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Experience Sitecore! | Martin Miles on Sitecore

Experience Sitecore!

Martin Miles on Sitecore

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A PROPER way of validating models passed into a view

I am working on a project that uses code-generated interfaces passed as models into views.

I came with a nice way of validating these models being passed, implementing C# feature called pattern matching. Now validation works for me by just dropping the below snippet onto my view:

@if (Html.Validate<ICompositeTemplate>(Model) is var e && e != null)
{
    @e { return; }
}

What he above code doing is validating that:

  • model was passed and is not null
  • the model is of a given template
  • when the datasource template uses composition from numerous interface templates, the passed interface is also implementing those numerous code-generated interfaces for each of template using for composition. I an checking all them being actually composed and the model being mapped and passed using the right template
  • when validation fails - show users meaningful error messages, but do that only for editors using Experience Editor

For example, the above definition of ICompositeTemplate could be looking as below:

public interface ICompositeTemplate : ITitleWithRichText, ICtaWithSvg
{
}

where ICtaWithSvgis composite on its own:

public interface ICtaWithSvg : ICta, ISvg
{
}

Both implemented interfaces inherit from IGlassBase and also have SitecoreType attribute:

[SitecoreType(TemplateId = ITitleWithRichTextConstants.TemplateIdString)]
[GeneratedCode("Leprechaun", "2.0.0.0")]
public partial interface ITitleWithRichText : IGlassBase
{
   // code-generated implementation
}
Looking at Sitecore, the actual template is implemented at the Project layer from a composition of the interface templates:


That actually works like a charm, exactly as I want it to perform!

Show me the code! The code of HTML Helper that makes all that function:

using System.Web.Mvc;
using Sitecore;
using System;
using Sitecore.Data;
using Sitecore.Data.Items;
using Foundation.Data.Models;
using System.Linq;
using Glass.Mapper.Sc.Configuration.Attributes;
using System.Reflection;
using System.Collections.Generic;

namespace Feature.Components.Extensions
{
    public static class ModelValidationExtensions
    {
        public static MvcHtmlString Validate<T>(this HtmlHelper html, T model) where T : IGlassBase
        {
            if (model == null) 
                return new MvcHtmlString("Datasource is missing for this component");

            var featureInterfaceTemplateIds = GetTemplateId<T>();

            var modelItem = Context.Database.GetItem(new ID(model.Id));

            var failedTemplates = new List<Guid>();
            foreach (var templateId in featureInterfaceTemplateIds)
            {
                var section = modelItem?.GetAncestorOrSelfOfTemplate(new ID(templateId));
                if (section == null)
                {
                    failedTemplates.Add(templateId);
                }
            }

            if (failedTemplates.Any())
            {
                var ids = failedTemplates.Select(ft => ft.ToString());

                var error = String.Empty;

                if (Context.PageMode.IsExperienceEditor)
                {
                    error = $@"<div class='EE_error'>
                                <div>Provided datasource has invalid type(s).</div>
                                <div>Please correct it to inherit: {string.Join(", ", $"{{{ids}}}")}.</div>
                              </div>";
                }

                return new MvcHtmlString(error);
            }

            return null;
        }

        private static Item GetAncestorOrSelfOfTemplate(this Item item, ID templateID)
        {
            if (item == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(item));
            }

            return item.DescendsFrom(templateID) 
                ? item 
                : item.Axes.GetAncestors().LastOrDefault(i => i.DescendsFrom(templateID));
        }

        private static bool SitecoreTypeAttributeFilter(Type referencedType, Object criteriaObj)
        {
            var attribs = referencedType.CustomAttributes;
            var customAttributes = attribs.FirstOrDefault(a => a.AttributeType == typeof(SitecoreTypeAttribute));
            if (customAttributes != null)
            {
                var tmplId = customAttributes.NamedArguments.FirstOrDefault(a => a.MemberName == "TemplateId");
                if (tmplId != null)
                {
                    return true;
                }
            }

            return false;
        }

        private static IEnumerable<Guid> GetTemplateId<T>() where T : IGlassBase
        {
            var guids = new List<Guid>();
            var referencedType = typeof(T);

