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Top PHP IDEs and Code Editors for Developers

Best for Commercial PHP development projects
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Intelligent code analysis
In-editor code refactoring
Frontend technologies support
Best for Personal projects
Apache NetBeans
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PHP project creation
Basic PHP code editing
PHP extensions support
Best for Personal and commercial PHP projects
Visual Studio Code
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Extensive extension ecosystem
Integrated with GitHub CoPilot
Supports PHP projects
Best for Personal PHP projects
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PHP support via plugin
Advanced debugging for PHP
XDebug profiler support
Best for Professional PHP projects
Zend Studio
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Smart PHP editing
Advanced PHP debugging
Streamlined PHPUnit workflows

Top PHP IDEs and Code Editors for Developers

In the realm of software development, an Integrated Development Environment or IDE has a transformative impact on developer experience and productivity.  For PHP developers, this translates to crafting robust web applications to power dynamic websites. PHP reigns supreme as a versatile and powerful language for web development, and the IDE serves as the essential toolkit for navigating the complexities of a PHP project structure. 

In this guide, we compare the top PHP IDEs and code editors assessing their features, pricing, and usability, to help you identify the best development environment that fits your unique programming needs. Whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced PHP developer, this guide should help you decide on the best PHP IDE or code editor for your next project.

Understanding IDEs and Code Editors

What is an IDE?

An IDE is a software application suite for effectively managing any software development project. The IDE acts as a complete development platform to enable developers to handle their end-to-end software development workflows. This includes both the individual programming tasks, as well as the combined project management goals.  

The IDE provides an intuitive user interface for performing the most routine programming tasks, such as writing, editing, debugging, and building the code, along with arranging the source code files into a project structure. In addition to that,  IDE offers integrations with external components that are important for the smooth operation of any medium to large-scale software development project. These components mainly include version control systems, bug tracking systems, and team collaborating tools. 

IDEs are designed to support the entire software development lifecycle, from writing and testing code to debugging, building, and deploying applications. They can also be extended with plugins to enhance their capabilities.  

What is a Code Editor?

A code editor is a lightweight software application, that offers the essential features for source code editing, such as writing, and modifying code. It also supports certain nifty in-line editing features that are specific to coding, such as syntax highlighting, code completion, and code refactoring. However, unlike IDEs, code editors lack advanced features such as debugging, compilation, and project management tools.

Code editors are best suited for their simplicity, speed, and flexibility, especially for quick edits on code snippets or working with specific code files.

Top IDEs for PHP Development

Let’s explore the world of IDEs and code editors for PHP development. Here are our top picks for the IDEs

1. PHPStorm: Best for Medium to Large-Scale Commercial PHP Development Projects

  • Supports popular PHP web frameworks like Laravel, WordPress, CakePHP, and more.
  • Supports most frontend technologies, JavaScript, TypeScript, and CoffeeScript
  • Intelligent code analysis and in-editor code refactoring.
  • Built-in support for all major PHP development tools.

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PHPStorm from JetBrains is one of the most feature-rich IDEs for PHP development. It is a feature-rich IDE with support for all major PHP frameworks and testing tools for building PHP web applications. It also features cutting-edge frontend technologies, such as HTML5, CSS, Sass, Less, Stylus, CoffeeScript, TypeScript, Emmet, and JavaScript.

PHPStorm comes with an array of developer-centric features like refactoring, debugging, unit testing, and database query support with SQL, REST API client, along remote deployment capabilities. It also has a special feature in the form of an AI assistant for LLM-based code completion and template code generation.

PHPStorm is available on Windows, MacOS, and Linux platforms.


PHPStorm is offered on a limited free trial for 30 days and thereafter, $9.9 for individual users per month.

Pros and Cons of PHPStorm


  • PHPStorm has built-in deployment support for Docker and Composer.
  • PHPStorm supports LLM-based code generation with an AI assistant.
  • PHPStorm has an intuitive UI for distraction-free coding.


  • PHPStorm has a relatively slow performance, especially during initialization.
  • PHPStorm does not have a community version or unlimited free trial.

