Experience Sitecore! | Martin Miles on Sitecore

Experience Sitecore!

Martin Miles on Sitecore

Why CNAB is a game changer for Docker containers and how Sitecore can benefit from that?

Introduction

Currently in order run Sitecore in docker locally, one has to pull the code from GitHub repository, build it (if not done yet, or pull already built images from a docker registry), set the license file and say "up" to docker-compose. Not to say the prerequisites required. If dealing with cloud, then the deployment into Kubernetes is required, that also demands adequate skills.

Imagine an ideal situation where you don't need to do all the things, but just pull a "managing" image from remote registry, and this image itself will care about running "all the things" internally, such as prerequisites, pulling the dependent images, preparing the environments, network and dependencies, doing an alternative steps to docker-compose and much more.


Or going far beyond that: shipping is as a traditional GUI installer for non-technical people or deploying that same image into a  could, any cloud, ready to use, does not that look as such desirable? What if I tell you this technology is already available and you can use it? Please welcome the new universal spec for packaging distributed apps created by by Microsoft and Docker:

Cloud Native Application Bundles or simply CNAB

Firstly, what the heck is CNAB at all? Using Cloud Native Application Bundle, a developer has an option of deploying the app either locally at his dev. machine, or in a public cloud as it bolts together containers and services into a seamless whole, placing a strong focus on standardization. It is an open source specification that aims to facilitate the bundling, installing, and managing of containerized apps. With this bundle, users can define resources that can then be deployed to a number of run-time environments, such as Docker, Azure, Kubernetes, Helm, automation services (such as those used by GitOps), and more.

At a first glance, that task supposed to be solved by Docker itself. However, when dealing with largely scaled hybrid infrastructures, its standard features become insufficient. Thus, CNAB is an attempt of standardizing  the process of packaging, deployment and lifecycle management of distributed apps on a base of Kubernetes, Helm, Swarm and others by using unified JSON-based package format. 

Recently the CNAB spec reached version 1.0, which means it is ready for production deployment. The spec itself is now broken down into several chapters:

  • CNAB explains the fundamentals of the CNAB core 1.0.
  • CNAB Registry will describe how CNAB bundles can be stored inside of OCI Registries (this section is not yet complete).
  • CNAB Security explains the mechanisms for signing, verifying, and attesting CNAB packages.
  • CNAB Claims describes the CNAB Claims system, shows how records of CNAB installations formatted for storage
  • CNAB Dependencies describes how bundles can define dependencies on other bundles.

Tooling

Each of organisations has provided own tools that demostraties CNAP capabilities: Microsoft released Duffle, while Docker shipped Docker app. Docker Desktop application is fully compatible with CNAB from May 2019.

CNAB is not the only one solution for managing cloud applications lifecycle. For example Kubernetes has Сrossplane manager as well as package manager Helm. However CNAB is the first ever solution that supports several most popular tools and is platform-agnostic. By the way, CNAB can also work with Helm and I came across sample of it at GitHub.

Duffle is a simple command line tool that interacts with Cloud-Native Application Bundles - helping you package and unpackage distributed apps for deployment on whatever cloud platforms and services you use. Its goal is to exercise all parts of the specification and this tool also comes with very handy VS Code extensions, on  of which named Duffle Coat allows you creating native executable installer (*.exe) of your bundle:


This results with the proper installer that will install and configure you Sitecore 9.3 locally from bundle image stored at docker registry:



Once again, instead of local Sitecore installations (like SIA does) we are having this CNAB installer that installs you the platform from Docker registry and with no prerequisites required at all! And CNAB bundle cares about all the dependencies and parameters. What a magic!

Another tool,Porter, is Microsoft’s CNAB builder that gives you building blocks to create a cloud installer for your application, handling all the necessary infrastructure and configuration setup. It is a declarative authoring experience that lets you focus on what you know best: your application. The power of Porter is coming from using mixins giving CNAB authors smart components that understand how to adapt existing systems, such as Helm, Terraform or Azure, into CNAB actions.


And of course, Docker App is CNAB builder and installer that leverages the Docker Compose format to define your applications. To facilitate developer to operator handover, you can add metadata and run-time parameters. These applications can easily be shared using existing container registries. Docker App is available as part of the latest Docker release.

