Has the Perfect Free PHP IDE Arrived?
It may be Eclipse.
People who develop in languages like Java and C# have long had a wide range of powerful IDEs available to help them in their coding tasks.
For those of us who code in PHP, though, there hasn't been a really 'killer' IDE. There are some choices – Zend Studio and Komodo spring to mind – but these have always carried a non-trivial price tag, closing them off for those of us without big budgets for tools. So for me, at least, the choice has been to work in a plain old text editor: my usual choice is Kate.
The other day, though, I heard that there was a new version out ("Europa") of IBM's open-source IDE, Eclipse — and that PHP support in Eclipse had matured enough to finally be useful. So I downloaded it and gave it a spin.
Wow! When tricked out with the proper add-ons, Eclipse makes quite a nice environment to write PHP in. Eclipse's extensible architecture has led to a wide range of add-ons being developed — allowing you to easily snap together a single environment in which all your common tasks are performed (in other words, what IDEs were invented for).
What can you integrate?
- PHP Development Tools gives you a complete PHP editing environment, with syntax highlighting, code folding, autocompletion, and other goodies
- Subclipse adds Subversion support, letting you check code out of an SVN repository directly into a new Eclipse project, or commit your changes to a repo with a simple right-click
- Eclipse SQL Explorer provides a complete GUI interface to MySQL (and other DBMSes too), letting you browse tables, run queries, and generally forget about the MySQL console
Together, these add-ons turn Eclipse into a pretty slick package for handling all the tasks a LAMP developer is likely to deal with on a given day. (And there's others I haven't even tried yet, but which sound promising – like Mylyn, which lets you connect up Eclipse's internal task-tracker to external task repositories like the ones that come with Trac and Bugzilla.)
Oh, and all this is free, too. Which is certainly nice.
The only real downside I can see is that, unlike Komodo or Zend Studio, you have to do a little up-front work setting up your environment; by default, Eclipse is a Java IDE, so you have to add on the packages above to make it 'speak' PHP comfortably. But the process of adding features is straightforward (thanks to Eclipse's update manager, which lets you snap new tools into Eclipse just by pasting a URL into a textbox).
So, what do you PHP geeks out there think? Is Eclipse in position to become a major player in the PHP world?