Essential Debugging Techniques for PHP Web Development

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Published: 31st August 2012
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As PHP evolves to be one of the most widely used scripting language, there are some essential parts with PHP development that each developer has to consider. With millions of domains now using PHP which includes WordPress, Facebook and a whole lot more, PHP web developers prefer using it than other scripting languages like Python or Ruby.

The key features of PHP include the following:

  • Huge and increasing community;

  • Variety of ready-to-use scripts;

  • Detailed documentation;

  • Well-supported framework; and

  • Ease of access.

With the ever-growing community of developers using PHP, an overview of the essential tools and resources make their development process more convenient and effective. With this variety of tools, the most essential parts are the debugging techniques and tools.

While there are numerous debugging procedures already available, the most basic debugging procedure is to simply put up the error reporting. Another technique considers using print statements. These statements display the actual procedure on screen which helps in identifying the bugs.

Debugging Tools

  1. Webgrind. A frontend of PHP5, it is an Xdebug which implements subset features of kcachegrind. It easily installs and it functions well on all platforms. The future is expected to implement a much larger number of kcachegrind features.

  2. Xdebug. One of the most popular debugging extensions, it provides useful data to help you locate bugs in your source code. The most common applications are phpDesigner and PHPEclipse.

  3. PHP_Debug. Another open-source application that offers useful information about your code. It can detect processing times for both SQL and PHP, as well as check the performance of code blocks to obtain variable dumps in a graphical form, to make it easier to visualize the output.

  4. MacGDBp. For Mac OS, this is a live PHP debugger project which carries all features a developer expects from a debugger. This application has the ability to get you through your code and assist in setting up your breakpoints.

Setting up

To fully understand the concepts of these debugging techniques, a PHP development is required to have a web server, the latest PHP version, and Eclipse. The Web server parses the pages created in PHP then sends them to be displayed on the browser.

A debugger module containing a PHP extension is also required.

Error Messages

A PHP web development relies on error messages as its first line of defense. These messages show the exact lines of code which generate errors. The development can further be processed by underlining the syntax errors or by marking them red when saving files.

Using Print Statements

Functional bugs don’t reflect errors and printing the statements will narrow down the location of problematic statements in the code. However the functional bugs are the hardest bugs to detect and debug.

Statements come as “print” and “die”. The die () statement stops executing the program. This statement is useful if you don’t need to check comments of the code but only the error displayed.

The Article is written by Johnny Wayne for Keyideas Infotech (P) Ltd. This is a PHP Web Development Company that specializes in affordable professional web services, web site hosting, graphic design and PHP Development.

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