Zend – PHP Studio 2.5 review

development suite for PHP sites
Photo of Zend – PHP Studio 2.5
£135 + VAT

PHP is now overtaking ASP as the most popular scripting language on the Web (according to Zend), and it’s odd to think of all those sites being developed with little more than a programmer’s text editor. In fact, many of the more advanced sites are developed using programming suites such as this one. Zend Studio is to PHP what JBuilder is to Java and C++ Builder is to, well, C++.

In other words, it’s a complete development environment, with the accent on a client-server environment. The installation CD (there’s also the option to download the product from the Web on a 21-day trial basis) contains both client and server modules. These can be installed on together on one PC, providing all you need to develop complex PHP applications. However, the ideal solution is to set up a proper client-server model, since this will allow several developers to work on the code from different client machines; handy for larger organisations using PHP, of which there are now many.

During installation of the server component you have the option of also installing the Apache server and the PHP parsing engine, although if you already have these installed then Zend Studio will find them and make the necessary connections. The software on the CD is supplied in various forms. The server is available for use with Windows, Linux, Solaris and FreeBSD, while the client can be used with Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

Once up and running, you start with the main project screen, which is the area in which you can gather the various elements of your applications (classes, methods, functions, etc.) together and see how they are tied together. Opening any particular element will bring up the main development window. As you’d expect, this formats the code nicely with indented lines, colour coding for instructions, values and variables, and the option of having several different items of code open at once so you can tab between them and see how they interact.

Like most development packages, Zend Studio includes a ‘code completion’ function – if it doesn’t understand something you’ve typed in, it’ll pop up a box telling you so and giving you a choice of other, similar instructions from which to choose. Experienced programmers will probably turn this off quite quickly, but it’s useful for the novice. Of greater use to everyone, however, is the debugger, which is essential for any development task. You can set breakpoints, filter messages and view the output in a separate window. A separate, server-based debugger lets you monitor applications from the live server.

A selection of other tools is included in the box, including PHP 4.2.2 itself and a PHP optimiser, designed to help PHP applications run faster by reducing their CPU utilisation.

Company: Zend

Contact: 01483 466 500


Verdict
If you've used any other programming suites then there's little in Zend PHP Studio 2.5 that will surprise you. The functions and tools are mostly where you'd expect them and the interface is quite manageable. Price-wise it compares very favourably with the development suites for other programming languages and it's certainly a lot easier than trying to run commercial Web sites using a text editor and crossed fingers.