By J Armando Jeronymo

How I Chose My Programming Editor

By J Armando Jeronymo

For many years I used a code editor that is now discontinued by its developers, and the introduction of HTML5 and CSS3 led me to look for an editor that supports the new tags and properties. In this article I’ll share the criteria and process I used to find an editor suitable for making quick fixes and a development environment for large-scale projects.

My initial candidate list contained over 30 popular Linux, Java, Windows and XUL software packages which had at least one stable release after January 1, 2010: Arachnophilia, Bluefish, Bluegriffon, CoffeeCup HTML Editor, Dreamweaver, Eclipse PDT, Emacs, Expression Web, Geany, gedit, HTML-Kit, jEdit, Kate, KDevelop, Komodo Edit, KWrite, Netbeans, Notepad++, Notepad2, OpenBEXI, PHPEdit, PHPEd Pro, PHPStorm, Programmer’s Notepad, PSPad, RadPHP, Scite, SeaMonkey, Vim, WebDev, WebMatrix, and Zend Studio. You can google each program for their specific details.

Round One – Auto-Completion and Syntax Highlighting

My usage of HTML/CSS/PHP/JavaScript development require an editor that is capable of making intelligent suggestions and keeping components visually separated by type.

Suggestions can be made through auto-completion, parameter hints, and auto-closing. Auto-completion is the program’s attempt to guess and offer to complete HTML tags, CSS properties, and PHP and JavaScript class, function, and variable names. Parameter hinting is the ability to inform the developer of possible HTML properties and their values, CSS property values, and PHP and JavaScript function arguments. Auto-closing is the ability to add closing HTML tags, parenthesis, braces, and the like.

Component separation is the coloring of the different types of elements, like tags, functions and variables, on the editor’s screen, often referred to as syntax highlighting. Also helpful is the ability to locate a matching delimiter – parentheses, brackets, and braces – by selecting the opening one or vice-versa.

My first test was to check which of the editors in the original list offer these features out-of-the-box or, at least, with a simple to install module.

I immediately dropped three packages from further investigation: Emacs which required additional files that were difficult to install; OpenBEXI which looks like an interesting concept for web page development but isn’t really a scripting tool; and WebDev which didn’t seem to have a free trial version. I wish I could have tested a very good Mac IDE, Espresso. Their team sent me a lot of useful information and I’d encourage any Mac user to try it out.

For each remaining package I checked their hinting and auto-completion abilities for HTML4/5 tags, CSS properties, PHP and JavaScript functions and variables, and syntax highlighting. The following code, saved as a PHP file, was typical of the tests:

dir {
    display: none;
<script type="text/javascript">
var aaa = 12;
aaa = Math.abs(12);
 <div style="display: none"></div>
$aaa = strtotime();
if (true) {
    $aaa = strftime("%a");

Identifying the distinct features specifically (PHP function auto-complete, PHP variable auto-complete, JavaScript function auto-complete, etc.) I had 13 requested features. I computed the scores for both packages and features; it was a YES/NO check, and each YES was worthy of one point added the editor’s total score.

The most prevalent features were syntax highlighting and delimiter localization, and the auto-closing of HTML tags. The least seen ones were auto-completion and argument hinting of JavaScript functions and auto-completion of JavaScript variables. The average score was 4.8 absolute or 38% relative, meaning that the average package had not quite 5 of the 13 features requested. 13 of the 29 packages were above the average.

For further evaluation, I selected the top 25%. That is, the following 8 ranked best with my criteria (listed alphabetically): Dreamweaver, Geany, Komodo Edit, Netbeans, Nusphere PHPEd, PHPStorm, Programmer’s Notepad, and WebMatrix. It’s interesting to note that four of those are free (as in free scotch) and four are paid software, and that four are Windows-only while the other four are cross-platform.

This selection does not imply that these packages are better than the others. It just means that they had more of the requested features than others. If, for instance, code refactoring were a priority for me, the results would have been quite different.

