Nikki’s favorite development tools

wordpress-developmentSomeone asked me recently what program I use to build websites. My answer? Several.


For starters, since I’m a PHP developer and need a PHP environment to develop in, the first thing I install on any machine I’m going to be working on is XAMPP.

XAMPP is a one-stop shop for all your PHP needs. It’s an Apache distro that contains not only the Apache web server, but also MySQL, PHP, and Perl. It also very helpfully installs and configures phpMyAdmin and the GD image manipulation library for PHP. Little to no configuration is required, and you have a working development environment up in running in the time it takes to download and double-click the install icon.

XAMPP is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux… and it’s 100% free. Alternatives to XAMMP include MAMP (for Macs only) and WAMPserver (for Windows only).


Eclipse is an open-source (free!) integrated development environment that started as an IDE for Java development, and has since grown popular for developers in many different coding languages. It’s terrific for writing PHP code.

Now, I should point out… Eclipse doesn’t have the most straight-forward installation. It has some third-party requirements (like a JRE or JDK) that are not bundled into the software itself, as well as optional extensions that are needed if you want to do certain tasks (like set up your install specifically for PHP development, or connect to a Subversion repository). Fortunately, the Eclipse website has a pretty good installation guide.

With Eclipse, I also use the PHP Development tools IDE and the Subclipse plug-in.

If you’re not up to the task of getting Eclipse installed and working, or maybe you just need something a little simpler, PSPad is a great little free code editor.


I think everyone probably knows what Photoshop is. It’s pretty much the de facto image editing program on the market. I currently use Photoshop CS5 at work… and I have CS3 at home. Beware, though… Photoshop doesn’t come cheap.

If budget is an issue, give GIMP a try. It’s a free Photoshop-alternative. There’s also a spinoff of GIMP called GIMPshop, which is a Photoshop look-alike based on GIMP.

WinSCP and PuTTY

At some point, you also need to transfer files to a live webserver. There are literally hundreds of FTP clients out there. My personal favorite is WinSCP. It’s easy to install, and easy to use. And it’s free (have you noticed I’m a big fan of free?).

I also use PuTTY, a free telnet/SSH client. Some things (changing file permissions, cloning directories, creating Cron jobs, etc.) are just easier for me to do from the command line.


Fotosizer is a batch photo resizer (again… free!). Raw photos from digital cameras are HUGE… and sometimes I have a lot of them to deal with. Since it would take ages to resize them all individually in Photoshop, running them through Fotosizer can be a real time saver.


One of my favorite tools is Firebug. It’s a web development extension for the Firefox web browser that lets you inspect your site’s HTML and CSS, and make changes on the fly. It’s great for tracking down problem elements in your HTML, and for trying out new CSS ideas without having to worry about change live code. It’s also got a pretty awesome javascript debugger.

So, that’s what I use to build websites. Hopefully, someone will find this list useful.

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Nikki Blight – Web/PHP Developer