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Eclipse Gets Into PHP

PHP developers, welcome to the wider world of Eclipse. Today the Eclipse Foundation released the Eclipse PHP Development Tools (PDT) 1.0 project, making Eclipse a playground for developers of other dynamic languages than Java.

"A lot of people are using Eclipse for integrating tools, and lots of developers use more than one language," Ian Skerrett, Eclipse marketing director, told InternetNews.com. "PDT expands Eclipse into the large PHP community of over 4.5 million developers and we're excited."

PDT provides a tool framework for PHP developers to build on top of, much the same way that the Eclipse IDE provides a framework for Java developers to build from.

Though PDT 1.0 is officially available today, the project has been under development for nearly two years. PHP vendor Zend Technologies originally announced the Eclipse PHP project in October 2005. Eclipse claims that PDT has already had more than 300,000 downloads this year alone.

But the road to the 1.0 release wasn't quite as direct as Zend had at first expected.

"Zend was new to Eclipse, and so it took some time to learn the plug-in mechanism," Yossi Leon, leader of the PDT project and a product manager at Zend, told InternetNews.com. "We thought we'd have more people contributing code in the beginning, but then we figured out that people that wanted PDT were PHP developers and not Eclipse developers."

That said, the PHP did contribute and help the PDT project. Leon explained that the main contribution from the community was in the way of testing and not in the way of providing patches or code.

Zend is no stranger to PHP development, as it has its own Zend Studio PHP IDE and is among the lead contributors to PHP development. Zend considers the Eclipse PDT project something quite different than a competitor to its commercial Zend Studio product.

"Zend Studio is more of an IDE with a lot of functionality built in right out of the box," Leon said. "PDT is more about very good editing capabilities and inspection but not as an IDE."

Though thanks to the Eclipse plug-in model, PDT users can build their own feature-rich IDEs. The plan for Zend is to eventually base a commercial product on PDT, although Leon said he was not sure if that future product would at some point replace Zend Studio.

By embracing the Eclipse platform, PDT also helps to elevate PHP's status and ease of use among developers .

"PDT and PHP does become an equal citizen in terms of using the different Eclipse plug-ins that are out there," Eclipse's Skerrett said. "So if you want to use all the source code management plug-ins that are out there you can with PDT."

Skerrett noted that the plug-in model is one of the advantages of having the platform. Otherwise, PHP editors would have to try and build their own bridges to the various source code management tools.

"What Zend has done with PDT is they can just leverage all those bridges that are in place today," Skerrett said. "So that's a big win for the PHP community."

The goal for PDT now that it's at 1.0 is to increase downloads and get positive feedback, according to Leon. It's also important that other projects use PDT as a base that will show PDT's extensibility and ability to integrate.

"Eclipse has always been about providing frameworks for others to build on top off," Eclipse's Skerrett said. "The next step is adding tools or commercializing it in different ways."