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PHP and JavaScript Come Together in Zend Studio 8

Peanut butter and jelly. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Some things are just better together. And with last month's release of the first beta for Zend Studio 8, Zend Technologies is making the case that JavaScript, the foremost client-side scripting language, and PHP, the popular server-side scripting language, should be developed together, in the same IDE, where they can harmoniously interact, to the betterment of society--not to mention the Web development project at hand.

Once maligned for its role in Internet security breaches--particularly for cross-site scripting flaws, which is still a big concern--JavaScript is surging in popularity these days as the key component in AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML).

AJAX, of course, refers to a common group of technologies used to write interactive Web applications that function like ordinary PC applications. Some call these "rich Internet applications," or RIAs, while others refer to them as Web 2.0 apps. Whatever you call them, the key ingredient in these highly interactive Web applications is almost always JavaScript.

PHP, on the other hand, is a server-side scripting language. Yes, PHP was originally created as a general purpose scripting language that could run, like JavaScript, directly in the Web browser. But today, PHP almost always runs on the Web server, where it interacts closely with the underlying database powering the Web application. Usually, this database is MySQL, but thanks to the close working relationship between Zend Technologies and IBM, PHP developers targeting the IBM i server have the option of running their PHP apps directly against DB2/400.

A PHP developer has several options for writing the front-end user interface of a Web application, including static HTML, creating HTML dynamically on the fly, or using a scripting language like JavaScript. With Zend Studio 8, using JavaScript as the front-end for PHP apps developed with Zend tools becomes almost a no-brainer. For many PHP developers who already use JavaScript, the enhancements in Studio 8 just made their lives easier.

Zend Studio 8 brings JavaScript directly into the integrated development environment (IDE). It now includes built-in support for the most popular open source JavaScript libraries, including jQuery, Dojo, ExtJs, and Prototype. This gives developers so-called "content assist" capabilities, such as code completion and completing JavaScript proposals and arguments. (Content assist was previously available for Dojo, but now other libraries are supported, too.) Developers can also drag and drop chunks of JavaScript code in their IDE, just as they do for PHP.

The new release also allows JavaScript and AJAX screens to be debugged using the same set of tools used to debug PHP. This eliminates the need to bring in a separate set of tools to debug JavaScript, and should speed up the development process. Zend says it will also allow developers to write cleaner, more secure code.

The capability to write more secure AJAX applications should be very important for PHP developers--particularly the business-minded developers targeting the IBM i platform. If there's one knock on AJAX and JavaScript, it's that all the Web 2.0 eye candy provides a plethora of avenues for hackers to get in and do their (dirty) business. Streamlining the JavaScript development and debugging process should make it easier for developers to ensure that they have locked down the most obvious ingress points, thereby providing an additional element of security for their business applications.

Zend also gives developers new tools for finding out what's slowing down their applications. The new Request Monitor allows developers to analyze the execution of their Web pages from the point of view of JavaScript, CSS, and DOM source and events.

The integration of JavaScript is the big new feature with the first beta of Zend Studio 8. But Zend added a range of other PHP development capabilities, including: new debugging functions; new content assist capabilities; advanced syntax coloring; quick outline views for inherited members; a decorated hover information box; and a new PHP search dialog box.

Zend Studio 8 Beta 1 is available now, in X64 and IBM i flavors. Both editions of the IDE are available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X operating systems. The beta can be downloaded

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