When learning how to become a PrestaShop developer, it can be difficult to know where to start. This series of articles aims to provide you the information you need to start developing for PrestaShop. In this first article, I will compare the different tools PrestaShop developers can use when programming.
There are three types of tools that a developer should use when doing PrestaShop programming.
The first is a text editor that supports code highlighting. It is possible to program using a simple text editor like Notepad in Windows or TextEdit in OS X, and some experienced programmers may choose to do just that, but if you are less experienced or would like some help spotting syntax errors in your code, you should use an editor with code highlighting.
The second type of tool that a developer should have is a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client, which is used to transfer files between a local computer and a remote server.
The third type of tool that a developer should use is Subversion (SVN), which keeps track of the changes made to files and lets you revert to an older version of a file if needed. SVN is useful as a backup in case you make a big mistake like accidentally deleting a large portion of code and saving the file.
With SVN, you can simply open a previous version of the file and get back the code that was lost. SVN is also an absolute must if you have multiple developers working on the same project, since it allows different developers to check out and work on the same file and then commit the changes for all the other developers to see. SVN will automatically merge all the changes together so you don’t have to worry about conflicts.
The PrestaShop developers use SVN, and they’ve made it publicly readable, so anyone can access the latest version of PrestaShop, even before it’s been released. Click here to access the latest PrestaShop code. Of course, you can’t actually change any of the code here, even if you use an SVN client. Only the PrestaShop team can do that.
There are many different implementations of these tools, and it can be hard to choose which to use. Since different programmers may have different needs and preferences, I’m going to show you three different software packages that I consider good, better and the best.
Notepad++ is a simple text editor that has code highlighting and lets you open files in separate tabs. The advantages of Notepad++ are that it is free and open source, and it is very small in size (the current v5.98 is only 5.36MB). Click here to download Notepad++.
Filezilla is a cross-platform FTP client that supports both FTP and secure FTP (SFTP). The advantages of Filezilla are that it is free and open source, and it is very small in size (the current v3.5.3 is only 4.30MB). Click here to download Filezilla.
TortoiseSVN integrates with Windows Explorer to add SVN features. It allows you to turn any folder into a SVN repository. The advantages of TortoiseSVN are that it is free and it is very small in size (the current v1.7.4 is only 13MB). Click here to download TortoiseSVN.
Using Notepad++, Filezilla and TortoiseSVN together provides all the tools you need. The advantages are that they are all free and quick to download, and they take up very little space on the hard drive. The disadvantage is that you must launch three separate applications to edit, upload and check in a file. If you are looking for free software and don’t need an integrated package, this may be the way to go.
Eclipse is an integrated development environment (IDE) originally designed for writing and debugging Java programs, but it also comes in a version customised for PHP development. Click here to download Eclipse for PHP Developers.
It features code highlighting like Notepad++ and a very flexible extension system. Aptana is an extension for Eclipse that adds many features including FTP. Click here to download Aptana.
Another important extension is Subclipse, which adds SVN support. Click here to download Subclipse.
The advantage of using Eclipse is that it is free software that has many extensions that can do just about anything you want. The disadvantages are that Eclipse is a big download (143MB excluding extensions at the time of writing), and since Eclipse relies on Java, it can run slowly at times.
If you are looking for an IDE and you are an advocate of open source software or can’t afford to pay for proprietary software, this may be the way to go.
I’ve tried to use free, open source software when programming, but I always end up back using Adobe Dreamweaver. It has the code highlighting, FTP and SVN built into a single package without needing to install any extensions. It also has a live preview mode and PHP documentation built in that I find invaluable, since the order of parameters in PHP can be inconsistent at times.
For example, sometimes I forget whether it’s the needle that comes first or the haystack in the strpos function. Dreamweaver reminds me in a tool tip that the haystack comes first, so I don’t have to search the PHP documentation in my browser. If you want the best tools available, then this may be the way to go.
Unfortunately, as with most proprietary software packages of its size, Dreamweaver is expensive. At the time of writing, it costs US$399 for a single license for Dreamweaver CS5.5. Upgrading from an earlier version of Dreamweaver is a couple of hundred dollars cheaper. Alternatively, you can pay US$29 a month or US$228 a year for a subscription license. Click here to try out or buy Dreamweaver.
Now you know the tools I use for PrestaShop development and some other free alternatives. Please let us know your experiences with the software in this article in the comments below, or tell us about the tools that you use for PrestaShop development.
If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned for the next article “Where to Start to Become a PrestaShop Developer – Languages to Know – Part 2”, where you will learn more about the languages you need to know to become a PrestaShop developer.
This is just one of the many tutorials to help you get your PrestaShop store up and running the easy way. Along with this tutorial, you’ll find over 36 other tutorials on the installation, setup, and configuration of a PrestaShop store. Check out PrestaShop 1.4 tutorials.