Configuring Eclipse IDE for PHP development/Linux

< Configuring Eclipse IDE for PHP development(Redirected from How to configure Eclipse IDE for PHP development/Linux)

These instructions should work fine on any Debian based distribution such as Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Xubuntu, Kbuntu and others.


There are several ways to download and install the Eclipse IDE to your Linux box. You can do it automatically from the comfort of your software center or using the Linux terminal with few commands or manually downloading and installing the Eclipse IDE from the Eclipse project website or other alternative download sites.

Method 1: From a Linux Repository

NOTE: This method is recommended because you will automate the installation process and get automatic security patches and bug fixes updates when the software is installed from the repositories.

Option 1: Terminal

  • Open your terminal and type
 sudo apt-get install eclipse .
  • Wait for the installation process to finish.
  • If everything went fine, the Eclipse IDE will be available in the software menu.

Option 2: Software Center

  • Open the software center that comes with your distribution.
  • Type in the search box "Eclipse IDE".
  • Select "Eclipse IDE" in the search result list.
  • Click on the "install" button.
  • Wait for the installation process to finish.
  • If everything went fine, the Eclipse IDE will be available in the software menu.

Method 2: From a Downloaded Copy

NOTE: For manual download and installation, you must have Java runtime previously installed or Eclipse IDE will not run.

To install Java runtime on your Linux box, open a terminal and type following command and wait until the installation finishes:

sudo apt-get install sun-java6

You can also install Java from your software center. Just type "openjdk java 6" and install the package.

To get a copy of Eclipse IDE, follow these steps:

  • Go to: Eclipse download page.
  • Download "Eclipse Classic" 32 or 64 bits according to your current OS version.
  • Unpack the downloaded file on any location that you want, ex: Downloads folder or Desktop folder.
  • Open the eclipse folder an find an executable file called "eclipse".
  • Do a right click on the file then -> properties -> permissions and check "Allow executing file as a program".
  • To execute Eclipse IDE, you can do a double click on the executable file or run it from terminal, ex:
cd ~/Downloads/eclipse/

NOTE: At the Eclipse download page you can see many versions of Eclipse IDE. All of them are basically the same Eclipse with a bunch of extensions pre-installed to do specific tasks. By default Eclipse IDE comes with all the tools needed to develop JAVA projects but you can install more extensions to develop in other languages. Click in the link Compare Packages to see a complete list of all the extensions included on each Eclipse Package build. You can try one of these pre-build packages specifically created for PHP development. Some of them are official releases from the Eclipse Website and others are independent projects.

Understanding the interface

The Eclipse IDE is not just a editor. It is a platform and can be used to do many things. It employs a very flexible philosophy to denominate and describe the way it displays and organizes the information. The most relevant parts of Eclipse interface are:

  • The tool bar is at the top of the window just like any other common application.
  • The tool bar with buttons is right under the tool bar. It contains several buttons. Most of them change according the current context, view or perspective. You can drag and drop that some of it buttons to arrange them the way you want.
  • The views are sections that divide the windows content and display different kind of information. You can arrange the views in almost any way. For example, columns, rows, complex combinations of columns and rows and so forth.
  • The perspectives are just an arrangement of views arranged in a certain configuration and normally sharing a relationship among them.

It is important to understand how this perspective philosophy works. For example The "PHP perspective" is used to edit PHP code so is coherent to display views related to the PHP code edition, views to manage the project files and views to navigate through the code. The following is a typical "PHP perspective":

  • Docked at the left with several tabs are the "PHP explorer" view and the "Type Hierarchy explorer" view.
  • In the middle is a wide view which is the "editor area". There will be as many tabs as many files as you are editing.
  • Docked at the right with several tabs are the "Search" view and the "outline" view. They will assist you in finding a chunk of code or to navigate through the parts, variables and object of your current work file.
  • Docked at the bottom are with several tabs are the "Problems" view, "Task" view, "Console" view and "Progress" view. There you will see things like unsolved problems like syntax errors, uncompleted TODO tasks, and see the progress of build or update operations.

On the other hand, the "Debug Perspective" shares some views with the "PHP perspective" but has a different arrangement of views and more views related to the code debugging operations such as:

  • Debug view: Display the call stack of the current breakpoint.
  • Servers view: Display a list of the configured servers.
  • Variables view: This view shows a tree that is a complete dump of all the variables and object of the current session at the current breakpoint.
  • Breakpoints view: Displays a list of all the breakpoints set in your project. You can double click on one of the item of that list to jump in that exact line of code.
  • Expressions views: Here you can create expressions on the fly to evaluate them without the need to modify the code.

You can switch among perspectives by selecting them at "Tool bar --> Window --> Open perspective" or you can click in the perspective buttons located at the far right of the "The tool bar with buttons".

