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Learn more and find the one that's right for you.

Discover what you should expect from an integrated development environment (IDE), and compare the cost and benefits of seven popular IDE choices.

Writing an ongoing series of articles on PHP gives you a lot of insight into the world of PHP developers. I've talked with many PHP programmers, and one thing that surprises me most is how few use IDEs. Most use text editors, such as Notepad on Microsoft Windows, Emacs, or Vim.

The text editors I mentioned (and others I didn't) are great -- I don't want to start a pointless war over which editor is better. However, no text editor really gives you much insight into your PHP code. In particular, none views a PHP project as more than a directory of files. Let me take you into the world of IDEs, show what you can -- or should -- expect from them, and provide seven examples from the most popular IDE options.

What is an IDE?

In short, an IDE provides a one-stop shop for your coding work. An IDE contains an editor in which you can edit the code, debug the code, view your code in a browser (often embedded), and check in and out of source code control. To support that functionality, an IDE has a set of features you don't find in a basic editor, such as Notepad or Vim. Again, you can extend editors to do a lot of these things, but IDEs have all this functionality in one tidy package



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