Jun 242009

Aptana StduioAs a developer, I’m pretty picky about my tools. The old debate about whether ’tis better to use a plain text editor or a full-fledged Integrated Desktop Environment was settled for me long ago; quite simply, I spend too much time with my head in code to do everything manually, as a plain text editor would require.  No, I have very specific requirements of my editing environment, which is where I spend the greater portion of my day: I need code-folding, brace-matching, an outline of properties/methods…

Early on I was a huge fan of the Eclipse development environment. Eclipse, it seemed, sought to be the swiss army knife of dev tools; though it was primarily intended for Java, it’s plugin architecture allowed it to be extended to develop in any language a plugin was provided for. This allowed me to use one application to write in multiple languages and idioms, which was just fine by me. Since the majority of my work is LAMP-related (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl), I found that Eclipse coupled with the PHPEclipse plugin was perfectly suited to the way I write code.

But the PHPEclipse plugin had issues, as I was soon to find out. The version of Eclipse in the Debian and Ubuntu repositories is old, and the PHPEclipse plugin has some issues working on these platforms. This was fine when I used WindowsXP as my primary Desktop OS, but when I started using Linux on the desktop this stopped me in my tracks. And while there are some fine environments out there for the Linux platform, I missed the ease and familiarity of my Eclipse interface.

Luckily, Aptana stepped in to fill the gap. Aptana can be downloaded as either a standalone application or an Eclipse plugin, and was built on the Eclipse platform. And Aptana is geared toward web development, offering a rich set of tools for working with HTML, CSS and Javascript. It’s very AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML) aware; in fact, when creating a default web project in Aptana, you’re given the option of downloading and making part of your project many of the most popular and innovative Javascript libraries, such as JQuery and Prototype. And it fits my workflow snugly; not only do I have all of the functionality and extensibility of Eclipse at my disposal, but Aptana has it’s own set of plugins to aid in the development of PHP and Adobe AIR applications, and also features a very rich interface and code snippet library (featuring, thankfully, a whole range of snippets for editing .htaccess files).

Aptana, installed as an Eclipse plugin, works on both Windows and Ubuntu-another selling point for me. I run a dual boot system, and any opportunity to use the same software on both sides of my box is welcome.