If you are here, you are either new to PHP or might just be looking for an alternative to your current text editor or are simply interested. There are so many text editors out there and to be honest some are not worth your time. I like to think of text editors as wands, there is not one perfect for all of us but there is one that will suit (almost) everyone.
So, let’s look at some of the free text editors you might want to try:
Atom text editor was released in 2012 by Github and has been growing from strength to strength since. If you are a new PHP developer looking for a free text editor, you would not go wrong with this. It is a hackable text editor build around customization as illustrated by this video here.
It comes with a ton of packages and themes to extend its functionality and a load of themes to improve it’s looks. Sometimes, it can feel slow but it’s improving with each new release. It has a dozen useful packages for PHP such as: language blade, php-cs-fixer, dockblockr among others. To setup atom for PHP development, here is a simple guide by PHP.earth.
I would strongly recommend Atom to any PHP developer.
2. Visual Studio Code
Visual Studio Code, as you might have guessed is actively maintained and developed by Microsoft and was announced in 2015. It’s an amazing text editor out of the box and by far my favorite. Currently as it stands, it has about 5 or so PHP extensions, and while its PHP support out of the box is decent, it could use some improvement.
That said, when you combine two of the following extensions: PHP Code Sniffer and PHP Intelephense with the VS Code out of the box features like Intellisense, workspaces among others – the experience is almost perfect. It provides Intellisense for all classes and libraries located within your workspace. On top of that, all you can use CTL + Click on a referenced class to open the individual file – that’s cool. The one main feature I love about Visual Studio code is the integrated terminal, this allows me to run commands and scripts to my PC without leaving the current window.
It can be slow at times depending on the number of extension you have. You also get multiple similar Intellisense suggestion when you have multiple extensions with overlapping functionality – very confusing. This is another text editor that I would strongly recommend.
3. Notepad ++
Notepad ++ is a light weight open source windows only text editor written in C++. Just like the other text editors, it is versatile supporting multiple programming languages PHP included. On top of that, it can also be extended with plugins. It offers the basic text editor features – autocompletion, functional parameter hinting, tabs among others. While it is an upgrade to the basic text editor Notepad, it completely falls short as a decent text editor for PHP. It will get the job done but just barely.
Bracket is another powerful text editor that is actively developed and maintained by Adobe Systems. It was released 3 years and offers everything you want for a decent text editor. It supports PHP out of the box and on top of that it can be extended using extensions (plugins) for PHP and other functionality such as linting, code beautification/formatting among others. Also, it offers options to customize it with inbuilt and community developed themes and tweak a few things here and there to your satisfaction. Other features for bracket include autocomplete, linting, type hinting among others.
Text editors debate is one of the most divisive debate out there. Developers will defend the honor of their favorite text editor vehemently. That said, before you can ignore any text editor – free or paid – give it a try for some time first – you are not bound to stick to it if you don’t like it.