Round Two – Everything Else but the Kitchen Sink

The second battery of tests looked at the following list of features: code snippets/templates, code folding, bookmarks, automatic code-formatting, integrated debugging support, macro support, availability of refactoring tools, project management support, version control support, built-in FTP support, integrated command-line console, plug-in support, support for frameworks, editor customizations, whether the start-up time was acceptable, availability and completeness of documentation, and a few others. Again the focus was on out-of-the-box or click-to-install plug-ins, and it was a YES/NO test with each YES scoring one point. Here’s how it turned out:

  • Dreamweaver – Scored 70%. Possibly the best known web development IDE, it’s a very powerful tool for the website designer though I find its interface a bit cluttered. It had some sort of code folding, but not what I’d expect.
  • Geany – Scored 62%. It’s modular and highly expandable. It has a very light interface, but lacks proper FTP support.
  • Komodo Edit – Scored 54%. A kind of open-source version of Komodo IDE, it was very clean and usable. I found it similar to Geany.
  • Netbeans – Scored 75%. It was very impressive with lots of features but a clean interface. It takes about 13 seconds to start on my box (Dual Core 2GHz Intel, 2G RAM and Oneric Oncelot with Unity) which I gather is somewhat reasonable for such a complex application.
  • Nusphere PHPEd – Scored 67%. A great tool, but with a very cluttered interface. Also, they seem not to like plug-ins very much. I read a forum post where someone asked how to create one and the answer was just “send us your ideas.” This was another NO.
  • PhpStorm – Scored 75%, like NetBeans. In fact, it’s rather what NetBeans would probably look like if it were dedicated to PHP development. It seems to tax the processor a bit more, though.
  • Programmer’s Notepad – Scored 46%. But then again, it’s supposed to be a simple, lean, well performing tool. It lives to its promise. It’s a pity that it’s Windows-only, though.
  • WebMatrix – For sure, as a free website development tool, Web Matrix looks quite impressive. I did not rate it though as it seemed to be concept different from my idea of programmer’s IDE.

My Personal Choice

Although all the ones above are powerful programs for working with PHP code, I was the happiest with Geany and NetBeans. Geany is lighter with less features but is expandable with a growing list of community-maintained plug-ins. NetBeans is powerful but has a steeper learning curve and, though free and open source, is privately maintained. Possibly I’ll be using one or the other depending on the task at hand and after a bit of time settle on using just one.

Anyway, in about three years time I’m sure new IDEs will have come up and some of these here will have ceased development. It’ll be time for another review.

What I Learned Here

This article was painful to write. Checking every program in the list was a tiresome, sometimes infuriating, but nevertheless refreshing experience. It took a lot of research, downloading (including a 800MB wrong one!), and time for checking features. I revisited some packages I worked with years ago and discovered others I had never heard of. And it afforded me an interesting comparison between Linux’s repository system and Window’s installer concept as well as between the sizes and setup complexity that separates free from paid software. My desktop is cluttered with downloaded files and there’s a lot of deletions to do now that it’s all over. But I had the chance to do a planned search for an item I needed, something that I had never done before this way. I take from this experience that a search for a product or service should begin with checking simple but essential qualities in a large set and then looking for refinements in those that pass the first test. I also learned to leave my prejudices aside. I never guessed I’d end up putting NetBeans on my final list.

I never planned to tell anybody what’s the best IDE around. Really it’s a matter of what works best for you. But I hope to have helped some of you to devise a strategy for finding which currently is the one most suited to your needs.

Update Jan 17, 2012
I’d like to thank all readers kind enough to leave a comment here. It’s really rewarding to see that one’s writing is of interest and use to others.

I’d also like to stress that the goal of the article was much more to describe a research-and-decide method than to point out one best IDE, inasmuch as “best” in this case is a highly personal concept which reflects the user’s particular needs and tastes. Furthermore, the absence of any particular IDE from the study should NOT be construed as to mean a negative opinion of it. It simply means that I was not aware of its existence — mea culpa mea maxima culpa! — or that it did not seem to be in active development.

Anyway, readers interested in choosing his or her best IDE should by all means include the packages listed in the article PLUS those the most enthusiastic readers mentioned. With millions of developers all over the world, I’m happy to see that all IDEs and editors have a public of their own. Some religions believe that things have souls. I believe that software, in a way, has one too and it gets great comfort when its users display they care about it.

Happy and productive 2012 to all.

Image via Zurijeta / Shutterstock

  • Netbeans is my editor of choice as well!

    • For heavyweight IDE, NetBeans is the best; for lightweight Dev-PHP. They are great!

  • you should check out aptana ( it’s free and runs great. the latest version is a lot more stable than the previous. it works on windows, mac, and linux.
    the auto completion is as good if not better not dreamweaver. the syntax highlighting isn’t as good. so far, for multi-developer environments, it may not work out of the box like how dreamweaver has the built-in check in/out system. out of your list, dreamweaver is what i’m familiar with for comparison.

