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Best PHP Development Tools for Web Developers - 2021

Last update: January 25, 2021

Best PHP Development Tools for Web Developers - 2021 Creating a web application isn’t an easy job, and that’s whysomany supporting tools exist.Written in different languages, these tools have different learning curves, from an easy to a steep one. Yet, all of them are helpful fordevelopers who want to avoid difficulties while creating aweb app.

In this article, we’ll focus on PHP development tools.If you’re familiar with this language and want to start using it for web development, you’ll definitely find these web app frameworks and platforms useful for your first web app project.

Zend Framework

Officially released in 2005, Zend Framework is one of the two long existent PHP frameworks. It supports most of the popular databases, including MySQL, Oracle, MongoDB, Microsoft SQL Server, SQLite and IBM DB2. Zend works with Google, Amazon and Yahoo APIs, as well as allows customAPI development, authentication and maintenance.

Though Zend is considered an MVC-based framework, it doesn’t have an integrated ORM. Some see it as an advantage since it’s possible to use any ORM instead, while others dislike the ensuing lack of a native ORM interface.

Zend’s rich collection of components is another controversial point. Although the components themselves are very powerful, the framework is harshly criticized for not assisting its users in tyingthe components into the project. Engineers have no other choice but to write small frameworks for each component and, in the end, many have to choose between components’ capabilities and the time needed to make them work.

The latest version of Zend Framework released to date is Zend Framework 3, on PHP 7. Yet, even according to the official documentation, ZF3 has only subtle differences compared toZF2.This lack of improvement in ZF3 is a great overlook on the part of Zend creators. With years passing and new frameworks emerging on the market, Zend is starting to lag behind.

Some agree that Zend can find its niche on the market of PHP development tools only if it focuses on creating and developing components for other frameworks. Still, many are sure that Zend is a great tool as it is. In spite of Zend’s sometimes overly complicated nature and a steep learning curve, the framework has its active supporters, who are always glad to help beginners.


Symfony’s initial release dates back to 2005, which makes it as old as Zend Framework. Since that time, Symfony has also gathered a large and highly active community that helps the framework remain one of the most popular PHP development tools to this day.

Just like Zend Framework, Symfony works with all the most popular databases and has built-in components (around 30). Unlike Zend, Symfony has 4 stable versions, with Symfony 4released in November 2017.

A more significant difference between Symfony and Zend Framework is a possibility to work with the two ORMs – Propel and Doctrine – using Symfony’s native interface. Doctrine has become an especially popular tool among PHP developers, but both make it equally easier for developers to work with the MVC architecture,specifically, with the Model part.

In general, Symfony is a very flexible tool with powerful libraries (bundles) that easily come together in a project. This framework is also believed to be more user-friendly and simpler to use for those who have just decided to focus their PHP knowledge on web development.

Symfony’s core also spawned other frameworks, the most popular of them beingLaravel. In addition to Symfony’s capabilities, it has an artisan command line console, a separate database query builder and Spark scaffolding. For some developers or some specific projects, these features can be worth choosing Laravel over Symfony.


WordPress is a PHP-basedplatform that, just as its name suggests, was initially created for websites with mostly text information. Many news websites are built on WordPress, including BBC America, MTV News, Microsoft News Center, TechCrunch and The New York Times.

Gradually, the functionality of WordPress evolved and expanded, and now there are numbers of functional plugins available. These plugins help developers create not just a blog, but a feature-rich web app.

Yet, it should be noted that plugins are still plugins: they’re additional code packages, often written by different developers, whom you cannot trust blindly. At times, when there are many plugins installed on one WordPress website, some of them can turn out to be incompatible with one another.

What’s more, WordPress regularly checks plugins for updates, and if a plugin hasn’t been updated for a long time, it will automatically be disabled. You’ll have to search for a new plugin with the functionality you need, test it for compatibility with other plugins on your website, and hopethat the developer won’t abandon itas well.

The surest way to deal with this infinite cycle of searching for pluginsis to develop and maintain all of them on your own. However, for some features – like e-commerce –it would only be a waste of time, since there are web frameworks that target that specific functionality in particular.


If you want to create an e-commerce web app, there’s no need for you to go great lengths with WordPress plugins. Magento is a PHP platform specifically intended for creating and maintaining an e-commerce store of any scale.

Unlike WordPress, where code is stored in a sequenced script, Magento is object-oriented and organizes its code into Modules. It also has one default theme, specific for each of its versions, while WordPress has several of them (still, they both allowyou to choose a custom UI template from a rich collection).Additionally, Magento offers websites a higher level of security to protect users’ transactions.

What makes Magento a better choice for an e-commerce websiteis the number of features that are helpful for creating, adjusting and maintaining an online shop. It allows very easy administration of even huge shops with hundreds of thousands of items. A product catalog, cart, check out, special offers – there are ready-made templates for implementing all these elements on a website in a second.


The purpose of any tool is to make engineers’ lives easier and speed up the development process. That’s why there’s no need to struggle with that one tool that seems to be too difficult to master. Instead, look for an alternative. There will always be something else, and it may turn out to be more effective in bringing out your strengths as a developer.

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Best PHP Development Tools