Bundle manifest file
As I said above, the specification defines the way of packaging distributed application of various formats. CNAB includes package definition (named bundle.json) used for describing an app, as well as a special image (also called invocation image) for its installation.A bundle.json is similar to a docker-compose.yml file in that it describes a complex configuration for image deployment. The difference is, the CNAB bundle is very clearly defined as to how it should be laid out, encoded, and where all associated files must reside. It contains:

  • The schema version.
  • Top-level package information.
  • Information on invocation images.
  • Map of images.
  • Specification for parameter override (with a reference to a validation schema).
  • List of credentials.
  • Optional description of custom actions.
  • A list of outputs produced by the application.
  • A set of schema definitions used to validate input.
Here is a sample of bundle.json file below:
{ 
   "credentials":{ 
      "hostkey":{ 
         "env":"HOST_KEY",
         "path":"/etc/hostkey.txt"
      }
   },
   "custom":{ 
      "com.example.backup-preferences":{ 
         "frequency":"daily"
      },
      "com.example.duffle-bag":{ 
         "icon":"https://example.com/icon.png",
         "iconType":"PNG"
      }
   },
   "definitions":{ 
      "http_port":{ 
         "default":80,
         "maximum":10240,
         "minimum":10,
         "type":"integer"
      },
      "port":{ 
         "maximum":65535,
         "minimum":1024,
         "type":"integer"
      },
      "string":{ 
         "type":"string"
      },
      "x509Certificate":{ 
         "contentEncoding":"base64",
         "contentMediaType":"application/x-x509-user-cert",
         "type":"string",
         "writeOnly":true
      }
   },
   "description":"An example 'thin' helloworld Cloud-Native Application Bundle",
   "images":{ 
      "my-microservice":{ 
         "contentDigest":"sha256:aaaaaaaaaaaa...",
         "description":"my microservice",
         "image":"example/microservice:1.2.3"
      }
   },
   "invocationImages":[ 
      { 
         "contentDigest":"sha256:aaaaaaa...",
         "image":"example/helloworld:0.1.0",
         "imageType":"docker"
      }
   ],
   "maintainers":[ 
      { 
         "email":"[email protected]",
         "name":"Matt Butcher",
         "url":"https://example.com"
      }
   ],
   "name":"helloworld",
   "outputs":{ 
      "clientCert":{ 
         "definition":"x509Certificate",
         "path":"/cnab/app/outputs/clientCert"
      },
      "hostName":{ 
         "applyTo":[ 
            "install"
         ],
         "definition":"string",
         "description":"the hostname produced installing the bundle",
         "path":"/cnab/app/outputs/hostname"
      },
      "port":{ 
         "definition":"port",
         "path":"/cnab/app/outputs/port"
      }
   },
   "parameters":{ 
      "backend_port":{ 
         "definition":"http_port",
         "description":"The port that the back-end will listen on",
         "destination":{ 
            "env":"BACKEND_PORT"
         }
      }
   },
   "schemaVersion":"v1.0.0",
   "version":"0.1.2"
}
You may read more about bundle.json format at CNAB.io official page.

How about Azure?
For Azure we also have got the solution, Azure CNAB Quickstarts library. It demonstrates how once can use bundles for deploying applications and solutions and how to create their own bundles. The library is designed to be optimized for bundles that use Azure resources, but is not limited to Azure only. There is CI/CD workflow in the repository using custom GitHub Actions to enable automatic building of bundles and publishing of bundles to a public Azure Container Registry. The library supports bundles made using Porter tool I mentioned above, a tool capable of building, publishing, invoking, and updating bundles.

Final thoughts
Without any doubt, CNAB becomes a game changer for the 2020, as we getting more and more into contenerized deployments and orchestrating them in the clouds. The specification is quite new and not too many companies are using it at the moment, but there is ever growing interest to it. Since all the major vendors are now ready, I am quite sure it will boost the whole industry in the coming months!

References
Hope you find this post helpful and get your own hand on CNAB shortly!

Sitecore Docker breaks when running Build.ps1 with "hcsshim::PrepareLayer failed in Win32: Incorrect function. (0x1)" message


Recently I was trying to build docker images from the main Sitecore repository, and got quite a weird message.

hcsshim::PrepareLayer - failed failed in win32 : Incorrect function. (0x1)

This message is not self-explanatory and it fired up when the actual build for the first image took place, in my case that was SQL server 2017. Some other details: quite fress and new instance of Windows 10 x64 build 1909, using Hyper-V, no docker / images previously been utilized at thtis computer.

After few hours long googling, I came to understanding that was caused by c:\windows\system32\cbfsconnectnetrdr2017.dll referenced by autorun. There is one halpful tool that helps out troubleshoouting such issues - Sysinternals Autoruns. Here is the output generated by Autoruns for my system:


What is that DLL and how did it get to my machine? CBFSConnect is a known library for creating and managing virtual filesystems for cloud storage providers such as such as Box, Dropbox etc., and this DLL is a kernel mode system drive. Sometimes it may be a leftover from a previously installed software, that was not uninstalled fully and properly.