    • Stephen

      I dunno! I have found Eclipse-based IDEs to be very buggy, unstable, and a pain in the neck when trying to debug both with PHP and with Ruby. In fact, I finally had to give up on it for PhpStorm and RubyMine. For “giggles and grins” I got WebStorm and find it a wonderful text-based editor that help enforce standards-based HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This may be true of the language-specific IDEs, as well. I haven’t had a chance to try them out in that respect. AFA NetBeans, I like it a lot. However, since I live in a Ruby/Rails as well as PHP world, I like having consistent IDE interfaces – if not the same IDE – for all of my work.

  • You should check out SublimeText 2. It has features that doesn’t really exist in any other IDE I know.

    • Sam

      I use Sublime Text 2 and nothing can change my mind.

      • But can Sublime2 open the class where a method is there in the page?
        Eg: $example = new Example();
        $example->method(); and clicking on method() will it open Example.php?
        I didn’t noticed it, and it’s good then to use Netbeans which has this feature.
        Yes for light weight coding Submlime2 is good. But some features are missing. Maybe in future versions they will be added.

  • Mick

    After all your tedious work it would be nice to see your final comparison lists. As you said, it’s really about what works for yourself. I currently use Notepad++ and couldn’t be happier with it.

    • mark

      I agree that Notepad++ is an excellent editor – working on Mac at the moment and even running Notepad++ through WINE is better than using any Mac editor I have found. Will definitely have a look at espresso and thanks for a great article.

  • kevin

    An IDE that has always impressed me is phpDesigner by MPSoftware( Very full featured, inexpensive, and the developer is very responsive.

    • Name

      It lacks code snippet with multiple placeholders (to insert desired variable text and jump with tab after a snippet has been inserted) functionality

  • I love netbeans too. It is my primary development environment and I use VIM for quick editing and when on remote server.

  • Thomaz Ebihara

    Another vote for Notepad++, very fast and has all that i need.. i can live without auto-completion, actually i think typing the whole function name is faster than being distracted by suggestions..

    • I’m a dedicated user of Notepad++ and most of the time I don’t need auto-completion, but when I do just hit ctrl+spacebar for an autocomplete list to appear!

      • Man – that’s awesome. Never knew that existed.

    • Name

      I agree, notepad with FingerText, NppFTP and LightExplorer extensions is my final choice. FingerText enables a code feature I need the most: making snippets with multiple placeholders for entering desired text after a snippet has been inserted into code.

  • +1 for Netbeans – I made the switch from Dreamweaver to Netbeans for PHP/HTML/CSS/JS development a couple of years ago and never looked back.
    My only gripe is that sometimes uploading could can be a bit buggy, and a remote file viewer would be nice.
    ” i think typing the whole function name is faster than being distracted by suggestions..” – except that autocomplete also helps you fill in the parameters, even more so if you have documented it correctly.

  • George Baker

    Thank you for the well done article and thoughtful comments!
    I’ve been using NotePad++ with a couple of large monitors, but would go back to Dreamweaver or similar professional-grade IDE if I was coding for a living.

  • Kevin

    I agree with this process. Used a similar process a while ago when I got tired of searching for “best IDE Ruby on Rails” and coming up with nearly 100% TextMate responses. I’m using Windows/Linux and there was no way I was going to buy an overpriced machine just for a text editor.

    I chose NetBeans btw. with Komodo Edit coming in a very close second.

  • Kise S.

    I’ve made the choice about 4 years ago and never looked back WeBuilder from blumentals is really great, i’m surprised it didn’t make it in your IDE list. you should check it out

    • Kurt

      I agree. WeBuilder is a top editor for web-development.

      • fiziee

        Webuilder rules!

  • Dreamweaver… that is all i need.

  • I also love Geany.

  • Gar_onn

    I love vim for all my developpement works. However, If I’m on windows, I uses Sublime text 2

  • endgear

    I use notepad ++. I haven’t gotten auto-completion working to my satisfaction yet, but it is a great tool and their are a lot of plugins available for it.

  • Simon

    Netbeans all the way. Sublime Text 2, Textmate, Coda, Dreamweaver, etc are all just editors not IDE’s. I’ve yet to find something with a nice interface and all the development tools required that beats Netbeans. The only thing I dislike about Netbeans is that (thanks to being built in Java) it looks like balls compared to the high quality native apps like Coda.

  • I started with Dreamweaver CS2 – CS4 and windows, moved over to notepad++
    But now the only way you could get me to stop using Aptana or the the CLI is to take my computer away.