            var filter = new TypeFilter(SitecoreTypeAttributeFilter);
            var _ifs = referencedType.FindInterfaces(filter, "IGlassBase").ToList();
            _ifs.Add(referencedType);

            foreach (var type in _ifs)
            {
                var attribs = type.CustomAttributes;

                var customAttributes = attribs
                    .FirstOrDefault(a => a.AttributeType == typeof(SitecoreTypeAttribute));

                if (customAttributes != null)
                {
                    var tmplId = customAttributes.NamedArguments
                        .FirstOrDefault(a => a.MemberName == "TemplateId");

                    if (tmplId != null)
                    {
                        guids.Add(Guid.Parse(tmplId.TypedValue.ToString().Trim('\"')));
                    }
                }
            }

            return guids;
        }
    }
}
It allows me saving lots of time without losing in quality and keeping the models validating. If something goes wrong - both me and editors know what exactly need to get fixed.

Hope you benefit from validating your MVC models too!

Advanced editing: managing dynamic popups from custom RTE dialog

One day a request came up from the business, they wanted to have a nice "information" icon appearing aside from a text, clicking which opens up a popup modal dialog showing more information related to that line of content. From an UX point of view that works as a decent solution preventing page from bloating with more-specific info.

From page visitor's eyes it looks as below:


There was a FE code provided that does exactly as described. If I was responsible for Front-End, I'd have chosen using Emoji as they're an official part of Unicode, as therefore gets supported with all browsers. But front-end was handed to me as given and I assume there was a decent reason for using it in a provided way.

An any case, our mission will be implementing that with BE with certain challenges:

  1. You may have multiple popups on the single page, at least more than one.
  2. User needs being able dynamically adding popups to a page (sometimes removing them).
  3. Each popup needs to be editable, while in their normal state they are hidden.
  4. Because of that above, there bight be a user-friendly way of distinguishing popups and giving them individual names.
  5. An information icon should be editable from with Rich Text, mixed along classical RTE interface
  6. Each "i"-icon should get referenced with a specific popup, so that clicking different icons trigger different popups.
  7. Because of that, a clear and nice way of referencing and icon to a popup should be presented.
  8. The BE solution is classical MVC implementation, with no SXA or JSS (unfortunately)
Now, with these requirements in hands, let's implement the whole feature. Below are my..

THOUGHTS


1. Popup code
At the front-end these I was given them implemented as <section>-tag blocks, hidden with styles. Each of these blocks has data-name attribute, that is used for referencing it along with a correspondent "i"-icon:


2. Popups aren't visible so need extra care to support editors managing them. On the layout I create a separate placeholder for exclusively adding these popups. Normally, once you add the first popup, placeholder add invitation disappears, as it now has an item already but that item is invisible.
To make it visible I add an additional section that becomes visible only in editing mode (Sitecore MVC Razor view):
@if (Sitecore.Context.PageMode.IsExperienceEditor)
{
    
Modal popup: @name
}

That allows selecting each popup individually, making that possible removing existing or adding a new popup after existing:


3. Editable Datasource
I use standard Sitecore Controller Rendering with a generic datasource of Title with Rich Text template. A simple code-generated Glass model coming from Leprechaun (but could be anything, i.e. T4 templates) gets passed into a MVC View.


4. Giving Component a unique Name
as you might know, a bunch of additional options (like styling) could be also provided from Rendering Parameters for each individual Popup Rendering. In or case we need giving each individual rendering on a page unique name and Rendering Parameters seem to be the ideal way of doing that.

Why Rendering Parameters?
Obviously, as it comes from their name, Rendering Parameters are stored with a page and are set per each component applied. That's opposed to the datasource items which carry on replaceable sources of data, and could be shared across several components of the same or compatible types.
per page.

I have recently written an article on how easily one could use rendering parameter with Glass Mapper by using strongly typed HTML helpers as I highly recommend reading as the code from this article is using described method.


