Mike Classic

The Journey to PHPStorm

A series of PHPStorm customization posts

Let's go back about twenty years. Sometime in, say, 1992. Back when I was using Netscape, and web pages all had grey backgrounds and still had Gopher links. I was enthralled with this newfound technology, the Internet and the World Wide Web. So cool!


Eventually, I wanted to create my own web pages. This started off with Notepad and local storage of pages. Although I used Notepad for a while, eventually WYSIWYG editors started popping up. After some initial resistance, I decided to jump in and join the trend. I started off with Hotdog Web Editor, if anyone remembers that. Meh. I wasn't head over heels in love.

After that, I got into Adobe products. I started using Dreamweaver. I kind of enjoyed it, but then I was still lukewarm to the whole WYSIWYG thing. Build web pages with a GUI that create the shittiest code known to mankind, aside from, possibly, offshore contractors.

At least Dreamweaver allowed me to build web pages but also code in PHP. Coming from text editors such as Notepad and UltraEdit, that was enough for me. What I really liked about Dreamweaver was that it had FTP built into it, making it easy to keep the pages on the server in sync.

Of course, much later I realized no one should ever edit live!

From HTML to PHP

When it came to PHP development, I started off with PHP 3.

Please don't hold that against me. That's how things were back then. Web development was still in its infancy, it had barely learned how to walk by that point. Perl was still the most popular way to execute server-side scripts via CGI. Nothing wrong with Perl in and of itself — as a matter of fact, it is has very powerful text processing capabilities.

At this point I was still using Dreamweaver but more as a text editor than a web page editor. I was doing PHP in it, I was even doing pre-.NET ASP (VBscript) in it. Ugh. Fun times.


At some point after bouncing around from Dreamweaver, to UltraEdit, to Notepad++, sprinkled generously with Vim (and even Pico/Nano at one point,) I found NetBeans which had a PHP plugin. It was at this point that I started understanding why IDE's were beneficial. I had used IDE's before, but not for PHP. Code completion, code intelligence, even if these things were not perfected, they were a breath of fresh air in what was a stale workflow for me at the time.

NetBeans was one of my first introductions to code completion, PHPDoc-style comments, and VCS, among other things. Although I still used text editors, NetBeans became my primary editor at this point. Notepad++ started to feel jealous.

I had heard of SublimeText 2/3, I had heard of PHPStorm, but I never gave them any chance. I cannot say why, exactly. I had seen them in plenty of tutorial videos, mostly on Tuts+ and Laracasts.

Until one day recently.

I installed a trial version of PHPStorm, tweaked the settings, and quite quickly fell in love with the keyboard-centric workflow. Wow. Double-shift, CTRL+N, CTRL+SHIFT+N, it was just like in Jeffrey Way's videos! Small window pops up, you type a partial class name, and the file opens. Magic!

SCSS file watchers? Beautiful! I used to set up a file watcher in Linux using the watch command in order to compile my CSS. Now I don't even have to leave my IDE.

In this series of posts, I intend to explore the various features and customizations one can perform with PHPStorm. This is as much for me as it is anyone else. It will encourage me, and hopefully at least one of you, to explore PHPStorm and learn new things to enhance your experience.

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