Some points to consider when answering my question:

  1. I'm new to PHP, coming from a Windows / .NET background
  2. My PHP dev enviroment consists of a Vista x64 / IIS7 with FastCGI / PHP5
  3. I need something light-weight
  4. The following features would be nice
    • Syntax highlighting and colorization
    • Code formating
    • Auto-completion
+19  A: 

While I was working on Windows I always favored Notepad++. Its very lightweight, but also doesn't have a lot of the IDE level features you might be used to from .NET land.

Even if it's not for php, Notepad++ needs to be in every coder's toolkit. I use it for php, xml, javascript, config files, and *gasp* note taking.
I use notepad++ for everything except .NET development. However, it's also handy to have an IDE available for things like debugging. I find plugging a debugger into a 'remote server' fairly difficult.
Josh Smeaton
I prefer Geany over Notepad++. It has the same editor (scintilla) but code completion is much better.
Milan Babuškov
+18  A: 

Eclipse with PDT

Sam Wessel
^ and this is what the voting buttons are for ;p
Sam Wessel
"3. I need something light-weight" != Eclipse
Yeah, I'm kinda surprised this got picked. Seriously? Eclipse with PDT is considered a "lightweight" solution by 20 people?
-1 lightweight as in "will break your neck"
just somebody
+1  A: 

Dreamweaver does everything you listed, but isn't very lightweight. I like it because of the ability to have it write a lot of the simple HTML and CSS for me. It also has built in docs on javascript, html, php, and much much more. I would definitely suggest checking it out.

Scott S.
I like dreamweaver because of the built in site manager (it seems to work better than anything else I've tried) and it handles html+php better than anything. The other apps I've tried confuse the html with the php.
Dreamweaver does a great job and is way more lightweight than Eclipse!
+1  A: 

EditPlus is very lightweight, and meets all of your criteria except for the auto-complete.

+10  A: 

I would highly suggest the Aptana Studio, for your enviroment. More info is here.

And a Review is Here.

Was an awesome tool in version 1.5, but the replacement of Aptana PHP with Eclipse PDT was a huge step backward. I'd suggest downloading the 1.5 version to enjoy awesome PHP support including very fast intellisense.
Cory House
I would suggest Aptana for JavaScript development but not for PHP
+1  A: 

I swear by EditPad Pro. It is lightweight with syntax colouring and code formatting, but it does not include auto completion (which personally I don't use anyway). It does have an amazing search function too.

+1  A: 

I like VS.PHP because I like to work inside of Visual Studio.

It costs $99, but seems to work fairly well for my purposes.

Ryan Smith
+1  A: 

I second Notepad++, it's lightweight, fast and works very well. When you enable word completion in the options it's a great support while coding (there are function completion files for several languages available, too). Also take a look at plugins.

Alternatively, use a full-fledged IDE. These are worth a look:

  • Zend Studio for Eclipse
  • Eclipse with PDT
  • Netbeans 6.5
+1 for netbeans.

Delphi for PHP is a good PHP editor. It isn't however in the lightweight free category. It has all your features plus a visual WYSIWYG page designer.

Check out the feature list, it is pretty impressive. A lot of screen shots. If you are coming from a rich .NET development background this will really be familiar to you.

Jim McKeeth

PHP Designer is pretty solid. I found it to be lighter-weight than Eclipse, has built-in support for TortoiseSVN, PHPDocumenter and some other utilities. It's not free, but it's reasonably priced - $60, I think.

+2  A: 
  • jEdit is a great editor, but you need to install some plugins before it's at its best.

    • It's got great syntax highlighting (esp. with the Editor Scheme plugin)
    • It has excellent remote-file editing support with the FTP plugin
    • It has the easiest-to-use Diff tool I've used
    • It's java-based, and a little heavy on resources, but it's cross-platform.
    • (The plugins I install are: BufferList, CtagsSidekick (along with ctags), Editor Scheme, FTP (remote editing FTW!), JDiff, JTidy, PHPParser, Sessions, SideKick, TaskList, XML and XML Indenter.)
  • I've recently started using Komodo Edit (The free version of Komodo IDE), and I'm really liking it.

    • It's fully cross-platform (because it's based on XUL).
    • It's got good syntax highlighting and error correction.
    • It's got really good code completion & browsing.
    • It's also nice to be able to specify a URL to preview your current file that is not necessarily the path of the file itself - so you can edit a class file and preview it using a test harness very easily.
    • If I was starting out, this would be my recommendation.
  • A lot of people love Eclipse with PDT, but I've never really used it. May be worth checking out, but apparently it's relatively resource-hungry.

