2.11.9 User Guide

Retired Documentation

You are using the documentation for version 2.11.9. Go here for the latest version or check here for your available upgrades to the latest version.

Saving Templates as Text Files

ExpressionEngine supports saving Template Groups and Templates as regular folders and files on your server, so that you can use your preferred text editor (e.g. Dreamweaver, Coda, BBEdit, etc.) to edit Templates and then FTP the changes to the server.

Enabling Saving Templates as Files

1. Prepare the template folder

ExpressionEngine ships with a system/expressionengine/templates folder that can be used to store saved template files. You can create and use a different folder elsewhere if you wish.


ExpressionEngine will not create Template Group folders directly in this folder, but rather in a subfolder named after the Site Short Name, which defaults to “default_site” on a single installation, e.g.: /home/usr/ This adds clarity and prevents file conflicts should you ever use the Multiple Site Manager.

2. Set folder permissions

Make the folder writable by setting its permissions to 777 (or equivalent) so that ExpressionEngine will be allowed to save the files as well as recreate your Template_Group/Template structure.

3. Set Template Preferences

From the Control Panel, go to Design ‣ Templates ‣ Global Preferences.

  1. Set Allow templates to be saved as files? to Yes.
  2. Set the Basepath to Template File Directory: You must place the server path to the directory you created above in this preference.

It is important that you use the server path for the preference and not a URL. Server paths will vary from server to server, so contact your host if you are unsure of what it should be. A server path often looks similar to: /home/usr/

Creating and Synchronizing Templates and Files

Once your site is set up to save templates as text files, there are three ways to create templates and their related files.

Creating Flat Files Via the Template Editor

If saving templates as text files is enabled, you will see a new checkbox become available at the bottom of your Template editing page. When you submit your template with the box checked, the Template will be saved as a file (in addition to updating the database).


The template edit page will load the latest version of the template based on edit date. If the flat file has been edited since the last database version was saved, the editor will load the content from the file rather than the database. The editor will indicate whether the content was loaded from the database of the flat file. If the editor loads from file, until you click “save”, the database will still contain the last (outdated) version you saved via the Control Panel.

Creating Templates Via Flat Files

When you load either the Template Manager or the Synchronize Templates page ExpressionEngine automatically searches your template directory and creates new template groups and templates for any appropriately named files and folders that do not already have an associated template.


In order to edit flat files through the control panel and have new files automatically synced to the database, text files must be writable (file permissions set to 666 or equivalent).

Synchronizing Templates

On occasion, you may have a number of templates flagged to ‘save as file’ but no associated files. Rather than going to each template individually and saving it, you can Synchronize Templates and any missing files for templates set to ‘save files’ will be recreated based on the database version of the template. This will also batch update the database copies of any templates whose files are newer.

Running your Site with Flat File Templates

If a file exists for a template flagged to save templates as text files, ExpressionEngine will use the file version of the Template instead of the database whenever your pages are viewed. Because ExpressionEngine is using the file version, you can then use an external editor to make changes to the file without using the Control Panel.

Saved Templates and the Multiple Site Manager

Sites under the Multiple Site Manager have their own preferences for saving templates as text files. As such, when setting up a new Site under the Multiple Site Manager, you must set up a new location for saving those templates.

When importing or duplicating to a new Site in the Multiple Site Manager, if you wish to use existing templates which are saved as text files, then the template directory must be manually copied to the directory for the new Site.