json_last_error_msgFound"/>
        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewFunctions.random_intFound"/>
        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewFunctions.random_bytesFound"/>
        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewFunctions.array_replace_recursiveFound"/>

        <exclude name="PHPCompatibility.PHP.NewInterfaces.jsonserializableFound"/>

    <!-- Whitelist the WP Core mysql_to_rfc3339() function. -->
    <rule ref="PHPCompatibility.PHP.RemovedExtensions">
            <property name="functionWhitelist" type="array" value="mysql_to_rfc3339"/>

Now if you change directories into your WordPress theme and run phpcs --standard=phpcs.xml --colors, PHPCS will run through the standards setup in your XML file and let you know if there are any errors or warnings.

phpcs --standard=phpcs.xml --colors
.................................................. 50 / 50 (100%)

Time: 7.63 secs; Memory: 14Mb

With errors:

phpcs --standard=phpcs.xml --colors
...................................E.............. 50 / 50 (100%)

FILE: header.php
 70 | ERROR | [x] Expected 1 spaces after opening bracket; 0 found (PEAR.Functions.FunctionCallSignature.SpaceAfterOpenBracket)

Time: 5.76 secs; Memory: 14Mb

You can use PHPCBF (PHP Code Beautifier and Fixer) to automatically fix some issues. Typically these would be formatting and non-breaking changes.

phpcbf --standard=phpcs.xml --colors
...................................F.............. 50 / 50 (100%)

FILE                                                  FIXED  REMAINING
header.php                                            1      0

Time: 5.81 secs; Memory: 14Mb

If you need to test a single file you can do so like this:

phpcs --standard=phpcs.xml --colors header.php
. 1 / 1 (100%)

No fixable errors were found

Time: 312ms; Memory: 12Mb

Update (2018-09-13)

A previous version of this article said to use:

phpcs --config-set installed_paths $HOME/utilities/wpcs,/$HOME/utilities/PHPCompatibility

This was incorrect, the correct pathing would be:

phpcs --config-set installed_paths $HOME/utilities/WordPress-Coding-Standards,/$HOME/utilities/PHPCompatibility