All that you really need to develop PHP websites is a plain text editor and an FTP program. But a well-designed, lightweight integrated development environment (IDE) can make your life much easier as a coder. IDEs combine code explorer features, document search, auto-completion, debugging and most important of all, syntax highlighting which makes understanding your own code at a glance much more intuitive.
Two of the most popular PHP IDEs are PHP Designer and Komodo IDE. This review will compare the two of them to help you decide before investing in these products.
Komodo IDE vs. Komodo Edit
Before we begin, it should be noted that there are two versions of Komodo: Komodo Edit (free) and Komodo IDE (paid). Komodo Edit features a multi-language editor, project manager and a toolbox that lets you drop code snippets, shell commands and macros into your workflow. Komodo IDE includes all of that, plus a whole host of other features, including code browser, publishing, and most importantly, debugging. For this review, we’ll be comparing Komodo IDE with PHP Designer since both are paid applications.
Komodo is created by ActiveState and is a cross-platform IDE that runs on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. It supports PHP, as well as Perl, Ruby and other open source languages. When you install Komodo, it automatically scans your system in order to find all relevant extensions, including custom extensions such as PEAR modules. You can also use Komodo to upload directly via FTP. Perhaps the best feature of Komodo IDE is its regular expression debugger, which works locally or remotely.
Komodo IDE also supports the usual features, such as tabs, code folding and syntax highlighting. The Komodo toolbox is also particularly helpful. Not only will it autocomplete functions from other open documents, but it will also remind you which parameters can be passed in.
If there is one common criticism of Komodo IDE is its relative sluggishness when compared to other code editors. But if you have a fast machine and don’t mind a little extra weight, Komodo IDE is an excellent choice.
As the name implies, PHP Designer has a strong focus on the design element of web development. While PHP Designer does have some code intelligence, it’s debugging and other features are not as robust as Komodo Edit. Instead, PHP Designer emphasizes the way the processed code outputs on the web. To help you with this, PHP Designer has an integrated web browser, which helps you jump back and forth between the code source view and the rendered view. To further help you along, the web browser also includes a pixel ruler, so you can more easily position elements on the page.
One major downside of PHPDeveloper is that it’s currently only available for Windows computers.
Komodo IDE is a true IDE, with full-featured code intelligence and heavy duty debugging features. It’s best for code-centric developers who are working on large projects. PHPDeveloper is more like a cross between Notepad++ and Adobe Dreamweaver. While it’s not nearly as advanced as Adobe Dreamweaver, it’s much more affordable—and even comes in a portable version.