The Plugin: Your First ExpressionEngine Add-On

If you've never done it before, writing an ExpressionEngine add-on can be daunting. First you have to figure out what type of add-on you need. Then you need to make sure all the pieces are in just the right places.

Puzzle pieces

A module needs control panel files, language files, updater files, all before it even shows up in the list. A fieldtype requires knowing exactly what methods ExpressionEngine is going to call and how to get it all right. For an extension, you're basically going to have to dig into ExpressionEngine core code to have any chance of doing something worthwhile. And what even is an Accessory? No, seriously. I don't know what an Accessory is.

And then there's the documentation. Kind of. All of these are half documented and have a whole slew of unexpected sitautions that are not discussed in the docs.

It's no wonder the first step into writing ExpressionEngine add-ons is scary.

Enter: The Plugin

Enter: the Plugin. A breath of fresh air. If you're thinking about trying your hand at add-on development, the Plugin is an easy, no-nonsense place to start.

First, it's easy to understand what it does. A plugin lets you put a custom tag in your template, like {exp:my_plugin:do_something}.

Second, it only requires a single file. No updater file. No installation process. No language file. Create pi.my_plugin.php and you're set.

Third, you probably won't even need to interact with the ExpressionEngine monolith. No trying to remember how to load libraries or helpers or views. Your plugin takes some input and gives some output. Easy.

Let's do it

If it's so easy, let's do it.

First, open a template and type {exp:my_plugin:hello}.

Now, let's create the plugin. Go to system/expressionengine/third_party and create a folder called my_plugin. Inside that folder, create pi.my_plugin.php.

$plugin_info = array(
  'pi_name'        => 'My Plugin',
  'pi_version'     => '1.0.0',
  'pi_author'      => 'ME!',
  'pi_author_url'  => '',
  'pi_description' => 'My Plugin',
  'pi_usage'       => 'My first plugin! Use it to do stuff.'
class My_plugin {
  function hello() {
    return 'Hello, World';

Boom. You created your first plugin. Go ahead, try it out.


Let's add a little spice in the form of a parameter. {exp:my_plugin:hello name="Bryan"}.

function hello() {
  $name = ee()->TMPL->fetch_param('name', 'World');
  return "Hello, {$name}";

Or, the alternative to a parameter is to use a tag pair. {exp:my_plugin:hello}Bryan{/exp:my_pluggin:hello}.

function hello() {
  $name = ee()->TMPL->tagdata;
  if ($name == '') {
    $name = 'World';
  return "Hello, {$name}";

That's it.

That's it. You've created a plugin. Easy to create. Easy to use. Powerful.

The best part? You finally took your first step into ExpressionEngine add-on Development. It wasn't so scary, was it?