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It seems that I don’t blog much unless IDE’s are concerned; there is a good reason for this: IDEs are an integral part of my development process and when they suck, development sucks.

The story so far:

  • Boy meets ZDE 2.5
  • ZDE grows up to 5.5
  • ZDE gets replaced by new eclipse-based ZSfE/PDT
  • ZDE keeps going, until one day, Boy upgrades OSX
  • Boy hacks OSX, but ZDE is running on a donut
  • OSX update kills ZDE for good
  • Boy cries
  • Boy finds Netbeans

This is the continuation of that story. In the last installment Netbeans 6.7 was a nightly build, it had gotten it’s OSX look and feel, and it was starting to get it’s remote debugging up and running.

Now, 6.8 has been out for almost 2 months, and things are really starting to gather steam. With the death of ZDE5.5 finally a reality, and PHP 5.3 code starting to become part of my work-day, I finally jumped 100% to Netbeans.

And let me tell you, Netbeans 6.8 is nothing short of amazing. Debugging with xdebug is now almost as easy as ZDE, it works instantly on 90% of my remote machines, but I have 1 cluster for which Netbeans simply *cannot* find the local source file, making it impossible to debug.

Watches, breakpoints (though, I haven’t figured out conditional breakpoints, if they are there), callstack and local variables work as you would expect (though watches/variables sometimes refuse to populate larger vars, I think this is xdebug config related). In addition, Netbeans supports arbitrary breakpoint groupings; these can be enabled and disabled as a group — very neat.

In addition, it has path mapping to help with remote/local file correlation; so it can find the local file to show the source during debugging — this stops the problem ZDE has where two files have the same basename() and it’s unable to choose the correct one.

However, a fully functional debugger is a minimum requirement. Netbeans 6.8 also has great support for PHP 5.3 (though it has some syntax support bugs), again another minimum.

So where does Netbeans shine? The single biggest answer to that, is PHPUnit support. Netbeans lets you specify your test folder, and abstracts it out of the project, so your tests are separated visually; this is a great minor addition. In addition, Netbeans can generate unit tests (this utilizes phpunit’s built-in functionality), and has a great UI for running tests.

You can run a single unit test by simply right clicking on the test and choosing Run, or you can test a whole project by right clicking on the project and choosing Test. Doing this will bring up the Test Results pane:

As you can see, it shows the number of tests, the test suite, and it’s test status; this can then be expanded to show individual test methods.

Further to this, you can have Netbeans capture code coverage information, if you have the xdebug extension installed locally. This then manifests visually in two ways; the first, is a summary:

The second, more impressive/useful way, is visually within each file:

You will also notice that this adds a set of buttons below the code, which can be used to run the test for just the current file (based on the typical phpunit file/test naming structure, I assume) and to re-run the entire test suite.

To me, this integration is phenomenal, and is changing the way I work. This is a great example of an IDE conforming to your workflow, and proving new ways to do things; rather than fighting you and requiring you to change to it’s needs and ideals.

Other things of note, Netbeans 6.8 has Symfony project integration, and 6.9 is including Zend Framework integration, if those things appeal to you — I have yet to play with either, so can’t comment on their usefulness.

I can, without doubt, confidently say, that despite the few bugs, and some still immature minor things, Netbeans is my recommendation for an IDE.

Go grab Netbeans today.

- Davey