Howto Setup Vim IDE for PHP Development

As a PHP developer one has quiet a lot of choices of IDE. Some are graphical will built-in features like debugging, code completion, auto indentation, syntax highlighting, code checking and many more. But those IDEs are very heavy and slow to use, and I know many people like me who just can’t live without Vim and want to use Vim for all type of text editing they do, whether they are writing code, editing configuration files or may be creating simple text files.

Recently I posted a screenshot of my Vim editor and got a lot of emails that how did I setup Vim that way. So, I hope this howto will be easy enough for everyone to follow and setup their Vim as their PHP  IDE. For the sake of simplicity I am assuming you are using Vim on Linux or Linux like system. If you are a windows user then this guide should still work for you, but I might not be able to provide Windows related details where needed.

Features that we will add or enable in Vim to make it a complete IDE.

  • Code Completion
  • Tag Lists
  • Project Management
  • Syntax Highlighting
  • Code Checking

First we need to download following Vim scripts and extract them in our ~/.vim directory.

Download above scripts one by one and install them. Installing them is easy just unzip them in you .vim directory which is located in your home directory. Now we need to download few files in our .vim/plugin directory. Download the following Vim scripts directly into your .vim/plugin directory.


Now that you have installed above scripts, you are almost all set to go. You just need to paste the following content in your .vimrc file which is located in your home directory.

" ~/.vimrc                                                      "
"                                                               "
" Version: 0.1                                                  "
"                                                               "
"                                                               "
" Hightlight the ifs and buts
syntax on
" Plugins and indentation based on the file type
filetype plugin indent on
" Don't remember source of this, i think it was already in my .vimrc
" Tell vim to remember certain things when we exit
"  '10 : marks will be remembered for up to 10 previously edited files
"  "100 : will save up to 100 lines for each register
"  :5000 : up to 5000 lines of command-line history will be remembered
"  % : saves and restores the buffer list
"  n... : where to save the viminfo files
set viminfo='10,\"100,:5000,%,n~/.viminfo
" omnicomplete from:
set completeopt=longest,menuone
inoremap <expr> <CR> pumvisible() ? "\<C-y>" : "\<C-g>u\<CR>"
inoremap <expr> <C-n> pumvisible() ? '<C-n>' :
  \ '<C-n><C-r>=pumvisible() ? "\<lt>Down>" : ""<CR>'
"##       PHP             ##
" The php doc plugin
" source ~/.vim/php-doc.vim
inoremap <C-P> <ESC>:call PhpDocSingle()<CR>i
nnoremap <C-P> :call PhpDocSingle()<CR>
vnoremap <C-P> :call PhpDocRange()<CR>
" run file with PHP CLI (CTRL-M)
:autocmd FileType php noremap <C-M> :w!<CR>:!/usr/bin/php %<CR>
" PHP parser check (CTRL-L)
:autocmd FileType php noremap <C-L> :!/usr/bin/php -l %<CR>
" Do use the currently active spell checking for completion though!
" (I love this feature :-)
set complete+=kspell
" disable tabs
set expandtab
set shiftwidth=4
set softtabstop=4
" highlt matches
set hlsearch
" Taken from
" Make Vim open and close folded text as needed because I can't be bothered to
" do so myself and wouldn't use text folding at all if it wasn't automatic.
set foldmethod=marker foldopen=all,insert foldclose=all
" Enable enhanced command line completion.
set wildmenu wildmode=list:full
" Ignore these filenames during enhanced command line completion.
set wildignore+=*.aux,*.out,*.toc " LaTeX intermediate files
set wildignore+=*.jpg,*.bmp,*.gif " binary images
set wildignore+=*.luac " Lua byte code
set wildignore+=*.o,*.obj,*.exe,*.dll,*.manifest " compiled object files
set wildignore+=*.pyc " Python byte code
set wildignore+=*.spl " compiled spelling word lists
set wildignore+=*.sw? " Vim swap files
" Enable completion dictionaries for PHP buffers.
autocmd FileType php set complete+=k~/.vim/dict/PHP.dict
" PHP Autocomplete
autocmd FileType php set omnifunc=phpcomplete#CompletePHP
set ofu=syntaxcomplete#Complete
" You might also find this useful
" PHP Generated Code Highlights (HTML & SQL)                                              
let php_sql_query=1
let php_htmlInStrings=1
let g:php_folding=2
set foldmethod=syntax
" --------------------
" Project
" --------------------
map <A-S-p> :Project<CR>
map <A-S-o> :Project<CR>:redraw<CR>/
nmap <silent> <F3> <Plug>ToggleProject
"let g:proj_window_width = 30
"let g:proj_window_increment = 150
nnoremap <silent> <F8> :TlistToggle<CR>
let Tlist_Exit_OnlyWindow = 1     " exit if taglist is last window open
let Tlist_Show_One_File = 1       " Only show tags for current buffer
let Tlist_Enable_Fold_Column = 0  " no fold column (only showing one file)
let tlist_sql_settings = 'sql;P:package;t:table'
let tlist_ant_settings = 'ant;p:Project;r:Property;t:Target'
" auto change directory from:
autocmd BufEnter * if expand("%:p:h") !~ '^/tmp' | lcd %:p:h | endif
" when we reload, tell vim to restore the cursor to the saved position
augroup JumpCursorOnEdit
 autocmd BufReadPost *
 \ if expand("<afile>:p:h") !=? $TEMP |
 \ if line("'\"") > 1 && line("'\"") <= line("$") |
 \ let JumpCursorOnEdit_foo = line("'\"") |
 \ let b:doopenfold = 1 |
 \ if (foldlevel(JumpCursorOnEdit_foo) > foldlevel(JumpCursorOnEdit_foo - 1)) |
 \ let JumpCursorOnEdit_foo = JumpCursorOnEdit_foo - 1 |
 \ let b:doopenfold = 2 |
 \ endif |
 \ exe JumpCursorOnEdit_foo |
 \ endif |
 \ endif
 " Need to postpone using "zv" until after reading the modelines.
 autocmd BufWinEnter *
 \ if exists("b:doopenfold") |
 \ exe "normal zv" |
 \ if(b:doopenfold > 1) |
 \ exe "+".1 |
 \ endif |
 \ unlet b:doopenfold |
 \ endif
augroup END
" PHP code sniffer
" If code sniffer is installed you can run it on current php file by running 
" :Phpcs
function! RunPhpcs()
    let l:filename=@%
    let l:phpcs_output=system('phpcs --report=csv --standard=YMC '.l:filename)
"    echo l:phpcs_output
    let l:phpcs_list=split(l:phpcs_output, "\n")
    unlet l:phpcs_list[0]
    cexpr l:phpcs_list
set errorformat+=\"%f\"\\,%l\\,%c\\,%t%*[a-zA-Z]\\,\"%m\"
command! Phpcs execute RunPhpcs()

