EllisLab, the makers of the ExpressionEngine (news, site) Web CMS software, has released ExpressionEngine 2.2, bringing significant asset management changes, a host of community-driven improvements and the integration of one important acquisition.

ExpressionEngine is a commercial Web Content Management product (pricing here) with a healthy community of contributors selling commercial extensions. The officially sanctioned Devot-ee.com website currently hosts more than 1300 Expression Engine extensions.

The v2.2. update touts significant changes to the file manager and the comment control panel for users, and improvements to security and session handling for developers.

Improved File and Asset Management

Every file now uploaded through ExpressionEngine (EE) will have meta information about it stored in the database, information such as a caption, multiple categories, and its height and width and file type. You can also automatically generate multiple thumbnails of various sizes and crop types, and add watermark(s) of text or images to each file as well. There's also a new EE tag, exp:file:entries, once you enable the new File module.

These improvements, however, pale when compared to the small tweak of the ability to tie a particular content field to a particular file upload directory, which gives  ExpressionEngine users an organizational feature they've been clamoring for since EE 2 was released.

Powerful Editorial UI Customizations

Version 2.2 also now includes the Safecracker module, an excellent tool for making Stand-Alone Entry Forms. This means it's easier than ever to build site editors a custom administrative interface.

Safecracker was bought by EllisLab from Barrett Newton in February, making it one of the first such external integrations, and perhaps heralding future growth from purchases as well as from code developed in-house.

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ExpressionEngine's Customizable Article Authoring Screen

Numerous Important Refinements

The rest of the changes in this release are significant but mostly under the hood and read like "Numerous optimizations," "additional checking," and "changed default."

Though they lack the pizazz of sparkly new functionality, they represent a large number of feature requests and feedback from the  ExpressionEngine community.

In addition, there are a large number of removals of depreciated functions, variables, obsolete APIs, and some functionality has been moved back into the underlying CodeIgniter framework. Developers should retest their add-ons carefully with this new release.

Improved Core Security

Lastly, EllisLab continues to exhibit exemplary focus on security with the switch to SHA-2 hashing of passwords, more complete control panel masking for new installs, and the inclusion of several small security improvements that were released in beta versions 2.1.4 and 2.1.5.

The last stable update, ExpressionEngine 2.1.3, was released in December 2010, and so the intervening months have given developers plenty of time to quash more than 180 bugs, according to EllisLab.

Overall, this is a highly anticipated upgrade, with two great new features and many, many bugs resolved. Please note that 2.2 requires 32 MB of RAM, up from 16MB for 2.1 -- though this is mainly to give third-party add-ons breathing room, as EE's own code continues to run with fairly lean memory requirements on most sites.

For additional reading, see our in-depth ExpressionEngine review.