Depending no your system you may see this DLL as either:

  • C:\Windows\system32\cbfsconnectnetrdr2017.dll  - for newer systems, or
  • C:\Windows\System32\drivers\cbfs6.sys
You may check if it is running or no tby running  a command-line utility for common minifilter driver management operations command (a command-line utility for common minifilter driver management operations):


Resolution
The easiest I found was to just simply rename this driver. Once restarted, docker build worked well.

Hope this helps someone

Tip of the day: running Sitecore Docker from within Hyper-V virtual machine is in fact possible

Why not to run Docker containers from within a Hyper-V virtual machine? 

Well, when you are trying to install Docker Desktop for Windows, it installs correctly. But running it will prompt you about Hyper-V is required for Docker to work.


Programs and Features on its turn shows you that Hyper-V is greyed out, so you cannot install it from there



Not everyone knows, but Hyper-V in fact allows having nested virtual machines. That means running docker is also possible from within a VM. All you need is just running one PowerShell command from outside of your container:

Set-VMProcessor -VMName _YOUR_VM_NAME_TO_ENABLE_ -ExposeVirtualizationExtensions $true

What it does - just adds virtualization features into a virtual processor of outer VM, similar to those you got at you physical CPU. Thus you need to run this command of the VM switched off.

Once done, Sitecore perfectly builds and work if Docker running within a virtual machine. For those who are total beginner and scary to mess the things around their host machines - this could be an option. However there is of course a performance penalty from double virtualization.



Finally, the main trick! Just because you've added virtualization extensions into a virtual processor of your VM, you may run docker in process isolation mode, relatively to the build number of VM's operation system. Will explain it on the following example: imagine, your host machine runs Windows 10 build 1809, but got no problems of running Windows 10 build 1909 in a Hyper-V machine there. Now, you after you enable virtualization extensions to that virtual machine (that runs 1909), you will be able to install docker within that virtual machine, and run 1909-built images in process isolation, natively to that VM: 1909-built images run on 1909- machine! But at the same time you will be able to run those same images only in hyper-v mode on the (outer) host machine, because it has 1809 and cannot run non-matching images in process isolation mode.

Hope this helps!

I have been awarded the Sitecore Most Valuable Professional Technology Award in 2020

Great news for me!

Just got an email saying I was awarded Sitecore Most Valuable Professional Technology Award for the oncoming year.

I feel very excited and carry on plenty of brave plans for the 2020. My main efforts will be applied in two main areas: containers and JSS, at least as I see that now. Apart from will take all of my best to get selected as a speaker for a big audience conference and keep going developing Sifon, as it is quite promissing tool (unfortunately it is so tought with finding and allocation long timeslots for it).

In any case, I am pleased to stay as MVP and hope to meet you at the events later this year.


Welcome Sifon - a must-have tool for any Sitecore developer,to simplify most of you day-today DevOps activities

UPDATE 23/12/2019: There has much been done since this post originally, Sifon is now working on remote machines as well as it supports Sitecore Commerce. The main news however is that it now got a website with a documentation, demos, roadmap and other project-related items. Thus, it would be the best to refer to it - https://Sifon.UK.


Do you love PowerShell as much as I do?

Along the time, Sitecore gains more and more new features, its architecture obtains some existing features split out into microservices. Maintenance becomes even more complicated and time-consuming. Just as an example, a few years back in time we had only 3 databases coming with the platform, while now there are more than 15. 

Luckily, PowerShell as a scripting technology comes us with assistance, providing the console based API to most of the OS and platform management features. Now it becomes possible to automate quite complex procedures just by scripting it out. Take a look at Sitecore XP installer for example, or at even depicting the complexity - an installer script for Sitecore Commerce with almost hundred steps. How long did it take you to run it all? That confirms the statement on how PowerShell became an inevitable part of developers' lives.

But here we come to another problem. The number of scripts we have grows quite quickly, as the number of standard tasks grows. And at some moment I start noticing that something goes wrong with it. Those who read my blog from time to time may have noticed, that I am kind of a productivity maniac, and being such a person, I start thinking and analyzing where the productivity bottlenecks are while working with PowerShell. What do you think they are?

Firstly, scripting means typing. Typing means typos. Typing means forgetting the syntax. Regardless of how one is perfect as a typist, interaction with a keyboard has its own expenses. The good news is that PowerShell addresses these issues by providing interactive help and autocompletion. But it still consumes your time, comparing to the UI operations (of course, those with proper UX and well designed).

Secondly, we have more ready-to-use scripts and we need them all to be stored somewhere. Somewhere on a filesystem, of course. Those smart and best use GitHub gists (they can be also secret, not only public) and since recent one can have also private GitHub accounts, so what I know few people do is just create private repositories of their an entire scripts libraries. The benefits are clear - if these libraries are well organized and properly structured - it gives immediate access to some specific script one may need to find and access. The principal criteria here is time-to-access and GitHub repo provides that for sure, of course, you may use any other version control hosting providers, subject to velocity.