5. Editing Information icon
Now, the biggest challenge is that "i"-icon is mixed along the rest of RTE content in a single field. Let's look at how FE team has implemented that:
<button data-name="NAME_OF_POPUP" type="button" aria-label="View Info" aria-haspopup="dialog"  class="button--more-info a-icon-info"></button>
It comes as a styled <button> HTML tag, with set of attributes the most important of which is data-name. This attribute sets the relationship with a corresponding modal popup <section> tag to be shown/hidden.


6. Wiring-up icon and modal popup together
An initial though was tokenizing this <button> tag and bringing it to the editor's snippets collection, if not the data-name parameter, which is unique per each icon and point out to that same parameter on a modal popup <section> tag attribute.


7.That mean a more elegant solution should be chosen. Creating a custom editors dialog would solve this, for example asking the name of modal popup to be shown on a click at this icon. The most straightforward way would be asking user to input the name user created at the stage 4, so that upon submission it is being injected into a <button> tag attribute and returned back to the editor.

That would work but is subject to potential mistakes/typos/misunderstandings by a user, so instead I decided to present user with a drop-down already populated with the names of modal popups previously added to the page. User needs typing once, and even he/she typed a total mess as the name of popup, that crazy value should be available for selection/usage without retyping.

Now let's turn to the actual..

IMPLEMENTATION


I will start with Modal Popup rendering itself. First of all need creating a Controller rendering:

With the view action code:
@using Glass.Mapper.Sc.Web.Mvc
@using Feature.Components.Templates
@using Feature.Components.Extensions
@model ITitleWithRichText

@{ var name = Html.GetRenderingParametersString<IPopupModalDialog>(m => m.DialogName); } 


@if (Sitecore.Context.PageMode.IsExperienceEditor)
{
    
Modal popup: @name
}

Controller action method itself will be extremely simple- grab a strongly-typed interface from Glass Mapper and pass it to a view:
public ActionResult ModalPopup()
{
var model = _componentsRepository.GetModel<ITitleWithRichText>();
return View("~/Views/Feature/Components/ModalPopup.cshtml", model);
}

Next, need to add a Sitecore Placeholder for holding modal dialogs. The good practice here also is not to ignore creating placeholder settings for users' choice convenience:


Rich Text Editor

We need creating the button on a Rich Text, these buttons are configured inside of active Rich Text Profile within core database.

Please note: as soon as you need modifying anything from OOB profile, do not change them. Duplicate the whole desired profile node instead, put it under the serialization and then you're welcome to modifying it.

Therefore I duplicate Rich Text Full profile into: 
/sitecore/system/Settings/Html Editor Profiles/Custom
Same as the rest of editing-related stuff, I am keeping it serialized under Foundation.Editing Helix module.

As an option, you could also want this new profile becoming the default, so that there will be no need of explicitly stating the profiles name at the templates' Source column. To achieve that you can create a config patch file (just here, at Foundation.Editing) that sets HtmlEditor.DefaultProfile setting to the one we've just created:


  
    
      /sitecore/system/Settings/Html Editor Profiles/Custom
    
  



Once we've sorted with Rich Text profile, let's include a new icon for a custom dialog. To do so, I create a new Modal Popup item under /sitecore/system/Settings/Html Editor Profiles/Custom/Toolbar 2.

The most important property here is Click field and it stores the name of modal dialog to serve this:

As for icon itself, that could be chosen from one of sprite images stored at sitecore/shell/Themes/Standard/Images/Editor/WebResource.png by specifying offset in style:
html .ModalPopup { background-position: -6px center }
Here is how the result looks like:


After we created a new button and have associated it with a Click command referencing a new dialog name, there is also a code to be added that handles new button click and triggers new dialog.

Danger zone: to add this code one need modifying existing OOB JavaScript file, so with each version update there is a risk of new vanilla version being overwritten with you custom-modified old version script file. This file rarely changes, but still please keep an eye - if the change occurs you'll need handling the diff.

