Web Development

For the past 4 months I have been knee deep in refreshing and extending my web development skills.

I decided to move some of software I wrote at work over to be web based, since many of my users are located in Taiwan and Shanghai. This has been a very interesting project. I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, and learned a lot in the process.

Below is an append that I have made to one of the Zend forums:

I’ve recently moved from Dreamweaver (DW) to Eclipse PDT (without Zend). I’m trying to avoid the $400 to purchase Zend.

I have been pretty much hand coding PHP and JavaScript in DW, using DW to help with CSS and FTP posting to the server.

DW is very helpful when it comes to the graphical/artistic aspects of the site, and was helpful in getting PHP code started. I like the way it helped me get MySQL going, and some of the code it generates for PHP handling of forms, etc.

However, once I outgrew the built-in Spry capability, what I found was that the code it generated was horrible to try to maintain and extend afterwards. I’ve had to refactor/rewrite all of it.

Let me say that using Dreamweaver allowed me to get my last site up quickly, and for that it is a very powerful tool. However, once I reached a certain level of complexity (and personal skills) I needed to ‘graduate’ to something more programmer-centric.

I’ve spent the past couple weeks working with Eclipse+PDT. It took me a day to get things downloaded, mapped to my directories, and the free Zend Debugger installed on my local Apache test server.

The fact that all of this was free was a prime consideration for me at this point. I think if I had had $400 I would have purchased the all-in-one Zend Studio for Eclipse things to simplify and speed up doing all of this. It would be nice to have had technical support during this process.

That gave me a good IDE, but no way to keep my production server updated. I created the Eclipse project right within my local Apache DocumentsRoot so I don’t need to copy to/from the local test server. I also set DocumentsRoot to my AccuRev workspace, so SCM check-in/check-out is quite simple. My company uses AccuRev so I didn’t really have a choice there. If I had the choice I would have installed Subversion and taken a look at Subclipse. I agree with the earlier post that it is worthwhile and probably *not* overkill.

I’ve been using BC2 for synch’ing my local files to the production server. (I use a separate AccuRev workspace to track these changes). This works ok, but I’ve never figured out how to resolve the linux/windows file differences, so the files always appear different until opened and compared. I’ve done a little reading about the RSE(?) project on Eclipse which is supposed to provide remote site management, but haven’t figured it out yet and haven’t wanted to spend a lot of time researching it. My guess is that eventually this will provide the sort of synch capability we all need right within Eclipse.

I purchased Zend Studio 5.5 long ago, and am in the process of evaluating using it instead of Eclipse for now. It appears to provide the main things I needed (Editor, IDE, Debug, FTP) and it also runs on both Mac (my laptop) and Windows (my work desktop).

I hope this long winded post provides you with a few ideas and pointers. Good luck.

Update as of 2/16/09: I convinced my work to purchase a copy of Zend Studio for Eclipse and am now using that. This appears to have been a good choice and well worth the $400 investment.

I’m now part way up the steep learning curve of using Zend Framework. I’ve very excited about this and expect to convert all of my current sites over to Zend framework. I’m working my way through Rob Allen’s “Zend Framework in Action” book, but found that I also needed to view some online youtube tutorials and the Zend online tutorial before it all started clicking for me. I recommend doing this.

(end of forum append)

Having made the point in the first append that I would purchase Zend Studio if I had $400, I went back to my work and requested to purchase it and they agreed. So now I’m using Zend Studio for Eclipse and so far am very happy with it. It’s support for Zend Studio is perhaps the biggest advantage at this point.

I came across Rob Allen’s web site (akrabat.com). This is another good resource for learning about Zend Framework.

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