Thirdly, sensitive information. Scripts call, other scripts, that in turn call another script (modules) that in turn call APIs - that similar nesting we typically have with our OOP languages. The issue comes from those outer-level scripts that contain some sensitive parameter, such as usernames, passwords, secrets, tokens and similar. You don't store all of the above at external source control hostings, even if that's a private repo, do you? If you do, I can recommend you a few really worthy courses on information security. Of course, a developer can parametrize all sensitive information and bubble it up to an external script, so that it comes to input parameters. But then we face a bottleneck issue I described first. Not just one have to provide parameters but need to types them manually and to store the values somewhere, which turns in a payload of accessing those values. Still not good. 

In any case, the reality is that plenty of such scripts are bloated across the hard drive, which still comes to all the issues described above.

Finally, when it comes to sharing those puter scripts, we meet the same story of separating sensitive data and environmental-specific values from pure business logic.

Of course, developers do value their time and try to find compromises. I am not exclusion and decided to go my own developer's way, which you may guess means developing something bespoke. So please welcome Sifon - a must-have tool for any Sitecore developer, to simplify most of your day-to-day DevOps activities.

But before going ahead - a bit of intro. Without a deep understanding of all the requirements, I still made an early prototype of a given tool to address some of my problems somewhere back in November 2018. Greatly impressed by Sitecore Instance Manager (also known as SIM) I decided to return a graphical installer to Sitecore, which was missing out by those days. That of course was achieved, however, the most valuable feature was the ability to backup entire Sitecore instance state, clean up web folder and databases and restore it back from a folder. All that in just a minute time, which seemed to be nothing comparing even to installation with SIF. Something extremely helpful, when you develop with Helix principles and often need to create rollback points before trying some complicated PoCs or for example to a clean just installed version of Sitecore, in order to perform deployment on a clean instance.

That software start saving my time significantly, right from the moment of its creation! Later I added few more frequently used functions into it, such as installing modules, Solr, rebuilding indexes and full republish, adding HTTP bindings to an instance and moving its SSL certificates into trusted storage. I shared this PoC with few of my colleagues working on the same project saving their time as well. 

But I could not share it with the entire Sitecore community, to my regret. Firstly, due to unstable code coming out of PoC sitting on top of another PoC and so on, turning Proof of Concept into the Proof of Hell. Secondly not just a project architecture was put under a big question mark, but also the whole concept should be revised. 

I wanted it not just to be well maintainable, but extendable. Saying that I mean the ability of each individual working with this program to easily create own plugins and extensions, addressing some specific task that is shareable or publically open-sourced. Multiplied by Sitecore community efforts that may become an unprecedently helpful tool for all of us, I know you folks are very creative!

So once again, please welcome Sifon. But first of all, what the word Sifon means? 


Sifon is a simplified casual term for a whipping siphon that used to create carbonated water, often with some fancy tastes. It requires cartridges of gas, also known as chargers, to pressurize the chamber holding the liquid. That very roughly explains the architecture of Sifon tool I am presenting to you today.

In my case, Sifon is a nicely developed PowerShell host with numerous features that allow "playing" any custom PowerShell or C# code in form of plugins. That comes as a curious metaphora - the host itself serves as a siphon body, where plugins stand as an analog for charger cartridges. The main screen looks quite minimalistic:


Features:

  • stores credentials and environmental parameters in one place called profile, passing them as the parameters into the code
  • supports multiple profiles for many environments with immediate switching between them by one click
  • "backup-remove-restore" routine comes as built-in and is available immediately after setting up the first profile 
  • profile editor allows the testing connection few basic parameters auto detections but will be extended with more features
  • runs in multithread, responsively updating the progress along with rest of corresponding feedback


From the feature list, as for a user, it offers these benefits:

  • keep all your frequently used scripts at the same place, organizing them by nested folders as preferred
  • separate scripts from sensitive parameters, allowing sharing and publishing them open source
  • because of the above, one may create own repository and clone scripts directly into Sifon's plugins directory 


NOTE! Before going ahead, please keep in mind that currently that is just a demo beta, so everything may be a subject to changes, especially when it comes to UI. Also the entire validation layer is disconnected, so plese submit data responsibly!

The first thing one needs to do after installation is to set up a profile. As I mentioned above, a profile is an easy-to-switch-between set of parameters applicable to a specific environment. As simple, these parameters from a currently selected profile will be passed over to any script executed, regardless of whether that passed into a built-in feature, PowerShell script or DLL plugin. It is expected that both mentioned are accepting these parameters, so please refer to the provided example in order to build your own plugins. 