2. Apache NetBeans: Best for Personal Projects

  • Supports PHP project creation.
  • Basic support for PHP code editing, linting, and debugging.
  • PHP extensions are available for advanced in-editor coding support and PHP frameworks.

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Apache NetBeans is a free and open source IDE for application development in several languages like Java, PHP, Python, and more. Netbeans has a rich history dating back to the late 1990s and was part of Sun Microsystems before Oracle took it over and later transferred to Apache Software Foundation. Even though Apache NetBeans is more geared towards Java development, it has built-in capability for developing PHP applications and supports frameworks like CakePHP, and Zend. 

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Apache NetBeans runs in JVM.


Apache NetBeans is free and open-sourced.

Pros and Cons


  • Apache NetBeans is a general-purpose IDE with PHP support and version control integration with systems like Git, and CVS.
  • Apache NetBeans has a classic interface similar to Eclipse PDT (PHP Development Tools) which is easy to use.


  • Apache NetBeans is known to be a resource hogger.
  • Apache NetBeans lacks professional support and quick turnaround for new features.

3. Visual Studio Code: Best for Personal and Commercial PHP Projects

  • Supports PHP projects.
  • Basic features for PHP code editing, linting, and debugging.
  • PHP extensions are available for importing frameworks and advanced in-editor coding support.

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Visual Studio Code is a comprehensive IDE developed by Microsoft. It supports many languages and its accessibility and cost-effectiveness make it attractive to individual developers, small teams, and organizations of all sizes. Being a Microfot product, it integrates well with Azure DevOps for hosting applications on the Azure cloud. Visual Studio Code has a large ecosystem of extensions with some advanced ones that support custom UI for Android mobile app development. Integrations with all major version control systems like Git and SVN are also made available via extensions.

Apart from Windows, Visual Studio Code is also available for MacOS, and Linux OS. 


Visual Studio Code is entirely free.

Pros and Cons


  • Visual Studio Code has a thriving extension ecosystem with hundreds of tools and integrations to extend core IDE capabilities.
  • Visual Studio Code is integrated with GitHub CoPilot for peer programming and code generation.


  • Visual Studio Code does not support advanced project management features for PHP, by default.
  • The use of too many extensions can make the Visual Studio Code IDE less responsive.

4. CodeLite: Best for Personal PHP Projects

  • Offers PHP support via a plugin
  • Supports advanced debugging for PHP

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CodeLite is an open-source and free, cross-platform IDE supporting PHP, Python, JavaScript, and C/C++. Support for developing PHP applications is offered via a plugin.

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It also supports XDebug for advanced PHP debugging and profiling. CodeLite is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.


CodeLite is entirely free and open source.

Pros and Cons


  • CodeLite is good for simple PHP projects.


  • CodeLite does not support PHP by default.
  • CodeLite lacks advanced project management features.

5. Zend Studio: Best for Professional PHP Projects 

  • Comes with smart PHP editing.
  • Supports advanced PHP debugging.
  • Supports streamlined PHPUnit workflows.

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Zend Studio is designed as a PHP IDE with support for intelligent code editing and advanced debugging. It offers intuitive code assistance, code completion, refactoring, and real-time error validation and analysis, along with debugging support for Xdebug, Zend Debugger, and Z-Ray in Zend Server. Zend Studio also comes with built-in MySQL database connection support.

Zend Studio also offers PHP-specific tools for code protection via encryption and obfuscation. It is available on all OS platforms, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.


Zend Studio offers a limited free trial of 30 days.

Pros and Cons


  • Zend Studio is designed for PHP.
  • Zend Studio supports frameworks such as Zend Framework, Laravel, and Symfony.
  • Zend Studio offers deployment integration with major cloud providers.


  • Zend Studio does not support the latest PHP 8 runtime.
  • Zend Studio has a dependency on the Zend web server for application server deployment.