If you aren't satisfied with any of these perspective configurations and how their views are arranged, you can create your very own perspectives and add as many views as you want and arrange them the way that makes you feel good.

  • Modify the current perspective. (Any one. It doesn't matter.)
  • Add the views you want and remove the others you don't.
  • Arrange the views the way you like and make you feel comfortable.
  • Go to "Tool bar --> Window --> Save perspective as" and set a name for your custom perspective, ex: "pimp-My-IDE" and save it. You can also overwrite an existing view name.

So far you should be able to play with Eclipse IDE and understand its interface philosophy. If you want to see a video demonstration about Eclipse IDE to get a preview and taste some of its powers, check this out Webinar: Using Eclipse for Joomla! Development.

Understanding the Folder Structure

When you execute Eclipse for the first time, it will ask you to create a "workspace." The workspace is a folder where Eclipse IDE will store two things: all your custom configurations and all or some of your projects.

All your projects will be separated into folders inside the workspace folder like this:


You can have more than one workspace. Each of them will contain its own custom configurations and will not affect the information of other workspaces. For example, you can have a workspace located at "/home/youruser/java-workspace/" dedicated to contain Java projects and a separate workspace like this "/home/youruser/php-workspace/" dedicated to PHP development.

As you can see, your workspace folder could be in any valid folder location. For the purposes of PHP development and our convenience, we can set our workspace folder to the same location where our Web server stores its Web files. For example, "/home/youruser/lamp/public_html/". This way the Eclipse IDE and our Web server will use the same location for our Web files.

Is important to note that you have the additional option to place your project files outside the workspace locations if you wish. This way Eclipse gives you an additional flexibility in certain cases. For example, let's say we have a workspace located at "/home/youruser/workspace/" which contains several random projects, but our server store its files in a different location at "/home/youruser/lamp/public_html/". Of course we want to put our PHP project there so we can edit the files and serve the pages at the same time. Simply create a folder like this: "/home/youruser/lamp/public_html/my-joomla-project". Then create a new PHP project and manually specify the path of your new project.

What is the difference of projects that are inside and outside the workspace folder? The only noticeable difference is at the moment of creating new projects, when you create a project inside the workspace Eclipse IDE will automatically create a folder for that project with the same name of the project itself. On the other hand, if the project is outside the workspace location you can set a random name for the project and then you have to set the path of the project manually regardless of the destination folder name.

A final note about the behavior of creating new project is that the Eclipse IDE will not let you link an external project that is actually inside your current workspace location. Also you can manually create any folder inside your Eclipse IDE workspace location but that does not mean Eclipse will recognize such folders as a project at all. When you create the new project from the Eclipse IDE that shares the name of an existing folder that already exists in your workspace, Eclipse will automatically link all it content to your new project.

When you create a new workspace, Eclipse will automatically create a hidden folder called ".metadata". It will contain all your custom global configurations about the editors, perspectives and views. This configuration will be inherited by any new project by default. If you wish, you can override part of the global configuration with custom configurations values specific for each project.

When you create a new project, Eclipse will create these hidden files and folders inside your new project folder:


These files and folders contain information about your custom project configurations and building information that will let Eclipse show tree views of dependencies and classes among many other things.


Installing More Extensions

For your Eclipse IDE you will need to install more extensions for PHP development and other tools to help you in your project development journey. Follow these steps and instructions:

  • In Eclipse, go to: "Toolbar --> help --> install new software".
  • You are now on the "Install" window. Click the drop-down list "Work with" and set it to "--All Available Sites--".
  • In the list, expand the nodes and find the following packages to install:
    • Go to "Web, XML, and Java EE Development" and select
      • PHP Development Tools (PDT) SDK Feature
      • JavaScript Development Tools
      • Eclipse Web Developer Tools
    • Go to "General Purpose Tools" and select
      • Remote System Explorer End-User Runtime
  • Press "Next >" and follow the installation wizard. Restart Eclipse if needed.
  • In Eclipse, go to: "Toolbar --> help --> install new software".
  • Press the "Add" button and add this new repository, name it "xtext plugin".
  • Press the "Add" button and add this new repository. Name it "LESS plugin".
  • Press "OK" and wait until Eclipse fetches all the new elements.
  • In the selection box next to the "Add" button, select the "LESS plugin ..." repository.
  • On the list below find the "LESS" option and check it.
  • Press "Next >" and follow the installation wizard. Restart Eclipse if needed.

Those are all the extensions to install for now. They should be enough to do local and remote PHP development. Nonetheless you can experiment and try all the extensions you want.

