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Zend Studio 8.0 Review

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PROS / This application has the most comprehensive task manager and collaboration tools.

CONS / The training offered for this product by the company is limited.

 VERDICT / For an editor with such an extensive feature set, it's very easy to use and offers plenty of product support.

Zend Studio is the best PHP editor we came across and the winner of the TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award. While there are freeware versions of editors available, they don't have anywhere near the capabilities of this product. This PHP editor goes above and beyond what is expected, including options such as comprehensive PHP and JavaScript debugging, team collaboration and remote server support. This PHP editor is definitely one to look into even if you don't consider yourself a master at the coding language.

One of the key features of Zend – The PHP Company – is that the founders are ongoing contributors to PHP. They took the idea from another programmer and changed the parser to make the PHP core that is used today. The company was formed in Israel but has offices all over the world including locations in California, Germany, France, Italy and Ireland. The company is still one of the leaders for development and distribution of PHP applications.


This PHP editor takes the cake for having the most tools while still boasting the most easily navigable interface. We'll start with the most important feature: the text editor. Looking at black and white lines of code for hours on end can make anyone go cross-eyed. That's why the developers of Zend Studio decided to give your eyes a break by smartly color coding the text so you can identify parts of the code easier. This PHP editor not only has the convenient color coding options that let you know which parts are text, HTML, JavaScript or PHP, but there are quite a few other options of the PHP toolkit as well including the validation and bookmarks. The script which validates the code runs every time you save the document. All of the errors and warnings are logged and easily accessible. The log gives a description and a location of the problem. If you double-click on the entry it will take you directly to where the issue is. In the editor itself, the errors are also marked on the right side of the window in either red, for error, or yellow, for warning. This makes it easy to look through the document and see where you have problems. After you fix the code, save the document and the document will be validated again. That is when the errors disappear. You can also add bookmarks within the tags so you can move easily to various sections when you need to within the PHP development software application.

Another feature of this PHP editor is the debugger. This goes through the scripts to make sure all of the PHP is coded correctly, which is different than the validation script which focuses on the static HTML. After the debugger tests all of the scripts and coding in the PHP, the PHP software application will give a list of what it did and also create a log if there are any problems. This isn't run automatically when the document is saved, but it is really simple to press the little bug icon to test what you've done. During the debugging process the browser output will display the information as it would be seen in a live environment.

No other PHP editor comes close to Zend Studio's task list. This goes above and beyond what we've ever seen in a PHP editor like this. It uses the Agile method for development. Not only can you assign due dates and priorities, but resources and estimated project completion time. This task list is also set up so you can work as a team on the same project using the same task list to keep everyone updated. We were really impressed with this collaboration option that makes it easy to delegate and monitor what everyone on the team is doing. There is also a simplified task list that can be used if you don't need the more complex collaboration tools.

Some of the other features of this PHP editor include a built-in browser with preview, server integration, spell-checker, templates, auto-complete for the code, character set support, code collapsing and the ever-useful line numbers. The built-in browser means you can see exactly what will happen when the site is live and you don't have to launch a separate browser. The auto-complete opens when you start to write a code or a script. This way you don't have to remember where all of the underscores or brackets have to go in order to get the right formatting. The character set support makes it so you don't have to use the ASCII or HTML code in order to get characters like & or $ to appear correctly in the text.

Ease of Use

This PHP editor is easy to use, especially considering everything that it can do. The interface of the PHP editor is based on tabbed windows. These windows can be moved and sized however you see the need. This makes it easy to work on the code in one window and switch to the debugging terminal or look at the browser in another output. There are several perspectives built into the PHP editor that focus on a certain aspect of the process – like debugging, JavaScript, PHP or XML – but all of these can be rearranged how you want them to be. In the bottom left corner of the window you can add buttons for more window options. These are toggled on and off with the button and can be tools like the RSS feed, palette, bookmarks, error log and even search. We liked this functionality of the PHP toolkit because it still gives us the option of having all of these tools readily available without taking up unnecessary real estate on our screen. There are controls down the right side of the window to maximize and minimize windows.

When working within the lines of text, especially large projects with hundreds if not thousands of lines, trying to remember where each specific piece of code is can be a hassle. This PHP editor has a few tools to make searching easier. The first is the Find/Replace. While the first use that comes to mind is using this to find code in the editor, this PHP editor took it so much further. You can also search within the console output, browser output, debugger, expressions and some of the other available tools. This makes working with the text a lot easier, especially when you have something specific to locate.

Another helpful aspect of this PHP editor is that the definitions and formatting are readily available. Helpful information pops up when the mouse hovers over a code. In HTML the information refers to the purpose of the tag. When you are working with PHP the information that is displayed shows the template to follow for the coding. If you want more information about the specific string being used you can always bring up the PHP code window as it lists all of the available scripts.

A small but handy feature of this PHP editor is that you can have multiple projects open at the same time. We were pleased at how easy it is to open and close projects by using the project explorer window. This keeps all of the files neatly organized, and you can move the files between projects if you need to. This saves a lot of time and hassle if you have multiple people working on various pieces and you want to combine everything together in the end.

There are many little details in this PHP editor that simplify and improve the coding process. One such detail is that when you are working in the text editor on a document, if you make any changes and haven't saved your work yet there will be an asterisk (*) by the title in the tab. This is a seemingly minor detail, but it's a helpful reminder that could prevent you from losing any work since you can always see whether you've saved all your changes.

Help & Support

The support offered by Zend for this PHP editor is comprehensive and valuable. There is a lot of information on the website in the way of forums, webinars and newsletters. All three of these options are key to using the PHP editor because of the rapidly changing interface and new development of coding. There is also training available online, in classrooms or onsite. The training is suited for all levels between non-PHP programmers, PHP programmers and i5/OS programmers.

There is also a lot of support offered while you are using the PHP editor itself. The software interface of the PHP editor is designed to have multiple windows open at a time including tutorials, cheat sheets and RSS feeds. The RSS feed accesses all of the new documentation and press releases. This makes it easy to see if there is any important information you need, and it keeps you up-to-date on the latest information in the PHP community.

The manual offered by this product is one of the most comprehensive we've seen. Not only is there a user guide for the PHP editor but they include detailed information about using PHP, Java, AJAX and other programming tools. The information is all neatly organized, easy to search and includes examples of what they are talking about and situational applications. In this section you can also create bookmarks so if you come across something you know you'll want later you can add a bookmark and make it easier to find in the future.


The Zend Studio PHP editor is useful whether you are a master at coding and developing or still trying to remember which code does what. It has a lot of useful features that help you in every stage of a project. From the variable windows to the debugger and the onboard help, you are sure to be able to create exactly what you are hoping for in your next website or application.