The customization in my case is simply appending some code to the very end of sitecore\shell\Controls\Rich Text Editor\RichText Commands.js file:
Telerik.Web.UI.Editor.CommandList["ModalPopup"] = function(commandName, editor, args) {
  var html = editor.getSelectionHtml();
  var id;
  
  if (!id) {
    id = GetMediaID(html);
  }

  scEditor = editor;

  editor.showExternalDialog(
    "/sitecore/shell/default.aspx?xmlcontrol=RichText.ModalPopup&la=" + scLanguage + (id ? "&fo=" + id : "") + (scDatabase ? "&databasename=" + scDatabase : "") ,
    null, 400, 260, scModalPopup, null, "Insert Modal Popup Dialog", true, Telerik.Web.UI.WindowBehaviors.Close,false, false 
  );
};

function scModalPopup(sender, returnValue) {
  if (!returnValue) {
      return;
  }

  scEditor.pasteHtml(unescape(returnValue.Text), "DocumentManager");
}
What the above code does is adds the Telerik.Web.UI.Editor.CommandList["ModalPopup"] handling code (note that "ModalPopup" matches the value from Click command we entered into a profile at core database; it also adds scModalPopup handler that actually pastes resulted markup into Rich Text Editor.


Creating the Dialog

That is done with very legacy markup method called SheerUI. A traditional Sheer UI component would consist of 3 pieces:
  1. XML markup that dictates how control layout should be laid
  2. Codebehind similar to old knows ASP.NET WebForms (not to confuse with another deprecated tolset - WFFM)
  3. Related JavaScript code
Here they are, one after another:

1. XML markup for sitecore\shell\Controls\Rich Text Editor\ModalPopup\ModalPopup.xml


  
    
      
      
      
          
            
          
		  
      
    
  


This code has <richtext.modalpopup> section that hard-ties to the command from previous steps. It also has <codebeside> section that references C# code doing the rest of its logic behing the markup, here is it below:

2. ModalPopup.cs
using System;
using Sitecore.Web.UI.Pages;
using Sitecore.Diagnostics;
using Sitecore;
using Sitecore.Web;
using Sitecore.Web.UI.Sheer;
 
namespace Foundation.Editing.Dialogs
{
    public class ModalPopup : DialogForm
    {
        protected Sitecore.Web.UI.HtmlControls.Combobox Target;

        string Wrapping = @"";

        protected override void OnLoad(EventArgs e)
        {
            Assert.ArgumentNotNull(e, "e");
            base.OnLoad(e);

            if (!Context.ClientPage.IsEvent)
            {
                Mode = WebUtil.GetQueryString("mo");
               
                Context.ClientPage.ClientScript.RegisterStartupScript(GetType(), "script", "scOnLoad();", true);
            }
        }

        protected override void OnOK(object sender, EventArgs args)
        {
            Assert.ArgumentNotNull(sender, "sender");
            Assert.ArgumentNotNull(args, "args");

            string code = string.Format(Wrapping, Target.Value);      

            if (Mode == "webedit")
            {
                SheerResponse.SetDialogValue(StringUtil.EscapeJavascriptString(code));
                base.OnOK(sender, args);
            }
            else
            {
                SheerResponse.Eval($"scClose({StringUtil.EscapeJavascriptString(code)})");
            }
        }

        protected override void OnCancel(object sender, EventArgs args)
        {
            Assert.ArgumentNotNull(sender, "sender");
            Assert.ArgumentNotNull(args, "args");

            if (Mode == "webedit")
            {
                base.OnCancel(sender, args);
            }
            else
            {
                SheerResponse.Eval("scCancel()");
            }
        }

        protected string Mode
        {
            get
            {
                string str = StringUtil.GetString(base.ServerProperties["Mode"]);
                if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(str))
                {
                    return str;
                }
                return "shell";
            }
            set
            {
                Assert.ArgumentNotNull(value, "value");
                base.ServerProperties["Mode"] = value;
            }
        }
    }
}

Simply saying, we take an input from user (in a given case by selecting a drop-down item from a list) and wrapping it with <button> tag store at Wrapping string variable:

