Run PHP in Visual Studio Code: Easy Step-by-Step Guide

In the phase of countless web development tools, harnessing the right one can make all the difference in streamlining your workflow. For PHP developers seeking an efficient and feature-rich IDE, Visual Studio Code emerges as a standout choice. This blog will guide you through the essential steps of running PHP files seamlessly within Visual Studio Code, unleashing the full potential of this popular code editor. 

From initial setup to troubleshooting common errors, undertake a journey to enhance your PHP development experience. Setting up Visual Studio Code for PHP development is the foundational step that paves the way for a productive coding journey.

Moreover, creating and running PHP files within Visual Studio Code is a seamless process that significantly boosts developer productivity. You can dive into the user-friendly interface of VS Code – effortlessly craft and execute PHP scripts. This article will provide a step-by-step guide on file creation, leveraging the built-in tools that make running PHP files as straightforward as the code you write.

Setting up Visual Studio Code for PHP Development

Stepping on PHP development within Visual Studio Code – being one of the best PHP development IDEs opens up a world of possibilities for streamlined coding. With its extensive features and versatility, Visual Studio Code has become a go-to platform for developers across various programming languages, including PHP. 

From installation to configuration, let’s hop on optimizing your coding environment for efficient PHP development in Visual Studio Code. Mindwell, if you are running on a timeline or trying to analyze your PHP application, considering assistance from PHP experts will be a strategic step to ensure no other file gets broken down.

Step 1: Install Visual Studio Code

install visual studio code

To kickstart your journey into PHP development using Visual Studio Code, the first crucial step is to install the editor on your system. Visual Studio Code offers a lightweight yet powerful solution, packed with features designed to enhance your coding experience. This installation guide will walk you through the process, ensuring a seamless setup to lay the foundation for your PHP coding endeavors.

  1. Visit the Official Website: Navigate to the official Visual Studio Code website and locate the download page. Choose the version compatible with your operating system, be it Windows, macOS, or Linux.
  2. Download and Run the Installer: Once the download is complete, execute the installer to initiate the setup process. Follow the on-screen instructions, select your preferred options, and allow the installer to complete the installation.
  3. Launch Visual Studio Code: After installation, launch Visual Studio Code. Familiarize yourself with the user-friendly interface, customizable layout, and built-in functionalities tailored to enhance your coding environment.
  4. Extensions for PHP Development: Explore the Extensions marketplace within Visual Studio Code and install the PHP extension. This extension augments the editor’s capabilities, providing features like IntelliSense, debugging support, and PHP language features.
  5. Configure Settings (Optional): Customize Visual Studio Code to suit your preferences by adjusting settings. This step is optional but allows you to tailor the editor to your workflow, enhancing your overall coding experience.

Additionally, this setup lays the groundwork for harnessing Visual Studio Code’s powerful features, such as intelligent code completion and debugging support. It ultimately helps in enhancing your overall productivity as you dive into PHP development. With both Visual Studio Code and PHP seamlessly integrated, you’re supposed to establish a coding journey that combines efficiency and functionality for your PHP projects.

Step 2: Install PHP

install php

Building on the foundation of Visual Studio Code installation, the next step in gearing up for PHP development involves installing PHP itself. This step is crucial as PHP is the scripting language that will power your web applications. Let’s move ahead and ensure you have the necessary tools for a smooth development experience within Visual Studio Code.

