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ExpressionEngine Developer’s Toolbox


While open-source CMS options like WordPress get a lot of attention from bloggers and designers, ExpressionEngine is a powerful, robust choice that many designers and clients would find more suitable to their needs. And as with the other CMS options, there are plenty of online resources for designers and developers who are working with ExpressionEngine. In this article you’ll find a helpful collection of resources to aid you in your work with EE.

For more CMS Toolboxes, see:

1. Tutorials Link

The EE community provides lots of tutorials for learning how to do just about anything in EE. Whether you’re brand new and don’t know where to start, or experienced and looking for some advanced techniques, there are existing resources to show you new things. Here is a look at a sampling of the tutorials that are available.

1.1 Beginner Tutorials Link

Installation Instructions
Install EE in six steps.

An Introduction to ExpressionEngine
A solid starting point that gives you all the basics of building a website with EE.

Intro to EE

First Steps in ExpressionEngine
A good beginner’s guide, with explanations on the basics of EE.

Categories and Paths in ExpressionEngine
A look at the URL structure created by EE by default.

URL structure in EE

Quick Start Tutorial
A beginner’s tutorial from EE that is intended to help new users get up and running quickly.

1.2 Building Websites Link

Building a Small Business Website
A 17-part tutorial series that takes you through the entire process of building a website with EE from start to finish (also available in book format).

Building a small site with EE

Building a Church Site
A 27-part tutorial series on building a church website with a blog, an events calendar, photos and more.

Building a church site with EE

Creating Custom Listings with ExpressionEngine
Darren Hoyt looks at some problems with creating manageable websites for clients and shows how EE can help, as compared to WordPress (see parts 1 and 2).

Creating custom listings

1.3 Working with Audio Link

Powering an Audio Archive with ExpressionEngine
A tutorial on using custom fields to power an audio archive.

ExpressionEngine Podcasting
This tutorial shows the process of publishing a podcast with EE with the help of a plug-in.

1.4 Image Galleries and Slideshows Link

Monoslideshow and EE Gallery
This tutorial will help you set up a Flash slideshow on your EE website.

EE gallery

Member Photo Gallery in ExpressionEngine
Display a gallery of photos uploaded by members of your website.

EE gallery

1.5 Working with Blogs Link

The ExpressionEngine Phase of My New Blog
Veerle takes us through three features of her blog: the header, the related links and the archives.

EE blogs

Add FeedBurner to ExpressionEngine
A fairly simple tutorial for EE users who want to use FeedBurner to publish their feed.

FeedBurner for EE

AJAX Archives in ExpressionEngine
Add some JavaScript to the standard archives.

AJAX archives

How was Converted to EE
This post provides the details on and tons of code examples for Khoi Vinh’s

Subtraction to EE

1.6 Navigation Link

Dynamic CSS Navigation Highlighting with ExpressionEngine
A quick tutorial on making the category menu auto-highlight.

Highlight menu

ExpressionEngine and Suckerfish Menu
A tutorial on adding a vertical drop-down menu.

Suckerfish menu

Auto Navigation Highlighting in ExpressionEngine
Another look at the subject of highlighting the current navigation item.

Highlight navigation

1.7 Other Tutorials Link

These tutorials don’t fit into one of the main categories.

No-Module-Required Static Content in ExpressionEngine
Looking to build a website with static content? Some popular modules are options but are not necessary.

Static EE content

PayPal Options and ExpressionEngine’s Simple Commerce Module
A tutorial on building a more flexible shopping cart than is possible with just the Simple Commerce Module.

PayPal and EE

Easy Contact Form Validation in ExpressionEngine
A tutorial on improving the standard validation of forms in EE.

Valid EE forms

Secure Downloads in ExpressionEngine
Learn how to create a secure area of your website where you can share files with users.

Secures sites with EE

Build an iPhone Template for ExpressionEngine
Create a template specifically for iPhone users.

EE and the iPhone

A Simple ExpressionEngine Search Page
A tutorial on setting up a search function on your EE website.

A blog with a lot of short posts that answer questions from EE users and developers.

1.8 General Tutorials/Articles Link

These articles should help you improve the results of your work with EE. If you’re new to EE, they’ll serve as a good foundation for your work, and if you’re experienced, they serve as a helpful refresher.

ExpressionEngine Top Ten Tips
Simon Collison presents a two-part series with his tips on getting the most out of EE (see parts 1 and 2).

Working Smarter with ExpressionEngine
Another helpful article from Simon Collison on improving your experience with EE.

Work smarter with EE

2. Advanced Training Link

For those who are serious about learning how to build websites with EE, these two resources will provide added learning, if you’re willing to pay for the content. You may be able to find some of this information elsewhere for free, but these courses could save you some time.

Train-ee offers screencasts and books for purchase and some free tutorials (several were featured earlier in this article).