    Dreamweaver is chocked full of fetures don’t get me wrong, but the fluffed up code is more for the beginner IMO. I do miss dreamweavers built in html editor.
    gedit is another good alternative if your looking for lite, I heard a little bit about and had to check it out myself. Although its not quite what I need it has a lot of potential I like the layout and the tabs for organization of notes and such, and the fact you can sort seletd text on a page is awesome. It almost makes me wanna get in on the project

    But so far when it comes to programing in multiple languages (not making the page look pretty) Aptana still holds number 1 here

  • For me, what I look for is the ability to quickly edit a page and save to remote site without problems. Notepad++ does it very well, and it’s also very light.

    I will give the rest a try and see how they fair.

  • I’m very happy with PHPEdit (waterproof), using it since many years, sad it didn’t get to the “final round” ;)

    • Agree, it does make me wonder what it “failed” on not to get into the top tier aswell

  • I’m quite surprised that Coda isn’t anywhere on your list. That’s my personal favorite. It was the result of a similar, albeit far less extensive, search.

    • Would be quite hard considering it is also Mac and thats the reason he couldnt do Espresso

  • I just recently discovered how nice Geany was. I did most of my code editing in GEdit or Notepad++, but Geany’s class browser is nice. FTP support is a non-issue, as I generally use it in conjunction with Nautilus.

  • Branimir

    +1 for Aptana and it’s not even on your list. New 3+ versions are great and seem in active development. Also I like it because it’s based on Eclipse which has giant user base behind it and that means cool plugins.

  • Your choice of PHP Editor should depend on whether you do more front-end / design, or more back-end development. For the front-end guys, you’ve got Dreamweaver or Expressionweb. For the back end developers and programmers, IDEs like NuSphere, PHPstorm, or Zend Studio/Eclipse have a lot more of the debugging features and FTP/Git/Versioning and DB tools that you’d use more. And if you’re looking for something that can sort of cross between both worlds; for sort of an in-between developer/designer … then PHP Designer is where it’s at. I don’t think I can take an PHP editor comparison seriously … that doesn’t include PHP Designer.

    • Used to use Dreamweaver but too ‘messy’ so now use phpDesigner. Quick complete only problem is not on Mac have to use Parallels. Also found BBEdit quite good on Mac.

  • Dave Kennedy

    Should FTP really be in a developers editor toolbox? So many better alternatives the main being it is a good way of throwing SCM out the window. OK and ill mention the elephant in the room Vim?

  • I agree that Netbeans is pretty nice. Aptana is really nice too, and it looks a works a lot like Eclipse (in fact you can use it as an addon for Eclipse). Personally, I like Notepad++. It doesn’t do a whole lot but it does the job I need. I rarely work on a project big enough to require a full blown IDE.

  • Niels Krijger

    I’ve been using netbeans for ages but recently moved to Eclipse. The only reason for doing so was it offered a plugin for my favorite PHP framework (symfony2).
    For quick file edits I do prefer a lighter editor that just supports a wide range of syntax highlighting (notepad++ in my case).

  • I too ditched Dreamweaver (don’t use the designer view ever, or any of the spry or other built in easy stuff) and simply don’t want to pay for something when there’s a more powerful solution for free. I’ve been using Aptana Studio for a couple of years and find it a superior IDE. It does things differently than Dreamweaver, but once you learn the alternatives, if you’re a true coder you’ll never look back.

  • I like Eclipse PDT, sametimes use VIM and Geany.

  • Jaijaz

    +1 Netbeans and Coda. I’ve been using Coda for years and have loved it ease of use. However as I’ve moved into larger scale framework projects I’ve found a full IDE necessary. Don’t think I’ve fully learnt every thing Netbeans can do yet but very happy so far. I still do quick edits in Coda though.

  • Chris Emerson

    I use PHPEd but will be trying out some of the others in the list here. I currently use Eclipse at work, but despise it. It’s slow, buggy, bloated and ugly, and I’m convinced it’s a practical joke played on developers…

  • Being the developer of PHPEdit, I would be very interested in reading your notes and scores of PHPEdit, if you kept them after your evaluation.
    We are eager to improve our software, and would welcome such feedback to help us do it.
    Thanks in advance.

  • I use Komodo Edit on my Kubuntu at work and home. It’s free, cross-platform and full of plugins. Supports almost all the features listed, if not all of them.
    Yet I’m curious to see the scoreboard of tested IDEs.

    • I am also a keen fan of Komodo Edit. I’ve been first on Notepad++, I’ve used eclipse, netbeans, aptana, and a bunch of other tools. So far Komodo Edit is the most lightweight, fastest to open and most stable. And there’s a strong community to support it and add plugins and snippets.

  • stephan

    Vim all the way, with the right plugins and a bit of setup, I dont think ill go back to another editor soon.