  1. Download PHP: Head to the official PHP website and choose the version that aligns with your operating system. Select the appropriate download link, whether you are running Windows, macOS, or Linux.
  2. Install PHP: Execute the downloaded PHP installer and follow the on-screen instructions. During installation, you may be prompted to customize the setup by selecting components and configuring settings. Ensure that you include the necessary modules and features required for your PHP projects.
  3. Verify Installation: Once the installation is complete, open a command prompt or terminal and type “php -v” to check the installed PHP version. This verification step ensures that PHP is successfully installed and accessible from the command line.
  4. Configure PHP for Visual Studio Code: To enable seamless integration with Visual Studio Code, configure the PHP executable path in the editor’s settings. This step allows Visual Studio Code to recognize and utilize the installed PHP version for running and debugging PHP scripts.
  5. Test PHP Installation: Create a simple PHP file, such as “hello.php,” with a basic script like <?php echo “Hello, PHP!”; ?>. Run this file using Visual Studio Code to confirm that PHP is correctly installed and functioning within your development environment.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully installed PHP, a pivotal component for your Visual Studio Code PHP development setup. With this essential step complete, your coding environment is well-equipped to handle PHP projects seamlessly.

Step 3: Install PHP Extensions in VS Code

install php extensions in vs code

The next step involves enhancing your coding experience by installing PHP extensions in the editor. These extensions provide additional functionalities, such as syntax highlighting, IntelliSense, and debugging support, tailored specifically for PHP development.

  1. Access Extensions Marketplace: Open Visual Studio Code and navigate to the Extensions view by clicking on the Extensions icon in the Activity Bar. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl+Shift+X’ (Windows/Linux) or ‘Cmd+Shift+X’ (macOS).
  2. Search for PHP Extensions: In the Extensions view, search for “PHP” in the search bar. Explore the available PHP extensions, and select the one that aligns with your preferences and requirements. Popular choices include “PHP Intellisense,” “PHP Debug,” and “PHP DocBlocker.”
  3. Install Selected Extensions: Click on the desired PHP extension, and then click the “Install” button to initiate the installation process. Visual Studio Code will download and install the selected extension, providing you with enhanced PHP development capabilities within the editor.
  4. Configure Extension Settings: After installation, customize the extension settings according to your workflow. This may include configuring PHP executable paths, adjusting code formatting preferences, and enabling specific features offered by the installed extensions.
  5. Verify Functionality: Open a PHP file or create a new one to verify that the installed extensions are functioning correctly. Experience improved code completion, syntax highlighting, and debugging features as you delve into PHP development with Visual Studio Code.

Incorporating PHP extensions into Visual Studio Code, you’ve elevated your coding environment to new heights, unlocking advanced features tailored for PHP development. This step sets the stage for an efficient coding experience, ensuring that your PHP projects benefit from the all capabilities offered by Visual Studio Code and its extensions.

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Creating a PHP File in Visual Studio Code

Now that your Visual Studio Code environment is set up with PHP and essential extensions, it’s time to dive into the core of development by creating your first PHP file. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of crafting a PHP file within Visual Studio Code, leveraging the editor’s intuitive features, and ensuring you’re well-equipped to start coding your PHP projects efficiently.

Step 1: Open or Create a Project

open or create a project

Before diving into PHP file creation, ensure you have a project set up in Visual Studio Code. Whether you’re continuing an existing project or starting a new one, this step lays the foundation for organized and efficient PHP development.

  1. Open an Existing Project: If you have an existing PHP project, launch Visual Studio Code and use the “File” menu to open the project folder. Navigate to the project directory and select it to load the project into the editor.
  2. Create a New Project: For a new project, click on “File” and select “New Folder” to create a dedicated directory for your PHP project. Afterwards, open this folder in Visual Studio Code using the same “File” menu and selecting “Open Folder.”
  3. Organize Project Structure: Ensure your project follows a well-organized structure with separate folders for assets, configuration files, and PHP scripts. This organization simplifies navigation and maintenance as your project evolves.
  4. Explore Integrated Version Control: Utilize Visual Studio Code’s integrated Git support to manage version control for your project. Initialize a Git repository within your project folder using the source control icon in the activity bar.
  5. Install Project Dependencies (Optional): If your PHP project relies on its libraries or frameworks, consider installing dependencies using Composer or other package management tools. Visual Studio Code seamlessly integrates with these tools to enhance your development workflow.

