Not that long ago I was fidling around with my Xdebug settings and discovered by accident that you can enable a nice color formatted var_dump by changing just one small setting. It improves readability a lot and also color highlights errors which obviously comes in very handy when debugging code.
For example, this is the regular PHP var_dump() method output without Xdebug installed.
And this is the one with Xdebug installed & the color highlighting option enabled. As you can see it highlights each type in a different color and also the array and string lengths. It also shows the filename and line number where you're var_dumping from.
And below an example of a highlighted PHP error.
Bonus: if you install/enable this on a webserver it will also do this in the browser.
Install the package
For Mac users, assuming you're using homebrew,
brew install josegonzalez/php/php55-xdebug
For Linux users:
sudo apt-get install php5-xdebug
Enable the color highlighting
php --ini to see your ini files, this should output something like the following.
➜ web git:(develop) php --ini Configuration File (php.ini) Path: /usr/local/etc/php/5.5 Loaded Configuration File: /usr/local/etc/php/5.5/php.ini Scan for additional .ini files in: /usr/local/etc/php/5.5/conf.d Additional .ini files parsed: /usr/local/etc/php/5.5/conf.d/ext-blitz.ini, /usr/local/etc/php/5.5/conf.d/ext-geoip.ini, /usr/local/etc/php/5.5/conf.d/ext-geos.ini, /usr/local/etc/php/5.5/conf.d/ext-igbinary.ini, /usr/local/etc/php/5.5/conf.d/ext-mailparse.ini, /usr/local/etc/php/5.5/conf.d/ext-redis.ini, /usr/local/etc/php/5.5/conf.d/ext-xdebug.ini
The last line shows the location of our Xdebug ini file:
/usr/local/etc/php/5.5/conf.d/ext-xdebug.ini. Open it up with your editor of choice and add the following line at the end of the file:
Optional: restart php-fpm
If you're running php-fpm and want to enable this on your website, you'll need to restart this so it loads the updated configuration files:
sudo service php5-fpm restart.
That's it, enjoy!