Like a lot of developers, I am a big fan of Alexander Blach's Textastic Code Editor. But one of the limitations that it and other programmer-oriented editors have on the iPad is its inability to locally execute the code you are editing on the iPad within the Textastic environment. Read on to learn how one company found a way to overcome this constraint.
Developer Kodiak have just released a Textastic-inspired editor that specifically targeting PHP developers. Remarkably, Kodiak's PHP IDE for iPad allows for you to edit and execute your PHP code within Kodiak's editor on the iPad that doesn't require an Internet connected back-end service. Even though the ability to write a script and execute it on the iPad exists for other languages (Jonathan Hosmer's Python for iOS
comes to mind), Kodiak's PHP IDE is the first I've seen that combine a self-contained scripting engine with a decent text editor.
As for the code editor itself, the Kodiak's PHP IDE takes several cues from Textastic's design, especially its especially useful extended on-screen keyboard. This makes navigating code so much faster and more efficient compared to Apple's stock on-screen keyboard.
Kodiak's PHP IDE also support PHP syntax highlighting, but not autocomplete. Its file management capabilities are also limited to creating and saving files locally. If you need to push the file up to a server, you'll have to rely on a program like Textastic or another file transport application to do so. I suspect this feature will be added in a future release, but it would have been nice to include such a necessary function from the get go. Perhaps it will show up in the slide out pane which is taken up mostly with menu item selections to help promote the program rather than access hopefully forthcoming functions like file transfer and debugging.
Another problem that will become apparent to any advanced PHP developer is the fact that you won't be able to add your own custom (or insert favorite obscure) PHP library onto the device. I don't know how Kodiak can address this issue, given that they are bound by Apple's rules of keeping their program entirely self-contained and not allow potentially malicious or bandwidth hogging code functions to be bolted onto an app. This constraint doesn't just apply to Kodiak's PHP interpreter but all iOS hosted interpreters. And even though Kodiak comes preloaded with several popular PHP libraries that can be called upon via the include "../Includes/functions.php" directive, you won't be able to add your own library to this includes directory any time soon.
Overall, Kodiak's PHP IDE is an interesting first attempt at what might eventually become a fully functional PHP development environment. Kodiak indicates on their website that they plan on extending their IDE concept to other languages as well, so perhaps Pythonistas and Rubyists will have a reason to get excited about writing and running code in their favorite scripting languages on the iPad.
Of course, as this practice becomes more commonplace, its conceivable that applications like Textastic will simply have the ability to extend its environment by allowing users to download the scripting engine of their choice within the Textastic application itself. But until that day arrives, Kodiak is one of the few developers on the iOS platform that offers a combined editor and PHP runtime engine that is both easy to work with and functional enough to code and run a few quick ideas directly on the iPad - no web server required.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars