My reaction when I saw PHPStorm for the first time was like “Wow… This looks like a cockpit, but uglier”. There is way too much buttons, fonts are distorted, and colors really don’t match together.

As a PHP Developper at Buddyweb in Paris, I was using SublimeText daily before some friends introduced me to PHPStorm and then I watched Jeffrey Way’s video “Why I Use Both PHPStorm and Sublime Text”.

The problem with PHPStorm is that it looks like that :

Aperçu de l' IDE PHPStorm
This looks a bit complicated…

Everyone hates complicated things. But don’t loose faith ! You will see that with a little touch, PHPStorm can be as simple as you like.

As its name suggests, PHPStorm is built for PHP developpers. It handles languages like Javascript, HTML or CSS very well, but it’s in PHP that the tool reveals its true potential.

PHPStorm is particularly useful when programming with a MVC Framework like Symphony, Laravel or CakePHP. However I don’t find it that useful when I’m working on CMS-based projects.

Logo PhStorm
PHPStorm new flat-designed logo. The previous one was outrageously uglier...

SublimeText vs PHPStorm

PHPStorm is an IDE just like Microsoft Visual Studio or Eclipse whereas SublimeText that is just a text editor.

An IDE is a development environment that comes with a set of tools to increase developpers productivity. Basically PHPStorm understands your code whereas Sublime don’t. Belive me that’s a huge difference!

This understanding of the code gives us the opportunity to make use of a whole new world of features :

  • You can navigate through anything with a cmd + click (Methods, Classes, Interfaces, Traits, etc.). Really useful to understand the code
  • Autocomplete is really pertinent. The IDE knows what you are doing so it can guess what you will be typing next
  • Errors are displayed live. Considerable saving in time for distracted developpers like me
  • Warnings are throwned if you use a variable without declaring it, or declaring it without using it
  • Search is great
  • Terminal is included, it spares you to have another application opened when working.
  • Refactoring : You can extract methods and variables, rename anything you want and the IDE will work for you

Those are some of the features that are really useful to me, but I’m sure there is many more to discover. PHPStorm’s learning process is longer than SublimeText’s, but those features save you a lot of precious time when you master them.

Pimp your PHPStrom to make it like Sublime

We all love SublimeText for its light, minimalist and pretty interface. On the other side PHPStorm is, at least in its default version, the total opposite of this.

But I’ve got great news for you: PHPStorm is totally configurable and it’s possible to make it as pretty as Sublime.

Here are the simple steps, inspired by my own experience and the PHP Storm series of Laracasts:

  • Take a deep breath, click on “View” in the navigation bar and disable “Toolbar”, “Tool buttons”, “Status bar” and “Navigation bar”. You’ll feel a lot better.
  • Open Preferences and go to Apparence & Behaviour > Keymap and set your shortcuts as Sublime’s. Take your time to make it good at once.
  • Go to PHP Storm themes and install a fresher theme than the default one. I personnaly use "Darthness".
  • Go to Plugins and download “Color IDE”. It changes the sidebar’s color to your theme’s main color instead of an ugly gray that doesn’t match with anything.
  • For fonts, I use Monaco (Github’s font for code) in 13 with a 1.4 line-height. I find that some fonts don’t render well on my Mac and Monaco has not that problem
  • Use it in Full Screen mode to get the full experience of it

So here is a screenshot of PHPStorm after the big transformation:

Interface de PHPStorm
Not that bad, eh ?

Update : You can remove code folding too (those ugly arrows on the left) :
- File > Settings > Editor > General > uncheck “show code folding outline”.

Once you go PHPStorm, you don’t go back

I’m a big fan of SublimeText from day one and I used it for years. Its simplicity is a big advantage but it’s a weekness too. As developpers, we face daily complex situations and we have too many occasions to make mistakes. That’s why PHPStorm can help by assisting us in the process whereas Sublime can’t.

As we can expect, handling PHPStorm requires more time but it’s a really good investment if you work with PHP.

We have seen that it’s repulsive appearance can be changed to a better looking one in a question of minutes. And you don’t have to learn again the keyboard shortcuts because you can configure them like SublimeText.

So, what are you waiting for? :)

You already took the step? Leave us some feedback about your experience.