PHPBuilder - PHP Designer IDE Review



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PHP Designer IDE Review

by: Jon Jackson
|
January 9, 2009

PHP Designer is a powerful PHP IDE that enables developers to learn, edit, debug, analyze and publish websites that utilize PHP 4, PHP 5, Smarty, HTML, XHTML, CSS, SQL, XML or JavaScript.
This IDE provides you with the ability to create and manage all of the code that makes up your website or web-based software in one environment. As a rookie web developer, the software I use plays a major part in how long it takes me to do anything web-related. This means that even when I find something that works for me, I am reluctant to migrate my work habits to new software just because it's new and shiny! However when a friend/mentor recommended PHP designer to me, while reluctant, I felt obliged to give it a go and I have to say, I did not regret it!
What struck me instantly with PHP designer was its modern look--it's not often you find software that's visually intuitive without seeming overcluttered (Microsoft Office' most recent incarnation is a good example of such software). Everything was clear and well arranged. Even choosing a format to work in didn't miraculously change the layout, beyond what was necessary. I also tested out the Tidy function on a bit of HTML I worked on a while back, and aside from showing me that I have a long way to go, it was very effective as a tool for eliminating my mistakes. It also provided a comprehensive list of what was incorrect and what was done to correct those problems, which was a welcome surprise! I find that usually when you use any kind of automated function which provides details, it spouts a whole load of gibberish at you and you're forced to just take it at its word without any explanation. PHP Designer was a very nice change of pace.
While first and foremost a PHP editing tool, PHP designer has a lot of other features to make editing other formats substantially easier. Depending on what mode you are in, the interface greets you with all the appropriate features for what you are trying to do. For example, in HTML mode, features become immediately available including standard HTML tagging features, HTML preview and the handy "HTML Tidy" feature I mentioned earlier.
Of all the features I tested, my favorite was the Text Highlighting feature. What I liked about it was that you could choose what part of the document to highlight. For example, if you have a really big HTML document with bits of PHP, CSS and JavaScript floating and hiding all over the place and you want to make the CSS more obvious than the rest, you just select "highlight CSS only". You don't even have to go into the options menu to do it--it's right there above the document you are working on.
Other Features
  • PHP Beautifier: a configurable tool for making what you've created presentable. This would be useful in a combined work environment with more than one person working on the same project because it would help keep the layout standardised
  • Various Import features: For importing parts of documents or entire documents for continued work, integration or modification
  • A Layer tool: For easy implementation of layers in CSS
  • Form tools: For easy editing and presenting of forms and their outputs
  • A Syntax checker: To use as you go along
  • Standard formatting options such as bold and italics
PHP Designer also provides a wide range of tutorials, not just for the operation of the software but for learning PHP and web development in general. It's my opinion that Michael Pham's PHP Designer would be a welcome addition to any developer's toolbox. Thank you Michael Pham!


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