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I use myself eclipse PDT, not bad at all (but memory-hungry because, well, it's eclipse)...
You say that most of the problems with PHP can be solved by a good IDE. What is your recommendation in that area?
Thank you for the good question!
I meant that any good IDE has a code completion feature, that will suggest you both a function name as soon as you start typing it, and its arguments and their order. So you don't care for the alleged "inconsistency" in the functions naming or parameters.
I would recommend two IDEs - one is paid, which costs $90, called PHPStorm, I am using it myself, and every day I am discovering new wonderful feature.
Another one is NetBeans, which is free but still very rich with features. Both are multi-platform and work on any OS.
Feel free to ask if you have any other question!
Is it possible with PDO to make a MySQL connection without using a password?
Not sure what you mean and which driver you are using, but at least you can provide an empty password if password for your database is empty.