PHP Needs an IDE Juggernaut

I had to decide on a language for a recent programming project. The application needed to run server side on a LAMP stack. Since PERL is too arcane for my taste, the choice was PHP. It was the right language for the system it was to be run on.

Initially it worked out great. PHP is a powerful, flexible language. The application being developed required a heavy amount of parsing of very complex text files. This isn't your standard "import a delimited file into a database" app. The code featured a lot of string manipulation and eventually lots of regular expressions. However, after a given line count, developing in a plain text editor became unmanageable. I'm not a vi guru, nor do I care to use emacs for software development either. Call me spoiled by the Microsoft juggernaut, but I simply love Visual Studio. It's a tough IDE to beat.

To makeup for the shortcomings of coding in a plain text editor (Kate, incidentally), I thought about Eclipse. It's my IDE of choice for any Java development I do. There's an initiative underway to get it working for PHP. After countless hours of frustration I couldn't get it to work with PHP. Granted, that's probably my fault. But getting the Zend debugger working was even more of a configuration nightmare. I tried everything, including pulling my hair out. My conclusion: Eclipse for PHP development is not at all ready for prime time.

Yes, there are a number of commercial IDEs available. But they're not cheap. Komodo is a nice solution, but at $300 it's not right for me. If I were a professional PHP developer, $300 for a critical tool set is peanuts. But for various side projects, it's just not justifiable.

As a result, I'm porting over the PHP code into Java just so I can use a proper IDE. It's not at all the right reason for using a language. At the same time, if you have the right tools, it'll make development a lot easier. That's a concern because my project is really beginning to grow.