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This article provides detailed instructions for setting up your workstation as a PHP development environment, not only for Joomla! it also should work fine for PHP development in general.
Note There are many possible configurations for doing PHP development environments. Any environment that supports the basic AMP stack (Apache, MySql, PHP), Subversion and/or Git should be fine.
The PHP language code represented just by plain text that can be edited with simple text editors like:
But when you are about to work in more advanced and complex projects and need some coding assistance there is a handful of development tools called IDEs (Integrated Development Environment) these are some of them:
As new emerging technologies we got other kind of editors available as an alternative to the traditional simple editors or desktop IDEs applications, among them we got:
To empathize some of the advantages of the use of IDEs over simple text editors we got:
Some of the advantages of simple text editors are:
All these options can be used for the development of PHP projects, but for this article we are going to focus on Eclipse IDE, feel free to add more alternatives and document them in the following list.
To develop and test our PHP projects we need to execute the code in a web server capable of interpret PHP code and send the output to our browser, is good to know that we have a nice range of opensource tools to deploy a PHP webservers for our development environment such as:
Also there is other commercial closed-source options such as:
All these options can be used for the development of PHP projects, but for this article we are going to focus on LAMP server for Linux and a XAMPP server for windows, feel free to add more alternatives and document them in the following list.
Debugging tools are quite useful when you are developing a PHP project and you want to study how your code behave step by step on each executed line of your code, also these debugging tools let you see the real values of variables and objects and set new values on the fly for testing purposes, you can also create expression to check the outcome of them without modify your code.
Old school and hardcore PHP programmers don't fraternize much with these kind of visual tools and they prefer to debug their code the old way using php:var_dump and other methods to display and analyze the output of the PHP code, is up to you what kind of tools you want to implement in your development workflow.
There is several alternatives for PHP debugging, some of these are:
To empathize some of the advantages of the use of this kind of debugging tools we got:
All these options can be used for the development of PHP projects, but for this article we are going to focus on Xdebug, feel free to add more alternatives and document them in the following list.
Don't you hate when you are coding and suddenly by accident you just deleted a big chunk of text and there is no backups of that file to restore those important lines of code?, don't you hate when you are working with 2 or more developers in a project and everyone have a different copy of the project then comes the day of merge all those changes in one final project but everything goes wrong or the project does not want to run properly because someone did just overwrite some of your files?, for all this problems and many more exist some nice tools to bring you the solutions you need, some of these tools are:
A Version Control System also known as VCS is a very important tool in the development of software projects, this tools keep track of all the changes you made in a file over the time, they also provide mechanisms to avoid version conflicts when 2 or more developers have made changes in the same files, another nice feature is that you can navigate back in time through the history of changes of a file and revert undesired changes if you want, tools like this make possible collaborative projects with thousand of developers around the world such as the Linux project were lot of people are constantly editing the project files every day and all the merging and revision process of thousand of files is automated by the VCS. Consider yourself some time to learn how to use this important tool.
All these options can be used for the development of PHP projects, but for this article we are going to focus on GIT, feel free to add more alternatives and document them in the following list.
To read the full definition of a project build system you can go here but in short, the project build systems help you to automatize those tedious and repetitive tasks that developers got to do in several stages of the development of a project, some of this tasks are:
Looking at project build systems from another point of view we can say they are a tool to automate complex tasks or little tasks such as:
A simple thing like the development of a Joomla! extensions such as a simple module could need the use of a project build system to gather all the information dispersed about the module in the Joomla! folder structure and put it back to the typical package structure of a module package with a simple build command, this could save you several minutes and headaches when you try to build a module or any extension manually and misplace a file or skip one of then in the final package. Consider your self some time to learn the proper use of project build systems and make them part of your regular development workflow.
Exist several options for project build systems out there, some of those are:
All these options can be used for the development of PHP projects, but for this article we are going to focus on Phing, feel free to add more alternatives and document them in the following list.
Any decent project is complete without a project management system, this applications helps developers, users and community to the planning, organize and administrate the resources of the project such as time, developers, goals. More sophisticated and complete project management systems comes with issue tracking, documents & files management, wiki, forums, blogs, SCM integration and more, some of those tools are:
Some of these options are tools to control the administrative part of a almost any project like planing, resources, etc, but not all the features like code tracking, bug tracking and issue tracking, other tools like redmine got lot of features even more that some small projects needs and online services like Github gives you lots of features for free without the need of setting up a server to install the project manager.
All these options can be used for the development of PHP projects, but for this article we are going to focus on ProjectFork, feel free to add more alternatives and document them in the following list.
Whether you plan or not to develop extensions for Joomla or any other PHP platform, this articles gives you nice initial vision on how configure your workstation and what tools you can use to organize yourself and your project, this are very important topics to study in detail to level up your professional skills.
There is no excuse to not use one of these tools explained in this article, not even for small projects, you should always try to be as much professional as you can and you will see that the amount of problems, building, bug tracking and other common an repetitive issues will be easy to manage with your client and coworker, imagine yourself creating copies of your project over and over, and no one have a control to which one is the last version, imagine your client sending you emails or chat messages constantly to tell you about a simple bug he/she found or just want to do a modification of some specific feature like the color or the size of a html object, that is a total pain, you better configure yourself project management system to keep all those bugs ans issue well organized.
As a final note for this article here are some other important consideration for your future as developer:
For suggestions, observations, report a bug in the code or errors in the configurations or procedures described in this document feel free to post a message in the discussion page or post a message in the following forum boards