  • I use Sublime 2 and Notepad++ but if the project reaches some size you need an IDE like Netbeans or Eclipse.

  • janw

    I personally use a mix of netbeans. Customized with the colors of Notepad++.
    And for fast work/checking I use Notepad++.

  • I vote Netbeans because it is good for clean coding and to maintain projects. but i also tumbsup for the notepad for its lightweight and easy to use.

  • Ion

    I think Notepad++ is great and as Thomaz Ebihara said ‘typing the whole function name is faster than being distracted by suggestions’

  • I am using PhpED very happily since many years!

  • I liked Dreamweaver for the CSS suggestions and help but it was not robust enough in the other areas; NETBEANS is where it is at for me and I live the ability to create code snippets for repeatable chunks of code. Very powerful and now that I am branching into Java I can use the same IDE.

  • Nick Weavers

    Have to say, I agree with @CMSDude. It’s horses for courses. For me it’s NuSphere’s PHPed because I find the code debugging features such a productivity boost. The ability debug code on your remote live webserver (through an SSH tunnel) and to trigger the debugger in the code using “DebugBreak(‘1@’);” is really handy when some external agent causes it to get executed, like when you are developing a SOAP client, Or debugging your PayPal IPN Listener.

  • I really prefer Komodo Edit as I find it the best not just auto-completing built-in functions but auto-completing my functions as well as properly using my comments to give the necessary tooltip when using it. Nothing worse than “Gee, what order did I put those arguments in?” except that in Komodo it tells you!

    Years ago I started using a program called Textpad (Available here ) altho I’ve since switched to Komodo, I was surprised that it wasn’t even on your initial list!

  • Eddie

    I, too, was rather dismayed when Adobe dropped development of HomeSite when they purchased Macromedia. I have been using it since 1998 or so. I am still using HS5 on my 64-bit Win7 machine but it took some UAC tweaks.
    I have used NetBeans but its UI leaves a whole lot to be desired.
    However, I like the source formatting and brace/bracket match. I use that more than using it for editing ;-), we have tons of code written by other developers and I want to standardize the formatting. It is definitely a memory hog and sometimes it crashes on my 4GB machine!

    • I’m a real programmer who likes to code, I don’t want a
      full-blown, fat IDE. I used to favor HomeSite, but then switched to the open-source PSPad. Once you set the editor options for PHP syntax highlighting, you’re all set. It has tons of options and is very fast/light. The only drawback, is that it’s been a while since it’s been updated. I’m open to something better, but haven’t found it.

  • +1 for Aptana 3, built in ftp and Git, easy to switch to Ruby projects and support for all the best Eclipse plugins like Mylyn and ssh, i don’t see how it could be discounted.

  • Netbeans every time for me, although I do occasionally use an ancient version of Adobe Go Live if I want a quick ‘select’ element or something putting together. Certainly wouldn’t waste my money on an IDE I had to pay for!

  • Netbeans here, too. Notepad++ is always installed for quick and easy editing, but it just doesn’t have the same elegant integration of features that NetBeans has. I use various Tortoise clients for version control, but I still find I use the integrated version control (along with a Diff to previous version) functionality to be pretty important. Plus “find in projects”, “find in selected”, refactoring, code folding, and a few other “use-everyday” functions. Once you start using the features of an IDE, you do start to miss them when using Notepad++.

  • Dan

    I undertook my own assessment looking for something fast and powerful that just seemed to do what I wanted with a heavy javascript focus. The one which worked best was PhpStorm, and after the trial, I purchased. I tried Aptana and Netbeans and others. Did not try geany but it does not look polished in their screen shots. I was not surprised to see phpstorm rank highest in your percentages. I found phpstorm did not have a close competitor, for my needs at least. Price is fine.

  • I prefer notepad++.

  • Brandon

    I just had to choose a new editor recently, so this article is pretty interesting to me. My selection process was much simpler (I primarily work with PHP – the few bits of HTML and javascript I work with are pretty abstracted). I loved ‘e’ but it slowly went downhill and is no longer supported. I used phpDesigner for a while, and although it is a capable editor, I am now using Sublime Text 2. It requires a lot more work to configure or alter the color scheme (using XML or JSON files), but in the end it is great for me, and that is the bit most often missing for people. Use what works for you, not what someone else tells you is the “best editor”. My coworkers use Zend Studio and love it. For me, it’s much too overkill and cluttered.