With your PHP project now open or created within Visual Studio Code, you’re set to embark on the journey of PHP file creation and coding. This organized project structure, coupled with the editor’s features, ensures a smooth and efficient development experience.

Step 2: Create a New File

create a new file

Now that your PHP project is set up in Visual Studio Code, the next pivotal step is creating a new PHP file. Let us walk you through the process of initiating a fresh PHP file within the editor, allowing you to harness Visual Studio Code’s intuitive interface and powerful features for efficient coding.

  1. Access the Explorer View: Navigate to the Explorer view in Visual Studio Code by clicking on the Explorer icon in the Activity Bar. This view displays the file and folder structure of your project.
  2. Right-Click to Create: Right-click on the desired directory or folder where you want to create the new PHP file. From the context menu, choose “New File” and provide a meaningful name with the ‘.php’ extension, such as “index.php” or “script.php.”
  3. Open the New File: Double-click on the newly created PHP file to open it in the editor. Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl + O’ (Windows/Linux) or ‘Cmd + O’ (macOS) to open the file dialog, then enter the file name to open it.
  4. Start Coding: With the new PHP file open, start writing your PHP code. Visual Studio Code provides syntax highlighting, auto-completion, and other helpful features to streamline your coding experience.
  5. Save the File: Ensure to save your work regularly using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + S (Windows/Linux) or Cmd + S (macOS). This habit prevents the loss of any unsaved changes and ensures your code is preserved.

You’ve successfully created a new PHP file within your Visual Studio Code PHP project. This file serves as the canvas for your PHP code, and with the editor’s features at your disposal, you’re well-equipped to start coding and building your PHP applications.

Step 3: Start Writing PHP Code

start writing php code

With your PHP file created in Visual Studio Code, it’s time to infuse life into your project by writing PHP code. This step will guide you through the process of crafting your PHP script within the editor, leveraging the intelligent features that Visual Studio Code offers for a seamless coding experience.

  1. Set the PHP Tags: Begin your PHP script by using the PHP opening and closing tags: ‘<?php’ at the beginning and ‘?>’ at the end. This encapsulates your PHP code, allowing the interpreter to distinguish it from HTML or other web development languages.
  2. Leverage IntelliSense: Take advantage of Visual Studio Code’s IntelliSense feature, which provides context-aware code suggestions and autocompletion as you type. This accelerates your coding process and minimizes errors.
  3. Explore Code Snippets: Visual Studio Code offers pre-defined code snippets that you can insert with a simple shortcut. Access these snippets by typing a specific trigger word and selecting the snippet from the suggestions. This enhances code efficiency and consistency.
  4. Utilize Code Formatting: Maintain a clean and consistent code structure by using Visual Studio Code’s built-in formatting features. Employ the keyboard shortcut ‘Shift + Alt + F’ (Windows/Linux) or ‘Shift + Option + F’ (macOS) to automatically format your PHP code according to established conventions.
  5. Activate PHP Debugging: Integrate debugging into your coding workflow by setting breakpoints and utilizing the Visual Studio Code debugger. This feature assists in identifying and resolving issues within your PHP code efficiently.

As you explore the powerful features and tools the editor provides, your coding experience becomes more intuitive and productive. Moving further, we’ll dig into running and debugging your PHP files, further enhancing your development capabilities within Visual Studio Code.

Step 4: Save the File

save the file

As you add your PHP code within Visual Studio Code, ensuring your progress is securely preserved is paramount. This step emphasizes the significance of saving your PHP file within the editor, safeguarding your work and providing a foundation for seamless collaboration and version control.

