Monday 17 May 2021

Top 10 PHP Development Tools For Efficient PHP Developers in 2021

PHP is an open-source server-side scripting coding language used for building dynamic websites and web applications. As 79% of total websites, different projects, and systems are built with PHP technology, it remains one of the most popular programming languages globally. It’s applied to create such well-known sites, services, and networks as:

  •, and many more.

If you use PHP to develop web apps and sites, check our top 10 development tools to increase the efficiency of coding and make the work of PHP developers easier.

Top 10 PHP Development Tools

Today there are a lot of development tools available for accelerating the web app development process in a secure manner, including:

  • IDE (Integrated Development Environment);
  • Frameworks:
  • Cloud tools;
  • Data science tools;
  • Source control tools;
  • Prototyping Tools;
  • DevOps Tools;
  • UML Tools.

Such tools help developers not only to build feature-rich innovative projects but to test, debug, maintain designing, fix, and support websites/web apps. Below you’ll find 10 software development tools that allow engineers to streamline and automate some tasks to improve their efficiency and performance.

1. PHPStorm

It’s not by accident that this PHP tool developed and promoted by JetBrains opens the chart. It’s a lightweight, smooth, and extremely fast IDE that works with key PHP frameworks, including but not limited to Laravel, Zend Framework, Symfony, Yii, CakePHP, and supports popular Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc.

In addition to code refactoring, unit testing, and debugging, PHPStorm provides live editing support for major frontend technologies (CSS, HTML5, JavaScript, TypeScript, Sass, CoffeeScript, Stylus, Less, etc.). Being the leader in the integrated development environment (IDE) for PHP technology, it equips software engineers with good integration capabilities for databases, remote deployment, command-line tools, version control systems, composer, rest client, and many more.

The key features

  • Code-rearranging;
  • Code completion;
  • Debugging (works with Zend Debugger and Xdebug locally and remotely);
  • Zero-configuration;
  • Support for Native ZenCoding;
  • Support extension with a lot of handy plugins like VimEditor.

Besides PHP, IDE supports such coding languages as JavaScript, Visual Basic, C, C++, and C#. PHPStorm also runs on such popular platforms as Linux, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS X.

Being free to students and teachers, PHPStorm comes with a license price. Such large brands like Yahoo, Wikipedia, Salesforce, Expedia, Cisco, and others possess the IDE’s licenses.

2. Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is a free and open-source code editor created by Microsoft for such platforms as Windows, macOS, and Linux. Besides PHP, it can be used with a variety of programming languages, including Python, Java, JavaScript, C++, Go, Node.js, T-SQL, C#, .NET Core, HTML, CSS, SCSS, Less, JSON, TypeScript, Markdown, PowerShell, and more.

Here are some of the best features of VS Code:

  • Smart code completion with IntelliSense;
  • Built-in Emmet support;
  • Linting;
  • Debugging;
  • Refactoring;
  • Syntax highlighting;
  • Snippets;
  • Intelligent code completion (autocomplete);
  • Code navigation;
  • Extensibility (developers are allowed to create their own extension);
  • Embedded Git and GitHub integration;
  • Integrated terminal;
  • Live share for pair programming;
  • Full customization from color theme picker and key bindings to integrations and functionality.

3. Docker

The tool takes away repetitive, mundane configuration tasks and can be used throughout the development lifecycle. Docker is a set of PaaS (platform as a service) products that use OS-level virtualization to deliver software in packages called containers that can run on all major platforms including Linux, Windows, or macOS.

Docker can package an app and all its dependencies in containers that are isolated from one another so that you can:

  • Have isolated environments between projects;
  • Test code with different versions;
  • Do both these things with a small footprint.

Containers that have all the virtualization capabilities and use fewer resources than virtual machines make Docker much more lightweight than the traditional virtual machines. Docker allows development teams to:

  • Deliver multiple apps hassle-free;
  • Run all the apps the same way on all the environments (design, testing, staging, production);
  • Deploy the apps in different languages and separate containers independently;
  • Reduce the risk of conflict between languages/libraries/frameworks.

4. PHPUnit

It is a unit testing framework that is an instance of the xUnit architecture. The main goal of this tool is to help developers to reveal the errors in the newly committed code as fast as possible and assert that no code regression has occurred in the codebase. PHPUnit uses assertions to verify that the tested unit is correct and behaves as expected. Therefore, developers can find problems and mistakes early in the development cycle. The test results can be output in different formats like TestDox, JUnit XML, and others.

5. Codeception

Codeception is a multi-featured testing framework that allows writing unit, functional, integration, and acceptance tests in a single, coherent style. All the tests are written in a Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) style — descriptive manner. This means that developers can clearly understand what part of the code is being tested and how it is performed just by taking a look at the test body.

