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PHP IDE Roundup

IDE showdown

PHP Designer

MPSOFTWARE's PHP Designer is a fresh approach to PHP developement. The IDE contains a lot of features to tackle the design part of web developement, without overlooking the programming. The IDE has come a long way from its initial release, and now sports some features which are lacking in more mature IDEs.

This is a Windows only IDE, and it's fast - there's no Java here.

Although some the code features, such as code completion as still limited, this is a great IDE for anyone who wants a more powerful PHP editor. If you are a designer who has also taken up PHP programming, then this is the IDE for you.

This IDE has a lot of potential, with every release it gets better and better. If MPSOFTWARE implements all of the essential features of an IDE properly - they'll have a excellent product on their hands.

There are two flavors of PHP Designer: the professional version, which costs $52 to buy, and a personal version which is free albeit it does not come with all the features of the professional.


Eclipse is a development platform, for which you can download plugins which support the programming language you want. There are two plugins available that support PHP in eclipse. The first one is Eclipse's own PDT project, which aims to integrate all the development tools needed for PHP.

The second one is PHPEclipse which provides an alternative developement environment.

Since Eclipse is programmed in Java, both development environments run on the three main operating systems: Windows, Linux and Mac. Both provide excellent code completion, as well as all the essential features for an IDE.

If you want a list of the differences between the two plugins, then you'll be hard pressed, since both look exactly the same. With the Eclipse platform, the look and feel is pretty consistent for all of the plugins it supports.

There are a few downsides with Eclipse: if you're a beginner, then it'll be a steep learning curve for you; and Eclipse isn't tailored for PHP, so some features of the IDE may not be relevant to you. As with most Java based applications, it can be a slow compared to PHP Designer ( but it makes it up being available for major three operating systems ).

Lastly, it's free, so you can download and try it out.

NuSphere PhpED

A Windows only IDE, with a lot of features. One of the best features of this IDE is the integrated debugger, as well as the remote debugger for Internet Explorer ( hopefully one will appear for Firefox soon ).

The stand out feature for this IDE is the built in code profiler.

Among the other features of PHPEd are database integration, and good code completion.

You can get you hands on PHPEd for $59 ( standard version ), or if you're willing to fork over $199, you can get a copy of the professional edition.

Zend Studio

Lastly we come to Zend Studio. If you've used PHP, then you must have heard of Zend, they're the people who've made PHP!

Being a Java based IDE, it runs on all the three major platforms: Windows, Mac, and Linux; and it comes with a bunch of features any PHP developer would need.

Zend Studio is a pretty excellent IDE, it comes with all the core features an IDE would need. It's got integrated debugging, top notch code completion, and support for code versioning, as well as FTP integrated.

Overall, this is an excellent IDE, however there are a few problems with it. It's unbearably slow, I had to turn off the "use OS Look and Feel" option to make it perform at an acceptable level. If you look through the support forums, there are a bunch of other people like me who have encountered this little bug.

If Zend can sort this bug out, then Zend Studio would be a great IDE for PHP.

The standard edition is priced at $99, but does not come with some of extras. The professional edition is $299.