expressionengine, the upgrade

Just when I finally get everybody updated to ExpressionEngine v.1.2.1, they release v.1.3. I happened to be beginning work on, so I went ahead and installed 1.3.

Before I list what I think about this major upgrade, let me say that I love, love, love EE—it does nearly everything a decent content management system needs to do without wrecking your bank account, tech and community support is superb, plugins are being added constantly, and once you get past the learning curve, it’s really easy to use. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s the one that works best for us—and we looked at many of them.

The Good
They fixed the image upload thingie so that you can actually make a popup from a thumbnail without doing the drag-and-drop boogaloo. They added a spellchecker! The popup maker thing has been driving me nuts, so I was really, really happy to see it fixed. A Quick Save was added so you can save your stuff without also posting it (for those of us who forget to reset the sessions to a more reasonable length of time).

The Bad
They added collapsing menus to the control panel (the admin section, in particular) that go back to the closed state, so it’s impossible to see all of your possible choices (and there are SO MANY of them!) at a glance. This is only rated The Bad because somebody has already posted a workaround so that the choices are placed in columns that stay open. A programmer probably thought this was a good idea, nice and anal um, I mean tidy looking. Usability doesn’t seem to have been part of the equation in the redesign.

Now, before I get to The Ugly, keep in mind that what I think is The Ugly, other people really like. I suspect not very many people like it (compared with the number of people who don’t), but there are some. And maybe I’ll get used to it enough so that I don’t notice how ugly it is. And it’s not going to stop me from using EE—hell no, no sirree, not by a long shot.

But ...

The Ugly
The Publish module. In older versions, what they call the workflow, or everything you need to do to post an entry successfully, have it show up when and where you want it to, send pings, etc. etc. was all contained on one page. Just glancing down the page allowed you to see all of the selections you need to make for a successful post.

Not any more. The workflow is now divided into several tabs. Date stuff is on one tab, options on another, ping stuff on another one, categories on one ... none of the stuff that you NEED to do to post content successfully is visible until you click through four or five other tabs (depending on what you’ve set up). You see the entry form on every tab.

I hate this. It slows me up a lot. I forget that I have to set the category or it won’t show up. I forget to set the date. I forget to set the author. I forget ... there is no longer any way to speedily, at a glance, determine if you’ve clicked and checked and selected everything that needs clicking, checking, and selecting in order for your content to show up the way you want it to. It’s adds too much complexity. I have to click more, and think more, or screw up. The Publish module workflow was not broken, and now it is. As it was, it took me a good long time to realize that that tiny icon with an arrow on it was actually the link to click to launch the file upload applet—I prefer the much more useful link that said “file upload.” Icons are hard to get right, and this one ain’t.

I’m hoping that a future release, maybe 1.3.2, will give you the option of selecting the type of workflow that works best for you.

I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can
v.1.3.1 is now available. I haven’t even finished the 1.2 to 1.3 migration, now here’s another one. I will have to ask if I can go from 1.2.1 to 1.3.1 without having to install 1.3 in between. I asked in the forum, but haven’t gotten an answer yet (just posted—they’re not THAT fast!)

They also rolled out a new forum module, for a separate fee. I will probably need this for one site in particular, but not for a while, so I can’t evaluate it one way or the other than to say it seems quite nice so far, though the search function could work better (it’s too hard to drill down—but that’s my bitch for all forum search functions).

So, my wishlist for the very next version of EE includes:

Wayfinder features (some way to automatically indicate where you are in the directory structure). Oh how I want this—would let me get sites done even faster (and buy more copies of EE to use for them!)

Some way to send you latest entry to your mailing list automatically. I want to be able to set up a template for this, and then just check a checkbox or whatever when I want to send it out. It’s probably a lot harder to program in than it seems or I suspect it would have been done by now.

Let me choose my Publish workflow layout.

Looking this over, I realize that I am such a geek. All this passion over a content management system? Never mind that I use it almost daily, and that’s it’s made my work so much saner, and ... I’m Geek and I’m Proud. (heh)

We got a Dame de Coeur hybrid tea rosebush from Antique Rose Emporium. We planted it in May, and while, healthy, it didn’t do much until recently. It started blooming two days ago, and it is stunning. Cherry red, getting almost black as the petals get older, the roses just glow. And they’re fragrant! I could smell the roses from 25 feet away!

We also ordered and planted two Emerald Isle roses from QVC—and one of them is starting to bloom. The other isn’t doing so well—maybe it will take a little longer to kick in, or maybe the dog stepped on it too much. These roses are supposed to be pink and green, so I’m curious to see what will emerge. Gotta get out there with my camera.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/05/05 at 09:18 PM
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