Optimized PHP Development Environment for beginners

PHP has been an easy to learn web programming language for everyone. When it comes to the web PHP holds an 82% market share! PHP has lesser learning curve compared to other web technologies.

PHP was basically introduced to create data driven dynamic web pages. And PHP has passed through many major iterations. PHP 7.0 is the latest release.

If you are just starting up you should take note of the current version. All you need to do is to use this latest version of PHP and you are all set for development.

Here are some tips I have for novice PHP programmers or for any programmers who are just starting up with PHP.

Create local server:

As we all know PHP is a server-side scripting language. You may need to install a web server that communicates with PHP and returns results.

Apache is a standard choice for a web server. It’s free and opensource. A combination of Apache and PHP is very popular amongst developers and hosting providers.

If you prefer you may go with the Nginx web server. It’s another popular web server that works well with PHP.

PHP 5.6 or later versions ship with build in web servers. They are meant for development and testing purposes only. But I would recommend that you stick with the Apache and PHP combo.

And the last thing you need for a local server is the MySQL server. You can install all of the components individually which makes for a power user setup.

If you don’t want to be in all of that disarray you may opt for the XAMPP or WAMP setup. Install the application and you are up for the development.

If you really want to create a hosting like environment you better try your installing and configuring each element individually.

Choose IDE or Editor:

Now that we have the web server ready, the next thing we need is an editor where you can write your PHP code.

You have two options. You can go for some smart code editors like sublime and notepad++ which are the best at their job. They offer syntax highlighting, code completion, plugins or addons, and they are free.

Many developers prefer the sublime editor as it’s available across all platforms. You can use it on PC, MAC and Linux. The packages and small footprint make it stand out from the crowd.

Notepad++ is a free editor but available for PC only. It’s 100% free whereas the sublime text offers an unlimited trial period demo.

If you want more features you should go for the IDE. The Integrated Development Environment (IDE) software would make your programming job very easy.

It offers all of the features you get with code editors and it offers FTP connection support, code debugging, remote debugging, testing, profiling, database connectivity, in application database execution, all with an easy to use version control interface.

If you want to opt a free IDE on PHP my suggestion would be to go with the Netbeans IDE for PHP. If you are good with paid tools then PHPStrom is the best choice you could make right now.


Errors are bound to happen in programming. You are not the exception. It’s common to make mistakes but finding them in a large project is a challenging task.

You need to debug your code to identify and fix the bugs. PHP doesn’t have a native debugging facility. You need to setup XDebug for debugging.

Installation is pretty easy and is guided as well. Follow the official xdebug installation guide. If things don’t workout well, you may consider following the customized xdebug installation guide.

If you are using netbeans or any other debugging supported IDE or editor you may need to place the breakpoint and hit the debug file/project option. Your debugging should then start.

Finally, as you are reading this PHP development environment article, and you are likely working with some sort of website or web application, consider reading our why does your website need to be responsive article. Responsive design is the new web design standard.


Learning and developing web applications using PHP is a fun experience. You learn a lot, especially from your mistakes initially. Once you feel comfortable with the basics start learning some MVC framework like Codeigniter.

About the Author:

Darshan is the founder of AlphansoTech, a WordPress Development Company. You may find him writing a detailed web technology related articles. Codeigniter 4 and WordPress are his latest interests. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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