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How You’re Publishing with ExpressionEngine

Here are the results of the poll I put up earlier this month. The idea behind the poll was to find out how many people are publishing with third party tools and how many just stick with the Control Panel.

The response rate was lower than what I had hoped for but the data still gives a glimpse at how people are publishing content to their ExpressionEngine sites.

The Results

I suspected that the majority publish their sites via the EE Control Panel and not with third party publishing tools like MarsEdit, Ecto, Textmate or even iExpression. My suspicions were proven true with the results.

As you can see, some do use external tools to publish content but their lack of support for mimicking the Control Panel publishing interface is surely whey they’re not more widely adopted. Additionally, with the introduction of customized publish layouts (no matter how fragile they still might be, 2 years later), developers and users of ExpressionEngine can now tailor their publish forms to be exactly what they need to them to be and therefore the entire Control Panel experience becomes more useful. This, perhaps, diminishes the need for another editor.

The biggest reason, of course, is that the web browser is cross platform. I can post content to my site from any computer or device with a web browser. Ultimately, this is the most flexible solution (and the most realistic if you’re building sites for clients).

However, the EE Control Panel still fails miserably on mobile devices (maybe one day EllisLab will create a responsive theme by default; until then, check out this one by Ben Croker) If you really need to post to your site from your iPhone, you should also check out iExpression, a native iOS app that lets you publish content to EE. For what it’s worth, the Control Panel works okay on the iPad if you just need to jump in for a quick tweak or edit. Anything beyond that will probably result in furstration.

Operating System

I asked for the primary operating system just to use it as a data point to measure the other results (like the use of MarsEdit, an OS X only application). Surprisingly, the usage of OS X among the respondants was almost 80% while the use of MarsEdit (any use at all in the past) was only 5%. That means even Mac users, despite such a great app like MarsEdit, are still favoring the Control Panel. That was surprising to me.

Why only the Control Panel?

The last question I asked in the survey was why the respondent preferred the Control Panel over other methods of publishing. I got a lot of responses that said they didn’t know about other offerings. Some felt that the Control Panel was the “easiest way” and “good enough.”

It’s readily available once EE is installed, and doesn’t require any extra configuration/development. It’s also the most “guaranteed to work” way to post content.

The ability of external editors to support fieldtypes also came up, like this one:

Full fieldtype support. No external editor supports fieldtypes like Matrix, Assets, Playa, etc.

and this one:

Why not? It’s a good overall experience with all the custom fieldtypes, publish page configurations, entry revisioning, etc. Keeping to just the Control Panel means I can jump on any system anywhere to post/edit content. Hooking up external sources is just another cost/hassle to install & keep up with as both platforms evolve.

This response addressed another tool I use but didn’t mention in the poll:

I actually use the control panel, but use QuickCursor to send any long content bits to my editor-of-choice, in this case MacVim. The reason I use the control panel is that in my experiences with other methods, it wasn’t always easy to get all the custom bits working properly when you go beyond just a simple blog. And now that I’m using the Structure plugin, I don’t think an external editor would be of much use to me at all.

I love QuickCursor and use it whenever I have to write something of length (like a message in Basecamp) in the web browser.

With publish layouts and Zoo Admin, I can quickly make a user-friendly workflow that’s easy to maintain.

I’ve used Zoo Admin and it is indeed a nice way to customize the CP for those who will be maintaining the site.

That was only a sampling of all of the responses but the general trend was that either people didn’t know about external editors or those that did thought it was just too much of hassle (or tradeoff ) to set one up. A few people even suggested I further cover external editors and how to use them. That sounds like a great idea, so look for something in the near future.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!

Sepp03:41 on 02.21.2012

80% Mac users ???

Wow. Didn’t expect that.

Andreas10:41 on 02.22.2012

Hi Ryan, I think, given your audience, your sample is likely skewed towards developers. We have lots of team members & clients who use external editors (Ecto, MarsEdit) for their ongoing posts.

It’d be nice to get some verifiable stats on this…