Topic

A development environment is any copy of your site that operates separately from the live site. Development environments allow you to make changes, try new modules, write new code, and test new ideas, on a copy of your site instead of the real thing, ensuring those changes happen in a sandbox where you're not affecting anyone trying to use the live version of your application.

This is typically done by installing the server software required to run Drupal on your own computer and then creating a clone of your existing database and files. Or you might have a separate instance of the site setup on the existing infrastructure.

Here's a basic recipe for setting up a new development environment:

  1. Install web server, database server, PHP, and Git
  2. Either install Drupal if starting from scratch, or clone the code, database, and user-generated files from your live site
  3. Clear the cache

Example tasks

  • Install Drupal on, or copy an existing site to, your computer to do development
  • Test modules and code without affecting the production site
  • Test server configuration changes on your localhost before deploying them to production

Confidence

There are dozens of ways to do this, and none is the only right way. The bare minimum requirement is that you have PHP, a web server, and a database running on the computer where you would like to install Drupal. Beyond that, it's mostly personal preference.

Drupalize.Me resources

First, learn about best practices in Drupal Development.

What is a development site? These tutorials from the Drupal 8 User Guide will help you understand what you need in a local development environment, in order to run Drupal locally on your machine.

Learn about the minimum requirements for running Drupal 8. These will also work for Drupal 7. If you're curious about Drupal 7 specifics see the Drupal 7 system requirements

Install a Local Development Server: This collection of tutorials includes instructions on how to set up a local development environment on Mac OS, Windows, and Linux.

Or, alternatively, learn to use Docker for Drupal Development:

Learn about why it's important to clone an existing site with Drupal 8. Then do it, either via the Command Line Interface (CLI), or with Graphical User Interface (GUI) tools.

Learn how to use Git to keep the code on your development environment in sync with that on the live site.

Now that you've got a copy of your Drupal site on your local environment, using an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) such as PhpStorm can be highly useful, as it can autocomplete various language constructs, help you quickly locate inherited classes, alert you when a function is deprecated, provide debugging tools, and much more.

More Guides

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External resources

  • Local Dev Environments for Dummies
    • This MidCamp 2018 presentation by Jeff Geerling covers all the basics you need to know to be able to evaluate and determine what's the best development setup for you, your team or your dev shop.

Some development environments the Drupalize.Me team are currently using include:

  • SimplyTest.me, and Try Drupal (drupal.org)
    • Sometimes you just need to create a quick Drupal site to try out a new module or a proof of concept. SimplyTest.me is the fastest way we know of to do that. If you want something that doesn't expire after 24 hours, try one of the hosting providers with free options from Drupal.org.
  • Drupal VM (drupalvm.com)
    • Uses Ansible, and either a Vagrant VM or Docker containers to set up a Drupal-centered environment. Includes many convenient utilities for local development. A little harder to install but gives more flexibility and bundled features.
  • Lando (github.com)
    • Successor of Kalabox. Uses Docker containers with sane defaults for Drupal and other open source web development. Includes configuration defaults for a number of popular open source frameworks, tech stacks, and hosting platform Pantheon.
    • Lando documentation (docs.devwithlando.io)
  • PHP 5.3 to 7.1 for OS X / macOS 10.6 to 10.12 as binary package (php-osx.liip.ch)
    • This package installs the latest PHP binary on OS X as well as many useful extensions and ini-settings. It also provides a decent php.ini with all settings configured according to "Best Practices". It doesn't install Apache, MySQL or any other external programs. It uses the Apache installation, which comes with OS X. For installing MySQL you can, for example, use Homebrew. The package is based on entropy's php package.