PHP developers get Eclipse boost

Eclipse PHP Development Tools 1.0 provides editing and debugging tools and can also work with a variety of plug-ins

The Eclipse Foundation will make available Tuesday the 1.0 release of the Eclipse PHP Development Tools (PDT) project, featuring tools and frameworks to enhance developer productivity with the PHP scripting language

PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is commonly used for building Web applications. With PDT, Eclipse is providing technology that can be used as is by developers or serve as the basis for value-added products manufactured by tools vendors.

"The idea of it is to have a very good PHP editor, a debugger," and PHP inspection, said Yossi Leon, a leader of the PDT project and a product manager at Zend Technologies, which makes PHP-based tools.

Features of PDT 1.0 include:

* Context-sensitive editors offering capabilities like syntax highlighting, code assist and cold-folding.

* Integration with the Eclipse project model, enabling inspection using File and Project Outline Views and a PHP Explorer View.

* Incremental debugging of PHP code.

* Frameworks and APIs for extending PDT to build PHP-oriented developer tools.

PDT can use different plug-ins that will work with the Eclipse IDE to add functionality. Examples of these capabilities include ftp support, source code control, and database connectivity.

Zend does not see its own products competing with Eclipse PDT and plans to build a product based on PDT. "We found that PDT is more of a framework to build products based on this, so it provides a very good editor and good debugging, but there is much to complete beyond that," Leon said. PDT is not an IDE and does not provide out-of-the-box profiling or remote debugging, said Leon.

But an early user of PDT said he planned to eventually replace the Zend Studio PHP IDE with the Eclipse offering.

"I think it's great," said Peter MacIntyre, president of software developer Paladin Solutions. "It's got a lot of features," like code folding and syntax highlighting, MacIntyre said.

PDT has Eclipse plug-ins like a report generator that cannot be used with Zend Studio, MacIntyre said. But he added he would be interested in the Zend product that builds on top of PDT.

Zend's commercial PDT product will add functionality and certify plug-ins to add additional capabilities, such as source code control and database connectivity.

PHP has advantages over Java in ease of use, MacIntyre said. "It's very easy to learn," he said.

Eclipse's PDT project adds PHP to the list of languages supported by Eclipse, which also backs Java, C, C++, and Ruby. "This really takes us into this large community of PHP developers," said Ian Skerrett, Eclipse marketing director.

PDT was not part of the multi-project Eclipse Europa release in late-June because it was not ready yet. There have been 300,000 downloads of the preview version of PDT since the beginning of 2007.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.