While assembling this article I found a number of other stand-alone stacks worthy of mention, even if they didn't make it into the final article. Uniform Server contains a stack similar to XAMPP or WampServer (especially in terms of the tray-based control panel) and comes packaged in a "miniServer" edition for enhanced portability and security. Server2Go was originally built to allow a working PHP website to be distributed on media like a CD-ROM or USB drive, but can be used for stand-alone development as well. And EasyPHP has the PHP debugging functions of WampServer and a small collection of add-on application packages à la Web Platform Installer and AMPPS.
AMPPS provides not only a Web development stack but also a framework, Softaculous, for deploying popular applications already written for that stack. Those of you with your own Web hosting accounts might already be familiar with Softaculous. I was, as I'd used it to deploy WordPress and a few other packages on my website. This makes AMPPS hugely convenient if you want to deploy a site that makes use of existing software, without having to install and upgrade those bits yourself.
Setting up the core of AMPPS is simple enough: Run the installer, and launch the system-tray app that lets you access AMPPS's innards. Go to the AMPPS Web interface, and you can pick from dozens of packages to install. The list of applications is gigantic. It's safe to say most any third-party Web app that you might use -- WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, MediaWiki, ccMail, Zen Cart -- can be installed via the AMPPS interface. It's also possible to add custom applications if you're developing one and want to test its deployment. An FTP server is included in AMPPS by default, so you don't have to add that.
Note that in order to install packages on AMPPS, you need to have a live Internet connection on the system in question. This is usually not a security issue if you've already set up firewalls and such. Also note that the default domain for an AMPPS installation is 127.0.0.1. If you want apps to install correctly in the stack so that they're accessible by other machines, you'll need to manually add the AMPPS machine's IP address as a domain and select that IP address in the Domain dropdown that's provided when setting up a software package.
Installing applications in AMPPS via Softaculous is almost entirely automated and almost entirely stress-free. The default settings work if you're in a hurry, but you don't need to configure much by hand in any case, save for the installation directory. If your server can talk to a mail exchanger, you can have a complete report for each app installation emailed to you.
Demo versions of each app are included, but they're not actually run from your installation of AMPPS. They're hosted on the Softaculous site, so again you need a live Internet connection to make use of them.
Documentation for AMPPS is a little thin, and it only covers setup and a few other minor bits. Most of the relevant documentation is on the Softaculous site, although this is not made very clear when reading AMPPS's docs. Granted, the elements in the stack all have their own separate documentation; experienced users know where to go to learn about Apache's
httpd.conf and the like. But it would still be nice to have all documentation in one place.
Recommended for: Those who want to develop with multiple apps.
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