I had a chat with CodeGear’s David Intersimone and Jason Vokes about Delphi for PHP, following which I wrote a short article for The Register.
I do have reservations about the CodeGear product, though I’ve not seen it yet. My main concerns are first, that CodeGear will find it difficult to work alongside PHP’s open source community; second, that Delphi for PHP will have an unexciting feature set in its first release; and third, that over-reliance on data-binding frameworks may get in the way of lean, fast PHP development. I am not a great enthusiast for data binding, which can all too easily be inefficient, hard to debug, and restrictive in terms of database drivers. I also think the name is silly, and that long-term it makes no sense for Delphi for PHP to have its own IDE, as opposed to using Borland Developer Studio or Eclipse.
Drag-and-drop form building is hardly an exciting feature these days. I’m more interested in aspects like how easily developers and designers can collaborate, or how the IDE helps developers create secure applications, profile performance, or refactor existing spaghetti PHP into something resembling a well-structured application.
Then again, PHP is poorly served by IDEs right now, so there must be an opportunity here. One of the reasons is that setting up to test and debug PHP on Windows is awkward, posing a problem for those who develop on Windows but deploy to Linux web servers. It is an ugly mismatch. Will you use Apache on Windows, or try to get IIS working well with PHP? Presumably you want MySQL as well? Or perhaps run one of those combined installers like XAMPP and hope that that all this stuff is being installed in a secure manner and won’t break IIS, ASP.NET, or anything else.
This is before you start thinking about the IDE. Will it be the Zend/Eclipse PHP Development Tools? Or the less official PHPEclipse? Something else? And not forgetting Dreamweaver, which is great for designers but less good for code unless you are happy with the built-in wizards.
It appears that folk often run into difficulties simply getting debugging working sensibly in their PHP setups.
Delphi for PHP will not necessarily be any better. In the past, Borland has not been shy about installing lots of miscellaneous bits onto your system unless you are careful what you click; it may be no different from XAMPP. Yet if it can pull off a smooth installation with a half-decent PHP editor, smooth debugging, and no conflict with our existing Visual Studio / ASP.NET / IIS setups, then that alone will make it a worthwhile proposition.