Building a Dynamic Website with ExpressionEngine
A 12-part video tutorial series (each part costs $5) that includes sections on adding a membership website, preparing a website for clients and more.

Video series for EE

3. Modules/Plug-ins/Extensions Link

Much like WordPress, Drupal and other CMS platforms, EE’s out-of-the-box functionality can be adapted and expanded by developers. There is a wide variety of available modules, plug-ins and extensions for EE users.

10 ExpressionEngine Production Add-Ons
A list of 10 add-ons to improve productivity with EE.

10 add-ons for EE

Tome (Static Pages)
This module gives you the ability to create WordPress-style static pages.


Pages Module
Another option for using static pages with EE.

Pages module

Repeet is a plug-in that allows users to simulate repeating events in a template.

A module for integrating your Flickr photo stream in your website.

File Manager Module
Improves file handling and the uploading process and functionality.

Allows you to automatically log website visitors in from any template without having to collect details from them.


Loop Plug-in
Perform loops in any template without enabling or using PHP.

Loop Plugin

LG Twitter
Post tweets from your EE control panel.

The popular WordPress anti-spam plug-in can be used for EE as well.

Simple Pagination Plug-in
Improve the core functionality of pagination by separating content into multiple pages without requiring the use of multiple fields.

Simple pagination

Add a TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor to EE.

LG Social Bookmarks
There are a lot of WordPress plug-ins that enable you to add social media icons to posts. This is a similar extension for EE.

Multi Dropdown List
An extension for creating drop-down lists.

Dropdown lists

An add-on for redirecting users from old URLs to new ones.


Fight comment spam with a CAPTCHA for comments.


First Timer
Gives you control over the page that members are directed to following their log-in.

TextMate ExpressionEngine Bundle
If you use TextMate and EE together, this can help you distinguish the EE markup. Not really a plug-in or module but a helpful download that can improve your development with EE and that doesn’t have a place anywhere else on this list.

TextMate and EE bundle

4. Official Resources Link

The ExpressionEngine website contains many resources for designers and developers. These resources may be a good starting point for you, or you could bookmark them to return in future when you’re looking for a solution to a problem.

ExpressionEngine Blog
Stay up to date on EE through the official blog.

EE blog

Knowledge Base
The Knowledge Base has a wealth of information that is well categorized for ease of use.


ExpressionEngine User Guide
All of the official documentation for EE.

ExpressionEngine Wiki
Learn from others or contribute your own knowledge to the official wiki.

ExpressionEngine Forums
Get help on your problems from other EE developers, or give back by answering questions of others.

Dissecting the Default Templates
If you’re new to EE, you’ll need to learn how the template system works.

Template system

5. Galleries and Showcases Link

EE can be used to power just about any type of website or blog, large or small, and any design can be used on the EE platform. Still, it’s nice to see what others are doing with websites powered by EE.

Showcase from ExpressionEngine
The official website of EE includes a categorized showcase of plenty of great EE websites. The gallery even includes interviews with some of the designers and developers.

EE Showcase

CMS Showcase
The EE category here has plenty of EE inspiration.

CSS Glance
The EE category here currently has 25 websites on display.

6. Compared to Other CMS Options Link

Wondering how EE stacks up against other CMS platforms? Here are some links to opinions of other users and articles that analyze the platforms’ strengths and weaknesses.

ExpressionEngine vs. TextPattern
An article from HicksDesign weighing the pros and cons.

Switching Mindsets: From WordPress to ExpressionEngine
A comparison from an experienced WordPress developer.

EE vs. WP

WordPress vs. Drupal vs. ExpressionEngine: Which Blog Software Should I Use?
This post examines some of the pros and cons of each, more from a blogger’s perspective.

Better than MovableType? ExpressionEngine Launches the Challenge
A detailed look at EE from a new user.

7. Themes Link

If you’re used to working with WordPress, the EE theme system is a bit different. You won’t find as many themes available, but really any HTML/CSS design can be used with EE. Many users find a free CSS-based template or buy a premium one, and then have it converted to include the EE tags. Although there aren’t as many resources for themes, there are some, including control panel themes. Here are a few popular resources:

ExpressionEngine Theme Gallery
The official EE website has a gallery that currently includes more than 25 themes to download.

Fresh Theme for EE
A popular theme based on the old theme of Bartelme Design.

Fresh theme

Control Panel Themes
The EE website also includes six different themes you can use to adjust the look of your control panel.

Green n Blue
A control panel theme from Mark Boulton.

Green n Blue theme

ExpressionEngine Control Panel Theme
Another control panel theme, this one from Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain.

EE control panel theme


Smashing Book #5

Hold on tiger! Thank you for reading the article. Did you know that we also publish printed books and run friendly conferences – crafted for pros like you? For example, Smashing Book 5, packed with smart responsive design patterns and techniques.

