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Debugging PHP – Netbeans Code Templates for Zend_Debug and FirePHP

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I recently changed my day-to-day PHP IDE to Netbeans and it’s been a pleasure. [Don’t ask me what I was using before, too embarrassed to say.]

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In particular, one of Netbeans’ nice features is Code Templates, little snippets of text that you can insert into your document simply by typing a short prefix and then hitting the Tab key. They are actually smarter than just static snippets in that they can contain variables that are dynamically filled/changed as you edit. Hugely useful. I use them constantly for a variety of tasks, but my most common use of code templates is for debugging.

One useful debug tool is FirePHP in conjunction with Firebug, especially for applications using AJAX.

Several weeks ago, Jeremy Kendall (@JeremyKendall) helpfully pointed me to Zend_Debug::dump() which behaves like an enhanced var_dump(). I was actually gratified to see that it resembles one of my own hacks that I have been using for years, though Zend_Debug::dump() is, not surprisingly, more polished.

Following on that, Markus (@derstahlstift) posted a Netbeans code template that uses Zend_Debug::dump().

I admit that they are both cool, but I prefer to identify precisely where I am doing the dump, using PHP’s magic constants __FILE__ and __LINE__. This allows me to easily chase down the dump statements and remove them once the debugging is finished.

So, here are my own versions, both in the form of Netbeans Code Templates.

For FirePHP::send():

FB::send("${VAR default="variable"} = " . $$${VAR} . ":: ${func default="func"} :: " . __FILE__ . "(" . __LINE__ . ")");
${cursor}

For Zend_Debug::dump():

Zend_Debug::dump($$${VARIABLE variableFromNextAssignmentName default="variable"}, "${VARIABLE variableFromNextAssignmentName}", true); 
echo "

" . __FILE__ . "(" . __LINE__ . ") :: ${function default="function"} :: ${message default="message"}

"; ${selection}${cursor}

Whaddya think? Do you have any tricks/shortcuts that you use for debugging? Let me know.

Cheers!

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