PHP IDE mini-review

Tomorrow marks my 2-month anniversary at my new job doing LAMP. And for most of that two months, I've been going back and forth on what editor or IDE to use.

My requirements for a PHP IDE are, I think, not unreasonable. In addition to syntax highlighting (which should be a given for any code editor), I need to following:

  1. Support for editing remote files over SSH. This is non-negotiable.
  2. A PHP parser, preferably with intellisense and code completion.
  3. A file tree browser that supports SSH.
  4. Syntax highlighting, and perferably parsers, for (X)HTML and JavaScript.
  5. Search and replace that supports regular expressions.
  6. Support for an ad hoc, per-file workflow. In other words, I don't want something that is extremely project-centric.
  7. It should be free - preferably as-in-speech, but I'll take as-in-beer if it's really good.

So far, my preferred IDE has been Quanta Plus. It has all of the features I need and also integrates nicely with KDE. It also has a few other nice features, including context-sensitive help (once you install the documentation in the right place). However, the build of Quanta 3.5.6 that came with Kubuntu Feisty is kind of unstable. It crashes on me every few days, and for one project, I actually had to switch to something else because I was making heavy use of regex search and replace, which was consistently crashing Quanta. Also, while Quanta has a PHP parser with some intellisense, it's pretty weak and not in any way comparable to, say, Visual Studio.

My second heavier-weight choice is ActiveState's free KomodoEdit. This is a very nice, XUL-based editor. It's stongest feature is undoubtedly the PHP parser. It's really outstanding. For instance, it can scan pre-determined paths for PHP files and do intellisense for them. It even understands PHPDoc syntax and can add the documentation to the intellisense.

The down side is that, while Komodo does speak SFTP, the file browser tree only does local files. There is a Remote Drive Tree extension that adds this feature, but while it's better than nothing, it still isn't that good. I also don't much care for the look of Komodo or for the keyboard shortcuts. Those things are much easier to customize in Quanta.

After Quanta, my other old stand-by is jEdit. After installing the PHPParser, XML, and FTP plugins, this meets my needs. On the down side, the PHP parser doesn't do any intellisense (although it does detect syntax errors). The interface also feels a littly clunky at times, although it's much better than the average Java application and not really any worse than Quanta in that regard.

I took a brief look at a couple of Eclipse setups, but wasn't initially impressed by them. It might be worth looking at them again some time, but the whole process of getting and installing the appropriate plugins just seemed like a lot of trouble. Same goes for Vim. I'm sure I could get it to do most, if not all, of what I want, but it seems like an awful lot of trouble. And then, of course, there's the Zend IDE, which I don't really want to pay for. And besides, my one of my co-workers told me that, while it's a decent IDE, the real selling point is the integrated debugging and profiling, which won't work on our setup.

And so my intermitent search goes on. I'm hoping that the upgrade to Kubuntu Gutsy will fix the stability problems in Quanta, which is my biggest problem with it. I'm also hoping for some nice new features when KDE 4 comes along. But I guess I'll keep looking in the meantime.

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