EllisLab Previews ExpressionEngine 2.0 at SXSW

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The good folks from EllisLab previewed the next version of their acclaimed ExpressionEngine content management system yesterday at the SXSW festival. And not surprisingly, considering the vocal and passionate community that surrounds EE, folks were liveblogging, Twittering, and discussing the unveiling all day long (and still are).

While EllisLab didn’t reveal all of EE 2.0’s features, what they did reveal is certainly exciting. Here’s a brief rundown, based on what I’ve read of the coverage that’s been posted elsewhere:

New Control Panel Interface

Sporting a new design by Veerle Pieters (screenshots), EE 2.0’s CP has an AJAX-enhanced interface that appears to be much more configurable and flexible than the current CP.

Some of the new CP’s features include: a special “Write Mode” that uses a Thickbox-esque technique to making entering content easier; better text styling controls (though a true WYSIWYG editor apaprently has not been included — which is fine by me); better file upload controls (yay!); easier configuration for custom fields; and “Accessories”, which allow you to add additional resources to the CP (e.g., training materials, RSS feeds).

Additionally, the entire structure, organization, and nomenclature of the CP has been changed (e.g., “Members” management is now its own section with its own interface, the “weblog” terminology has been abandoned). Which is fine with me.

One of my biggest issues with EE has always been with the CP interface, which is daunting even for experienced users. Nny attempts to streamline things will be greatly welcome. (Of course, we won’t know how successful such attempts are until EE 2.0 is in our grubby little hands.)

CodeIgniter Integration

EllisLab scrapped the current EE codebase, and instead, rebuilt EE 2.0 on top of CodeIgniter, EllisLab’s open source PHP framework. While this might not seem like a big deal, this opens up some exciting possibilities.

CodeIgniter is more robust and scalable, and contains features that the current EE codebase doesn’t have (such as better database support). By rebuilding EE on CodeIgniter, EllisLab essentially now has just one codebase to support and build upon. This also makes it much easier for the CodeIgniter community, and third-party developers in general, to develop new add-ons and functionality for EE.

This means more people developing for EE, which = teh awesome.

jQuery Integration

I am still curious as to exactly how, and to what extent, jQuery has been integrated into EE 2.0 (though I’m sure it’s being used to help power the new CP). Whatever the case, this is very cool.

jQuery is a very powerful and easy-to-use JavaScript library that lets you quickly take control of your website, add in cool visual effects and UI widgets, and perform AJAX functions painlessly. (But if you’re a fan of some other JS library, such as Prototype or Script.aculo.us, don’t worry: jQuery integration can be disabled.)

More commentary on the preview can be found on David Russell’s Twitter page and his blog, Silicon Florist, and of course, “The Official Live Blog the EE 2.0 Preview Thread” on the EE forums.

You can also find several videos of the presentation in that same thread.

EllisLab will be posting an official recap of the event once the dust has settled from SXSW. What won’t be posted, however, is a release date. EE 2.0 will be done when it’s done, and EllisLab is sticking to that (they don’t publish roadmaps or timelines for EE updates).

As much as I’d love to start playing with EE 2.0 right now, I’ve always appreciated how polished EE has been. And if it means waiting a little longer to ensure that EE 2.0 has that same degree of polish, that’s fine by me. (But please don’t take too long, folks — EE 2.0 looks awesome!)

Read more about EllisLab and ExpressionEngine.
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