If you have a version of WordPress running that you can play with, great. If you don't, I highly recommend having a locally running installation. Installing and running a small web server on your local machine or laptop has become very easy with the release of WAMP (Windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) and MAMP (Mac, Apache, MySQL, and PHP). A local server offers you several conveniences compared to working with WordPress installed on a hosting provider.
I often find that when I travel, despite more and more Internet WiFi bubbles popping up, I am often somewhere that doesn't have one, or I'm in a Starbucks and I don't feel like shelling out cash to T-Mobile for the "privilege" of being connected. With a local installation of WordPress, I have no worries. I can develop and tinker to my heart's content regardless of Internet connectivity and most importantly, without worry that I'll break something on the live site that I'm developing or designing for.
If you're interested in a local sandbox installation of WordPress, I recommend you download WAMP for Windows or MAMP for Mac.
WAMP stands for Windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP and it makes it very easy to have a local web server running on your computer in just a few clicks. If you're using a Windows operating system such as XP, Vista, or Windows 7, you can head over to http://www.wampserver.com and download WAMP 2.
Be sure to follow the directions in WAMP's installation wizard! If you already have a web server running as localhost and/or a previous version of WAMP installed, carefully read the wizard instructions for disabling or uninstalling that server, backing up your data, and installing the latest version of WAMP.
You can also agree to let WAMP install a start page for you. From this start page as well as from the WAMP icon in the taskbar, you'll be able to easily launch phpMyAdmin. phpMyAdmin will allow you to easily create a database and the database user account required for installing WordPress.
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