3. Finally, sitecore\shell\Controls\Rich Text Editor\ModalPopup\ModalPopup.js that handles client-side part for this control:
function scClose(text) {
    var returnValue = {
        Text: text
    };
 
    getRadWindow().close(returnValue);
}
 
function GetDialogArguments() {
    return getRadWindow().ClientParameters;
}
 
function getRadWindow() {

    if (window.radWindow) {
        return window.radWindow;
    }
 
    if (window.frameElement && window.frameElement.radWindow) {
        return window.frameElement.radWindow;
    }
 
    return null;
}
 
var isRadWindow = true;
 
var radWindow = getRadWindow();
 
if (radWindow) {
    if (window.dialogArguments) {
        radWindow.Window = window;
    }
}

function scOnTargetLoad() {    
}

function scOnLoad() {    
    
    let select = document.getElementById("Target");
    let list = parent.parent.parent.document.querySelectorAll('section[data-name]')
    let values = Array.from(list).map(x => x.getAttribute('data-name'));

    for (var i = 0; i < values.length; i++) {
        var opt = document.createElement('option');
        opt.innerHTML = values[i];
        opt.value = values[i];
        select.appendChild(opt);
    }
}

function scCancel() {
 
    getRadWindow().close();
}
 
function scCloseWebEdit(embedTag) {
    window.returnValue = embedTag;
    window.close();
}
 
if (window.focus && Prototype.Browser.Gecko) {
    window.focus();
}
The main trick here you may see inside of scOnLoad() method. I created and referenced this handler to exactly catch the moment the drop-down is actually created on the control - that is not trivial as is instantiated asynchronously far later that holding control itself. Once created, I am crawling the triple-parent iframe for the presence of popup modal windows, and grab their name into a drop-down, if found.

That is probably the main bit of the whole blog post. The user can now select any name of those existing modal popup components he actually dropped into a placeholder on a page, and those are the names entered only once from a Rendering Parameters dialog forced after control was added.

As mentioned above, I place both new custom dialog and modified RichText Commands.js file into Foundation.Editing project as per Helix guidance.That guarantees all these related code, scripts and items get kept together.

DEMO TIME

Thanks for reading and watching!

A nice way of using HTML Helper for accessing Rendering Parameters along with Glass Mapper

I very love Glass Mapper as (once being configured) it takes away from you much of the manual efforts of wiring up your models.

Often working with Rendering Parameters, I decided to simplify their usage by having a strongly-typed HTML Helper powered by Glass Mapper. Here is how the usage looks like:

<div class="@(Html.GetRenderingParametersClassFor<ISingleClass>(m => m.Class))">
   your content here
</div>

It benefits from usage simplicity and also from having IntelliSense. Here's an example of what ISingleClass looks like:

[SitecoreType(TemplateId = ISingleClassConstants.TemplateIdString)]
public partial interface ISingleClass : IGlassBase
{   
    [SitecoreField(ISingleClassConstants.ClassFieldName)]
    Guid Class { get; }
}

In Sitecore items of a given type may look as smth. similar below:


OK, won't make it any longer: here's the code that does all the magic:

public static class HtmlHelperExtensions
{
    public static string GetRenderingParametersClassFor<T>(this HtmlHelper html, Func<T, object> getField, string fieldName = "Class") where T : class
    {
        var selectedItem = GetSelectedRenderingParameter(html, getField);
        return selectedItem?[fieldName] ?? "";
    }


    private static Item GetSelectedRenderingParameter<T>(this HtmlHelper html, Func<T, object> getField) where T : class
    {
        T renderingParameters = GetRenderingParameters<T>(html);

        var selectedItemId = getField(renderingParameters)?.ToString();
        return Context.Database.GetItem(selectedItemId);
    }

    public static T GetRenderingParameters<T>(this HtmlHelper html) where T : class
    {
        //TODO: wire-up ISitecoreService to get resolved via DI of your choise
        var sitecoreService = new SitecoreService(PageContext.Current.Database);

        var parameters = RenderingContext.CurrentOrNull.Rendering["Parameters"];
        var nameValueCollection = WebUtil.ParseUrlParameters(parameters);
        var config = sitecoreService.GlassContext[typeof(T)] as SitecoreTypeConfiguration;

        var renderingParametersModelFactory = new RenderingParametersModelFactory(sitecoreService);
        return renderingParametersModelFactory.CreateModel<T>(nameValueCollection, config.TemplateId);
    }
}