  1. Keyboard Shortcut: Employ the keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl + S’ (Windows/Linux) or ‘Cmd + S’ (macOS) to instantly save your PHP file. Consistently using this shortcut ensures that your latest changes are promptly saved, preventing any potential loss of work.
  2. Auto-Save Feature: Enable Visual Studio Code’s auto-save feature for a hands-free approach to preserving your changes. Access the settings by navigating to “File” > “Auto Save” and choosing your preferred option, whether it’s enabling auto-save on focus change or a set interval.
  3. Version Control Integration: Leverage the integrated Git support within Visual Studio Code to manage version control for your PHP project. Regularly committing your changes helps track the evolution of your codebase and facilitates collaboration with others.
  4. Explore Save All Option: In scenarios where you’re working on multiple files simultaneously, use the “Save All” option. This can be accessed through the keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl + K S’ (Windows/Linux) or ‘Cmd + K S’ (macOS) to save all open files concurrently.
  5. Backup and Cloud Integration: Consider implementing additional backup mechanisms or integrating Visual Studio Code with cloud services for added security. This ensures your PHP files are not only saved locally but also backed up externally, providing an extra layer of protection.

While saving PHP files within Visual Studio Code, you can establish a robust foundation for a smooth and secure coding experience. Whether through manual saves, auto-save features, or version control integration, preserving your work ensures that you can confidently continue building and refining your PHP projects.

Running a PHP File in Visual Studio Code

As your PHP code takes shape within Visual Studio Code, the time has come to witness it in action. This step will guide you through the process of running your PHP file within the editor, leveraging the integrated tools and features to execute and test your code seamlessly. Let’s explore how Visual Studio Code transforms your written PHP script into a functional and dynamic application.

Step 1: Install a Local Server

Before running a file in Visual Studio Code, it’s essential to have a server for PHP development to simulate a web server environment. This step will guide you through the process of installing a local server on your machine, ensuring a dynamic and interactive execution of your PHP code within Visual Studio Code.

  • Select a Local Server: Choose a local server that suits your preferences and operating system. Popular choices include Apache, Nginx, or tools like XAMPP or MAMP, which provide bundled solutions containing Apache, MySQL, and PHP.
  • Download and Install: Visit the official website of the selected local server and download the installer compatible with your operating system. Execute the installer, following the on-screen instructions to install the local server components on your machine.
  • Configure Server Settings: After installation, configure the local server settings to align with your PHP project requirements. Adjust the document root, server port, and other configurations to create an environment that mirrors your production setup.
  • Start the Local Server: Launch the local server to activate the web server environment. Verify its functionality by accessing a sample HTML file through a web browser. This step ensures that your local server is running correctly and ready to handle PHP files.
  • Test PHP Configuration: Create a simple PHP file, such as “info.php,” containing the “phpinfo()” function. Place this file in the document root of your local server and access it through a web browser to confirm that PHP is configured and working properly.

With a local server successfully installed and configured, your PHP projects within Visual Studio Code are poised for dynamic execution. This foundational step sets the stage for running and testing PHP files, offering a comprehensive environment for the web development process.

Step 2: Start the Server

start the server

Now that you’ve installed a local server, it’s time to bring it to life. Starting the server is a crucial step in the process of running PHP files in Visual Studio Code. It will cover the steps to activate your local server, creating the environment needed to execute and test your PHP code seamlessly within the editor.

  1. Locate Server Executable: Navigate to the installation directory of your chosen local server and identify the executable file responsible for launching the server. This could be, for example, ‘httpd.exe’ for Apache or ‘nginx.exe’ for Nginx.
  2. Run the Executable: Double-click on the executable file or launch it from the command line to start the local server. Monitor the command prompt or terminal for any error messages and ensure that the server initializes without issues.
  3. Access Server Control Panel (if applicable): Some local server packages, like XAMPP or MAMP, provide control panels with user-friendly interfaces. Use these panels to start the Apache or Nginx server, along with any other associated services like MySQL.
  4. Verify Server Status: Confirm that the server is running by accessing the specified localhost URL or IP address through a web browser. You should see a default page or confirmation message, indicating that the server is active and ready to process PHP files.
  5. Check Server Logs (Optional): For troubleshooting purposes, consult the server logs to identify any potential issues. Logs are typically located in the server’s installation directory or specified in the server’s configuration.

