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Why I Changed My Code Editor

January 8, 2014 Uncategorized

For as long as I have been developing with WordPress and PHP I have used a code editor that has had good FTP support for uploading files to my servers. Up until 2009 BM (Before Mac) I used NotePad++ which is a great, lightweight text editor with FTP functionality. When I purchased my MacBook Pro my replacement was the fashionable Coda. In hindsight, I did not get on that well with Coda and found myself yearning for NotePad++. But I stuck with it because I knew it was popular and must be good, a little like how a teenager feels about beer the first few times. Eventually I got used to it and upgraded to Coda2. It suited my needs and completed the developer feel on my Mac.

Fast forward to 2013 and I have almost completely stopped opening Coda2. After some recent onsite client worked I was introduced to PHPStorm. In a previous life I was an ASP.NET developer programming in C# using Visual Studio. PHPStorm reminds my of the completeness of Visual Studio. It is a full Integrated Development environment whereas Coda is a somewhat glorified text editor that doesn’t perform well in numerous areas.

Version Control

After getting into WordPress plugin development I had to learn and use the version control system Subversion in order to release plugins on the WordPress.org repository. At that time SVN and all things command line were a mystery so knowing that Coda had SVN support was a relief. Until I started using it. It just wasn’t that good, not fully featured and clunky. It made me hate committing, tagging and releasing my plugins. I gave up and installed Cornerstone as my dedicated SVN client.

Recently I have been working on client projects with Git and have been slowing migrating my premium plugins over to Git repositories. Again not feeling totally comfortable managing Git via the command line I looked at Git clients that were available. But I didn’t look for long. The answer was there in front of me inside PHPStorm. It has complete support for Git, SVN and other version control systems.

PHPStorm makes it easy to commit, push, pull, and manage branches. Although purists will still look to the command line, it is the perfect way to manage your repositories inside your code editor.

Performance

I am not a ultra fast coder by any means, but after using Coda with a couple of projects open at one time, I noticed a speed and performance hit that started to affect my work. Beachballing whilst switching projects, poor remote connection handling of timeouts and disconnects and constant crashing all ultimately contributed to its removal from my workflow.

PHPStorm is a large piece of software but handles multiple instances and large files with more speed and grace.

Better Debugging

PHPStorm enables more mature development practices than Coda did and debugging is a prime example. When I was a Visual Studio user breakpoints and debugging code was the norm. But using Coda to write PHP meant I reverted to printing out debugging messages to log files. This was perhaps a symptom of my lack of knowledge about PHP at the time, but cost me a large amount of time chasing errors and searching for mistakes.

PHPStorm integrates with xdebug extremely well and has increased my understanding of PHP scope, function execution, and performance.

For a minute think about why you are using your code editor. Does it do everything you need it to do? Can you find an alternative to improve your coding workflow and help your work smarter and faster?

Iain I’m a WordPress developer based on the south coast of England. I develop plugins like Intagrate and WP User Manager. I write about the WordPress ecosystem over at WP Trends.
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