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Experience Sitecore! | May 2015

Experience Sitecore!

Martin Miles on Sitecore

Know your tools: SIM - Sitecore Instance Manager

Sitecore Instance Manager (SIM) - the must-have tool for all Sitecore professionals and platform enthusiasts. It is a "Swiss army knife" for all types of activities related to installation and configuring Sitecore instances. So, what it does?

As it is obvious from its title, SIM simplifies installation of Sitecore, minimizing it to just few very intuitive clicks. SIM supports all versions of Sitecore, developers work tightly with platform vendor, so since recent they tend to synchronize SIM updates with new Sitecore releases. Oh, nearly forgot to mention, SIM has auto-update module that can update the program silently in background, or with a prompt, or just leave user alone once he prefers getting updates don—É manually.

Here is the main screen of Sitecore Instance Manager:


You have all available instances listed, you can install new or remove existing, do some configuration changes and much more. SIM operates "web-folder" installation archives as they came form Sitecore, one can download zip and manually place it into specific folder (that is configurable in program settings) or can download and store any platform version directly from SDN. In that case he/she might need to type in SDN credentials and pick up exact Sitecore version from options drop-down. As soon as zip is downloaded, it can be installed.

The installation process occurs in few clicks and is show on several screenshots below. First of all, we select which version we are going to install from the list of stored in local repository. Also there are fields to specify instance name, hostname and the installation folder.


The program accurately installs files, restores database and sets appropriate SQL permissions, configures Application Pool and create config files with correct values.

SIM is great in that it allows not just install Sitecore itself, but also you may specify which modules you would like to install straight away, just by simply checking them from the list of available.



Apart from modules you may also install certain custom packages, likewise you may have a fully working website - both items and file system substructure packed within a package, so it may become available straight after the installation. As another example, I always install useful Sitecore adjustments with SIM in order to benefit out of them straight away.



Not only custom packages can be auto-installed, but also such called configuration presets. These are certain configuration patches, each addressing small but important setting, will be placed into App_Config/Include folder.



The installation itself does not take much time. Sitecore 8 takes approximately 1 minute in virtual machine on my MacBookPro. Significantly faster comparing with time spent on default installer.




SIM also have multiple useful shortcuts at one place, like links to important Sitecore folders, configuration tools, hosts editor, IIS recycle an many many more.




I would award SIM with the highest rate and highly advise to download and play with it, even if you do not regularly play with installation and instances.

Download: SIM on Sitecore Marketplace


Fixing unfriendly default Sitecore 8 styles from huge elements, padding, spacings and few more improvements (package)

I am entirely happy with Sitecore 8.0 improvements, except one simple, but quite important thing - new look and feel megalomania. In first place by saying that I mean the way how Sitecore with new Metro-like interface manages space and huge paddings between elements. The maximal impact you may experience when working with Content Editor - content tree and item fields. I got an assumption that it was designed for use on as little as 27" monitors, not less. If you are running Sitecore from a 13-15 inches laptop - you definitely should read this blog post to the end.

Things however are not as bad and the good news is - it can be relatively easy to improve by simply editing CSS files, that Sitecore utilizes - they are located within <web_root>\sitecore\shell\Themes\Standard\Default folder. The bad news is that the folder contains 34 CSS files and some of them have several thousands lines.

So, my dear reader, I have made this dirty job for you and you may download the package that modifies styles, which make spaces as compact as they were in previous versions.


To start with, compare 2 images below. First one shows how Sitecore 8 looks originally, straight after the installation:


And below there is a screenshot of the same screen after applying a Style Adjustments patch. See how content tree became more informative:



There is one small, but quite handy improvement - we all know database selection tool in the right bottom corner. If you click it and enable "Show Database Name"option - by default you'll get a database name, written on a desktop right above this database selector. But it is displayed only when you see clear desktop, as soon as you open Content Editor - this useful label will be hidden underneath the window. So I decided to relocate this label to the bottom bar immediately left from select box. So now you are aware of current database regardless of wether you have a windows open full-size. Here is a screenshot of how it looks like:



There are still other changes across the whole sitecore - windows, popups, dialogs etc. that were improved. Package creation dialog became more compact as the result:


Screenshot below shows the comparison how it was before. In the default view only 2 selected items are able to fit .... eh-h..



Download the package: so, to get this presentation changes on your environment, please download and install the package: Sitecore 8.0 Style Adjustments-1.2.zip or Sitecore 8.1 Style Adjustments-1.2.zip - agree to overwrite all, when prompted.

Want to revert changes back as it was before? (suprised one would want but still) - apply anti-package: Sitecore 8.0 Style Adjustments-1.2-ANTI-PACKAGE.zip or Sitecore 8.1 Style Adjustments-1.2-ANTI-PACKAGE.zip

Compatibility tested: Sitecore 8.0 - Update 4-5 (however supposes to work on all previous 8.0 releases).

Important! After package installation not all style may work - so please update your broser cache


If you like the updated look and feel, please let me know - I will be pleased to know someone else is using this adjustments.

Cheers!