We have an IDE winner…

In an effort to NOT offer another pure review posting of all the Mac compatible PHP IDE/Editors I could find, I’ve decided to take you through my evaluation, and show you how I ended up with my new PHP IDE.  My hope is that this post will help some of you open up your mind to what you want, and encourage you find a comfortable place in your own development world.

I switched over to the Mac platform back in January, and much to my reluctance, I had to leave PhpED behind.  PhpED is rich with features, and can run under Wine or Parallels, but neither were an option for me.  There are also some cons to each that I didn’t want to deal with.  One causing me to have to run another OS inside my Mac, and the other confining me to a “virtual” file system.  I’ve been using Komodo Edit since early February, but it lacks a lot of things that I was use to.  One day when the time was right, I ventured out and took an indepth look at several IDEs.  This study took me several days.

I had just a few requirements for choosing an IDE.

  • Project Management (Deal Breaker)
  • SVN Controls (Deal Breaker)
  • Publishing Options, Remote File Editing and SFTP to be specific (Deal Breaker)
  • Code Folding (Minor)
  • Code Completion with reference (Deal Breaker)
  • Comfortable look and feel (Minor)
  • Code Navigator/Explorer (Medium)
  • An intuitive set of shortcuts I could customize (Medium)
  • Tabs, and either floating or split views (Deal Breaker)
  • Bookmarks (Medium)
  • Debugging / Preview (Medium)

Here are the ones that caught my eye:

Komodo IDE

Komodo is a very nice IDE.  It is packed with features, and had almost the same look and feel I liked with PhpED.  The only downside to it was the $295 price tag associated with it.  And the recurring support and update costs associated with it.  Its just out of my range, otherwise I’d be using it.


NetBeans, like Komodo, is very rich with features.  It really has everything that I am looking for, plus more.  It is also *free*.  I was able to easily setup my projects, and NB detected the SVN details for me.  From there I was able to work for a couple hours without feeling “lost” or “annoyed” by my editing environment.  I was happy with the code completion, code folding, coloring, indentation, and the way it handled every web language I through at it.  I must admit one thing though.  The interface reminded me a lot of Eclipse.  It was bulky at first, but then as I settled in, and arranged a few things, it started to look more like PhpED.   


Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of Eclipse.  Something about the interface just doesn’t click with me.  Although this is very highly talked about, it just wasn’t for me.  The code completion doesn’t work the way I’d like it to.  It feels clunky.  But its feature rich, and I really can’t say much bad about it.  Still, it is not for me.


This one didn’t have many of the features I was looking for, but I thought it was worth mentioning.  Its a nice editor, and a good light coding editor if you don’t need any of the “IDE” features, like debugging/preview, projects, etc.


BBEdit was pretty nice.  The downfall of it is that it isn’t an IDE.  Its a text editor with a lot of development features.  If they play their cards right, and keep improving it, they could evolve this product into a really nice IDE, and I’d be sold.  The editor itself is comfortable to program in. 


I was original planning on calling my winner Coda.  I grabbed their latest version, and much to my surprise, it had just about everything I wanted.  One of the thing it didn’t have was code folding.  This was something I like to have when I’m dealing with long class files, but I can live without it if I have to.  Instead of Projects, it calls its area ‘Sites’.  You can specify a local and remote folder, SVN information, Terminal information, and it will set a nice shot of the home page of your site as its avatar.  From there I found myself in a very visually appealing editor.  I didn’t have to strain, and it the tab system supported split screen views.  After editing a few files, I was able to ‘Publish All’, and have them sent up to the web server.  I was then able to bring up a list of files for SVN commit, and send them away.  For the reasonable cost of $99, I then started to research the company support, and community.  I was very happy to get 2 responses within an 8 hour period.  One regarding how often I’d have to pay for an upgrade (which is every major version), and one regarding when 2.0 would be (which I was told they didn’t know, but it would be months).  So why didn’t I choose Coda?  Very simple.  It doesn’t run on Lion, and they haven’t had an update since 10/2010.  Although the company behind it seems to be actively working on things, they don’t seem to be actively keeping up.  This does not mean I won’t buy Version 2.0 though.  That door is still open.  I loved Coda.


I felt a bit like I was looking at a weird version of Coda.  The tabs are called workspaces, it does code fold, and it does support projects and publishing.  I liked this platform a lot, but Coda was a bit nicer for an almost identical editor.  Choosing Espresso over Coda would have given me a more active development team, a slightly lower price, but it didn’t quite catch me enough to pay the $79 they’re asking.  I will note one thing.  They did a “Kaboom” release today of a Version 2 beta.  It requires Mac OS X 10.6.8, so I’ll need to do a couple minor OS updates.  I might need to follow up this post with a review of that later on.

And the winner is…

I can honestly say that an open letter to Nusphere to port PhpED over to Mac OS X is in order, but let’s stay focused on the task.  Komodo IDE might have been the winner, but at $295 without upgrades and support wasn’t really a good situation for me at the moment.  Aptana and Zend are both Eclipse based and I felt weird using them.  Nevermind Zend has a big price tag also.  HyperEdit and BBEdit just didn’t fill my needs.  Espresso is currently undecided without seeing Version 2, and Coda 2 isn’t out yet.

So what’s left is NetBeans.  Although I’m not as excited as I should be to use it, it does fit my needs.  I still have the money in the bank I was going to spend on Coda, so maybe Version 2 will be a good choice, or Espresso 2 will be worthy of purchase.

I’ll keep you up to date on my future IDE adventures!  Thanks for reading.


Written by Dan
I am a Magento Certified Developer Plus and Software Developer. In my spare time I like reading, doing things with my Church, and hanging out with my wife and daughter. I am a Christian and like sharing things I am studying and reading.