With the local server now up and running, your PHP development environment within Visual Studio Code is approaching readiness. This pivotal step ensures that your PHP files can be executed within the simulated web server environment, providing a dynamic platform for testing and refining your code.

Step 3: Open the PHP File in VS Code

open the php file in vs code

With the local server running, it’s time to seamlessly integrate your PHP file into Visual Studio Code. This step will guide you through the process of opening your PHP file within the editor, creating a bridge between your code and the active local server for a smooth development experience.

  1. Launch Visual Studio Code: Ensure Visual Studio Code is open and ready for your PHP development. If it’s not already running, launch the editor and make sure your PHP project folder is open.
  2. Navigate to the PHP File: Using the Explorer view or file navigation within Visual Studio Code, locate and select the PHP file you wish to run. If you’re working with an existing project, navigate through the project structure to find your PHP file.
  3. Open the PHP File: Double-click on the PHP file, or right-click and select “Open” to load the file into the editor. Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl + O’ (Windows/Linux) or ‘Cmd + O’ (macOS), enter the file name, and press Enter to open it.
  4. Verify File in Editor: Ensure that your PHP file is now visible in the editor. Familiarize yourself with Visual Studio Code’s syntax highlighting, IntelliSense, and other features that facilitate a productive coding environment.
  5. Review File Structure (Optional): If your PHP file is part of a larger project, take a moment to review the overall project structure within Visual Studio Code. This step ensures that you have a clear understanding of your project layout and organization.

Now that your PHP file is seamlessly integrated into Visual Studio Code, you’re ready to witness its execution within the active local server environment. This harmonious connection between your code and the editor sets the stage for running and testing your PHP applications with efficiency.

Step 4: Run the File

With your PHP file open in Visual Studio Code and the local server active, it’s time to witness your code in action. Getting on the process of executing and running your PHP file within the integrated local server environment, providing a real-time preview of your application.

  1. Access Browser or cURL: Open a web browser and navigate to the URL provided by your local server, typically ‘http://localhost’ or ‘’ Alternatively, if you prefer the command line, you can use cURL to access the server and retrieve the PHP file output.
  2. Specify PHP File Path: Append the path to your PHP file to the server URL. For example, if your PHP file is in the root directory, you would access ‘http://localhost/yourfile.php.’ This instructs the server to process and render the specified PHP file.
  3. Observe Output: The web browser or command line should display the output of your PHP file. This output may include HTML content, dynamic data generated by PHP, or any other content specified in your code. This real-time preview allows you to verify that your PHP file is running correctly.
  4. Inspect Console (Optional): If your PHP file includes any echo or print statements, inspect the browser console or command line output for these messages. This step is especially useful for debugging and confirming the execution of specific code segments.
  5. Navigate Through Application (Optional): If your PHP file is part of a larger web application, navigate through different pages or functionalities to test various aspects of your code. This ensures a comprehensive evaluation of your PHP project within the local server environment.

You’ve successfully run your PHP file within the active local server environment, witnessing the real-time output of your code. This step marks a significant milestone in your PHP development journey within Visual Studio Code.

Step 5: View Output

With your PHP file successfully executed, the next step is to view and analyze the output. This crucial phase allows you to inspect the results of your PHP code, ensuring that it operates as intended within the local server environment. This step-by-step guide will walk you through examining the output generated by your PHP file.

  1. Return to Browser or cURL: If you used a web browser to run your PHP file, return to the browser window where you accessed the local server URL. Alternatively, if you used cURL or another command-line method, observe the output in the command-line interface.
  2. Inspect HTML and PHP Output: Carefully review the output displayed in the browser or command line. If your PHP file generates HTML content dynamically, this is the rendered result. Ensure that any PHP scripts are executing correctly, and verify that the displayed content aligns with your expectations.
  3. Check for Errors or Warnings: In the browser console or command line output, keep an eye out for any PHP errors or warnings. These messages provide valuable insights into potential issues within your code and assist in the debugging process.
  4. Evaluate Dynamic Data (if applicable): If your PHP code includes dynamic data or interactions with databases, assess the accuracy of this data in the output. Confirm that any database queries are executing as intended and that dynamic content is being generated dynamically.
  5. Test Different Scenarios (Optional): If your PHP file involves user interactions or dynamic functionality, test different scenarios by interacting with your application. This step allows you to validate the behavior of your PHP code under various conditions.

