The nice people at Packt recently asked me to review on of their new books from the INSTANT series, a focussed line of books concentrating on one single topic. Although PHPStorm can become a big one, this book keeps things straight.
I am talking about: Instant PhpStorm Starter
The target group for this book are beginners and I mean real beginners. After the typical "how to download" and "how to install" and The author creates a short introduction of about five steps to bootstrap the reader and get her/him ready to rock. This intro is quite OK, as far as you have never used anything else than notepad.exe before. Most of the stuff is very common and feels a bit like a transcript of the manual.
The chapter "Top features you need to know about" is mostly about code templates, file templates and shorthand operations in the editor. Those hints are useful and even a power user might feel surprised to find the one or the other little trick that she/he did not know about.
The part about the "High-level programming operations for the PHP language" sounds better than it (sadly) really is. Accessing the documentation, instance diagrams and the autoformatter do not count as high level programming functions for me. One thing I use every day in PHPStorm is missing: The function-, file- and symbol search
The last big chapter is about using a VCS with PHPStorm. This is another chapter that I feel unsure about. I am a very intense console user when it comes to VCS, esp. git. This makes it hard for me to judge if this part of the book is helpful for beginners. I think it might be, esp. if they come from the eclipse world. From my point of view, the VCS chapter should have been replaced with a chapter about the plugin architecture of PHPStorm, a careful selection of helpful plugins and some more "navigating through your code" hints. The hint for the structure- and hierarchy view is totally missing.
When I try to imagine the point of view of someone who comes e.g. from the eclipse world, I must say, that it would have been of my very interest, that PHPStorm can handle eclipse project files (this is because IntelliJ Idea, the Java IDE from JetBrains, is a commercial competitor of the eclipse Java Development Tools) very well and that I could use both at the same time without forcing me to choose one over the other.
Conclusion: If you never used an IDE before you will learn a lot of new things from this book. If you are an experienced IDE user of any flavor, this book will show you some low-level tricks in PHPStorm, but the, from my personal point of view, important things like code navigation are missing.. If you used any other JetBrains IDE product before (like RubyMine, PyCharm, WebIDE, etc), most of this book is useless for you.