6. PHPStan/Psalm

PHPStan and Psalm are open-source and static analysis tools that can be classified as "Code Review" tools. They are used for improving the quality of the code. Let’s observe the key features.

PHPStan Psalm
  • Catches whole classes of bugs;
  • Focuses on finding errors in the code without actually running it;
  • Moves PHP closer to compiled languages.
  • Identifies both hard-to-spot and obvious bugs in the code that can be missed by a human;
  • Enables developers to take advantage of safe coding patterns;
  • Helps to prevent a lot of type-related runtime errors;
  • Is useful on both small legacy codebases and large ones.

7. XDebug

If you want to improve the performance of your PHP code, reveal the bottlenecks, and increase the development experience, then this extension with a wide range of useful features is what you need to try for sure. XDebug is an extension for PHP that provides debugging and profiling capabilities.

XDebug comes as a PHP extension. It is a tool for profiling and debugging PHP scripts that uses the DBGp debugging protocol and allows developers to quickly localize an error in the code by providing the following information and features:

  • Memory allocation;
  • Tracing: function and stack traces in error messages, including:
    • The function name, file name, line indications;
    • Full parameter display for user-defined functions;
    • Support for member functions;
  • Protection for infinite recursions.

Apart from that, XDebug also delivers:

  • PHP scripts’ profiling information;
  • Code coverage analysis;
  • A debugger front-end so that the developer can debug the scripts interactively.

The extension is also available via the PECL.

8. Bitbucket/GitLab CI/CD

GitLab and Bitbucket can be categorized as Code Collaboration and Version Control tools. Each tool provides a pack of useful features to speed up the development process, making it more efficient. Let’s check what is the main difference between them.

Bitbucket is a PHP development tool that provides software engineers with the ability to:

  • Plan projects;
  • Collaborate on code;
  • Conduct tests;
  • Deploy.

And the highlight of the tool is that all is with free private Git repositories. Besides that, Bitbucket has the following features:

  • Built-in CI/CD;
  • Superior (best-in-class) Jira integration;
  • Up to 5 users can be added for free;
  • Simple setup;
  • Unlimited private repositories, etc.

GitLab is an open-source self-hosted Git management software that can be installed on-premise and connected with LDAP and Active Directory servers for secure authorization and authentication.

The key features of the tool that make it a choice of PHP developers are:

  • A single server handling more than 25,000 users;
  • Several active servers;
  • Git repository management with fine-grained access controls;
  • Provides merge requests for enhancing collaboration and performing code reviews;
  • Activity feeds and wikis;
  • Issue tracking, and many more.

9. Swagger

It’s a Documentation as a Service tool and a dependency-free collection of HTML, Javascript, and CSS assets. Swagger generates interactive OpenAPI documentation for the RESTful API, using doctrine annotations.

The main features of the tool include the following ones:

  • Compatibility with the OpenAPI 3.0 specification;
  • Command-line interface;
  • Ability to extract information from code, existing phpdoc annotations;
  • Exceptional error reporting (with hints, context);
  • Getting started guide.

Such brands as Clever, triGo GmbH, and Hootsuite are already leveraging the benefits of Swagger.

10. Postman

It is a scalable API testing tool and a complete API development environment. It quickly integrates into the CI/CD pipeline and is used for simplifying API workflow in development and testing.

Here are the main reasons to use Postman for your project:

  1. Accessibility: a developer needs to just log in to his/her account to access files anytime, anywhere as long as a Postman app is installed on the PC.
  2. Collections: users are allowed to create collections for their Postman API calls with subfolders as well as multiple requests can be created for each collection for organizing the test suites.
  3. Collaboration: team members can share files easily because collections and environments can be imported/exported.
  4. Environments: developers can not only create different environments but use the same collection for different environments.
  5. Tests: test checkpoints can be added to each Postman API calls to ensure test coverage.
  6. Automation testing: tests can be run in multiple iterations, saving time for repetitive tests.
  7. Debugging: developers can check what data has been retrieved to simplify debug tests.
  8. Continuous Integration: development practices are maintained due to the ability of the tool to support continuous integration.

Bottom line

PHP is one of the most all-inclusive programming languages for web development. However, it’s better to use additional PHP development tools to make the process more efficient. Most of these tools are open-source and provide a wide range of features from syntax highlighting to debugging so that developers can create convenient and scalable code. Just choose the tools that work best for your project and help you improve the development process.


Author's Bio

Bogdan Ivanov is a CTO of DDI development. Bogdan is responsible for building the complete technology strategy within the company. Outlining the company's technological vision, and ensuring that the technological resources are aligned with the company's business needs are his main responsibilities.


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