Bonus: in some cases you may also want selecting a HTML tag from rendering parameters, for example your editors could choose between heading tags they want to be on your rendering (like H1, H2, H3, H4 or may be just a generating paragraph P-tag):

In that case you can add one more method into the above HTML helper class:

public static MvcTag TagFrom<T>(this HtmlHelper html, Func<T, object> getField, string className = null) where T : class
{
    var selectedItem = GetSelectedRenderingParameter(html, getField);
    string tag = selectedItem?["Tag"] ?? "";

    html.ViewContext.ViewBag.Tag = tag;

    if (!string.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(tag)) 
    {
        var tagBuilder = new TagBuilder(tag);
    
        if (!string.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(className))
        {
            tagBuilder.Attributes.Add("class", className);
        }
        
        html.ViewContext.Writer.Write(tagBuilder.ToString(TagRenderMode.StartTag));
    }

    return new MvcTag(html.ViewContext);
}

Once compiled, you can then render you tags as below:

@using (Html.TagFrom<ITagRenderingParameter>(m => m.Tag, "tag_class"))
{
    @Html.Glass().Editable(m => m.Title)
}

And choose which HTML tag just from a Rendering Parameters dropdown:

Hope this helps!

XBlog on Sitecore 10? That's possible!

I was using XBlog as nice and simple solution for maintaining the blogs on Sitecore (at least for editors), but unfortunately the original repo has not gone along with the progress Sitecore XP does - the last update dates as 3 years ago for some Sitecore 9 related configs, while the rest of it is 6 years old.

I tried using the 'Sitecore 9' branch of the original repo but unfortunately it did not go well. If installing it from the packages - then it had minor issues even with declared version 9.X, which in fact in fact had the very wide range of changes int between of 9.0.1 till 9.3. Not to say version 10.* therefore:

I decided to refactor it instead!

You may find the successful result of this exercise published at my corresponding GitHub repository, that one worked out for 10.1 and tested well there, but since all versions 10.X share the same runtime it should work universally on all of them.

Few notes on what has been done:

  • much unwanted legacy stuff such as support for WebForms has been entirely removed
  • the IDs of items have been retained, so that helps upgrading existing solution with 1000s of posts
  • there were changes done to reflect reworked Content Search of the XP platform
  • found and fixed in Bucket items creation logic, related to events suppression
  • serialization changed to the one using CLI, officially released as the part of Sitecore 10
  • few more minor changes and improvements in references, runtime, confutation, etc.

Please also note: XBlog uses fast query which declared to get deprecated in Sitecore 10.1, but that particular code works perfectly well, and I cross-tested it in debugger to confirm: the fast queries return that expected result I queried. Just for the future references, fast queries have been used in code\Areas\XBlog\Buckets\BucketFolderConfigurationManager.cs and code\Areas\XBlog\Import\ImportManager.cs files.

The resulted code can be found here: XBlog for Sitecore 10.1

Upgrading Sitecore like a Pro

Sooner or later, you'll face it - the need for Sitecore version upgrade. However, each Sitecore instance is unique, there is no universal method for an upgrade, therefore each upgrade path is bespoke.

In the past 10 years working with Sitecore I have done numerous upgrades, resulted in Upgrade Planning Strategy and a set of Upgrade Tips and Tricks. These tips will help saving 2-3 times (!) on spent efforts, comparing to direct approaches.
Last but not the least. versions 10 and 10.1 brought new challenges and options of migrating existing solutions into containers. I will explain your options and propose best approach on this as well.

I have lodged the speech proposal for SUGCON 2021 and fingers crossed to be chosen, so that I will share the whole presentation and sides updating this blog post.

There is still no "silver bullet" for Sitecore upgrades, but following tips from my session will eliminate risks, reduce efforts, and bring you confidence while upgrading your instances.