  • lesg

    Thanks for editor info – I keep reverting to HomeSite 5.5 for lots of text to html. Miss (hi-lited) strip-outermost-tags and repeat-last-command in newer editors but refactoring great for big old sites. Switching text entry to users more these days…

  • I use dreamweaver but when code is becoming complex i switch over to Netbean. Nice article

  • Anne C.

    I agree with Kise S. and Kurt – WeBuilder from Blumenthals is the best code editor for Windows. I’ve tried Notepad++ (good), Aptana (big and slow) and Netbeans (soso). I really like WeBuilder, it’s small and fast and does everything you can think of and then some. Even has integrated FTP.

  • I am using Netbeans since version 5 (now 7.1) and I must say that I am very content with it. It have never let me down. For quick file editing I am using PSPAD. I have tried Aptana and some others, but Netbeans and PSPAD are my big editing friends.

  • Edward

    I’m a fan of Quanta Plus on Ubuntu.
    I was a Homesite fan in days gone by. I also use Kod on the mac and Coda.

  • 3 Cheers for NetBeans! Completely agree with many of the comments here. Since I started using NetBeans in conjunction with MAMP over a year ago, I find it hard to use any other editor. However I also use Smultron quite a bit for reviewing and revising code, since it is so fast and reliable. It works well as an auxiliary text editor. Thanks for the article!

  • I would very much like to see the criteria and the scoring table.
    It seems that not only apples and oranges were compared, but also pineapples. I can’t see how a full IDE like DreamWeaver can be properly compared to a editor like Notepad2 in any reasonable way. And I don’t understand how Geany could score so well when a complaint is faulty FTP.
    I use Expression Web. I’d like to understand why it didn’t make the top cut, a key reaons I’d like to see the scoring.
    Thanks for doing the comparison. It is tough to to the repetitive testing on so many products, and the effort is appreciated.

  • Phil

    If you’re coding in php, you need a breakpoint debugger. Netbeans is easy to set up with Xdebug. It parses doxygen comments, jumps to definitions, and tracks tasks. I couldn’t work without these features.

    For light editing, vi.

  • Ramjet

    Firstly very good article and thanks for the effort. Many a time have I embarked upon the “search” for a new editor and been stumped by how many of them don’t offer a regular expression capable search and replacing feature built-in. I feel as a programmer this is an absolutely necessary feature and it’s a pity you haven’t mentioned it. Anyone know which of the top ones listed here support it?

  • I use Netbeans and Sublime Text 2.

  • Fred

    Thanks, that’s an interesting article on the process of finding a new ‘coders best friend’ after the one you’ve been with for years ‘passes on’. I’ve done this a few times over the years and it’s time-consuming and tedious, but enlightening. What’s amazing is how many Open Source editors there are these days, compared to, say, a decade ago, but the downside of this is that you can spend ages downloading, installing and evaluating each package, time which could have been spent coding. Lots of frogs to kiss before you find your princess ;)

    You’ve mentioned a few editors I’d not heard of, so it’ll be interesting to check those out. Thanks again.

  • Deb

    I’m just now trying to get up to speed on html5/CSS3/php. I appreciate learning the best options aside from Dreamweaver.

  • A very well written article and very informative. I have personally been using netbeans recently and found that it is well suited for all of my HTML, css, PHP, and Ruby needs. I have used aptana studio in the past, and while I loved the features it had, I often found it to be slow and even a little cumbersome at times.

  • notepad++ + Zencoding ( = such a good code editor if your working around with HTML and CSS

  • Jordan

    I have Dreamweaver, but sometimes get frustrated at the bloat of some of it. I don’t like how it bounces me around sometimes when all I want is to work in the code. I tend to just code HTML is Notepad++. I am wondering as far as PHP is concerned has anyone tried the Zend IDE? I know the cost is steep; just asking.

  • Ipsod

    I use VIM for everything. It’s not something you can review in a day or a week. Using anything else is like trying to work with one hand and, in most cases, Microsoft’s paperclip suggesting every 10 seconds that you might be retarded.

  • Jeroen

    Nice article! Could you also post the whole table of test results? That might help people decide for them selves. I guess the forums would be a great place for that.

  • Bojan

    Perhaps one should consider CodeLobster PHP edition, especially if looking for a reliable auto-completion (free for basic languages, about $30 for libraries like jQuery)

  • My personal favorite is Aptana, based on Eclipse it offers extension plugins for remote debugging, all necessary PHP features, all necessary web languages, like JQuery, I appreciate especially the integration with GIT and Subversion. There is even a possibility to integrate the task view with the bug-tracking-system.

  • I used Netbeans, and recently started using PHPStorm. The feature I like from PHPStorm is the ability to highlight different languages embedded inside the php file, i.e. HTML, JavaScript, SQL,… with the code highlighting and code completion features fully functional.