Configuring the perspectives and views

In this case we need to configure Eclipse for PHP development, so you should add the following perspectives:

  • Go to: "Toolbar --> windows --> open perspective --> others --> debug"
  • Go to: "Toolbar --> windows --> open perspective --> others --> php"
  • Switch to the "PHP perspective"
  • Go to: "Toolbar --> windows --> show view --> others --> remote systems"
  • Drag the view from the tab and drop it next to the "PHP explorer" view

Now you can explore local and remote PHP project, how to configure this tools will be explained in this series of articles, but for now leave it for the future.

Configuring the editors

These are some of the configuration you can do to your editors to improve the user experience:

Display white spaces

Some people like to see the white spaces represented in the editor to do so:

  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> general --> editors --> text editors"
  • Set "show whitespace characters" to check


To highlight some the parts of the code with stronger colors, follow this steps:

  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> general --> editors --> text editors --> annotations "
    • On the list find "java scrip occurrences" and set the color value to "#FFFF5A"
    • On the list find "matching tags" and set the color value to "#FFFF5A"
    • On the list find "php elements read occurrences" and set the color value to "#FFFF5A"
  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> general --> editors --> structured text editor"
    • Find the list "Appearance color options"
    • On the list find "Matching brackets highlight" and set the color value to "#0000FF"
  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> javascript --> editor"
    • Find the list "Appearance color options"
    • On the list find "Matching brackets highlight" and set the color value to "#0000FF"
  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> javascript --> editor --> syntax coloring"
    • Find the list "Element"
    • On the list find "javascript --> functions" enable the option and set the color value to "#1E90FF"
    • On the list find "javascript --> function declarations" enable the option and set the color value to "#1E90FF"
    • On the list find "javascript --> local variable declaration" enable the option and set the color value to "#A52A2A"
    • On the list find "javascript --> local variable references" enable the option and set the color value to "#A52A2A"
    • On the list find "javascript --> parameter variables" enable the option and set the color value to "#A52A2A"
  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> php --> editor --> syntax coloring"
    • Find the list "Syntax element"
    • On the list find "classes" and set the color value to "#1E90FF"
    • On the list find "functions" and set the color value to "#1E90FF"
    • On the list find "methods" and set the color value to "#1E90FF"
    • On the list find "variable" and set the color value to "#A52A2A"

Spell checking

If you want that eclipse assist you on check the grammar of your text, enable this option.

  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> general --> editors --> spelling"
    • Find and enable "enable spell checking

Code folding

Code folding is a nice feature of some editor, it allow you to fold the code in certain data structures like functions, classes and other structures such as classes, conditionals and iterators, we are going to fold all the possible except classes content to be able to check and study PHP files quickly

  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> general --> editors --> structured text editors"
    • Clink on the tab "appearance"
    • Find and enable "enable folding"
  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> javascript --> editor --> folding"
    • Find and enable "enable folding"
    • Find and enable "comments"
    • Find and enable "header comments"
    • Find and enable "members"
  • Go to "Toolbar --> window --> preferences --> php --> editor --> code folding"
    • Find and enable "enable folding"
    • Find and enable "functions"
    • Find and enable "phpdoc"
    • Find and enable "header phpdoc"

Code Cleaning

Eclipse provides some nice utilities to automatically remove empty lines, delete unnecessary trailing spaces, format the code and more. To activate these features:

  • Go to "Toolbar --> Window --> Preferences --> PHP --> Editor --> Save Actions".
    • Find and enable "Remove trailing whitespace" and also select "all lines".
  • Go to "Toolbar --> Window --> Preferences --> JavaScript --> Editor --> Save Actions".
    • Find and enable "Perform the selected actions on save".
    • Find and enable "Additional actions".
    • Press the button "Configure...".
    • Select the tab "Code Organizing".
    • Find and enable "Remove trailing whitespace".
    • Find and select "All lines".
    • Press "OK" to continue.
  • When you are done, press "OK" to save and close the Preferences window.

Fine Tuning

Increase RAM Usage

By default, Eclipse gets some configuration information to limit the amount of RAM. This configuration works fine for most users but if you have 2 Gigabytes or more of RAM, consider setting this value to improve Eclipse performance.

First locate the "eclipse.ini" file that contains some Eclipse configurations.

  • If you downloaded Eclipse IDE manually from Internet, the "eclipse.ini" file is just inside the unpacked folder.
  • If you installed Eclipse via terminal or software center, the location of the file is "/etc/eclipse.ini".
  • In some Linux versions, the file can be found at "/usr/share/eclipse/eclipse.ini".

NOTE: If you found a config file at "/etc/eclipse.ini", don't edit the file at "/usr/share/eclipse/eclipse.ini"

This is the content of the original "eclipse.ini" file.


To see the full reference about these parameters, visit [1].

Change the following values to increase the amount of RAM used by Eclipse.


If you have a lot of RAM you can try with these other configurations.