I used jEdit for 4 years before switching to Elcipse PDT, now there is no turning back.jEdit still is my backup editor for weird stuff like xml, direct ftp/sftp editing, binary files and all that.
+1  A: 

Before I moved to developing mainly in C# I did quite a bit of PHP development using Notepad++. It's advantages are:

  • Lightweight.
  • Free.
  • Highlighting of other instances of selected text in the same document.
  • Wide variety of available plugins.
  • Regular releases.
  • Find-In-files.
  • Function Completion.
  • Obviously not tied to PHP development.
+2  A: 

I agree with Sam: Eclipse with PDT is the best for what you want:

  • Syntax highlighting and colorization
  • Code formating
  • Auto-completion

Here's a step-by-step tutorial on how to install it and use those features. I've installed it on my Vista laptop and it worked fine:

Install a PHP Development Environment with Eclipse PDT, Apache 2.2, PHP 5, MySQL 5, and phpMyAdmin Using XAMPP Lite

Edward Tanguay

UEStudio is indispensable for me - it's my main killer-app stopping me from switching to Ubuntu full time. Having used eclipse at my previous job, I found it a bit of a resource hog and the interface was awful (I'll often have 20-30+ files open at once and the tab interface didn't work that well, for me at least).

Strictly speaking UES isn't a PHP IDE (you won't get integrated debugging), but it ticks all your boxes.

The only downside is that it isn't free. Their website has a 45 day free trial (no signup or anything), which will be definitely long enough to let you know if it's for you.

+4  A: 


woo! ..........
Carson Myers
+1  A: 

I've enjoyed using PhpED, mostly because I just started learning PHP and having the debugger to step through my code and teach me what I'm doing wrong really helps. But it's not particularly lightweight, and I imagine that after getting my chops I'd move more to a text-editor solution.

I'm just taking a step in the opposite direction, from stripped down text editors to the full-featured PhpED IDE. It saves me a lot of time!
Christian Davén
+2  A: 

I've always used Zend Studio and I couldn't live without it. Break points and tracing are magic. If you have complex code, just execute line by line, checking that values and logic are as expected. How do people develop large applications with edit only programs like Notepad?

I have a colleage who programs ASP.NET/C# in VS2008 and prefers to put Response.Write statements all over the place to debug instead of using breakpoints and stepping through code. I badger him about this constantly, especially when he asks me for help.
Wow! That's the only thing I really miss when using a text editor for development. Write statement's polute the code so much (even if it's only temporary) and the ability to step through a large program to see the control flow is invaluable when maintaining old code.
Josh Smeaton
*How do people develop large applications with edit only programs like Notepad?* people can read and write code and use unit tests.
just somebody

Lightweight is not: Dreamweaver, Aptana, Netbeans, Eclipse

It really depends on what you are doing, if you arent using OOP then you dont need a full blown IDE.... same with debugging, etc..

Lightweight, debugging, syntax coloring, etc.... I would try PHP Editor 2008

I have used it before and loved it... but allways go back to Programmers Notepad or my new friend e-TextEditor which is a copy of Textmate from the mac.

Since you are new to PHP anyway you arent going to be able to tell the difference between half of these.... :/


E Text editor


I use UltraEdit, EditPlus, Notepad++, and Notepad2. All are light weight. UltraEdit does do code completion I think... I'm not really sure as I don't use it.

UltraEdit is my main editor.

EditPlus used to be my main editor (I keep it around for regex search/replace when UltraEdit's regex support doesn't work right).

Notepad2 I have associated with most code file types (php, js, css, etc) for quick editing while browsing files in Windows Explorer.

Notepad++ I use for quick editing, similar to the way I use Notepad2, but I switch to Notepad++ if I need to open up multiple files from the same project. Yeah, I should probably just open them in UltraEdit if I'm gonna do that, but for some reason I don't.

Just the way I work. I'm weird I guess?

+12  A: 

PHP ED is the by far the best i find. i've tried pretty much everything out there. and this is the best php editor. i love linux...but i keep on windows because of PHP ED.

its fast! and and it very full featured.

it has:

auto code completion, build in database client, built in ssh(command line prompt), sftp, ftp etc support. (mount drives), remote and local debugger, code explorer, framework recognition, extensive language color coding options for multiple languages, html form builders, code formatting. the list goes on.

hands down PHPED is the top php editor.

there is also great forum support for this editor as well.

I like the fact that it comes as a single package, without having to fiddle with eclipse plugins and third party debug dlls.
I have been using phpEd for many years and like it, but the forum support leaves much to be desired sometimes. I see way too many unanswered legitimate questions there to be satisfied.
Where is the code formatting?
+2  A: 

I'm a big fan of Zend Studio... its designed for PHP and I just can't live without the IDE features. Alternatives are ActiveState's Komodo IDE

Marc Gear

I currently work on a couple of PHP on windows projects and i mostly use Notepad++, while the editor arena for windows is chockfull of competition (many of them real good) i have found that notepad++ quick load times and lighting fast any-word auto completion to speed-up my development time notably. The only downside i'd mention is debugging effort, depending on how you plan on debugging you might want to look into setting up PDT, for file working however, it's hard to beat npp.

Feature rundown

  • autocomplete for any word you type
  • auto text expansion/snippets to preset keywords (customizable,example: type "if" it writes "if {;} then {;}") with custom cursor navigation inside de snippet.
  • code collapsing on more levels than some other editors
  • function tooltip assists (you can add custom APIs)
  • explorer-like functionality to browse project files
    • If you use tortoiseSvn or similar GUI tools, you can use them from here.
  • excelent macro/external tools support
  • code formatting, aligning,validating (some through external tools) functionality
  • can be used portable (from a usb stick,external hdd,etc)

(many of this functionalities come from plugins, baked in to the default install)


WeBuilder/Rapid PHP seem to cover your requirements nicely, and even support some rudimentary debugging.

