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How to make WordPress themes writable

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So you’ve uploaded a WordPress theme, head on over to the theme editor to make some changes, and get the dreaded If this file were writable you could edit it message? Not to worry, this is a quick fix. You don’t have to fire up your FTP client and reupload a new template file every time you make a change. You can use the theme editor like everyone else, with just a few quick changes to your file permissions, and I’ll show you how.

  • What exactly are file permissions, and what do I need to set them to?
  • How to change file permissions via an FTP client (in bulk)
  • How to change file permissions via cPanel

Let’s read on…

What are file permissions?

This is a method of administering access rights to certain files of your site. There are 3 types of permissions, read, write, and execute. Each of these types can be defined per a certain user group. These include owner permissions, group permissions, and public permissions. Some host’s security settings do not have the ideal WordPress permissions set by default, you’ll have to add this yourself. You don’t need to worry about all these technical details. All you need to remember is the number: 666.

Changing file permissions in FTP

This is probably the quickest way of changing the file permissions for all of your template files in one swift command. Open up your favorite FTP client, navigate to your template directory (with style.css, index.php, etc.) and select all .php and .css files. Do not select images or subdirectories.

WordPress FTP File Attributes

You can press CTRL + A to select them all, and click while holding CTRL to deselect items like images. After selecting the File Attributes option from the menu, you can change all the permissions to 666. You’ll notice the the group and public write permissions will automatically checked off.

WordPress FTP Change File Attributes

After pressing OK all the permissions to the files you selected should be changed to -rw-rw-rw-. You should now be able to edit them via the theme editor.

Changing permissions in cPanel

You can also do this in cPanel, although not in bulk (for the version of cPanel I’m using anyway). Open up the file manager, navigate to the template directory (similar to FTP) and click on the file you want to change permissions for.

WordPress cPanel File Manager Permissions

Change each one to 666, as before. This could be useful if you don’t have access to an FTP client, or just want to selectively make files writable.

Conclusion

If you can already edit themes in the theme editor, and your files are still set to 644, don’t worry about this tutorial. If it works, it works – no reason to change it. Some hosts may differ depending on their server configurations.

You may see different sources telling you to set everything to 777, which gives everybody full permissions. I wouldn’t recommend this. Although it would work, it may open up security holes on your site. The 666 permissions are just enough for the text files you’ll be editing.

Hope you enjoyed the article. Feel free to comment and share if you liked it.

About

Leland Fiegel was the original founder of ThemeLab. He is a web developer who loves WordPress and blogging.

  • http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com Ray

    Setting the permissions to 666 (-rw-rw-rw-) gives write access to any other users that share your web server (assuming you’re in a shared hosting environment). Is it really necessary to have the theme files writable by the world? Wouldn’t a permissions setting of 664 (-rw-rw-r–) be a little safer?

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  • http://WelcomeBackRosenthal.com Dave from Welcome Back Rosenthal

    Well the degree of access is important, but the main thing is you wrote this post. I searched for an answer like this for months!

  • Leland

    Ray, you’re right. It may be better to start with 664 to see if that works before trying 666.

    Dave, glad you found it useful.

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  • Billy

    Great info. But what I REALLY need to know is how to make the permissions DEFAULT to 766 for new files. I use the ProSense theme and when I ftp them up they default to 644. This means that I have to use my ftp client to change the permissions before I can edit adsense information. Doing many sites per day, this becomes a very tedious step. If I could have new directories default to 755 and new files default to 766 it would save me a lot of time!
    Thanks in advance!

  • http://www.CompleteNewEngland.com Cliff Calderwood

    Thank you for posting this tutorial on explaining what to do to get the permissions fixed so I could edit my new theme. I was going crazy until I found it and spent most day trying to figure out what permissions wordpress needed so I could use the built in editor.

    Cliff

  • http://andiesummerkiss.com Andie Summerkiss

    Hi, I have one question though. After we change the permission and anything, how to proceed from there? Do we upload another edited files or we change it directly at the theme editor? Can anybody give me some pointers? I have been looking for it all day.

  • http://andiesummerkiss.com Andie Summerkiss

    Sorry. I got it already. That was explained on the first paragraph of the post.

    Thank you for the life-saving tip. That just saved me from a couple of nights’ worth of sleep.

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  • http://livelynotebook.com livelynotebook

    Yeah, you’re rock!! I found something here. Thank you.

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  • http://threeeighthsspacer.com Terry of Astoria

    You should change back the permissions to 644 for files and 755 for dirs, after editing the files. Really. Read up on the wp codex,
    here!

  • dips

    Open up your favorite FTP client, navigate to your template directory (with style.css, index.php, etc.) and select all .php and .css files. Do not select images or subdirectories.???
    i dont knw how to do this?? :(
    i just made a wordpress blog and i cant see a plugin option on it all i know is i need a writable theme file for it.. but i just dont know hw can i do this damn thing?? please help me..send me a mail if possible..

  • Snoop

    Thanks, man!

  • http://www.marlani.ro marlanul cel chetros

    great… it worked … TY!

  • http://thewirds.com/ Thewirds

    Hi
    i try your tips here but i got this result in my FTP client

    500 ‘SITE CHMOD 666 wp-content': command not understood

    I change 666 to 664 or 644 it doesn’t works either

    i’m using filezilla also i don find that option in my database to change the permission, any help please??

  • http://sarugu.com Albert

    Really helpful. This will not needed for bis hosts. But in some cases we have to do manually.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://kerrysramblings.com/ Kerry

    Thanks so much for your tutorial! You made it very easy, and it fixed my issue.

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  • http://anti-pay.co.cc Matt

    I change it to 644, but I still can’t edit the file

    what to do?

  • http://www.moorethanamom.com Jen

    Thank you! Exactly what I needed!

  • http://www.csdesignworks.com Liz

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS! The instructions on wordpress are not nearly as understandable as this!

  • http://www.duniasaya.com fakhrul

    seriously, ur entry VERY HELPFUL!!

    THANK YOU SO MUCH.!!!

    MUAH.
    hehe

  • http://www.marketingwithglen.com Glen Wayne

    That was very helpful. I had already changed the file permissions on the php files but I had missed changing the css file permissions. That fixed it for me.

    Many thanks for a great post.

    Glen Wayne

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  • http://wwwl.blogbus.com/ Jay

    That was very helpful. I had already changed the file permissions on the php files but I had missed changing the css file permissions. That fixed it for me.

  • http://www.maospad.com Mao

    why is that i’m still having trouble even if i have change the file permissions to 666?

  • http://alirkhan.com Ali R. Khan

    I’m about to change the permission of the files to 666. I hope it’ll solve the issue…777 is really dangerous due to hacking risks…

  • Steve Dossett

    Thanks for this Leland – nothing to it!!

    Steve

  • Amoo

    Thanks! I wish you wrote for WordPress – they make it sound sooo much harder!

  • arnaudlimit

    Very useful indeed… IF you have the option of “file permission” displayed in your Filezilla FTP, that is !

    I don’t understand why, but it’s happening to me.. :(

    Do you know what could be causing this ?

    Is there another way to access and change file permission, maybe ?

    I’d be so glad if you could help me here : I can’t uploads files to my wordpress (developped locally I must add).