I am going to tell you about:

  1. How to approach the whole instance upgrade
  2. What are the upgrade time-wasters
  3. Common and potential traps to avoid
  4. Dealing with configuration upgrade, and why that's not as complicated as initially seems to be
  5. Upgrading your solution codebase, including ORM (Glass etc.) and DI
  6. Employing automations with PowerShell
  7. Upgrading databases and how to approach
  8. Even more automation to add
  9. How to treat deprecated Sitecore APIs and obsolete code
  10. Migrating forms from WFFM
  11. Upgrading to version 10 containers and how 10.1 changes the upgrades
  12. Testing your upgrade strategies
  13. Going live
  14. Summary of tips and findings from this session
Stay tuned!

Everything you wanted to ask about "Items-as-Resources" coming with new Sitecore 10.1

Sitecore 10.1 brings new Items-as-Resources option, which raises plenty of questions.
  • What it that used for?
  • Why did we get it at all?
  • Any concerns of using that?
Please find the answers below:


1. Before 10.1 you’ve been given the initial set of OOB items upon the installation in the databases. That includes default templates, layouts, workflows and the rest of scaffolding items.

2. Now with 10.1 all these are supplied as the resources files outside of database. That's correct: all these items are no longer residing in the database. Yes, you still have them in your content tree as normal.

3. Does databases come empty? Not actually - there are just two entries for the default site (page) you normally first see after successful Sitecore instance installation, at the root of URL. It was decided not to put these into resources, as most customers delete that default home page anyway.

4. Are these resource read-only? Yes, Sitecore cannot write back into those resource files. Treat it as if they're written on CD but with an immediate access.

5. So does that mean I cannot modify default OOB items in Sitecore anymore? No, you actually can edit those as normal after "Unprotecting item" from a Content Editor ribbon. What happens in that case is Sitecore will take the delta between initial value stored in resource file and your changes and will store that delta having only changes you’ve done in the database. On item "consumption" the current state of item gets calculated from a resource file and that delta.

6. But you cannot delete these items. Sitecore prompts that it origins from the resource file therefore cannot be deleted. Still good, as leaves less potential for silly errors, anyway..

7. So where are these resource files located? They are based (quite predictably) within App_Data folder - App_Data\items\<DATABASE_NAME>\items.<DATABASE_NAME>.dat (by default).

8. What format are these resource files? Protobuff (Protocol Buffers) from Google. That is a surprisingly old format which is proven for a decade, at least.

9. How can I create my own resources?
Officially - you cannot. Well, it is technically possible but requires very deep dive into Protocol Buffers, raw database storage and investigating new data provider in Sitecore. But, Sitecore will likely start providing authors of popular modules with the toolset to create such a resources with an ease. So, let's say for SXA you will no longer need installing SPE + SXA packages yourself, instead you'll simply drop the resource files provided by SXA team underneath items folder, not even need to publish that afterwards.

10. Why no need publishing? That's because you copy the resource file for web database as well - items are alredy on the web database. Of course, all the items created by you will still need to get published.

11. But why at all Sitecore introduced that?
The main reason is to simplify the platform version upgrade process. The way update is done has changed.
You may have notice on the Sitecore download page, "Upgrade options" section have changed: instead of Sitecore Update Packages you now have Sitecore UpdateApp Tool that operates against each specific version you'd want to upgrade from. This tool will remove the default items for each particular legacy version and replace it with the resource files, Of course it also updates the schema with the changes which was already available.

12. The bigger reason for this change was "think containers - think ahead" approach. With such a change it becomes easier to upgrade version of Sitecore when running in containers: everything from the database since now is entirely user's custom data, and can be entirely copied to a never database, while version-specific-and-system-related items get updated by just a resource file substitute.

13. Also you may heard that Fast Query has been deprecated. That is exact reason why - if something isn't in the database, Sitecore cannot efficiently build the graph of the relationship for fast query


14. What is that data provider mentioned above?
That is a new one called CompositeDataProvider that inherited by DefaultDataProvider. The name composite assumes that one cares of merging items for Sitecore tree from both DB and the resources. In the configuration you specify it for an individual database under <database> section, you can also change the location for such resources by patching <filePath> node of <protobutItems> and overriding the location.

15. For the end-consumer of DataProvider (high level of stack) nothing changes as they still use DefaultDataProvider from their code. The changes occur at intermediate level and those happen to be internal for Sitecore.

