web-mode for PHP coding

PHP code are usually mixed inside HTML markup code. It’s very hard for us to use only php-mode to indent both php code and markup code. However, with the help of web-mode, an autonomous emacs major-mode for editing web templates, you can achieve it easily. Here is the comparison pictures between 2 modes.

  • php-mode


  • web-mode


As you can see from the above pictures, php-mode can indents only in php code, not the markup code, which make the file become very ugly and hard to read while web-mode can distinguish between markup block and php block. web-mode also allows you to specify different indentation level for each type of code block (markup, css, php). Also, Emacs’ built-in function make-local-variable helps you to set the indentation level for only .php file without affecting other kinds of file that also use web-mode.

Install and Config web-mode for PHP

First, you need to install web-mode, either using package.el or cloning it by yourself. You can also install emmet-mode for faster markup snippet insertion.

Next, add a function for setting up web-mode for php files

(defun my-setup-php ()
  ;; enable web mode

  ;; make these variables local
  (make-local-variable 'web-mode-code-indent-offset)
  (make-local-variable 'web-mode-markup-indent-offset)
  (make-local-variable 'web-mode-css-indent-offset)

  ;; set indentation, can set different indentation level for different code type
  (setq web-mode-code-indent-offset 4)
  (setq web-mode-css-indent-offset 2)
  (setq web-mode-markup-indent-offset 2))

Next, call that function when open any .php file

(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.php$" . my-setup-php))

Syntax Checking for PHP files

For php syntax checking, you need to install php command line tool and an Emacs package called flycheck (can be installed through package.el, too). On Linux, you can easily install it using your system’s package manager. On OSX, the tool is installed already for you (Apple did that) or you can install it manually (for newer version) using Macports. Make sure that php command line executable is inside you Emacs load path (or install exec-path-from-shell package to import the PATH from your shell automatically).

Flycheck already includes config for checking PHP syntax using php command line. However, the checker is limited for using with php-mode and php+mode only. To use it with web-mode, you need to re-define it by yourself

(flycheck-define-checker my-php
  "A PHP syntax checker using the PHP command line interpreter.

See URL `http://php.net/manual/en/features.commandline.php'."
  :command ("php" "-l" "-d" "error_reporting=E_ALL" "-d" "display_errors=1"
            "-d" "log_errors=0" source)
  ((error line-start (or "Parse" "Fatal" "syntax") " error" (any ":" ",") " "
          (message) " in " (file-name) " on line " line line-end))
  :modes (php-mode php+-mode web-mode))

This is just the code that I copy from flycheck source code. The only change that I made is to add web-mode to the allow modes list (the last line).

Next, come back to the my-setup-php function that we have defined before. Add these two lines to the end of the function body to activate the new checker automatically for all .php files

(flycheck-select-checker 'my-php)
(flycheck-mode t))


Auto completion and Snippets

In newer version of web-mode, even if you explicitly activate Auto Complete, you still cannot get auto complete to work. The reason is the new version of web-mode has added context-aware auto-completion feature and you need to activate it manually. Put something like this into your web-mode-hook or to the my-setup-php function that we have written before

(setq web-mode-ac-sources-alist
      '(("css" . (ac-source-words-in-buffer ac-source-css-property))
        ("html" . (ac-source-words-in-buffer ac-source-abbrev))
        ("php" . (ac-source-words-in-buffer

You can read more about context-aware auto-complete in web-mode on its home page.