  • We have this “talk/argument” often in our office, some use Dreamweaver, Notepad++ and Netbeans, it just comes to what you think fits your needs and can get the work done efficiently and well in in my opinion.

  • I use Sublime Text 2. I’ll try Geany.

  • Qtronik Webmaster

    I use Netbean from the begining and now for 4 year just because I see Sun developement somewhere. Look like I’ve made the good choice!

  • mjy

    I really like TextPad for Windows ~ very simple but has everything I need for web programming, especially when used in conjunction with WildEdit ( On Mac I’ve heard great things about BBEdit (, although I haven’t tried it myself.

  • I like Aptana, Netbean IDE, Notepad++
    Its the way you feel comfortable that’s what matters, so all the editors good when it serves the purpose.

  • MoonEdit is quite nice app for pogramming – it is “multiuser notepad” :)

  • Irishiwasdrinking

    Netbeans is for me. I have dream weaver and I am more comfortable with Netbeans. And it is free!

  • Most people made a mistake between IDE and Text Editor. Coda, Textmate, Notepad++ etc. are just text editor, not an IDE. Also, Dreamweaver is a frontend developer tool/editor to see what you doing (wysiwyg), not an IDE.
    – Text Editor, UltraEdit
    – IDE, PHPStorm, past Zend Studio

    • Was there any reason for what you left ZendStudio behind and brought PHPStorm on the first position?

      • Joeri Sebrechts

        I’ve also switched from zend studio to phpstorm. In my experience phpstorm contains more functionality than zend studio at a lower footprint and a higher level of polish. The code inspections (automatic error highlighting) are the killer feature for me, they are neck and shoulders above all the other IDE’s and editors.

  • As an IDE, I have been using Zend Studio for more than 2 years and I enjoy it since it allows me to keep as many projects as I want in a specific order. Moreover, SVN connections are easily managed inside ZendStudio.
    More than 5 years ago I used Notepad++, but it seems to be a simple text editor for one page edit and not for projects.

  • infact, i must say we have come far and editors are now rampant. i started with notepad but later moved to intype and komodo but i think i will choose komodo over intype because of code intelligence else intype is simple loads faster thanks it take komodo. dreamweaver is also a nice IDE but i have try it much and netbeans. perhaps i would have to try netbeans this time. by the way this was is a nice articles. thanks to the team.

  • Netbeans my first choice. Sublime or netpad++ ise text editor. But not they are not IDE. Aptana/Eclipse/Zend, plugin or addon setup and editor custimization not good. Aptana/Eclipse better font rendering then Netbeans. You should use Oracle java7 jdk in ubuntu for font rendering.

  • Rob

    I would just like to say that prior to reading this I was a bit of a mixture between Aptana, Dreamweaver, and Notepad++ for quick edits.

    After seeing Sublime Text mentioned in the first two comments, I went and downloaded it for Windows, and am immediately in love! Using it for two days now, and not only is it functional, but if at all possible, it has made my coding more fun than ever!


  • Eddie

    I recently found ESMI Studio’s DSV PHP Editor and found it was actually pretty good for a free Editor. (
    Has code folding, great syntax highlighting with bracket matching, debugging and FTP features. Also has the SQLBuilder for MySQL utility from CoreLab (

  • Write this in Dreamweaver:
    call_user_func(function(){ });
    And smile… Add some namespaces… then laugh.

    Dreamweaver is just a HTML designer. Nothing more, nothing less. No real PHP developer would use it. It is slow with one class in a file. Get a library of 100.000 lines and a project of 25.000 and see how it works out.

    Only editor that can handle such load and supports all PHP 5.3+ features is NuSphere PhpEd. Others take many minutes just to load such a project. PhpEd takes seconds. Supports all PHP 5.3 awesomeness including closures, namespaces and proper code completion everywhere.

    Nothing comes anywhere near and I tried them all. I gave up on most after waiting 5 minutes for a project to be parsed, when in PhpEd it only takes up to 30 seconds and it’s done in the background. I’ve been using it for over 3 years and that says it all.

    I don’t use it’s debugging capabilities, I just need it’s awesome code completion and Code Documentation functionality.

    Your argument against it is that it does not have plugins… really… what for? They fix bugs in days, add features quickly also… no real need for plugins. Want to write IDE plugins, take Visual Studio and knock yourself out. It’ll keep you busy for a while.

    Next time score Editors/IDEs them by their code completion support, and latest PHP language compatibility. That if you put “programming” in the title. Otherwise call it “HTML editor”. And I’ll have not beef with you.


  • NphpM

    I currently have PhpStorm, PhpED and RadPHP XE2. I have also compared them to NetBeans, Eclipse, Dreamweaver, and trial edition of PhpEdit. I ended up using and renewing PhpED because of its performance. It is easy to set up, it is lightning fast, has yet to crash once in my 4-5 years of use, and its debugging capabilities are very intuitive and powerful (I installed it and worked right out of the box without hassle, practically telling you what line to insert into the php.ini etc.). It is hard to use anything else to debug PHP code once you start using PhpED (everything else will be like Aaah WTF?!?) PhpStorm has better JavaScript and CSS support than PhpED and it is also a very decent tool (but slower and much less performant with large sites). But you really need to test your code in various web browser JS debuggers anyway.

  • Tim

    I still use Homesite – about 10 years now. Still doing the job though I’ve often wondered what else is available and need to check out those listed. By the way, I’ve never had a problem installing Homesite on any Windows machine, including Win7 64 bit – no tweaks needed.

  • Great article. I have been using three code editors. Netbeans, Eclipse and Komodo Edit. Overall I prefer Komodo Edit for general web programming in PHP and HTML.

  • One small but important correction: Geany does support ftp and sftp on Linux (and should do on Mac). You can use an sftp:// url, or, if you have bookmarked a remote folder in a GTK based file manager (e.g. Nautilus), you can just click on a bookmark in the file chooser.

    • J Armando Jeronymo

      I had no idea of that! Thanks for pointing that out, Greame.

  • Matthew Jay

    Pick the IDE that you are comfortable with that has the features that you use the most, this is the best IDE for you. Personally, I use dreamweaver 8 for front end work (it doesnt use much pc resources and does everything I need), for larger programming work I use PHPed, which has a fantastic feature list that just can’t be beat. For quick edits I use notepad++. Recently tried phpstorm, it is okay, but nothing that PHPed doesnt have and also tried sublimetext2, but that is more of a text editor rather than an IDE, even with the amazing package manager they have.

  • I recently resumed coding and tested many IDEs (about 12) and eventually settled on Komodo IDE. Testing is a huge job, thanks to the author of this article for the effort.
    I like to code with a black background or my eyes get tired. Its a simple ask and I do not want to spend a day mucking around to setup a trial version to do this. Where are the editor templates in these IDEs’? I only found one that would (forgot which one) but I settled on Komodo IDE simply because it does every thing else I need pretty well but still no blk bg editor template or standard line height control over the text which looks crowded without a kludge fix. Block commenting is hashes for each line and a pain to remove if nested.. although someone has written a macro which works well. Someone has also written an essential db plugin.
    list of those I remember trying, with some I put down for a better/longer retest.
    Webuilder: (This is intuitive with some nice features. No refactoring though)
    Dreamweaver: (it has its place somewhere else)
    PhpED: (pretty good, will retest).
    PHPstorm:(pretty good, will retest)
    PHPedit: (don’t remember)
    SublimeText2 : (No)
    PHP Designer: (I could not find code folding within 5 minutes so deleted it.)
    I did not try netbeans, Aptana, Eclipse or Codelobster

  • ben

    ConTEXT would have to be the best editor u have used =’D

  • Ted

    Today, I’m liking Sublime Text 2 very much.

  • Will give it a try to Geany. I found netbeans too heavey.
    At the moment I am using Notepad++ which aint that bad.

  • pcunite

    Another vote for Nusphere PhpED … mostly because of it’s DebugBreak call. You can tell it what ip address to send debug info too making it nice to know who or what is calling your php file.

  • I use HTML Kit and have done for many years. I am so used to it, I probably could never change. That said, I did use Notepad for a while at the start. Crazy.

  • I used to love JetBrains who make intellij idea for java developers – a very good IDE. Since I found out that they also make PHPStorm, I left all my other text editors behind for PHP. Available for both MAC and PC.
    Support for autocompletion of custom classes which the likes of CODA don’t have – Seriously Panic??? Why can’t Coda do this yet??? Every other functionality is so great!!!
    Support for framework integration with the likes of Symfony2 & Yii.
    Ctrl + alt + i Auto indent :D
    Cmd + alt + l Auto reformat code. :D
    Version Control
    For those of you wanting ftp support – I only use ftp during initial setup or to upload images to the medis folder. Any serious coder will have left ftp behind and will be using git to push, pull & commit. I never have ftp set up in the IDE and rarely use it during development.

  • Thanks for the article!!

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