I tried, but have not extensively used, phpCoder - it's very nice. The only reason I didn't purchase was because I already had WeBuilder.

Finally, I have used Komodo IDE, which is outstanding, but I'm not sure it can be called lightweight. They also offer a free, open source version - Komodo Edit - which does not include debugging, but I believe meets the requirements you list.

Michael Burr

I've recently tried phpDesigner 2008, which seems to be a good IDE. However, I haven't used it long enough to give a fair verdict.

Edit: Strike that, I've given up on it. Search doesn't work, the auto-complete and error detection is obnoxious and it has some window focus bugs that drive me crazy. I'm switching to NuSphere PhpED.

Christian Davén
+1  A: 

Visual Studio in combination with VS.Php is the ultimate tool ;)

It even supports debugging with IIS and is MS Certified.


I use TextPad for editing everything. It's not specifically for PHP, but it can be customised for any language. Syntax templates are available for every language you've heard of and 200 you haven't on their website


Considering you didn't say that the editor must be free, i'd recommend Komodo IDE. It's a paid product, but wow, it's amazing. Their debugging support is on-par with Visual Studio; it's dramatically faster than Zend Studio. The code completion engine is very strong.

I've also found their developers to be particularly responsive - i've submitted numerous little feature requests, and lo and behold, they showed up in vNext. They even let you see the status of your requests live on their site.


I use Geany. It loads very fast (instantly) and has good support for PHP, and for mixing PHP, HTML, JavaScript and CSS in the same file. If has autocompletion for all PHP functions, and also detects classes and functions for easy navigation. One thing important in PHP development, it can tell you where you first used a variable (if you have large files or large functions).

It also detects valid and invalid CSS and autocompletes HTML. For example if you type TABLE tag, it generates a template TR and TD stuff.

Milan Babuškov
+1  A: 

Vim Vim Vim Vim Vim VIM!
Although I've just started trying out Eclipse with PDT and it seems quite nice. Other than that I've never been able to find an editor that 100% meets my needs unfortunately :( I must be far to picky.

Adam Gibbins

I second Mike B's suggestions, mainly for TSW phpCoder from I purchased the application a couple of months ago, along with "TSW SiteSync" (website synchronization software, works great with phpCoder) and I have become addicted to this editor. I would buy it for the debugging and PHP Tidy features alone, but there's so much more. Give it a try, it's pretty fairly priced.


I use Intype, after searching for days, and trying dozens, i found it the simplest and by far my favorite, it's like Textmate, but for Windows and i use it on Vista



I suggest new free PHP IDE - Codelobster PHP Edition

It has also Drupal, Joomla, WordPress and Smarty plug-ins.

Regards, Stas.


My recommendations:

WeBuilder, PHP Designer.

both supports UTF, which is important. Debugging is quite amateur, AFAIK they don't support remote debugging.

But if you need a real PRO IDE -- go for Komodo IDE. It also supports Perl, Python and RoR.


I'm a big fan of E-TextEditor. It doesn't have autocomplete, but the bundles, snippets, and multiple-selection ability are amazing for how simple and lightweight it is.

It works with any of the bundles from TextMate, and it's easy to write your own.

Check out the screencast on the homepage. It's much more impressive looking than I'm making it sound.


The one true editor does PHP very nicely.

Ben Straub
I could not for the life of me get emacs to highlight web-based code properly. Although I only tried it on an existing product I had to modify, which had PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript all in the same source file... it was truly horrible. That being said though, I like when an editor does HTML and PHP in the same file nicely, which is a pain to make emacs do in my experience.
Carson Myers

You should check Aptana Studio which eclipse based development enviroment.Also support javascript,ajax,ruby on rails,python development and it has smooth user interface if you compare other editors for php.I used most of them(komodo,eclipse pdt,php designer...) but aptana studio is the most suitable for me.You can look at here

Burak Dede
+1  A: 

gVim on windows!

But I haven't gone beyond basic edit/search use. Would like to dig more on Vim...

+3  A: 

It has to be Netbeans for me. Its got all the IDE features you could need and it has the added benefit of running on Mac/PC and Linux so you can use it regardless of platform. Its great features include built in support for Unit testing, debugging and mysql (more info here)

I must admit that it is too slow. I can't bear it with 1GB of RAM.
Buy more RAM. It's cheap ;) runs fine here tho. Plus NB has the best features of all PHP IDE's so +1
Jani Hartikainen

I use Zend Studio and I'm quite happy with it.


I've been using Programmer's Notepad 2. I don't have much to say about it, I've never really tried anything else for web-based programming. It suits my simple needs, so I'm just adding it to the list.

Carson Myers
+1  A: 

IDE: NetBeans for PHP [PHP, HTML, CSS - Auto-completion, Insert Getters/Setters] u dont have that in Eclipse (I tried Eclipse, and Zend Studio - and NB is better by a mile)

EDITOR: Notepad++

Dr Casper Black