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Steven Snell is a Web designer and blogger. In addition to maintaining his own blog and writing for a number of other top design blogs, he also manages an online shop that offers premium graphic design resources.

  1. 1

    thanks a million ^^

  2. 2

    very nice

  3. 3

    Thanks for this! I have a new client interested in EE, and I’ve yet to dig into it too deeply. I’m sure this will be a valuable resource!

  4. 4

    Great and thanks

  5. 5

    great post… hopefully this will get me back in the mood to learn EE.

  6. 6

    Wonderful! Wish this would have been available a few years ago when I started using EE.

    Thanks for publishing my Form validation tutorial. ;)

  7. 7
  8. 8

    Holy moly! Now there’s a list. I think this will open a lot of people’s eyes to the awesomeness of ExpressionEngine and give those who haven’t gotten around to trying it some motivation.

  9. 9

    great list, and some new to me.

  10. 10

    Thanks for showing EE some love. I’ve been using it for almost two years now, on both personal and client projects, and love it.

    As for add-ons, I’d also recommend checking out:

    Mark Huot’s “File” extension
    Structure – A really handy way for handling “static” content, a la Mark Huot’s “Tome” module.
    Image Sizer – A really useful plug-in for generating thumbnails dynamically.

    Solspace also has a bunch of great add-ons, including Freeform, which has become absolutely indispensible for me.

  11. 11

    Wow! realy nice.

  12. 12

    Hopefully this will entice more people away from their current CMS and towards ExpressionEngine!

  13. 13

    how about for CodeIgniter? EE is built on CI, and CI is open source…

    A reference like this for CI would be great – but thanks for this useful list!

  14. 14

    good post and again it brings the need for a better organised list of Modules/Plug-ins/Extensions in one place including Playa, Weegee, LG TinyMCE and many more..

  15. 15

    I used to use EE for my blog, but every time they released a newer version, the only way I was able to upgrade was to completely uninstall the current version from the server, and do a fresh installation. Whenever I tried their upgrade instructions, it never worked.

    Other than that I liked it just fine.

  16. 16

    Nice. Pay a bundle for all the things you get for free with WordPress. I’ll pass.

  17. 17

    Thanks for the big uber collection. I’ve been using EE for sometime now and still found useful links in this list.

  18. 18

    … you guys got paid for this right?

  19. 19

    I’ve got a short article on best practices for installation:

    Also note: the upcoming Expression Engine 2.0 is built on the CodeIgniter framework, however, version 1.x is not.

    Thanks for the great list.

  20. 20

    This is awesome, I need to use this…..

  21. 21

    Thanks for sharing this list.

  22. 22

    CCNA Training Videos

    October 29, 2008 10:50 pm

    We tried expression engine on our blog ( and although I really like the concept, and I’m sure it’s powerful, the learning curve was just too great compared to WordPress. I was able to get things up and running in WP much faster than I was able to in EE, and there are so many, better, plugins (more than EE, at least ones I found useful).

    Best of all, WordPress is free and getting better all the time. With each new version it gets closer and closer to a true CMS. I really don’t see any reason to go with anything else, unless I had need for multiple blogs on a single site..

    Great post though, what an extensive list! If I had that starting out, perhaps I’d have a better overall opinion of EE.. (Not saying it’s not great, just wasn’t for me at the time).

  23. 23

    every time i learn a new thing.. in SM…
    thanks.. now i have to try this

  24. 24

    Some very cool stuff. Thanx a lot.

  25. 25

    Jus loved this post with tonnes of resource and detailing.

  26. 26

    there are so many, better, plugins (more than EE, at least ones I found useful).

    Ah, the raw plugin count argument… Yes, there are more plugins for WP. That said, their quality varies wildly, and many, perhaps most of the things that you need a plugin for with WP come out of the box with EE. But, yes, EE is commercial software, and you get what you pay for. In the case of EE that’s high quality, secure code, very active development and (if I may toot my own horn here for a moment) world class support.

    I really don’t see any reason to go with anything else, unless I had need for multiple blogs on a single site..

    Or unlimited custom fields. Or a templating system that blows the competition out of the water. Or an integrated forum module. Or …. But whatever works for you, EE is certainly not the right tool for every job.

    Full disclosure: I am an EllisLab employee, but have used EE for years before, and these opinions are entirely my own.

  27. 27

    Curt Simon Harlinghausen

    October 30, 2008 12:33 am

    WOW. What a post. Now I know what
    I will read tonight . . .

    Thanks you are doing a great job.
    Keep the fire burning.

  28. 28

    This post is full of WIN

    I wish there was this much good stuff around when I was learning EE!

    Roll on V2.0

  29. 29

    Wow, that has to be the best list of links on EE ever ! Thanks !

  30. 30

    Great collection of EE resources! Thanks a lot!


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