The makers of ExpressionEngine add-on Mountee have decided to discontinue it. I know one of the developers personally, and I’m certain that it’s the best decision for him (and his business partner) to make for themselves. I wish him well and have no hesitation in telling him personally that I support him—but discontinuing his product stinks for me, for the clients of Hop Studios, and for the ExpressionEngine community. Here are five reasons why Mountee was better than any other workflow I tried:
1) Easy setup
Setting up Mountee to work with your ExpressionEngine site was superbly easy. You only needed three things: Mountee installed in ExpressionEngine, a password to access the EE control panel, and a Mac*. If you had those, Mountee would work with any version of EE back to 1.6—no additional information or setup necessary. With other setups to work with templates as files, you need a Git repository setup and a login, or an (s)FTP password in addition to an EE login (which is often a shared account, not individual per user)—and in some cases, you need VPN access, knowledge of a weird file path, etc… That’s all fine and fairly straightforward if you control the server or set it up yourself, but it’s harder when dealing with new clients who have their own setups already. Mountee just worked.
2) Searching “templates saved as files” sucks
If you use the EE control panel’s built-in search to search in templates, it only looks at the current database record of that template, not at the file version of that template. So if a newer template file has code that isn’t in sync with the old unsynced database version, EE’s search is inadequate and misleading. This has bitten us more times than I care to admit. With Mountee, there are no files, so EE’s template search remained a fast, accurate way to look for code. Mountee let EE template search just work.
If you use Git, you get fantastic versioning control—outside of EE. (And if you don’t use Git but still edit templates as files, which many people do, you get NO version control and you’re clearly a danger to humanity.) When you save templates as files, EE’s built-in versioning of templates is no longer the whole story when you’re doing forensics or wanting to roll back—whereas if you use EE’s versioning, you can see which EE account made changes and when, in the same interface that you might also be looking up who edited an entry, who logged in when, etc. Mountee let us have the benefit of file-like access, without giving up the integration of EE’s versioning and logging. Yes, git does versioning and logging very well, but it’s nevertheless not integrated with the rest of EE. Mountee let the default versioning just work.
4) Access and editing
With templates saved as files, it’s not possible to limit access to just some templates and not others at the file level without a huge headache. With Mountee, we could use EE to easily control access by template group and also to quickly give an entire member group access to certain templates. Without Mountee, you had to be more careful about conflicts between allowing the client to edit in the control panel, and having the developer edit templates as files. Because there were times when it was far easier to give the client access to one template by which they could edit things like the number of results to return, or to comment in or out an element in the side bar—and before you say snippets or Low Variables are a better way to do that, realize that neither of those are versioned or logged, and they are overkill for a client who has basic HTML knowledge and could easily make a small change in a template. Mountee let access control and editing just work.
5) On the Road Editing
When you are away from your main computer, there are times you need look at EE to see why something’s going wrong, and you may find you need to make a small edit to a template. It’s nice when that happens if you don’t have to find yet another set of credentials (FTP or git) to edit the file somehow. It’s especially nice when you’re on a device like an iPad or smart phone that makes file editing harder than Web browsing. It’s especially nice when you remember that because you’re editing the true database version directly, the change isn’t going to be overwritten next time you sync the template files. Mountee made that possible.
So Long, Mountee
The loss of Mountee is going to be used as ammo for those who want to say ExpressionEngine developers in general are dwindling; but I know this is just anecdotal data, not an unarguable survey outcome, and it’s important to remember that. Nevertheless, the loss of Mountee is the loss of a single brick in the ExpressionEngine edifice that I will mourn deeply. It was an elegant, professional add-on to EE, by developers, for developers. It made our lives (and clients’ sites) better, faster, and I will be thankful for the years Mountee was a key part of my toolbelt.
* Yes, and Mountee itself, and Internet access, and power, and… but you know what I mean.