Why use an IDE for PHP Development – Part 1 of 4

This week we’ll be exploring a 4 part blog series about using an IDE for PHP Development. Please join our lead developer, Stefen Abrams as he explores IDE’s and their use in more detail. 

U6MeLwXUQtWwZ2iSA5qr_photo.jpegFor years, Sublime Text served us very well as a go-to development environment for all sorts of programming work. Before that, vi, TextPad, Notepad++, and more along those lines. Back in the day, many of us cut our teeth on plain old Windows Notepad or EDIT.EXE. We’ve always enjoyed working close to the metal.

As the PHP environment has formalized, however, and come to resemble more structured environments such as Java with large dependency trees and nested namespace trees, the need for development environment that works with us in a contextual manner has intensified, and within the last year we’ve switched almost entirely to specialized IDEs, and once we got past grumbling “this is how we’ve always done things”, we’re glad to have made the switch.

PHP has a history of slapdash scripting without much structure or lineage, which is not a place where a bulky IDE necessarily provides a lot of benefit. This is changing, and changing fast, so if you haven’t made the switch yet, you may want to consider it, both for yourself and others in your employ.

Integrated workflows make for easy training

There are processes for checking in and receiving changes, for editing a site’s database, for managing and pulling in dependencies, and as a seasoned developer, you probably know them like the back of your hand. They may involve five different programs from as many vendors, with different interfaces (some graphical, some terminal) and different requirements (you work on a Mac, so who cares that it’s not available for Windows?), but to you it’s all muscle memory.

But you’ll sing a different tune as your company begins to expand, bring on more people, and suddenly you’re not only managing your own workflow but those of others, others who might be new to these processes and may never have used these tools before in any form. Now you’re not just orienting people on a language (possibly unfamiliar) and an environment (likewise), but a whole line of supporting tools of various degrees of complexity. If you’re lucky, they may even be on the same platform and be able to use the same applications as you.

Contrast with a unified development environment, which is likely cross-platform and mutually intelligible between different operating systems, where each of these sub-tasks is just another tab in the larger IDE, and likely simplified to the appropriate level.

Over time, you may even come to like having all your tools in one place, too, but due to the open nature of the tools involved in the PHP world, nothing is stopping you from firing up a command line in a pinch.

Thats all for part 1. Please join us tomorrow for part 2 on writing better code with an IDE.

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