Ten Essential Extras to Make MODX Yours

MODX’s flexibility extends to its Extras, giving you lots of options and capabilities from just a handful of Add-ons.

By Ryan Thrash
February 18, 2022
Ten Essential Extras to Make MODX Yours

MODX is a contrarian in the web CMS world in that it’s a highly unopionated platform. Some have even called it the infinite configuration engine.

That means that MODX adapts to your site, rather than the other way around.

Admittedly, this can frustrate new site builders when starting with MODX—but it is amazingly freeing and productive once you realize that a few hundred highly flexible Extras can do what would take tens of thousands of purpose-specific plugins in the WordPress world. When you add extendable caching baked into the core and a security-first architecture, MODX should be very compelling for growing organizations that are ready to scale, crush SEO, and maximize conversion.

To help ease the learning curve, I wanted to give examples of some essentially essential Extras (Plug-ins if you’re coming from the WP world) to help get you started.

Ten Essential Extras for MODX Websites

If you ask a dozen MODXers what they would consider essentials, you’ll likely get a lot of “it depends on the type of site…”, but virtually everyone would contain some—if not most—of these:

Collections

Collections is a powerhouse. MODX typically shows every page in the site tree inside the MODX Manager. Collections, however, allows you to group similar types of content, without creating a giant Site Tree (and slowing down the back-end Manager). The best part is that Collections allows you to create custom views of all its pages, and even turn on inline-editing for those custom views.

You can use Collections for expected things, like a blog. Or you can use it with custom fields (“Template Variables” or “TVs” in MODX parlance) for virtually anything like customer testimonials, a way to store customer logos, a team directory, product catalogs, store locator listings, or whatever taxonomy you can dream up. When you combine it with Tagger, you gain even more power to repurpose your content across your site in lots of different and incredibly flexible ways.

getResources

This extra lets you repurpose some or all of your content in other places. Whereas Collections lets you create and populate content on the back end, getResources helps you display it on the front end. As with most MODX Snippets (aka, the dynamic PHP code in MODX), getResources uses easy-to-understand HTML Chunks and Placeholders to template your output, so you can keep your application code separate from the HTML that displays it. And also like most things in MODX, it includes caching baked into the core so that your site always works fast.

You can use getResources to build a blog, product catalogs, store locators feeding data into a Google map, XML sitemaps for search engines, team directories, press release archives, feature tables, testimonial sliders, product tour galleries, or pretty much any collections of data/content that makes sense to have grouped together. When combined with Output Filters you gain even more flexibility in how you choose to show content summaries, date/time transformations (e.g., ”about 42 hours ago“), math operations, string manipulations, comparisons, conditional output, and more.

getPage

A key companion for getResources, getPage does one thing, exceptionally well: paged result sets for large collections of content. Like most MODX Extras, you have total control over the paging design. Advanced users can use MODX’s built-in caching to call getPage via getCache to keep things working as fast as possible so your visitors stay engaged.

Wayfinder

Need a menu that updates automagically as you drag pages to different places in your site tree? Wayfinder is just what the doctor ordered. Like all things MODX, it’s uber-flexible, too, handling multi-level dropdowns, footer menus, mega-menus, breadcrumbs, or virtually any type of menu you can imagine. For those times when you’re figuring out your site structure and can’t use a static menu, Wayfinder makes your life so much easier.

FormIt

Most sites at least have a contact form. FormIt is a super-flexible form processor that handles submitting, validating, spam-protecting, and more for forms on your website. It can save form submissions to a database, email them somewhere, or even use custom hooks to do things like notifying a Slack channel when new submissions come in. And while forms can be a pain to code, Formalicious makes that easier giving you an interface for that in the MODX Manager.

VersionX

Not that people ever make mistakes … but in the rare event that that happens, VersionX keeps a running log of almost everything you use to build a MODX website, including all the Templates, Chunks, Snippets, Plugins, Resources, Content (including TV values), and Template Variables themselves. If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering what changed, VersionX lets you compare them right from the back end.

TinyMCE RTE

While I personally love Markdown for writing content—and yes, there’s an Extra for that—most normal content creators and authors are more accustomed to a UI that looks a lot more like MS Word. That’s exactly what TinyMCE RTE does, and like all things MODX, it can be configured in a variety of ways to show as an extensive or curated set of tools as you please.

pThumb

Images can bog down site speed and most content authors don’t know have the tools or knowledge to ideally optimize things for maximum speed before they’re uploaded. This is where pThumb shines; not only can it properly resize and compress images, but it can also apply transformations like crops, image overlays and more to help keep you at the top of the site speed game.

pThumb can come in especially handy when used within the Chunks that style getResources (above), e.g., by taking large full-width main article images and shrinking/cropping them fit smaller sizes when listed N-up on an article collection page (like for a blog).

SEO Suite

This is an all-in-one suite of tools designed to help you with Search Engine Optimization. From showing search engine previews to auditing the length of titles and descriptions, building XML sitemaps, and automatically handling redirects if you rearrange your pages and change their URL slugs, SEO Suite will help you stay on top of your SERP and all things important to Google, Yandex and other search engines.

Fred

Many people love creating content through drag-and-drop front-end editing. In the MODX word that means Fred (Front-end editor). Fred gives you the ability to make a corporate design library into a living pattern library your users can use to create new content, landing pages, campaign pages, and more. Unlike most options for this in the WP world, you don’t wind up with horribly bloated markup that slows down your site, killing any chances of serving pages quickly. Built-in caching, absolute control over your HTML markup, no reliance on JavaScript for displaying pages, and pre-rendering content when you save updates can mean even the most complex of layouts can hang with the speed of static HTML site builders.