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Use PHP with Visual Studio to create Web sites

VS.Php is an integrated development environment, or IDE, that's based on the Visual Studio IDE. Thus, VS.Php lets developers design, develop, debug, and proliferate Php applications from inside the Visual Studio IDE. Because Visual Studio is so popular with so many developers, and Php likewise for so many Web sites (and the developers responsible for their care and feeding) this suggests some serious synergy that those developers at the cross-section of these two worlds would be well-advised to look into.

The company behind VS.php is Jcx.Software Corporation. This Miami, FL based Php development tools vendor is also a member of the Microsoft Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) program. It has been offering versions of VS.Php for sale since 2004, when they offered a version for Visual Studio .NET 2003. In 2005, a version for Visual Studio .NET 2005 followed, with a VS.Php Standalone Edition in 2006. Version 2.5 for Visual Studio 2008 (with additional releases for Visual Studio 2005 and the Standalone Edition) became available in 2008. All of these products cost a whopping $100 per developer ($50 per seat to upgrade from previous editions), which makes it available at a fraction of the cost of Visual Studio itself. The big appeal of the Standalone Edition, in fact, is that it requires only the (free) Microsoft Visual Studio IDE shell to operate, which means that developers can jump into the Php/Visual Studio intersection without necessarily having to foot the bill for Visual Studio team editions, servers, and so forth.

Essentially, what VS.Php does is to integrate the Zend Framework for Php into the Visual Studio IDE. This makes a built-in Php preview engine available to developers. It also provides IntelliSense support for the Zend framework classes, along with class auto-loaders. Likewise, it delivers access to the Model View Controller (MVC) project wizard for the Zend Framework within Visual Studio, offers automatic PhpDoc comment generation, and enables project support at the command line. Even more compelling is VS.Php's support for simultaneous, interactive debugging of both server side and client side code (check out jcx.Software's interesting tutorial on this capability) as well as for remote server projects (there's a tutorial available on this subject, too).

Interested parties will find the screenshot galleries that jcx.Software has put together both informative and illustrative (these include all kinds of dialogs, lists of Php modules, a Solution explorer, task lists and project references, and so on for VS.Php versions for Visual Studio 2008 and 2005). Potential customers from the "try it before you buy it" school will appreciate the company's 30-day trial downloads as well (these are complete, unrestricted versions so they do provide comprehensive exposure to VS.Php's capabilities). Although this product is bound to appeal only to those developers who use both Visual Studio and Php, for that group it's bound to exert intense appeal.

Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security.


This was first published in July 2008

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