Thats it, now you are all set to go. Following are the few quick commands to get you started to use all the features you have just enabled in your Vim IDE.

F3: To start using project manager.
\C: After starting project manager this key combination will allow you to add new project.
F8: Tag list window
Ctrl+L: To run the syntax checking on your php file
Ctrl+P: On any class/function definition to add php doc strings
“:PhpCs”: To run PHP Code sniffer on your php script. (this requires code sniffer to be installed).
Ctrl+n: On any word to use Auto completion feature of PHP.

I will soon write another howto to explain how can you use further features of your IDE. You should subscribe to the feed or follow me on twitter to stay updated. 🙂

Published by

Hameedullah Khan

VR enthusiast, Cloud Architect, Passionate Programmer and Opensource advocate.

5 thoughts on “Howto Setup Vim IDE for PHP Development”

  1. In your Vim experience, have you ever come across a plugin that can save a local file and upload it to an ftp address relative to its project folder via a hotkey? It’s the one thing that keeps me from using Vim.


  2. You could do all of this manually… or you could just install spf13-vim ( which includes all of these plugins and more. It also includes the PIV (PHP Integration for Vim) plugin ( which makes editing PHP in vim a really seamless experience.
    Steve Francia´s last blog post ..My Favorite Rands Posts


    Hameedullah Khan Reply:

    spf-13 is no doubt a very robust solution for a quick setup of Vim, but being a developer one always wants to do it their self. But I will give it a try this weekend, as I also have to try and play with NerdTree have a lot of good things about it.


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