The best PHP editors and PHP IDEs

PHP editors make it easy to write clean PHP code. PHP IDE, in turn, serves as an advanced editor in PHP with additional functionality. We present the best free and paid PHP software and compare all features, pros and cons.

What are the differences between the PHP Editor vs. PHP IDEs?

PHP editors and PHP IDEs have one thing in common as PHP software solutions, which is that they are both used for editing PHP files and for productive PHP programming. However, while PHP editors are also aimed at users without in-depth programming know-how, PHP IDEs with their additional functions are primarily suitable for experienced PHP programmers. The acronym IDE stands for Integrated Development Environment.

PHP editors impress with compact PHP editing functions, a clear user interface and easy setup — everything you need for less complex PHP programs. For complex applications, on the other hand, IDEs offer the most flexibility and freedom. Although PHP editors inherit functions such as terminals and debuggers from PHP IDEs, using IDEs is usually best with expert knowledge.

Here are the most important features of PHP editors and PHP IDEs at a glance:

Offers syntax highlighting for better readability of code Offers usually significantly more functions
Line breaks and indentations Offers option of ready-made code templates
Auto-completion and auto-correction of code elements Offers project and classification wizard
Various search, edit and view modes Various customizable views and panels
Debugging and refactoring to “clean up” a code Integrated programming and development tools (e.g., terminal, browser or web server)
Parallel processing of code Integration of third-party tools such as debuggers or container and virtual machine platforms
Version or source code control to track changes Also available as cloud PHP IDEs for development in web browsers and cloud servers
Shortcuts for code creation Setup, configuration and use is usually more complex and demanding than PHP editors

What to look for in PHP editors

When selecting PHP editors, you can choose from a range of free code editors. Most free editors offer the standard features a PHP editor should offer. Similar to HTML editors, a distinction can be made between different types. These include classical PHP editors as installable software and online editors for code creation in a browser. In addition, editors based on the WYSIWYG principle are available. These tend not to require any programming knowledge. This overview focuses on editors that are stand-alone software.

A good PHP editor – whether free or premium – should offer the following features for full functionality:

  • Syntax highlighting
  • Auto-completion
  • Autocorrect
  • Search/Replace
  • Indentation and line breaks
  • Version control or source code control
  • Parallel code editing
  • Live error control
  • Functions for code review such as debugging, refactoring or linting
  • Automated storage
  • PHP tutorial

The best PHP editors at a glance

Free PHP editors often come equipped with all the essential features required for programming, catering to both simple and intricate tasks. On the other hand, premium paid editors provide added benefits such as advanced PHP functionalities, technical support, extensive plugin libraries, regular updates, and support for multiple programming languages and frameworks.

We have taken a closer look at the following free and paid PHP editors:

Free PHP Editors Paid PHP Editors
Visual Studio Code Sublime Text 3
Notepad++ UltraEdit
Atom Rapid PHP Editor
Bluefish Smultron

Overview of free PHP editors

Visual Studio Code (Windows, Linux, macOS)

Key features:

  • Auto-completion
  • Syntax highlighting
  • Version control
  • Code autocompletion thanks to IntelliSense
  • Code navigation
  • FTP functions
  • Git and GitHub integration
  • Supports almost 80 code languages besides PHP: CSS, JavaScript, JSON, TypeScript, HTML, Java, Python, GO, PowerShell and others
  • Enables inclusion of custom extensions or PHP extensions from the VS Code Marketplace
  • Debugging, refactoring and linting
  • Has its own terminal
  • Collaborative programming thanks to Live Share
Pros Cons
✓ Supports many programming languages and can be flexibly adapted and extended
✓ Provides all important functions like syntax highlighting, auto-completion or FTP functions for PHP programming
✓ Free and open source
✓ Active community and four-weekly updates that ensure constant development and close security gaps
✓ Flexibly expandable and customizable user interface

Notepad++ (Windows)

Key features:

  • Syntax highlighting
  • Auto-completion
  • Code completion
  • Split-screen and parallel programming
  • Drag-and-drop and find/replace functions.
  • Supports almost 80 languages besides PHP, e.g. HTML, JavaScript, CSS, XML, SQL, Python, C, C++, CoffeeScript
  • User interface for working on multiple documents simultaneously
  • Customizable user interface
  • Supports plugin extensions
  • Code folding
  • Suitable for various character sets
Pros Cons
✓ Free and open source ✗ Windows only
✓ Provides all the standard functions needed for professional programming in many different programming languages
✓ Easy and customizable (through style configurations and plugins)

