Insanely Awesome ExpressionEngine Tools You Can't Live Without

Keith Muth, Former Viget

Article Category: #Design & Content

Posted on

Recently, some people have asked me how we build ExpressionEngine sites. Although how we build a site varies with each project, there are definitely certain add-ons we find ourselves using all the time. There are so many great ones out there (and new ones being released all the time) I thought it would be cool to share some of them in a blog post. Feel free to add your comments about the ones you like to use.

12 Inspiring ExpressionEngine Tools You Have to Use Before Dying


Structure is a great way to build your ExpressionEngine sites. It lets you create a nice visual site tree out of your pages. We have been using it on all our projects and our clients seem to really like it. More importantly, it gives you the ability to break away from EE's templates and manage pages through Structure. It also lets you easily make breadcrumbs and navigation for your site based on Structure's page hierarchy. Get Structure »


FieldFrame by Brandon Kelly is a collection of very useful fieldtypes for EE such as checkboxes, radio buttons, multiple select drop-downs, and something called "FF Matrix" which lets the user create tabular data fieldtypes. Get FieldFrame »

nGen File Field

Also a field type for the FieldFrame extension, the nGen File Field lets you upload files to your entries and is better than the default ExpressionEngine file upload field. It also integrates into FieldFrame's FF Matrix so you can create image galleries (see the tutorial at the bottom). Get nGen File Field »


We have constantly debated which is the best WYSIWYG editor to use in ExpressionEngine. It seems to be one of the major things clients complain about when they compare ExpressionEngine to Wordpress. Recently, Brandon Kelly released WYGWAM which looks really promising and is based on the CK Editor. If you're more inclined to using TinyMCE, there is Leevi Graham's LG TinyMCE and the MX TinyBrowser Field for TinyMCE by WiseUpStudio which integrates with FieldFrame as a fieldtype.


When making weblogs, you might notice that you make a lot of custom fields that do the same thing. Gypsy, by Brandon Kelly, allows you to share custom fields among many weblogs so you don't need to keep duplicating them. Get Gypsy »


Usually a client wants to upload their own images, but it is unrealistic to expect them to pull the image into Photoshop and crop or scale them to a correct size. This plugin, by David Rencher, allows you to set a height, width, or both and it will scale the image proportionally when the page renders. Get the imgSizer plugin »

CM Template Editor Extension with EditArea

A lot of people make their templates external files for easy editing, but sometimes you want to just leave them inside of ExpressionEngine. This extension integrates the source code editor EditArea and tranforms your template editing areas into a real text editor. You can highlight code, indent with tabs, search, and go full screen. Get CM Template Editor »


If you're putting forms on your site, you're definitely going to want to check out this module from Solspace. It is a reall easy way to make a contact form (or any form) for your site. Get Freeform »

LG Better Meta

This extension gives clients more control over their site's search engine optimization and can display default meta information for when the client doesn't add anything. It also allows you to easily make a sitemap. Get LG Better Meta »

8 Must Have Amazing ExpressionEngine Tools You Need to Survive on a Desert Island


ExpressionEngine comes with the ability to let you relate entries using the Related Entries tag, but it is limited to a single entry for each relationship. Playa, by Brandon Kelly, allows to to make multiple relationships among numerous weblogs and has a easy-to-use interface. If you don't want to purchase a license for Playa, give the Multi Relation extension a try. Get Playa »

Solspace Tag Module

Just like the name says, this module allows you to add tags to your entries. You can show all the entries that have a specific tag, show tags that belong to an entry, and easily create a tag cloud out of all your tags. Get Solspace's Tag Module »


Cloner, by Paul Burdick, duplicates entries so you (or more imprtantly, your clients) don't have to. Get Cloner »

MD Eexcerpt

If you want to limit words in a post but want to keep the HTML in tact, check out TrunchHTML. Usually we want strip the HTML when showing an excerpt of text so we have been using Masuga Design's MD Eexcerpt. Get MD Eexcerpt »


They can be really frustrating to work with sometimes. Many people use the Query module to grab a category id, but we found this plugin on the ExpressionEngine forum which can get a category id number just by using the URL title. Or better yet, people have made some comments on this post about Low's Seg2Cat which might be the best solution ever.

1 (Really) Clever Tutorial About Using 4 Awesomely Useful Tools

Here is a cool video showing how you can combine some of the tools above to create an image gallery. Watch it on Vimeo »

4 Must Have, Exquisite, and Captivating ExpressionEngine Resources

There are constantly better tools coming out for ExpressionEngine all the time. Keep up to date by grabbing RSS feeds from ExpressionEngine sites such as EE Insider and Devot:ee. Also following people that use ExpressionEngine on Twitter is a great way to get the latest news, such as EE Hub and codeigniteee.

1 Stunning Conclusion

Although these add-ons aren't necessary for making a good ExpressionEngine site, they make building (and using) an EE site even easier. These are just a few useful tools we have found ourselves using time and time again. Do you have certain plugins, extensions, or modules that you have found helpful when building an ExpressionEngine site? Let us know!


After putting up this blog post, there have been some great comments about other ExpressionEngine tools. We actually used the suggestions in some of our projects, so thanks for telling us about them! Here is a recap:

  • REEOrder allows you to easily re-order entries. Doug Avery found this modification by Tim Kelty that makes it play nice with Gypsy.
  • Category Checkboxes is an extension that turns the category multi-select box on the Publish page into checkboxes.
  • Low's Seg2Cat loops through the segments of the current URI, matches them against existing categories, and registers the matching categories as global variables, which you can use in your templates.
  • Cloner gives you the ability to easily duplicate entries.
  • Boomerang, by SmoothFunction, brings email marketing into ExpressionEngine templates along with tracking and reporting.
  • Mozex allows you to open any Firefox textarea in Textmate. Doug Avery is a big fan of using the Mozex Plugin to edit EE templates. It's All Text! Firefox extension is another option.
  • The ExpressionEngine Client Guide by Kyle Racki is a really useful guide you can give to clients on how to use EE. Kyle was even nice enough to provice the InDesign file so you can edit it.
  • A solid list of ExpressionEngine addons was suggested by Leevi Graham.
  • LG Replace is a plugin, also by Leevi Graham, that allows you to insert random pieces of content into full blocks of content (or put "needles" inside a "haystack").
  • Cem Meric is keeping up a list of his favorite EE addons.

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