PHP Development with Eclipse PDT

Back in May, I wrote an article entitled, Review: DelphiForPHP Not Ready For Prime Time. It began, “DelphiForPHP is an integrated development environment (IDE) for PHP developers (i.e. a smart code editor with a built-in debugger). Yes, there are other PHP IDEs available (Zend, PHPEclipse and Eclipse PDT, to name three)…” This article is about getting started with one of the alternatives that I mentioned, namely Eclipse PDT.

I use Eclipse PDT, primarily because I am already used to using Eclipse with Java. Today, I recommended eclipse PDT to a colleague, even though she won’t be doing any Java work anytime soon. I made this recommendation for two practical reasons: 1) it’s free, 2) everyone else in the office is using Eclipse, so help is readily available to her.

Below are a few installation and getting-started tips I gave to my colleague. I thought these might prove useful to others, so I’m posting them here.


PDT is a plug-in for eclipse that adds PHP-specific features to the Eclipse IDE. So, there are two ways to install it. One is to first install Eclipse and then install the PDT plug-in. The other is to download a preconfigured Eclipse/PDT bundle.

  • If you already have Eclipse installed (e.g. because you are using it for Java development), then you might think it wise to simply add the PDT plug-in to the existing installation; however, I recommend using a completely separate installation of Eclipse for your PHP work. This means there is less of a chance of problems with one configuration causing trouble with the other configuration. It also means that you can upgrade the two instances of Eclipse separately. For example, there may be a reason in the Java world why you have to keep Eclipse at version 3.2, yet the instance of Eclipse for your PHP work could be upgraded to 3.3.
  • The official PDT download site has an Eclipse/PDT bundle available (http://download.eclipse.org/tools/pdt/downloads); however, you might instead want to download the bundle that is offered on the Zend site (see next tip), since the Zend bundle includes the Zend debugger.
  • I found a youtube video tutorial that walks you through getting started with Eclipse PDT, starting with downloading and installing the Zend bundle. I haven’t watched the whole video, but the bits I saw looked good enough to recommend to my colleague. My only complaint is that the video is low resolution, so it’s hard to read what’s displayed on the screen. The remedy for that is to be sure to follow along by running Eclipse at the same time, so that you can see what the screen looks like for real. The tutorial is in two parts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRFZpk-YHl4 (part 1, 9 min) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8WnciHjXco (part 2, 9 min). Plan on starting and stopping the tutorial over the span of 60-90 minutes.

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