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PHP IDEs and PHP Editors

When you code PHP, you can use one or more editors. some are very simple, some are free and some cost money for a license. There are excellent options for every developer. Although deciding on an editor seems like a simple choice, it can easily become an ongoing pursuit to find the best editor for you that makes you comfortable and productive.

This article will contain some options and reasons why you may want to choose the best editor to suit your needs.

Beginner Tools

Simple Free Editors

Often, when a web developer learns to hand code PHP applications, an IDE can be a distraction since features like code completion and configuring your editor could be a distraction that gets in the way of understanding basic syntax, functions and loops. From experience, I found a simple quick loading editor like Notepad++ to be a very good tool to learn PHP / mySQL. Early on, I even moved from an IDE back to Notepad for a couple of years until I could easily hand code and copy and edit code rather easily. 

Notepad++ had good FTP and SFTP connectivity and made scripting a simple procedure. But, eventually I found it lacked important features like code completion and text formatting. At this point, I switched back to an IDE to become more productive and give the code a ‘good look’.  

Although Notepad++ is a good introductory tool, it is also a good tool for any developer to build small PHP scripts and edit other scripts since it so fast load. Also, it can be a secondary mini-script maker to work on a basic script while your IDE is open with a large project. 

More Advanced Tools


There are various free PHP IDEs. Two popular ones that come to mind are Netbeans and Eclipse. These tools will help you automatically complete code, format your work, and make finding your classes, functions, variables, etc an easy process. 

Commercial PHP IDEs

After experience with Netbeans and Eclipse, I was content and appreciative of such good free tools, but, there always seemed to be something minor that kept me looking at other options. I was a Netbeans user and liked the SFTP, projects, compatibility with Windows and Linux, code completion, highlighting, themes, custom rules and more. But, I did find it a bit slow, unappealing to look at and questionable about its formatting. 

During my times of questioning, I samples many trial versions of editors like PHPStorm, PHPEd, PHP Designer and PHPEdit. On the first go around, I thought Netbeans was a fantastic free option although I liked the others too.

After months of pondering a switch, I tried PHPStorm again. Immediately, I was drawn to the look and many of its similarities to Netbeans and the many numbers of other web developers and experts that recommend its usage. So, I opened up a page of code and reformatted it with PHPStorm. Immediately, I liked the new formatting which was always something I did not care for that much with Netbeans since the margins were not aligned like I wanted.

Although the default new colors of the editor may have had an influence, I still found this polished IDE was worth having. After all, as a full time PHP / mySQL programmer / web developer, spending $100 on the most important tool is less than a minor expense.

Since PHPStorm seemed like a good fit, I made a download from the server as a final check. Before that even completed, I pulled out my credit card on the first day of the free trial and bought it. Money well spent and it makes me want to code more.