If people ask me who are the best developers of IDE’s (Integrated Development Environment) then I have to say that hand’s down its Microsoft. For me, nothing compares with the ease of use of their Visual Studio Platform. Not to mention the responsiveness it has when running in the Windows Platform.
No matter how people try to portray them as the evil empire, I have to admit, that they make great software tools that increase productivity and reduce programmer stress by allowing you to finish your job much faster while burning less brain cells.
Imagine my dilemma now when I switched to the PHP language, which is an open source scripting language. Since it is open source, tendency is that there are a lot of 3rd party IDE’s made from which to choose from. Some of which are free and some of which aren’t. But the free one’s usually lack the features and enhancements that I’ve grown used to in a full fledged commercial IDE.
The great thing with commercial IDE’s for open source products is that they are usually cheaper to buy compared to closed source products. Below $100 you can already get a good IDE packed with features to increase your productivity and make code writing and debugging easier.
After sifting through a lot of PHP IDE’s the IDE of choice for me was phpDesigner by MPSoftware. I’ve been using it since it first came out in 2005. I’ve tried all the rest but I found some of them to be too buggy, bloated (especially if running on the java engine) or just too memory intensive.
As a VB application developer I was spoiled with Visual Studio’s ease of use. Features which I’ve taken for granted in VS such as code completion and syntax highlighting hit me like a brick wall when I changed IDE’s. Not to mention that all too important debugging feature of step-by-step walk through.
Most of these features in VS I’ve found once again in phpDesigner. With PHP’s C like syntax I’ve also come to appreciate very much the open bracket highlighting feature of the IDE which identifies un-closed brackets as well as the start and end bracket of function’s scope.
phpDesigner also supports Xdebug which is a PHP extension that gives more information when debugging your script as well as better code profiling. Features that Xdebug allows are code step through during debugging.
Another feature I can’t live without is the FTP module which makes code uploading easier as it’s already built-in with the IDE. No more stopping to have to open an FTP program when uploading code.
Most of the features that they have are already present in competing IDE’s, but what still keeps me a loyal user is the fact that it has a low memory footprint and doesn’t act sluggishly when I have too many code pages open.
Object Oriented Programming (OOP) Support has long been added to the phpDesigner ever since the first version. Allowing for easier code viewing of classes, methods and other objects in your OOP code. This will come in handy to when using one of the many popular PHP frameworks which is revolutionizing the way we code with PHP today.
Full Feature List of this IDE can be found here. You can also download a trial version of the software which you can use for a set number of days. They also have a Top Ten List of why you should use phpDesigner as your IDE.
The only thing I hate about this IDE though, is that they don’t have a version for Linux.