16. That actually opens up a much wider potential for creating some intemediate-level providers to things other than ProtoBuf and SQL Databases: CRMs, DAMs, some other headless CMSs maybe. In any case this is very important and greatly welcomed step ahead for the platform!

Update: there is another great blog post from my MVP-colleague Jeremy Davis on that same topic, where he also tried drilling into these resurce files with ProtoBuff.Net library.

I have won a Sitecore Technology MVP 2021 award!

This year I am celebrating my fifth in a row year as a Sitecore MVP! I am very excited to announce that I have been named Most Valuable Professional (MVP) by Sitecore for 2021 - that's the most prestigious award in whole ecosystem of Sitecore!

As a Technology MVP I am one of only 170 Sitecore professionals worldwide that have been awarded with an MVP title in this category. It really means a lot to me to be part of such a great community and to be able to contribute to sharing knowledge within this community.


Sharing Sitecore Identity Server between two independant instances of Sitecore

Imagine a case where you need having two Sitecore instances in parallel next to each other. That may be cause by several legit reasons.

WHY?

For example, in my case I am moving (by reworking, not just migrating) some functional areas from one legacy instance to another that will features SXA. The legacy instance has been passed from one hand to another with numerous configuration artifacts, with a limited maintenance options, so that it becomes next to impossible to combine it with a brand new SXA stuff under the same roof. I know, that is doable in principle (and have done it myself before), but the amount maintenance and lack of knowledge / documentation on existing codebase makes its maintenance inappropriately risky and non-acceptable. Therefore, it becomes reasonable keeping them both in isolation, only uniting at the URL level (by rewriting a (sub)domain of a new instance into a primary domain's folder level).

Things you have to consider in that case would turn to almost doubling your infrastructure and related expense as well as checking if your Sitecore licence permits you that. Currently doing quite an unusual setup where both the above concerns give me a green light for going ahead and I am OK to run both instances in parallel (as on-prem solution).

Once agreed, the next thoughts come to Identity Server, where keeping two instances for that same activity does not make much sense. Keeping them both is exhaustive, but the good news is that one can re-use and existing ID Server for any number of instances (namely CM boxes). That comes to making two extra steps and below I will show you how-to:

HOW?

Let's assume we have two instances, called old and new. Old one has all the bits configured and running, so we only want re-using ID Server of old instance with a new instance.

1. Get rid ow ID Server for a new instance (you can stop its web app and app pool for now). That makes sure it is not used.

2. Find Sitecore.Owin.Authentication.IdentityServer.config file on a new instance (App_Config\Sitecore\Owin.Authentication.IdentityServer.config) and substitute identityServerAuthority variable to point to an existing ID Server

    <sc.variable name="identityServerAuthority" value="https://old.identityserver" />


3. Now CM for a new instance knows which ID Server to talk through, but will ID Server accept those calls? The answer is no, unless you explicitly permit it doing so. Navigate to Config\production folder of old instance ID Server and add addition allowed CORS origin group into Sitecore.IdentityServer.Host.xml file. You will end up having smth. as below:

<AllowedCorsOrigins>
<AllowedCorsOriginsGroup1>https://old</AllowedCorsOriginsGroup1>
<AllowedCorsOriginsGroup2>https://new</AllowedCorsOriginsGroup2>
</AllowedCorsOrigins>


4. There is also Identity Server secret stored below at the same xml file, with a matching counterpart at App_Config\ConnectionStrings.config, so you also need updating config for new instance with the value from shared Identity Server:

<add name="sitecoreidentity.secret" connectionString="SECRET_from_ID_Server" />


5. Finally, recycle Identity Server application pool, then you're OK to test it. To make things more visual, I've recorded all the steps and testing it and sharing resulted video below:


Things to consider: as you're re-using existing old instance Identity Server, it will itself re-use all the assets. When it comes to Active Directory then it brings a desired result, but speaking about internal users (those normally you have got at Sitecore domain) - they will all get reused all as well, including admin. This comes because ID Server has a reference to core database (or security database extracted from the core) and that one belongs by default to an old instance too.

Hope you find this helpful!

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