6. Codeanywhere

Codeanywhere is a cloud-hosted IDE with support for a huge laundry list of programming languages, including some lesser used ones like Objective-C, Ruby, and Perl. It offers built-in support for major PHP frameworks like Laravel. Working within this IDE entails ease of collaboration, peer programming, and deployment due to direct access to cloud environments.  It offers unique collaboration tools like embedded chat, voice calls, and screen sharing for code collaboration sessions. Codeanywhere also comes with a web-based terminal.

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Codeanywhere offers a free 20-hour trial, followed by a subscription of $9 per month.

Pros and Cons


  • Codeanywhere offers development environment sharing and collaboration via containers. 
  • Codeanywhere offers peer programming and live collaboration with shared terminals.


  • Codeanywhere lacks advanced debugging features.
  • Codeanywhere feels more like a glorified code editor on Cloud, rather than a full-fledged IDE.

Best Code Editors for PHP Development

Here are the top picks for code editors for PHP. However, it must be noted that most code editors are designed as general-purpose editors and do not offer specific PHP editor features for managing PHP code.

1. Brackets: Best for Web Development Projects

  • Supports a web version for online editing.
  • Supports live browser preview.
  • Aids in CSS preprocessing workflows.

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Brackets is a modern source code editor crafted from the ground up for web designers and for developing HTML front-end apps. It is well suited for web development projects since it offers a live preview of the frontend code on the browser. It is also suitable for authoring docs and configuration files in various text formats such as markdown. Brackets is available on Windows and MacOS, along with its web version known as Pheonix.


Brackets is free and open-sourced. 

Pros and Cons


  • Brackets supports a few important extensions for integration with Git, code formatting options, and more.
  • Brackets offers extensive support for HTML previews and preprocessors for CSS workflows. 


  • Brackets can be slow due to the underlying Javascript runtime.

2. Vim: Best for Code and Config Editing for Any Software Development Project

  • Stable editor with decades of development and a strong community.
  • Nifty shortcuts for all editing tasks.
  • Support for hundreds of programming languages and file formats.

Vim is a classic Unix-based code editor with a rich history and robust set of features for editing code, and configuration files. It was earlier known as vi editor which was developed during the 1970s.  Vim also has its own scripting language to build extensions to enable IDE-like behavior, custom syntax highlighting, colorization as well as other advanced features. Vim is free software and is available on all major OS platforms, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.


Vim is free software.

Pros and Cons


  • Vim has an extensive plugin system.
  • Vim offers powerful search and replace features.
  • Vim is very fast and stable due to extensive development over decades.


  • Vim is not beginner-friendly.
  • The Vim documentation and tutorials follow the classic Unix manpage style and are not in a modern intuitive format.

3. Notepad++ : Best for Side Coding projects

  • Offers a simple interface like Windows Notepad.
  • Offers fast performance due to native C/C++ binary installation.
  • Supports syntax for over 70 programming languages.

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Notepad++ is a fast, C++ based code editor which emulates the look and feel of the Windows Notepad text editor. It was initially released in 2003 and was quite popular among programmers and non-programmers alike due to its Nodepad like interface with additional code editing features. Notepad++ is available for Windows.


Notepad++ is a free software.

Pros and Cons


  • Notepad++ supports task automation through macros.
  • Notepad++ supports plugins for extending the editor functionality.


  • Notepad++ can only be installed on Windows.

4. Sublime Text: Best for Code and Config Editing for Any Development Project

  • Provides split editing windows.
  • Ensures seamless navigation. 
  • Offers great code completion and refactoring capabilities.


Sublime Text is a popular code editor with support for many programming and markup languages. It was first released in 2008 and gained popularity over the years with its attractive theme selection, plugins, and a handly command palette. It supports a build system template for defining custom compiler and build commands for specific projects.

Sublime text is available on Windows, MacOS, and Linux.


Sublime Text is available for an unlimited free evaluation with a paid license for $99.

Pros and Cons


  • Sublime Text supports context-aware auto-completion for code.
  • Sublime Text has an enhanced syntax highlighting engine.
  • Sublime Text supports extensibility and automation through plugins and macros.


  • Sublime Text can be confusing for beginners while navigating multiple editing windows.

