Francisco Brusa

Setting up Visual Studio Code to work with PHP

VS code is a tool mostly used by front-end developers. It’s highly optimized to work with JavaScript and TypeScript, featuring smart autocompletion, auto-imports, refactors, and other goodies.

Although no match to IDEs like PHPStorm, Visual Studio Code can be customized to have better support when working PHP.

The most important thing you can do

The most important thing to do if you want to work with PHP in VS code is to disable the default language server and install PHP Intelephense.

This is literally 90% of the job and it’s super easy.

  1. Within Visual Studio Code, go to the “Extensions” tab and search PHP.
  2. Uninstall PHP IntelliSense (it will be installed by default)
  3. Install PHP Intelephense.

Note: I'm not being payed by intelephense to write this!

You will want to disable the default PHP suggestions integrated into VS code. To acheive this, add this line to your user settings:

"php.suggest.basic": false,

(To open your settings, open the console with Cmd+Shift+P and search the key “Preferences: Open user settings (JSON)”)

After changing this, your PHP code will start behaving a little big “smarter”.

If you’re done this, you have it. 90% of the functions you wanted from PHPStorm are already in VS code.

Here are some of those features you now have:

  • Highlight syntax, type errors and other static analysis tools
  • Autodetect installed libraries and bring them in suggestions based on your composer.json
  • Detect unused imports, unused private functions or unused variables.
  • Automatically creates phpdoc annotations with configurable format, and reads them when writting method or function calls.

Some other extensions you might want to install

Here are some other extensions that might be handy to cover that missing 10% of features that are not bundled with Intelephense.

  1. PHP Dockblocker enhances the capabilities of Intelephense regarding the creation of phpdoc type comments.
  2. PHP Namespace Resolver Allows to automatically import a class using Ctrl+Opt+I and automatically expand the class (a.k.a.: import it inline, to get \Path\To\Class) using Ctrl+Opt+E. If there are name conflicts, a prompt shows all the options.
  3. laravel-blade is an extension to highlight syntax in Blade files. Laravel goto view allows to cmd+click in @import()s and other blade tags.

Extensions for speficic tasks

There are a lot of extensions to add some little extra functionalities you might need. Like this extension to add getter and setter methods, and this one or this one to generate constructor properties.

Third party integrations

Integrations with Docker and various SQL database flavours are also available as plug-ins. A personal favourite is GitLens, that complements the Git support of the editor with some cool, advanced functions (at the expense of a little performance loss).


There are a lot more extensions in the market and a million more posts that curate them, so I will leave this one kinda open and just drop a link to the VS code marketplace for you to take a look 😉.

VS code is not an IDE, but a code editor. Yet, by using extensions we can make it look and behave kind of like an IDE. It’s no match against PHPStorm in it’s advanced features, but it can provide the most used features with some simple customizations.