Important! In order to Sifon to function, you must create at least one profile which has a SQL Server connection set up. Otherwise most of its functions will be greyed out, until required profile data submitted.

Now, let's take a look at Sifon's built-in "backup - remove - restore" routine. Making backup comes as easy as:


All you need to do is specifying the folder to put the backups into, select which instance to backup (you may have many) and decide whether you want to backup databases (select which exactly), web folder or both.

As you might know, it is always better to deploy Helix-based solutions into a clean environment, so you may want to clean existing webroot before restoring into it. It is done in a similar manner - from dropdown select which instance to remove and it will prompt you with a web root folder and installed databases. You just need to check/uncheck what you'd like to remove. Please note that databases can be deleted individually, and by selecting "manual entry" you can list all the databases from all the instances to be selected for removal.


Not to say that restoring looks and works also similar to mentioned above. Simply select a folder with a corresponding backup and select what to restore. If the folder contains only webroot or just databases, you'll be able to restore only what you've got. 


Creating a capsule plugin requires you writing PowerShell in a specific manner, but the two important points to mention are:

1. accepting parameters. Just attach this to the top of your script, and you'll get these parameters auto-provided

param(
    #Comes from profile
    [string]$ServerInstance,
    [string]$Username,
    [string]$Password,
    [string]$instanceName,
    [string]$instanceFolder,
)

2. reporting the progress by write-progress. This is done by the following syntax

Write-Progress -Activity "This is the name of current operation" -CurrentOperation "Step 1" -PercentComplete 10
start-sleep -milli 500
Write-Progress -Activity "This is the name of current operation" -CurrentOperation "Step 2" -PercentComplete 20

You may run test-progress.ps1 script and review its code as it demonstrates how progress output works with PowerShell


Have you ever noticed a light-blue progress bar when installing Sitecore with SIF (as below)?


That's it! It also means plenty of SIF functions can be converted to work with Sifon and will support displaying progress natively. Few of them will be provided upon the release.


List of plugins (capsules) that will be provided upon release through GitHub:

  • all types of package installation: traditional, update-packages and web deploy WDP modules
  • creating an SSL certificate and adding it to the trusted storage
  • enable SPE remoting for a selected instance and further execution of plugins in its context
  • install Solr service, both as single and in-parallel running to already existing service (ie. various versions)


This is a first publically released beta and it is downloadable from this blog post. In the future, it will be distributed from own website along with the documentation, but there will be an easier way of installing it:

choco install sifon


Future plans

  • execute PowerShell scripts in the context of a remote machine by WSMAN (that's already supported, but no UI for it yet)
  • add support microservices of Sitecore, such as xConnect, Identity Server and Publishing Service
  • in addition to the above, add full support for Commerce, it's microservices and databases
  • be fully compliant with Sitecore 9.2, including official installer script (SIF script coming out of the box)
  • extend custom OutputFormatters to plugins, allowing presenting more friendly console output (currently works at Sifon itself)
  • community plugins available through GitHub repository
  • once becomes matured, releasing Sifon itself open source


You can download the beta by clicking this link (please download from Sifon website instead). It will already be able to do backups and restore of your instances. The samples of capsule plugins are also available through this GitHub. Just compile DLL or drop PowerShell into Scripts folder to get them available via the menu.

Hope you enjoy that and looking forward to your feedback.


Enhancing Treelist and Miltilist fields with a lookup feature for productivity. Two approaches, same goal: browser user script and serverside

brThis trick saves me lo-o-o-ot of time, especially working on large Helix/SXA solution.

Typically you have a treelist that looks like this:

Now tell me what actions do you take when there is a necessity to look up what are one or few of these templates? How you achieve that?

I assume you raw copy GUID, paste into search, inspect and then return back. Clumsy, isn't it?

Objective. My desire was to achieve a popup or new tab window by clicking ENTER hotkey once so that I immediately can look up this template for whatever interests me. I ended up not just achieving the goal but doing that in two opposite ways. Let's consider the pros and cons of each approach (they are almost opposite)


LET'S REVIEW THE OPTIONS

1. Browser user script. I recently wrote about implementing browser user script in order to enhance your productivity while working with Sitecore content management. This approach has

  • Pros:

    • leaves server untouched
    • user can easily adjust the flow right in the nice code editor provided by the extension
  • Cons:

    • applies only on a specific browser on your client machine
    • sometimes relies on browser extensions ie. TapmerMonkey


2. Serverside script alteration is an opposite option for achieving the goal. I recently blogged about developing Expand / Collapse all editor sections implementing this approach. In order to do so, I need to modify <web_root>\sitecore\shell\Applications\Content Manager\Content Editor.js file within my sitecore instance.

