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PHPEclipse and PDT

Submitted by Jakob on 28 February, 2008 - 21:32.My Blog | Computers & Hardware

Eclipse has been my primary web development environment for over a year now. With plugins for version control, JavaScript/AJAX and PHP development, it's a perfect integrated environment for building Drupal websites and writing modules and themes. Eclipse has worked mostly fine apart from recently when I've been having some problems with system crashes (virtually unheard of on a Mac) seeming related to Eclipse or Apache. In an attempt to fix that problem I reinstalled Apache, MySQL and PHP as well as Eclipse and also took the opportunity to try the PHP Development Tools from Zend.

I've been using PHPEclipse until now and it's been working nicely. The drawback with PHPEclipse is that you won't have access to such a powerful debugger as the Zend Debugger that works with PDT. So I decided to try PDT and see how it was like. It didn't take me long to realize that PDT, despite several advantages over PHPEclipse has a number of features I sorely miss. For example:

  • PDT doesn't support occurence highlighting, that is when you place the insertion cursor inside a piece of text, the editor highlighs all other occurences of that text inside the active document. This is extremely useful for quickly finding typos when writing out a variable name in several places. By reading some mailing list posts I gathered there are no plans to implement this feature either.
  • PDT doesn't mark code as being potentially incorrect or inaccessible. In PHPEclipse, if you type a variable that has not been defined, the editor will mark the word as a potential warning. Likewise, if you write two return statements after each other, the second will not be reachable by the parser and therefore never run, PHPEclipse will make you aware of that as well. That is extremely useful for spotting faulty conditional clauses. PDT does none of this.
  • The information PDT provides when your cursor hovers over a function reference is inferior to what PHPEclipse provides. It's obvious PDT is better at interpreting PHPDoc than PHPEclipse, but it offers less of an overview, especially with regards to arguments and argument order.
  • PDT has a better syntax highlighter however. Current version of PHPEclipse doesn't highlight code correctly, especially apostrophes inside Heredoc variable definitions. 
Taking these pros and cons into consideration, I think I'll stick with PHPEclipse for now.

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