Atom (Windows, Linux, macOS, FreeBDSD)

Key features:

  • Highly customizable via UI, syntax theme, formatting, languages, and key bindings
  • Extensive extensibility with nearly 9,000 packages for additional features such as debugging, refactoring, linting, annotations and more
  • Standard features such as syntax highlighting and intelligent auto-completion
  • Search/replace functions
  • Real-time collaboration features
  • Git and GitHub integration
  • File system browsing
Pros Cons
✓ Highly customizable (over 300 Atom themes and almost 9,000 packages for additional features) ✗ Only available in English
✓ Simple and slim user interface
✓ Large community for further development and support

Bluefish (Windows, Linux, macOS, FreeBSD, Solaris, OpenBSD)

Key features:

  • Standard code editing features such as syntax highlighting, auto-completion, error correction, or find/replace
  • Convenient quick launch menu and shortcut functions
  • Emmet support
  • Unicode character browser and HTML tag dialogs/wizards
  • Split-screen and full-screen editing
  • Remote support via FTP, SFTP, HTTPS and more
  • Support for multiple encodings and many languages
  • Integration of numerous plugin extensions
Pros Cons
✓ Offers all important standard functions, multilingual use and flexible extensibility ✗ User interface can appear cluttered and outdated
✓ Suitable for different operating systems
✓ Doesn’t require much memory or long loading times


Key features:

  • Focuses on the development of web projects with frontend and backend programming
  • Supports other important languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Perl, Python, Java, Ruby, C and C++ besides PHP
  • Split screen (horizontal and vertical)
  • Live preview in the web browser
  • Inline edition support via CSS
  • Customizable via themes
  • Supports Quick Edit and live highlight features
  • Reads and extract PSD design data as CSS code (via Adobe Creative Cloud Extract)
Pros Cons
✓ Developed and maintained by Adobe Systems ✗ A bit outdated in terms of functions and operation compared to other editors
✓ Focus on web development via frontend and backend
✓ Easy to use thanks to JavaScript foundation and WYSIWYG functions

Vim (Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS)

Key features:

  • Important standard features such as syntax highlighting, auto-completion, search history, error correction, split-screen and more
  • Supports Java, Python, Ruby, Lua, JavaScript, C, C++, Perl, and more, in addition to PHP
  • Allows you to compare and merge files
  • Supports various protocols such as FTP, SSH and HTTP
  • Provides a text user interface and an optional visual user interface
  • Offers extensive extensibility through over 1,000 Vim plugins or custom functions created via Vim Script
  • Six different modes for code editing (including easy mode for beginners)
  • Multilingual and Unicode
  • Integrated tutorial for usage
Pros Cons
✓ Compact, streamlined editor offering multiple editing modes and almost unlimited extensibility ✗ Familiarization requires more effort from inexperienced users
✓ Suitable for around 500 programming languages, multilingual and free of charge
✓ Optional operation only possible via keyboard
✓ Integrated guide and Vim documentation

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Overview of paid PHP editors

Sublime Text 3 (Windows, Linux, macOS)

Key features:

  • Important functions such as code highlighting, code preview, auto-completion, command search or search/replace of code elements.
  • Integrated package manager and flexible extensibility through plugins (e.g. for linting, code testing, commenting, formatting or optimizing)
  • Also WordPress-specific plugins
  • Split screen and multiple selection
  • Menus, macros, keyboard mapping and snippets can be customized
Pros Cons
✓ Powerful, extensible editor with many additional PHP plugins ✗ Only available in English
✓ Large plugin library ✗ Full functionality only in paid version
✓ Available for free (permanent trial with pop-up reminders)

UltraEdit (Windows, Linux, macOS)

Key features:

  • Out-of-the-box functionality with easy onboarding
  • Pleasant, customizable user interface with themes and layouts
  • Supports cloud and remote server capabilities and cloud synchronization
  • Convenient search functions within and between files
  • Live preview of code in HTML and Markdown
  • Comprehensive command list
  • Support for FTP/SFTP and SSH/Telnet for remote programming
  • Supports PHP and many other languages such as HTML, CSS, Markdown, JavaScript, Ruby, Perl, Python, MySQL and JSON
  • Supports features like multi-caret editing, customizable tabs, column mode and multi-selection
  • Allows working with very large files without failures or crashes
  • Includes UltraCompare Pro tool for comparing files of different types and version control with systems of Git, CVS or Subversion
Pros Cons
✓ Functions as an out-of-the-box solution with configurable, pleasant user interface and wide range of functions ✗ Due to scope of functions, a somewhat longer training period is necessary
✓ Suitable for working via cloud or remote server
✓ Effective for very large files
✓ Supports many different file formats

Rapid PHP Editor (Windows)

Key features:

  • Windows-based editor for PHP files as well as many other file types
  • Live preview of PHP files (via local web server) as well as multi-browser previews
  • Individual configuration through various designs, layouts and functions
  • Supports many other languages besides PHP such as LESS, CSS, SQL, JavaScript, XML and Smarty
  • HTML/CSS validator integrated
  • Real-time syntax validation for PHP
  • Support for PHP frameworks (WordPress, Symfony, Prado, Laravel and more)
  • PHP debugger and beautifier
  • Supports Smarty template engine
  • Files can be saved via FTP/FTPS/SFTP
  • Integration for Git and SVN
Pros Cons
✓ Slim and fast editor for PHP and other file types ✗ Only suitable for Windows
✓ Beginner-friendly with easy onboarding wizard
✓ Flexible customizable
✓ For frontend and backend development

Smultron (macOS)

Key features:

  • Customizable with themes, layouts, key bindings, and additional features
  • Features like file comparison, split file view, HTML preview, code snippets and auto-completion
  • Very good data protection
  • Scan function for text via iPhone/iPad
  • Support for iCloud
  • Advanced encoding possible, including UTF-8 BOM
  • View with all functions
  • Full accessibility
  • Advanced search functions
  • Support for vertical text as well as right-to-left languages
Pros Cons
✓ Attractive design including pleasant user interface and quick startup ✗ Only suitable for macOS
✓ Good data protection
✓ Easy configurability and good accessibility
✓ Free test phase

The best PHP IDEs at a glance

PHP IDEs are available in both free and paid versions, allowing users to choose based on their specific requirements. Free IDEs offer essential features like debugging, profiling, refactoring, and syntax checking, which are crucial for PHP development. On the other hand, premium IDEs offer a range of professional additional functions designed to meet the needs of companies. These features include technical support, extensive framework support, integrations with various tools, and content management system capabilities.

We have looked at the following free and paid PHP IDEs for you:

Eclipse PDT JetBrains PhpStorm
CodeLite CodeLobster
Apache NetBeans Codeanywhere (Cloud IDE)
Komodo IDE Zend Studio
Eclipse Che (Cloud IDE)


Eclipse PDT (Windows, Linux, macOS, Solaris)

Key features:

  • Extensively customizable user interface (UI, layouts and panels)
  • Flexibly extensible with Eclipse plugins
  • Provides PHP functions such as debugging, refactoring, profiling, syntax checking and testing
  • PHP wizard for projects and classes
  • Web server integration for live preview
  • Auto-completion, code navigation and content wizard
  • Provides code templates and advanced PHP code formatting
  • Git client
  • Support for integrating your own web server to work with PHP files
  • Integration with PHP tools such as Zend Debugger, Xdebug, PHPUnit and Composer possible
Pros Cons
✓ Practical development environment for the Java Virtual Machine ✗ Only in combination with Java Runtime Environment (JRE) or Java Development Kit (JDK)
✓ Flexibly configurable user interface
✓ Offers all common PHP functions including a Git client and assistance functions for classes, projects and content

CodeLite (Windows, Linux, macOS, FreeBSD)

Key features:

  • Supports PHP as an IDE for C++ (via pre-installed plugins)
  • Includes all major IDE features for working with PHP including debugging, project and workspace management, panes, auto-completion and task management
  • Integrated setup wizard
  • Supports C, C++, Node.js, JavaScript, HTML, and more in addition to PHP
  • Can be set up specifically as a PHP editor for web development
  • Good go-to and find/replace functions
  • Features like refactoring, debugging and linting
  • PHP wizard for classes
  • Supports SFTP (with SSH account manager)
  • Git integration
  • Various diff tools for files and directories
Pros Cons
✓ Free and open-source development environment ✗ No comprehensive tutorial or starter project offerings
✓ Not based on Java (JRE and JDK not a requirement)
✓ No account registration required
✓ Flexibly configurable

Apache NetBeans (Windows, Linux, macOS, BSD)

Key features:

  • Works as part of the Java Virtual Machine and supports many other languages besides PHP such as CSS, Sass, JavaScript, C, C++, Java and LESS.
  • Allows execution, debugging and editing of PHP files
  • Flexibly configurable interface with themes and panes
  • Features such as syntax highlighting, go-to definitions, auto-completion, code formatting and folding, error highlighting, smart suggestions, and more
  • Unit testing (via Selenium and PHPUnit)
  • Supports version control systems from Git, Mercurial or Subversion
  • Flexibly extendable with over 1,000 plugins via the NetBeans Plugin Portal
  • Supports PHP frameworks such as WordPress, Zend, Symfony and Yii
  • Offers semantic code analysis
Pros Cons
✓ Maintained by Apache Software Foundation ✗ Java Runtime Environment is required
✓ Very user-friendly, free and powerful development environment
✓ Easy onboarding including demos and sample projects
✓ Easy to get started with a PHP and HTML5 learning path

Komodo IDE (Windows, Linux, macOS)

Key features:

  • Useful PHP features like live preview, unit tests, autocomplete, minimap, multiple selection, chrome debugging and a dependency detector
  • Support for many other languages such as CSS, JavaScript, Node.js, Python, HTML, Perl, Ruby and Golang
  • Code refactoring and code browser
  • HTTP inspector and database explorer
  • Vagrant and Docker integration
  • Enables integration with version control systems from Git, Subversion, CVS, Perfore or Mercurial
  • Real-time collaboration and share capabilities via Slack
  • Wizard for onboarding and projects
Pros Cons
✓ Cross-platform, free development environment for many programming languages ✗ Professional support only available with commercial subscription plan
✓ All common PHP functions and IDE functionalities
✓ Also available as a pure PHP editor with Komodo Edit

Eclipse Che - Cloud IDE (all operating systems via web browser)

Key features:

  • Enables application development in preset, container and cloud-based workspaces including runtimes, dependencies, project code and IDE
  • Supports real-time collaboration of hundreds of developers simultaneously
  • Works via online IDE in web browser
  • Container-based PHP development
  • One-click setup of a preconfigured workspace
  • Configure PHP stacks and customize editor interfaces
  • Location and device independent working
  • Devfile templates
  • Preconfigured sample projects such as plain PHP, Symfony with MySQL, Laravel with MySQL or plain PHP with Apache web server
  • Terminal access to all sample projects
  • Flexibly extendable via plugins
Pros Cons
✓ Supports multi-user collaboration for hundreds of participants simultaneously ✗ No “own” IDE
✓ One-click installation of the IDE
✓ Many pre-built sample projects
✓ Flexible customizable editor interfaces and plugin functions


JetBrains PhpStorm (Windows, Linux, macOS)

Key features:

  • Very minimalistic, intuitive user interface with additional on-demand features and configuration settings
  • Includes outline view for HTML5 and prioritization of code issues
  • Provides on-the-fly error prevention
  • Advanced refactoring features and debugging (with zero-config visual debugger, Xdebug or Zend Debugger)
  • Facilitates switching between PHP versions
  • Supports version control systems from Git, Subversion and Mercurial
  • Suitable for both PHPUnit (test-based development) and Behat (behavior-based development)
  • In addition to PHP, supports CSS, Markdown, JavaScript, Node.js. React, TypeScript, MySQL XML and LESS
  • Suitable for all major PHP frameworks (WordPress, Zend Framework, Yii, Magento, Laravel and CakePHP)
Pros Cons
✓ Good, simple user interface and fast startup ✗ Relatively expensive
✓ Easy onboarding with flexible configuration settings
✓ Enables front-end and back-end development thanks WebStormm integration
✓ Integration with Composer package manager enables dependency management via IDE

