UPDATE [April 14, 2012] : This blog post is quite old, but it still gets a decent amount of traffic, so I think it’s important to update the information, since obviously “the best” IDE 5 years ago is not the same as now. These days (judging by the same criteria as the ones outlined further in the blog post) I think the absolute winner on all platforms is: PHPStorm. It’s a commercial product, but they are really awesome at providing free licenses to open-source projects (full disclosure: they provided me one for Zaphpa). If you are really against commercial software then Aptana Studio (based on Eclipse) is probably your best bet.

I am always on the lookout for good IDEs, including the ones for PHP. There are several decent ones on the market. From the open-source ones, Eclipse with PDT does a decent job, for local development, if you do not mind extra weight of a JDK-based IDE. It has some other issues as well (poor support of on-the-server development via SFTP and forcing the use of pre-configured projects are a few), but Eclipse is not what we’d like to discuss in this post, today.

Today I stumbled upon a new (for me) Windows-based, PHP IDE: EngInSite PHP IDE and I was, quite frankly, blown away! EngInSite is, quite simply, the best PHP IDE on a Windows platform. I have been playing around with it for a couple hours now and I have to yet find a feature I would like that it does not have. It’s a very rare example of a perfect tool.

Few important features from the long list of this IDE’s capabilities:

  • File Navigator (display of a file’s structure as a tree: functions, objects, variables)
  • Wonderfully implemented SFTP Support
  • Support for projects but no need to create a project. Folder view supported (useful for remote projects).
  • SVN support, CVS support, Diff support.
  • CSS/HTML/etc support.
  • PHP integration (embedded and/or external) and debugging. Support for both PHP4 and PHP5 and easy switching.
  • PHPDoc support
  • Rich set of debugging features like IP Monitor, HTTP Request modeler etc.
  • and many more…

Only two complains: I am very sad, personally, that it is not available for Macs and they really should create a much better website for such a nice product.