That's changing. The integrated development environments are proliferating, and more development is moving into the cloud. The integrated tools manage the stacks of code, juggle deployments, catch debugging information, store the code in source repositories, and in some cases even automate deployment to the cloud.
But while the tools are more capable than ever, they often felt overly complex and sometimes even rough around the edges. Some of them seem to be bopping along in a state of neglect. Given the prevalence and maturity of PHP, I was surprised by some of the difficulties I ran into. The good news is, whether you lean toward a heavyweight tool packed with features or a lighter-weight tool that brings some polish, there is an option here for you.
Zend Studio Zend Studio is one of the two major commercial packages built around plug-ins for the Eclipse platform. In theory, you can get many of Zend Studio's features for free with the open source PHP Development Toolkit (PDT), Eclipse plug-ins that are built in part with help from Zend. But I had no success with them. My version of Eclipse (3.7) wouldn't install the current PDT plug-ins because of a long list of conflicts. These could probably be eliminated with some judicious pruning of the code -- something that open source makes possible -- but I lost patience.
Zend's website offers a long checklist of the differences between the PDT plug-ins and Zend Studio, but many of the differences have little to do with PHP development directly. For instance, Zend Studio offers GIT and SVN support, but PDT doesn't. However, anyone using Eclipse can install other plug-ins with these features that work with all languages.
Two of the main features you get for $299 are stability and testing. I had little luck getting the PDT plug-ins to work with my current version of Eclipse or even with a clean version of Eclipse I tried from scratch. Zend Studio, on the other hand, started right up. Zend integrates the plug-ins and removes the roadblocks before distributing everything as one big ball of code. You can use the various tools in Zend Studio separately as plug-ins, but installing the bundle made more sense. In theory, these plug-ins should play nicely together. In practice, it's easier to pay someone to make sure it's true.