Choosing a Workspace for PHP

PHP is one of the most common web programming languages on the Internet. As with any language, PHP requires the right workspace. There are several to choose from, but you need the right one that works for you. Most editors give you the basics: color coded tags and syntax, organization into projects, and integration with other languages such as HTML and XML. However, each editor has some advantages over the others.

Determine What You Need

Before you determine the right PHP workspace editor, you need to determine what tools you’ll need for your projects. The tools you need are defined by the development job. For instance, if you write PHP code for WordPress customizations, you probably need an editor that works better with WordPress or WordPress themes. If you work with sites that need functionality such as FTP, you need a workspace that works with FTP.

Consider the types of applications you’ll be using, because this will help you determine what type of IDE you’ll want to use.

Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver is probably one of the most popular workspaces for PHP. Dreamweaver has been around for years, so there are several versions that continue to evolve as more languages are supported. Dreamweaver is more of a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface. This means that you can create themes and web pages using a visual interface (the designer) instead of typing code. The problem with these types of applications is that they usually create bloated, broken code. Therefore, you do need to have an understanding of how PHP works along with using the editor.

Since Dreamweaver is more of a visual tool, it’s great to use for WordPress themes and web page design. You then create your PHP code either in the WYSIWYG editor or in the code-behind interface. That’s the great part about Dreamweaver: you can use it for both types of coding. Just use the “split” function to view the web page in the designer and the actual code in the file.

Another important part of Dreamweaver is its compatibility with HTML5. HTML5 is common for mobile phone applications, because HTML5 is platform independent. An HTML5 application runs on an iPhone or an Android.

Dreamweaver also has support for publishing files, which makes it one of the more useful IDE tools on the market. You must be able to copy your files from your local machine to the web host. This is usually done using the FTP protocol. Some hosts have customized upload mechanisms, but FTP is commonly given to web host customers. With Dreamweaver, you enter your login credentials, and Dreamweaver uploads the PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS and image files for you.

Check out Adobe’s Dreamweaver.

Notepad++

Notepad++ isn’t as much of an IDE as it is a straight PHP editor. Even though Notepad++ doesn’t have all the functionality and extra utilities as Dreamweaver, it’s a good, free option for a PHP editor.

Notepad++ is named after the popular Notepad program you find with any Windows computer. Notepad, however, has no understanding of formatted code, so it only supports plain text. Notepad++ adds on to the popular program and gives you the ability to edit and create several file types. Notepad++ recognizes XML, PHP, HTML, Java, JavaScript, C#, C, C++ and several other dozens of languages.

Notepad++ is useful when you have a file of a certain language that other programs won’t recognize or you just need to quickly edit a specific file type. This is the advantage of Notepad++. The massive amount of languages Notepad++ supports is what makes it useful for most developers. It’s probably not the best for full-blown PHP projects. There are no hints like Dreamweaver’s. You’ll have to know and understand the PHP language, so it’s only good for advanced developers if you plan to use it for large PHP pages.

Notepad++ also updates its interface regularly, and these updates are checked when you open the program. Free upgrades and you don’t even need to check for them are another reason Notepad++ is a great tool. You can even use Notepad++ with Dreamweaver. Use Notepad++ to view files such as XML and Dreamweaver to work with the web design and PHP code.

Visit Notepad++.org to download and for further information.

NetBeans

NetBeans is another application that has been on the market for years. NetBeans is best known for its Java programming IDE. NetBeans works with several other languages including PHP. NetBeans is good for people who are used to the Visual Studio, because its interface is somewhat similar.

NetBeans is a true IDE like Dreamweaver. The code is color coded, and it keeps track of classes and structures in separate windows. Not all PHP programmers use classes and inheritance, but if you do, NetBeans is probably the best IDE for object oriented PHP coding.

Both NetBeans and Dreamweaver organize projects and associated folders well. The main difference between Dreamweaver and NetBeans is the designer. Basically, Dreamweaver has a designer and NetBeans does not. However, NetBeans has a better coding editor interface. This is important for object oriented programming, so you can quickly identify your classes, methods and properties.

NetBeans makes it easier to refactor your code. For instance, if you rename a class, you need to refactor your code in several other places. Any references of the changed class need to have the name changed. You can do this much easier in NetBeans, because the IDE will do a search for all references and rename the classes and any reference to the main class.

Another main advantage of NetBeans is the debugger. The debugger lets you set breakpoints and step through you code in a similar way that Visual Studio steps through code. If you’re used to Visual Studio, the NetBeans interface will be intuitive for you.

Visit NetBeans.org for further information.

There are other IDEs and PHP workspaces, but these three are probably the most useful either to the new programmer or an advanced user. Dreamweaver is the only one that costs money and it’s developed by Adobe. Notepad++ and NetBeans are free. Just do a search for the download, install the software and you can get started.

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