HomeBlogNetBeans IDE: The Best for PHP Development?

NetBeans IDE: The Best for PHP Development?

Published December 31, 2010

After coding practically everything (PHP, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML) in the outdated Zend Studio 5.1 -- from around 2006) for about 2 years -- it is now up to version 8 but I wont go into that -- I've switched over to using NetBeans IDE full time for about 2 weeks and I'm loving it. I have tried NetBeans and the newer, Eclipse-based Zend Studio 7 before but found them too slow and somewhat odd for PHP development. Part of the reason may have been because those newer IDEs do not perform very well on older processors.

That changed when I upgraded to a modern dual-core Athlon II X2 computer with 4GB of RAM. I decided to give NetBeans another shot, since I now had faster hardware, and having seen many of my coworkers use it for a while. I was also attracted to its GPL2 license, respecting the user's freedom with the side effect of not costing anything.

After using it for a few weeks it has gained my full approval and I can only list a few drawbacks.


  • Create a new project from existing source file directory. It will keep the source files where they are (unless you want to copy them). This allows you to 'plug in' to an existing source structure without having to move anything around.
  • Amazing, predictive code completion that works across languages. I have web projects with PHP files, JavaScript files, CSS files, and HTML, and those 4 languages are often times mixed together. When working in your CSS files, it will know about all the CSS classes that are in your PHP and HTML files. When working in a JavaScript <script> tag in a PHP file, it will know about all of your JavaScript functions! And of course it features the must-have PHP code completion as well.
  • Handy customizable windows, palettes, and tabs for optimized layouts.
  • Highlighting of matching braces or HTML open/close tags (jump to the corresponding one with Ctrl+[ )
  • Option to disable autoscanning of source files, leaving it up to the user (or when you open/save a document).
  • Debugging with XDebug
  • and much more...

Figure 1: Extensive code completion with PHPDoc information (not shown)

Figure 2: It even has MySQL code completion & hinting, although I haven't used it yet.

Figure 3: CSS Code Completion. Guesses what CSS class I'm typing by parsing the project's HTML code.


  • Probably because of the full featured code completion across all languages, for some projects, the scanning of source files can take a long time upon opening the project. For most of my projects this has been a reasonable 1-3 minutes. One project always takes 10-12 minutes, and I have yet to figure out why. During this initial scan, you can't really use the IDE.
  • Doesn't work with Zend Debugger

Because NetBeans is open-source, it depends on the community for feedback, testing, and bug reports. One thing I noticed about the development team is that they're always looking to increase the performance of the IDE, so it's always getting better -- and you can take part in the process. Let's just hope Oracle doesn't screw it up like they're trying to do with everything else...

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Michael Butler

Michael Butler

Michael joined the RustyBrick team in 2008 to focus on transitioning existing web sites to new & enhanced platforms. He graduated from Rutgers University in 2005 and holds a B.S. in Computer Science.

This article is under Programming, PHP Programming, Web Programming

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