See the update in the Recommendation section at the bottom of this article.

I have installed and/or used a number of IDEs when editing web-languages, like PHP.  This article lists out what I have tried and my quick thoughts on each.  At the end, I make a current recommendation.

Aptana Studio 3

This is an open source IDE that looks very promising.  However, I tried to create a project from existing files and it:

  1. Added an ugly folder that contained nothing to my existing structure.
  2. Would not allow me to add a project into a folder that contained files – only folders.  What?!

And on top of it, the load time is bogged down my a modal Git setup process that comes up every single time.  And this for a project not using Git.


Looks like it should be a good IDE, but upon looking under the hood, I found it very slow.  In fact, the load time can take upwards of five minutes.  Additionally, the FTP is buggy and would not connect as easily as Filezilla, for example.

Additionally, there was a message on a dialog box where the developers gave me the impression they were looking to me (the end-user) to test this product.  Eh.


This is an open-source project that appears to be used as the base of other products – some of which are on this list (e.g. Aptana).  The funny thing is that this base version of Eclipse works better than the derived versions!  For example, clicking ‘do not show me this again’ on a dialog actually respects your wishes the next time through.  Creating a project is simply done too without visual cue inconsistencies..

However, it does have some quirks.  For instance, to find text in, you would expect “Ctrl+F’, but it is really mapped to ‘Ctrl+H’.  On top of that, I have seen the search crash every so often.  And I am not so certain about the FTP capabilities, if any.


Very impressive for PHP.  Specifically:

  • Capable of FTP (also automatically after a save)
  • Automatic formatting (including a ton of options that have to do with spacing, indenting, etc)
  • Intellisense that takes advantage of PHPDoc.
  • Blends well with Javascript and HTML.

There was one particular issue around uploading file using their FTP.  The problem had to do with Java7 using IPv6 instead of IPv4.  The temporary fix to this was to uninstall Java7 and go back to Java6.  The causes a prompt to appear upon loading NetBeans asking if it is OK to use the default Java instead of the missing Java7.  Answering ‘yes’ to that prompt appears fine – and now the FTP is fixed.


This is a pretty awesome editor – not just for PHP.  Typically, it does not offer Intellisense and does not have FTP, but it has a ton of plugins that can be used to extend functionality.  A reasonable environment for web development is to couple Notepad++ with an FTP client like Filezilla.


I did not go too deeply into this one.  I was turned off by the 30-day evaluation license and the price tag (89€ – 289€).  Although, at first glance, it does load relatively quickly and the IDE does appear responsive.


Long load time and a licensing screen turned me off.  And what struck me odd was that the start page mentioned PHPEdit.  Is PHPStorm using PHPEdit?  Are these products built from the same common branch?

VisualStudio XX

VisualStudio is the de facto standard for development on Windows.  However, it has not necessarily translated well to general web development.

Pre-2010, a developer would notice that the quality of editing would go down when editing a PHP file instead of an ASP file, for example.  However, as Microsoft has evidently realized, they must embrace the community.  With newer releases of VisualStudio and Expression, color-coding has been added to PHP files, but the Intellisense and indentation logic still appears less than perfect or non-existent.  I trust Microsoft will get there at some point, but for now, not recommended for PHP.


Overall, Eclipse squeaks by NetBeans and is what I currently use for web development.

Update August 24, 2015

I am now using NetBeans instead of Eclipse.  I made this change because NetBeans integrated well with ApiGen (for documentation) and compiled/staged LESS files on save.

On an unrelated note, Microsoft recently introduced Visual Studio Code.  It’s basically a lightweight text editor for web code.  A step in the right direction by supporting PHP, JS, and LESS; however, it is far away from the expected functionality that Visual Studio 2015 regularly provides.  Conversely, Visual Studio 2015 still does not support PHP out of the box.