5. UltraEdit: Best for Code and Config Editing for Any Dev Project

  • Offers powerful editing features.
  • Supports unique editing capabilities for hex and data formats like CSV and XML.
  • Comes with a suite of tools for developer productivity.

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UltraEdit is a powerful editor for code, config, and hex files with support for developer workflows and the ability to work on large files. It features some powerful code editing features like multi-caret/multi-select and column mode editing. Its UI is highly customizable with themes. UltraEdit also has a rich history behind it, with its initial release, known as MEDI,  around 1994 for Windows 3.1. Today, the UltraEdit editor is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.


UltraRdit is a commercial software offering a limited free trial for 30 days followed by a $79.95 one-year subscription.

Pros and Cons


  • UltraEdit comes with large file editing support.
  • UltraEdit offers complementary tools for file search, compare operations and FTP / SFTP, and Git integration.


  • UltraEdit is expensive compared to other editors.

Pick #6 – Visual Studio Code (VSCode): Best for Any Software Development Project

Visual Studio Code was already covered under IDEs. However, it is also worth mentioning here under code editors, since it is designed in a highly modular way that makes it an ideal code editor without any extensions. The online version of the Visual Studio code editor offers a great alternative for regular code editing chores without the overheads of installation and extensions. It is fast and it can read, edit, and write files on the computer’s file system, right inside the browser.

Feature Comparison of PHP IDEs and Editors

Side by side comparison of PHP IDEs

IDEPrimary LanguagePHP FeaturesSupported OSCloud Version Available?Pricing
PHPStormPHP- PHP web frameworks like Laravel, Wordpress, CakePHP, - Built-in support for all major PHP testing tools, including PHPUnit, Pest, Behat, Codeception, and phpspecWindows, MacOS, LinuxNoFree trial for 30 days. Thereafter, $9.9 for individual use per month.
Apache NetBeansJava, Python, PHP- PHP project setup - Support for frameworks like CakePHP, ZendJVM on Windows, MacOS, LinuxNoFree
Visual Studio CodeAll major languages- Basic support for PHP code editing, linting and debugging- PHP extensions available for advanced in-editor coding support and PHP frameworksWindows, MacOS, LinuxYesFree
CodeLiteC, C++, Rust, Python, PHP- PHP support via a plugin- Supports XDebug profiler for PHPWindows , MacOS , LinuxNoFree
Zend StudioPHPComplete PHP development on Zend PlatformWindows , Mac , LinuxNo30 day free trial
CodeanywhereAll major languages- Built-in support for major PHP frameworks like LaravelNAYesFree 20 hour trial, subsequently $9 per month.

Side by side comparison of PHP Code Editors

EditorMain UsageSupported OSCloud Version AvailablePricing
BracketsCode EditingWindows, MacOSYesFree
VimCode and configurationWindows, MacOS, LinuxNoFree
Notepad++Code, configuration, and textWindowsNoFree
Sublime TextCode and configurationWindows, MacOS, LinuxNoFree Evaluation with a $99 license
UltraEditCode, configuration, Hex , CSV Data FilesWindows, MacOS, LinuxNoLimited free trial for 30 days followed by $79.95 for 1 year subscription


What are the top IDEs available for PHP?

The top IDEs available for PHP include PHPStorm, Apache NetBeans, Visual Studio Code, Zend Studio, Codeanywhere, and CodeLite. While Apache NetBeans, Visual Studio Code, and CodeLite are downloadable for free,  PHPStorn and Zend Studio are available under a commercial license.  Codeanywhere is a SaaS-based IDE and is available under a monthly subscription. 

What are the top free code editors for available PHP?

Some of the top free code editors for PHP include Visual Studio Code, Vim, Brackets, Sublime Text, and Notepad++.  Visual Studio Code and Vim have great community support, and Visual Studio Code is backed by Microsoft. Sublime Text also has a great following among the developer community. 

What are the good premium code editors available for PHP?

UltraEdit is a good code editor which supports PHP. It is a general-purpose editor which also supports many popular programming languages, as well as HEX and CSV format editing. For more advanced PHP project management features, PHPStorm and Zend Studio are a good option with both offering a commercial license and support.

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