While thoroughly examining the output of your PHP file, you gain valuable insights into its functionality and performance. This step ensures that your code produces the expected results within the local server environment, paving the way for further enhancements and refinements.

Common PHP file in Visual Studio Errors and Troubleshooting

While developing PHP files in Visual Studio Code, encountering errors is inevitable. This guide addresses error handling you might face during PHP development and provides troubleshooting tips to resolve them. Understanding and overcoming these challenges will enhance your proficiency in crafting robust and error-free PHP code within the Visual Studio Code environment.

  • Syntax Errors: Syntax errors are common and can prevent your PHP file from executing. Carefully review the error messages displayed in Visual Studio Code’s terminal or output panel. Inspect the indicated line and character to identify and rectify syntax issues.
  • Undefined Variable or Function: If you encounter “undefined variable” or “undefined function” errors, ensure that variables and functions are declared before use. Check for typos, incorrect scoping, or cases where a variable or function might not be accessible within the current scope.
  • Include or Require Failures: Issues with include or require statements can arise, leading to “file not found” errors. Verify the file paths specified in your included statements and ensure that the referenced files exist in the specified locations. Consider using absolute paths for reliability.
  • Database Connection Errors: When working with databases, connection errors may occur. Double-check database credentials, hostnames, and connection methods. Inspect error messages to pinpoint connection issues and ensure that the database server is accessible from your PHP environment.
  • HTTP 500 Internal Server Error: The generic “500 Internal Server Error” can be challenging to diagnose. Check the server logs for more detailed error messages. Common causes include misconfigurations in the server or issues with the PHP code itself, such as infinite loops or memory exhaustion.

When you familiarize yourself with common PHP errors and adopt effective troubleshooting strategies, you’ll be better equipped to navigate challenges during your development process. This proactive approach enhances the quality of your PHP code and contributes to a smoother coding experience in Visual Studio Code.

FAQs About Running PHP File in Visual Studio Code

How to run PHP file in Visual Studio Code with the live server?
  • Install "Live Server" extension from VS Code marketplace.
  • Right-click on PHP file, select "Open with Live Server" to view in a live environment.
How to compile a PHP file in Visual Studio Code?
  • PHP doesn't require compilation; it's an interpreted language.
  • Use "PHP Intellisense" for syntax checking and code improvement suggestions.
How to run PHP file in Chrome VS Code?
  • Install "PHP Debug" extension in VS Code.
  • Set breakpoints, press F5 to debug and run PHP in Chrome.


Concluding this journey of setting up Visual Studio Code for PHP development, you’ve equipped yourself with the essential tools and knowledge to streamline your coding experience. From installing Visual Studio Code and PHP to running your PHP files on a local server, you’ve gained insights into a seamless development workflow within this versatile code editor.

As you navigate the vast landscape of PHP development, encountering challenges is inevitable. From troubleshooting common errors to exploring advanced features, your proficiency will continue to grow. Consider this learning curve and leverage the robust capabilities of Visual Studio Code to bring your PHP projects to fruition.

In your pursuit of mastering PHP development, remember that assistance is just a message away. Our team of proficient experts, boasting over 8 years of combined experience, stands ready to help you through each step, from installation to the deployment of your PHP applications. Reach out today and let us drive your PHP coding aspires to new heights.

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Jigar Shah is the Founder of WPWeb Infotech - a leading Web Development Company in India, USA. Being the founder of the company, he takes care of business development activities and handles the execution of the projects. He is Enthusiastic about producing quality content on challenging technical subjects.

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