  • Pros:

    • applies to all users with all browsers using your Sitecore instance
  • Cons:

    • served by a back-end and risks interfering with other serverside code
    • business logic needs to be placed into Sitecore instance, whether by deployment or manually

Anyway, you may pick up either of the solutions depending on your preferences, it's better to have a choice. Let's turn to the implementation.


IMPLEMENTATION

1. Browser user script. The way Sitecore Desktop functions is dynamically loading iframes for specific features, so it is not as easy to use selectors with it due to not just elements but even documents not yet loaded into DOM. 

To address this implementation I picked Mutation. It allows you creating handlers for whatever mutation occurs in your DOM, one may also specify what types of events to handle:

// handing a mutation occured
var mutationObserver = new MutationObserver(function(mutations) {
  mutations.forEach(function(mutation) {
    console.log(mutation);
  });
});

// starts listening for changes in the root HTML element of the page.
mutationObserver.observe(document.documentElement, {
  attributes: true,
  characterData: true,
  childList: true,
  subtree: true,
  attributeOldValue: true,
  characterDataOldValue: true
});
I use nested MutationObserver approach where outer observer indirectly handles new documents appearing and once it happens - attaches the nested observer within a given iframe. So below is the entire code:
// ==UserScript==
// @name         Multilist and Treelist values lookup
// @namespace    http://tampermonkey.net/
// @version      0.1
// @description  When working with multilist / treelist items in Sitecore, simply hit ENTER on right-hand side selected item in order to preview it in new tab
// @author       Martin Miles
// @match        */sitecore/shell/default.aspx*
// @grant        none
// ==/UserScript==

(function () {
    'use strict';

    const settings = { mutation: { attributes: true, characterData: true, childList: true, subtree: true, attributeOldValue: true, characterDataOldValue: true } };

    var mutationObserver = new MutationObserver(function (mutations) {
        mutations.forEach(function (mutation) {

            if (mutation.type == "attributes" && mutation.target.id.startsWith("startbar_application_") && mutation.target.className == "scActiveApplication") {
                var iframe = getIframeFromActiveTab(mutation.target);
                if (iframe) {
                    internalMutationObserver(iframe);
                }
            }
        });
    });

    mutationObserver.observe(document.documentElement, settings.mutation);

    function internalMutationObserver(iframe) {
        var innerObserver = new MutationObserver(function (innerMutations) {
            innerMutations.forEach(function (m) {

                var _el = m.target;
                if (_el.className == 'scEditorFieldMarkerBarCell') {

                    var labels = _el.parentElement.querySelectorAll('.scContentControlMultilistCaption');
                    labels.forEach(function (label) {
                        if (label.innerHTML == 'Selected') {
                            label.innerHTML = label.innerHTML + ' (hit ENTER on selected item for preview in a new tab)';
                        }
                    });

                    var selects = _el.parentElement.querySelectorAll('select');
                    selects.forEach(function (select) {
                        select.addEventListener("keypress", keyPressed);
                    });
                }
            });
        });

        // wire up internal mutation
        innerObserver.observe(iframe.contentDocument, settings.mutation);
    }

    function getIframeFromActiveTab(element) {
        let frameName = element.id.replace('startbar_application_', '');
        let iframe = document.querySelectorAll('iframe#' + frameName);
        if (iframe.length > 0) {
            return iframe[0];
        }

        return null;
    }

    function keyPressed(e) {
        if (e.keyCode == 13) {

            var selsectedValue = e.target.options[e.target.selectedIndex].value;

            var url = getUrl(selsectedValue);
            if (url) {
                openInNewTab(url);
            }

            return false;
        }
    }

    function getUrl(selsectedValue) {

        let guid;
        var parts = selsectedValue.split("|");
        if (parts.length === 2) {
            guid = parts[1];
        }
        else if (isGuid(selsectedValue)) {
            guid = selsectedValue;
        }

        return !guid ? guid : '/sitecore/shell/Applications/Content Editor?id='
            + guid + '&amp;vs=1&amp;la=en&amp;sc_content=master&amp;fo='
            + guid + '&ic=People%2f16x16%2fcubes_blue.png&he=Content+Editor&cl=0';
    }

    function isGuid(stringToTest) {
        if (stringToTest[0] === "{") {
            stringToTest = stringToTest.substring(1, stringToTest.length - 1);
        }
        var regexGuid = /^(\{){0,1}[0-9a-fA-F]{8}\-[0-9a-fA-F]{4}\-[0-9a-fA-F]{4}\-[0-9a-fA-F]{4}\-[0-9a-fA-F]{12}(\}){0,1}$/gi;
        return regexGuid.test(stringToTest);
    }

    function openInNewTab(url) {
        var win = window.open(url, '_blank');
        win.focus();
    }
})();
To run this scrup add a new script from TamperMonkey's dashboard, paste the code, save and enable it. After refreshing Sitecore Desktop you'll be able to preview multiselect field values bu hitting ENTER button, just as on a demo below:

