Agile and PHP

So since my last post I’ve actually started to write my SimpleStorageService project and as I’m an agile developer I decided to write the project with the agile skills I’ve picked up over the last few years with Java, .net, scrum-master training et al and check out how easy it actually is to ‘do agile’ with PHP.

So…. where should I begin….

Unit Testing (Test Driven Development):

Firstly PHP has had unit testing for quite some time with PHPUnit; this is something which after using unit testing in Java and C# was actually quite straight forward and although there are other testing frameworks like SimpleTest I decided to go with PHPUnit as it seems more comprehensive; Although I found that SimpleTest has a better mocking implementation than PHPUnit, but for now I’m sticking with PHPUnit.

Also PHPUnit can integrate with Selenium and has a partial implementation of DbUnit, but that’s not complete yet – hopefully this will be complete by PHPUnit 4

Continuous Integration:

Now I didn’t think PHP had anything like this, so when I was looking into testing I found the phpUnderControl project which literally knocked my coding socks off as it’s a PHP wrapper for cruiseControl, but with a cool interface and extra PHP goodies on project code metrics, a Java like checkStyle which defaults to the PEAR coding standard and generating phpDoc as well as the normal cruiseControl stuff.

I was so impressed by this project that at the time (early January) I set it up on my macmini although I did have to use macports to replace the crippled default build of PHP that is bundled with OS X (please fix this Apple!). I initially installed version 0.20 of phpUnderControl, but I’m currently upgrading my install to the recently released version 0.30 which has a neat javascript metrics view – which is nice

Finally phpUnderControl neatly integrates with PHPUnit, which another reason why I’m using this and the project is now hosted alongside PHPUnit, so I hope to see more integration between the projects in the future.

Integrated Development Environment:

Allow this is by all means not needed to practise Agile, but a good IDE helps you write better code faster. I used to use DreamWeaver for all my PHP web development work, but as my SimpleStorageService is by definition a service project I didn’t need any HTML editing functionality. Anyway here was my IDE shortlist:

Ignoring DreamWeaver and TextPad as being out of date and inappropriate for the project I began with Eclipse (with PDT), but I quickly found several problems with this mainly SVN integration amongst other things. Then I gave Aptana a go which was beta at the time and did fix my SVN issues, but in the final version this was removed from the free edition (grrr!). So just when I thought that PHP didn’t have a good IDE literally stumbledupon Zend Studio Neon which ticked nearly every box I wanted from a IDE for PHP … PHPUnit, phpDoc, SVN, code coverage, code formatting, real time error checking, intellisense and much much more. The downsides are a bug where it doesn’t understand the PDO class when unit-testing (well it is beta!) and the final version isn’t free, so I’m using a time trial version which runs out in just over two weeks. Anyone want to buy me a copy 😉

Source Control:

It still surprises me how many people don’t use or even understand the point of source-control, but I’ve been a big user for many years. Firstly with CVS and then once Subversion (SVN) was more stable I moved to that and didn’t look back. I know there are many other choices here, but as SVN is integrated into phpUnderControl and Zend Studio it was simply a no brainer. My DreamHost account includes SVN so all my code can be committed ‘off site’ and I can create an abstraction between my IDE and continuous integration environment.


The state of Agile in PHP is good and much much better than it was even six months ago. I think once PHPUnit 4 is released, phpUnderControl reaches stablity and Eclipse with PDT catches up with Zend Studio (add unit testing, svn projects) then Agile in PHP should be excellent and easy to accomplish. One thing I haven’t looked at is if PHP has any good scrum management products (but I guess this doesn’t necessarily have to be in PHP).