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December 8th, 2010

Switching from TextMate to NetBeans for WordPress Development

I recently switched from TextMate–which I’ve used for the past three years–to NetBeans as my primary code editor for WordPress development.


NetBeans has some nice features which make development easier and quicker:

  • Code completion for PHP and JavaScript (including jQuery)
  • Inline PHP validation errors
  • PhpDoc integration
  • Jump to function usage/definition
  • Built-in debugger that works with Xdebug
  • Jira plugin
  • Rename refactoring
  • An option to remove trailing whitespace when saving files

Why Not?

  • It’s a Java app
  • The icon is horrible


Download the latest PHP IDE Bundle from http://netbeans.org/downloads/index.html


This is the configuration I use for the tools and standards we use in our daily development. Yours will likely be different, but don’t worry. NetBeans has plugins for just about anything you could want, from SCM integration to debugging tools to ticketing system integration.

Git Integration

This is provided by the nbgit plugin. While I don’t use any of the git features to commit/branch/merge/etc. from within NetBeans, the sidebar highlighting of file changes and git file status in the Project/File panel have been very useful. To install:

  • Download the latest plugin file from https://code.google.com/p/nbgit/
  • Open the Plugins manager (`Tools/Plugins`). Select the `Downloaded` tab and browse to the file you downloaded and install it.

Jira Integration

For project tracking we use Jira. The NetBeans Jira plugin allows you to add, update, and search Jira tickets from within the IDE. To install:

  • Open the Plugins manager (`Tools/Plugins`). Select the `Available Plugins` tab and install the plugin.
  • Once installed go to `Team/Find Issues…` to set up a new Issue Tracker and enter your Jira credentials.

Other Useful Plugins

Project Configuration

For each project I change the following after setup in the project properties:

  • Sources: Uncheck Allow short tags (<?)
  • Run Configuration: Enter Project URL


In TextMate I was using the IR_Black theme so I like this slightly tweaked version of the IR_Black TextMate theme.

The Verdict

After using NetBeans as my primary editor for a couple months, I’m going to stick with it. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks and I’ve been more productive since I spend less time hunting for the right function or a function’s arguments than I was with TextMate. Being able to jump to a core WordPress function definition quickly has been time saver when I want to see exactly what the code is doing.

NetBeans isn’t a TextMate replacement. I still use TextMate for quick file editing and for some of the bundles that I can’t live without. I haven’t found a substitute for the mate command line command so editing files quickly from a command line still happens in TextMate. TextMate has become a strong complement to NetBeans.

About the Author
Chris Scott is a lead application developer for the Platforms team. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisscott.

Filed in Development, WordPress

Add Your Comment5 Responses to “Switching from TextMate to NetBeans for WordPress Development”

Adam Weeks on December 9th, 2010 at 10:27 am

I’ve been using Komodo Edit for the past couple of months now. Its a solid IDE, but I’m definitely gonna check out NetBeans too!

David Parmet on December 9th, 2010 at 11:30 am

I’ve always found NetBeans to be a bit clunky, ie, non-Mac-like. If that makes sense. Have you tried Coda? Not an IDE in the true sense but very elegant.

Chris Scott on December 10th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

It has gotten a bit more Mac-like but there’s still some obvious interface differences. Luckily the keyboard shortcuts are either compliant by default or can be tweaked so getting around is pretty easy for me. I’ve tried Coda a few times, but it just hasn’t stuck for me yet.

John James Jacoby on May 20th, 2011 at 6:24 pm

As a proud Netbeans user for several years, on Windows, Ubuntu, and now OSX, I’m excited to see more developers using it. It’s really powerful and they are doing a great job with the PHP implementation. Several versions of BuddyPress have been deployed through Netbeans actually. I use Coda as my spot editor, but am thinking of learning some vim-fu to ditch it.

Congrats on the switch! 🙂

Al on October 27th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Been using NetBeans for past month or so with our custom PHP framework…and LOVING IT!!! Definitely would recommend it using to other developers.