Ready-to-use script is available on GitHub: link

2. The serverside approach considers modifying some serverside component, in a given case, it is quite simple - just modifying <web_root>\sitecore\shell\Applications\Content Manager\Content Editor.js file by adding few functions at the bottom of it:

scContentEditor.prototype.onDomReady = function (evt) {
    this.registerJQueryExtensions(window.jQuery || window.$sc);
    this.addMultilistEnhancer(window.jQuery || window.$sc);
};

scContentEditor.prototype.addMultilistEnhancer = function ($) {
    $ = $ || window.jQuery || window.$sc;
    if (!$) { return; }

    $('#MainPopupIframe').load(function () {
        $(this).show();
        console.log('iframe loaded successfully')
    });

    $(document).on("keypress", "select.scContentControlMultilistBox", function (e) {
        if (e.keyCode == 13) {

            var selsectedValue = e.target.options[e.target.selectedIndex].value;

            var url = getUrl(selsectedValue);
            if (url) {
                openInNewTab(url);
            }

            return false;
        }
    });

    function getUrl(selsectedValue) {

        let guid;
        var parts = selsectedValue.split("|");
        if (parts.length === 2) {
            guid = parts[1];
        }
        else if (isGuid(selsectedValue)) {
            guid = selsectedValue;
        }

        return !guid ? guid : '/sitecore/shell/Applications/Content Editor?id='
            + guid + '&amp;vs=1&amp;la=en&amp;sc_content=master&amp;fo='
            + guid + '&ic=People%2f16x16%2fcubes_blue.png&he=Content+Editor&cl=0';
    }

    function isGuid(stringToTest) {
        if (stringToTest[0] === "{") {
            stringToTest = stringToTest.substring(1, stringToTest.length - 1);
        }
        var regexGuid = /^(\{){0,1}[0-9a-fA-F]{8}\-[0-9a-fA-F]{4}\-[0-9a-fA-F]{4}\-[0-9a-fA-F]{4}\-[0-9a-fA-F]{12}(\}){0,1}$/gi;
        return regexGuid.test(stringToTest);
    }

    function openInNewTab(url) {
        var win = window.open(url, '_blank');
        win.focus();
    }
};

Invalidate browser cache and refresh the page. I am not including a demo record as it works identical to the demo above for the first approach.

Note! if you also have Expand/Collapse script in place from previous blog post, then you need to share once handler for cboth calls since unlike in C# you may not have multi-delegate prototype handler:
// you cannot have multidelegate onDomReady here, so share all calls within one handler
scContentEditor.prototype.onDomReady = function (evt) {
    this.registerJQueryExtensions(window.jQuery || window.$sc);
    this.addMultilistEnhancer(window.jQuery || window.$sc);
    this.addCollapser(window.jQuery || window.$sc);
};

Result. Regardless of the approach taken, now you may look up Treelist selected items by selecting them and hitting the ENTER button. You may include this trick into your own Sitecore productivity pack (you have one already, don't you?) as it indeed helps so much.

Implementing blogs index page with filters and paging: SXA walkthrough

Objective.

Initially I've had a template called Blog, and several pages of it which are actual blog posts. Now I have created a page called Blog Index, implementing template, partial and page designs of the same name. The obvious purpose of given page is to show the list of blog posts, being able to filter this out by certain criteria, including a new custom one - series. Content authors want to group these blogs posts into series, so that's a grouping by a logical criteria. They also want to to display the most recent higher, but give readers an option to select an order, as well as page size.


Implementation plan

  1. Switch to SXA "Live mode" (optional)
  2. Create taxonomy categories
  3. Create Series interface template
  4. Use interface template and update blog posts
  5. Create search scope for page template
  6. Create computed field
  7. Publish, redeploy and re-build indexes
  8. Create facets
  9. Create filter datasources
  10. Make rendering variant for search filters
  11. Make rendering variant for search results
  12. Place component to partial design
  13. Configuring Search Results component
  14. Enjoy result!


IMPLEMENTATION

1. Before start, switch web to master, this can be done at /sitecore/content/Tenant/Platform/Settings/Site Grouping/Platform at Database field by setting it to master (dont't forget to publish that particulat item however). Once done, it will use not only master database at published site, but also master indexes.


