Creat-ee ExpressionEngine Training – Part 3

Our third ExpressionEngine training class started with mention that would be fast-paced. With this teacher, I wasn’t sure how much faster could it be! In the beginning of our class, an interesting Q & A by a concerned PHP developer ensued; he (as we all) was curious about the ease of integration between PHP and ExpressionEngine.

So, can we insert PHP within pages or template?

In ExpressionEngine, there’s an option in the template manager that enables PHP parsing in template developer. But PHP developers should be careful not to use PHP instead of functionality that’s already built in to ExpressionEngine. Therefore its use should be limited to extreme cases when expressionEngine is unable to fulfill the needs desired by the developer.

ExpressionEngine E-Commerce Options

www.BrilliantRetail.comcreat-ee3.1 Great for users who have previous experience with carts. Unlike other cart solutions, it does not handle products as channel entries. Tight integration, easier to start than most other solutions.

www.cartthrob.com
Has been the de facto shopping cart in the early years of EE. Requires more work to setup and more knowledge of EE than other comparable solutions.

www.magentocommerce.com
store.coffeeking.com > Completely developed with Magento. Has had great consumer reviews.

www.exp-resso.com/store
Another (newly launched) option for retail stores available for EE. Has great reviews from previous users.

Now Turning to the Expert: Which addons you cannot live without?

As mentioned before Creat-ee.com/tutorials is a great free resource for those curious about the EE process and mentions lots of great addons throughout. Here are some other resources mentioned:

From Pixelandtonic.com:

  • Wygwam > Enhanced Wisiwyg editor for EE backend
  • Playa > Unite related entries for display within a template.
  • Assets > Allows clients to create folders on the fly and move resources within EE with ease.
  • Matrix > The most useful add-on out there. Creates rows of content within editor – allows user to add data content and fields to any entry.

From ee-garage.com:

  • LiveLook > Preview channel entries in context prior to publishing
  • BetterMeta >  Simplifies Meta entry in the backend; improves SEO
  • Override.css > Changes layout of backend to make developer’s life easier

From devot-ee.com

  • NavEE > Allows creating of additional Navigation on the fly and with drag and drop page reorder capabilities.
  • Many others -take a look at star rated reviews for some fav’s

From GotoLow.com

  • Low Variables > Easier way to see variables in the backend of EE
  • Low Reorder > Allows clients to reorder list by several other ways besides the default methods

From independent developers:

  • GWcode.com > Sophisticated effects with categories > Free

After this trail of amazing addons we headed back to our training, where we jumped right into template creation & ExpressionEngine template tags, the building blocks of EE Templates.

Template Creation with ExpressionEngine

ExpressionEngine templates construct model is amazingly similar to PHP, but easier. For PHP developers, getting the hang of this system will be a breeze. Here’s a snippet of a basic template tag construct we quickly created in class:

EE-template-tags

As the if, else, and open/closed tags examples show, template construct looks to me as a mix between html tags and PHP calls. With experience in other CMSs which use the same type of “tag construct”, I am excited about the truly flexible possibilities of template construct with EE. Both the data entry and data call process seem to be handled smoothly and with ease by EE. I am still questioning scalability and server load/response times as the templates and data get heavier. Testing, testing and more testing to come.

Quick tip: Dates are Epoch format by default (Epoch?? This is new to me!!). Therefore, for entering post dates, Expressionengine.com has a great date formatting page in its documentation, which quickly and clearly allows you to format dates as desired. Search on the website for “date formatting” or visit: http://expressionengine.com/user_guide/templates/date_variable_formatting.html

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