How We Use ExpressionEngine: Add-Ons

by Jonathan Longnecker

EE Add-OnsIn case you hadn’t noticed, we love ExpressionEngine. Some may consider it an unnatural love, but we don’t care. The flexibility and plain english programming is head and shoulders above everything else.

Lately we’ve been coming across some awesome plugins, extensions and modules that extend the functionality of EE even farther, and we had to share them with you. Most of these are free, but I know many of the developers take donations. If you find these useful, consider helping them continue development with a little word of mouth or some moolah! Cause everybody loves moolah.

1. Freeform

Author: Solspace | Download (Requires free membership) Freeform gets installed for every single site we do. EE’s contact forms are a little weak and Freeform adds a ton of functionality and customization for any kind of form you need to make. Create custom fields, custom email templates and store all the entries in a database to be searched, sorted or exported later.

2. File

Author: Mark Huot | Download ExpressionEngine has a fairly decent image uploader, but I think it convolutes things for the end user. It throws HTML code in the field that they have to modify and there’s just too many things that can go wrong. Enter the File extension. All they see is a simple file upload and then you take care of all the HTML stuff in your template. This might not work for a blog where you’re inserting multiple pictures in your body content, but it’s mighty handy for just about any other application.

3. ImageSizer

Author: Lumis | Download I just found this on the other day and I was so psyched! Use this with the File extension above and you can have your user upload one file and re-size it to any size multiple times and multiple places with a simple tag. I was doing this with a combination of the gallery module (it auto generates 2 thumbnail sizes) and CSS cropping, but the CSS crop would always seem to start from the corner of the image. The great thing about this plugin is that it intelligently creates a brand new image based on your parameters. If you just specify a width it will scale it down proportionally. Set a width and a height and it will crop it from the center. And in combination with the File extension your user doesn’t have to mess with the gallery module; they can just post everything in one place.

4. LG Twitter

Author: Leevi Graham | Download You can integrate your twitter feed pretty easily with the simple twitter_timeline, but what if you want to post tweets from EE? Or even better post a tweet automatically when you post a new blog entry? LG Twitter is what you’re looking for. You can even customize your tweets by blog.

5. Markdown

Author: John Gruber, Michel Fortin, Paul Burdick | Download Markdown is a fabulous text to HTML filter that make it super easy to use lists, headers and any other standard HTML format with an easy to use mark-up format. Check here on the sytnax; it’s way too much to explain here, but we can vouch that it spits out beautifully valid code.

Also, if you’re looking for something a little more visual the TinyMCE editor seems to work fairly well in the EE publish area.

6. Word Limit Plus

Author: Vik Rubenfield | Download We used the standard issue Word Limit plugin that ships with EE for our blog page for a long time. Unfortunately, it was prone to invaliding the page and cutting off markup. Thankfully, Word Limit Plus is intelligent enough to fix most of those problems and give you options for generating a “read more” link.

7. Share This

Author: Lars Kirchhoff | Download Make it easy for your users to post your entry to their favorite social networking site! You can even use in conjunction with EE’s Tell a Friend module to email your buds how awesome this entry is smile.

8. User

Author: Solspace | Download ($89.95) EE has a very deep membership module, but customizing it to look halfway decent is a chore. Hello 4,000 line PHP file! No thanks. Thankfully Solspace has figured out a way to grab all that information and let you display it however you want. This is a pretty hefty module and costs a bit of money, but if you need your members to update their profiles without logging into the Control Panel, this is your ticket.

Too Many More!

Ok, so this is probably enough for one post. I just can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck trying to make something work only to have a simple plugin save the day. Maybe this is my way of saying, “Don’t forget about them!” Start your search in the add-ons section of the ExpressionEngine site and see where it takes you. Then head over to the Solspace and Leevi Graham sites. They both have a ton of great resources.

December 11, 2008



  1. Great list - I am really excited about Imagesizer. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Chad. Yeah Image Sizer made my whole week. Hmmm maybe I need to get out more smile.

  3. Thanks Jonathan, some of these could be a real lifesaver.

  4. Stunning stuff..I was on the lookout for this for many days now.

  5. Here’s a total noob question. What functional purpose does a word limiter provide? I was looking at this extension the other day and was wondering how it could be of benifit. Thanks.

  6. We use it on our main blog page to only show a small part of the article. That way it’s easier to scan for info without having to scroll through entire articles.

    Lots of applications, really. Especially in an EE site where the client will be putting in data they will inevitably put in too much. Lets you chop it so chunks of info can stay consistent in size and not overflow their bounds.

  7. This series is a GREAT resource.  I hope that you’ll write more.  I am specifically interested in how many templates you have, how you group them, when (if ever) you use pages.  And the same sort of information for weblogs: number, categories, custom statuses…  And of course, how pages/templates and weblogs interact.

    Your work is fantastic looking, the site is a snap to navigate… Consider me a fan!

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