An IDE for PHP that doesn’t suck

phpDesigner Logo

A few months ago I commented on how PHP needs an IDE and a membership provider. Well, I’m still waiting on the membership provider, but I’m happy to say that I’ve finally found an IDE that doesn’t suck, phpDesigner. phpDesigner is a complete IDE for PHP based web development. It is a pretty simple idea but this one seems to have actually pulled it off. If you’re looking for a Windows PHP IDE, this one is certainly worth a look.

This development environment isn’t perfect, that is to say it’s not Visual Studio smooth, but it is far better than anything else that I’ve tried for PHP. It has all of the basic features that I’ve been looking for in a PHP IDE that runs on Windows.

  • First and foremost, it is not written in Java, like Aptana and Eclipse. That means that it actually runs at an acceptable speed on Windows.
  • It has a reasonably good form of intellisense code completion. It could be better, but most of the time it gives me exactly what I’m looking for.
  • There is a good inline error detection system. It highlights lines of code that have PHP or syntax errors.
  • Support for PHPDoc tags and gives you on the fly information from DocBlock comments.
  • And it has full support for JavaScript, XHTML and CSS, including auto complete, error detection and tag closing.

Like I said, there is room for improvement. Auto-complete could be a little smarter, tab controls could be a little bit more customizable (I like the double-click to close function from Notepad++), and the whole app just isn’t quite as fast or refined as Visual Studio.

But, this is now my IDE of choice for PHP. It has everything I need and it isn’t another damn Java app. Sorry Java developers, the JRE is painfully slow on Windows and sucks memory worse than old Firefox. I refuse to install it on my personal computers.

The one major flaw is that it isn’t free. A personal license costs €39 (~$55 USD), a commercial license costs €85 (~$120 USD). There is a 30-day evaluation version, so i recommend that you at least give it a shot.

Updated: Feb 7th, 2010


  1. I would strongly encourage you to look at NetBeans ( Although it is written in Java, is very fast on Windows. It’s a brilliant IDE, works great for PHP coding, integrates Mercurial, knows refactoring, etc..
    I used to use Notepad++ exclusively, and decided to make the move, so I’ve tested several free IDEs, of which NetBeans gets the big prize. You’ll find that many PHP developers think NetBeans does a great job.

  2. Moron

    I used to be a long time Zend Studio user but Komodo Edit (Free) and Komodo IDE (pay) from ActiveState get my vote these days. Great PHP support, FTP/SCP/SFTP etc too. I also appreciate the fact that when I need to write scripts in other languages the support is just as good.

  3. dlsteuer

    I recently discovered PhpStorm from Jetbrains, I’ve been using it on an extremely large codebase that completely chokes netbeans, so far it has come through with flying colors. Check it out at

  4. Stas

    I use and recommend free PHP IDE – Codelobster PHP Edition (
    In addition is haf special plug-ins for all popular CMS and frameworks: Drupal CMS, Joomla CMS, Smarty template engine, JQuery library, CodeIgniter framework, CakePHP framework and WordPress blogging platform.

  5. Steve

    Adobe Dreamweaver is actually a really good PHP development platform, especially since CS4.

  6. Steven P

    cakePHP sucks. Why? Their own blog tutorial – ambiguously written – results invariably in error messages:

    Error: PostsController could not be found.
    Error: Create the class PostsController below in file: app\controllers\PostsController.php

    If those idiots cannot write out a simple “hello world” tutorial … one wonders what else they punted on.

    PHP is an old, old friend. codeigniter is not, but at least it works out of the box and is documented by humans rather than imbeciles.

  7. Jetbrains is even better…

  8. Rich

    Is there a way in phpDesigner to see your code and the output at the same time? I want to be able to press a keyboard shortcut, get instant feedback, then continue on. NetBeans lets you have your code on the top half of the screen, and the output on the bottom half. Looking for something like that, but from an IDE that doesn’t require Java :D

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