CodeLobster (Windows, Linux, macOS)

Key features:

  • User interface shows all available hideable menus, panels and features
  • Can be used as a combination of free PHP editor and paid, optional IDE
  • Editor provides all major PHP features such as syntax highlighting, auto-completion and debugging features
  • Comprehensive PHP support with plugins for WordPress, Drupal, Symfony, Yii, Laravel and Codelgniter
  • Support for Twig and Smarty template engines
  • Integrated plugin manager
  • Code inspector for HTML/CSS
  • HTML/CSS/PHP code validation
  • SQL manager and FTP/SFTP client
  • Supports version control systems of Git, SVN and Mercurial
  • Handy code templates and code snippets
Pros Cons
✓ Available both as a free PHP editor and as a paid PHP IDE ✗ Relatively messy user interface
✓ Practical plugin manager for all installed and available plugins
✓ WordPress-specific IDE functionalities with WordPress plugin

Zend Studio (Windows, Linux, macOS, IBM i)

Key Features:

  • Based on Eclipse PDT IDE and can be installed as an Eclipse plugin or separately
  • Effortless integration with Zend products such as Zend Debugger, Zend Server, Zend Guard as well as Lamina’s API tools and frameworks
  • Supports many other frameworks, tools, web servers and debuggers
  • PHP-specific functionality such as code wizard, cloud deployment (public and private) and relational database management systems
  • Automation for model creation
  • Intelligent code editing for PHP and other languages such as JavaScript, HTML, CSS and Markdown
  • Versatile debugging capabilities (with Zend Debugger, Xdebug or Z-Ray)
  • Container-based PHP applications thanks to support for Docker
  • Integrates with various version control systems and Composer
  • Usable with popular cloud platforms such as Azure, AWS, IBM Cloud or Red Hat’s OpenShift
Pros Cons
✓ Seamlessly compatible with other Zend products and Eclipse plugins ✗ Fairly complex
✓ Available both separately and as an Eclipse PDT IDE ✗ Not backward compatible with custom versions
✓ Offers many different tutorials, sample videos and templates
✓ Very fast at validating, searching and indexing

Codeanywhere – Cloud IDE (all operating systems via web browser, iOS, Android)

Key features:

  • Platform-independent IDE for use in web browsers or mobile systems
  • Supports over 100 code languages including PHP, CSS, JavaScript, TypeScript, Node.js, Python, Go, Ruby, LESS, Java
  • Use in OpenVZ container, own server or via third-party providers such as GitHub, Bitbucket, Google Drive, Amazon S3 or even DigitalOcean
  • Starts with either preconfigured or custom PHP and WordPress stacks
  • Live testing of PHP applications over HTTP and HTTPS protocols
  • Support for additional protocols such as FTP, FTPS, SFTP or SSH
  • Git can be integrated via terminal
  • Intelligent PHP features like refactoring, minimap, autocomplete or go-to definitions
  • Real-time pair programming with shared files
  • Configurable layouts as views with rows, columns, grids or as split screen
  • Live preview in web browser and one-click code beautification
Pros Cons
✓ Can be used via web browser as well as iOS and Android
✓ All-important PHP editing functions included
✓ Live preview and live testing of PHP applications
✓ Very user-friendly and easy to navigate


The choice between a PHP editor and a PHP IDE depends on individual requirements and the complexity of the project. Free PHP editors are ideal for users who may not have extensive programming knowledge and don’t regularly work on PHP files. They offer advantages such as a shallow learning curve, quick startup times, and a minimalist and user-friendly interface. Examples of such editors include Notepad++ and Smultron.

Premium PHP editors, on the other hand, are highly recommended for those seeking a comprehensive set of features and support for a wide range of file types and programming languages. Premium editors often come with a vibrant community, their own marketplace, and a plugin library, which are suitable for complex tasks working with PHP files.

If your development plans involve complex frontend and backend work with PHP, or if you require specific frameworks and tools, PHP IDEs are the ideal choice. These usually also offer an integrated web server, a stack overview or selection and options for testing applications. A combination of editor and IDE such as Zend Studio or CodeLobster is also suitable.

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