2. Firstly, let's create Series taxonomy folder under Taxonomy (/sitecore/content/Tenant/Platform/Data/Taxonomy) and populate it with actual series-categories that will be used for filtering:


3. Now I can create interface template to implement series selection. This template will be later used with not just Blogs but also few other page types, that's why I make it an interface and put into shared - /sitecore/templates/Project/Tenant/Platform/Interfaces/Shared/_Series.

Make sure the Source column has correctly set datasource, so that you later will be able to pick up right category under site's Data/Taxonomy/Series folder, as on example below:

Datasource=query:$site/*[@@name='Data']/Taxonomy/Series&IncludeTemplatesForDisplay=Taxonomy folder,Category&IncludeTemplatesForSelection=Category


4. Once done, add _Series interface template to actual page template (Blog in my case). Then one can go to existing blog posts and assign them into series (best with Sitecore PowerShell):

$rootItem = Get-Item master:/sitecore/content/Tenant/Platform;
$sourceTemplate = Get-Item "/sitecore/templates/Project/Tenant/Platform/Pages/Blog";  
$selectedSeries = "{1072C536-0EC2-4EAB-8D98-DC9BF441F30A}";

Get-ChildItem $rootItem.FullPath -Recurse | Where-Object { $_.TemplateName -eq $sourceTemplate.Name } | ForEach-Object {  
        $_.Editing.BeginEdit()
        $_.Fields["Series"].Value = $selectedSeries;
$_.Editing.EndEdit() }

Now selecting an item displays which series it belongs to:


5. Create scope under /sitecore/content/Tenant/Platform/Settings/Scopes, call it Blogs and set its field Scope Query to filter out by Blog template ID:


6. Create computed field contentseries at you project to store actual name of Series into index that's in addition to another field in index called series so that automatically indexed by template and stores GUID for series. This is how I implemented it in Platform.Website.ContentSearch.config:

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
  <sitecore>
    <contentSearch>
      <indexConfigurations>
        <defaultSolrIndexConfiguration>
          <fieldMap>
            <fieldNames>
              <field fieldName="contentseries" returnType="stringCollection" patch:after="*[0]" />
            </fieldNames>
          </fieldMap>
          <documentOptions>
            <fields hint="raw:AddComputedIndexField">
              <field fieldId="{ID-of-Series-field-within-_Series_template}" fieldName="contentseries" returnType="stringCollection" patch:after="*[0]">
                Tenant.Site.Website.ComputedFields.CategoriesField,Tenant.Site.Website
              </field>
            </fields>
          </documentOptions>          
        </defaultSolrIndexConfiguration>
      </indexConfigurations>
    </contentSearch>
  </sitecore>
</configuration>


7. Publish this configuration into webfolder, then clean up (you can run PS script below) and rebuild indexes.

stop-service solrServiceName
get-childitem -path c:\PathTo\Solr\server\solr\Platform*\Data -recurse | remove-item -force -recurse
start-service solrServiceName
iisreset /stop
iisreset /start


8. When computed field comes into index, the next step sould be to create Series facets. Please note that facet name should be different from the field name as the one got by template and then facet overwrites it

  • For Series - under /sitecore/content/Tenant/Platform/Settings/Facets. The most important field here is Field Name, the value would be contentseries that matched name of field we've created at the previous step
  • Also create one for Published date that relies on already existing published_date_tdt field, which is a custom date field presenting in all of my content page templates.


9. Create new datasource items:

  • checklist filter called Series under /sitecore/content/Tenant/Platform/Data/Search/Checklist Filter folder and assign its first field to point Series facet created at previous step
  • an item for Publication Date under /sitecore/content/Tenant/Platform/Data/Search/Date Filter/Publication Date.


10. Implement Search Filter rendering variant that will contain actual filters. I create that under my custom component Search Content, make two columns and also component variant field into each of them. Assign Filter (Checklist) into first and Filter (Date) into second. Reference datasource items from previous step for each component correspondingly:


11. Implement Search Result rendering variant that will define presentation for each item shown/found:

Noticed Series reference field? That switches context to the item references by Series field, so that I can get a value of actual category under Taxonomy folder.


12. In partial design for Blog Index, drop the following renderings into the canvas: Search content, Sort Results, Page Size and Search Results.


13. Finally, for Search Results component, go to Edit component properties, under SearchCriteria section assign Search results signature to search-results and also select Search scope to match Blogs.

The result:

Boosting productivity with Sitecore by employing user scripts on an example of SXA activities

In one of my recent productivity blog posts, I wrote about an approach that saves me plenty of time - pre-opening numerous Content Editor on specific nodes so that I can switch between subnodes I am working with distributed across entire Sitecore tree almost immediately. This is especially helpful when working on SXA-based websites so that I will use it in the given example, however not limited to. Typically, when distributed SXA website, you'll need access to the following:

  1. Home page and all the children.
  2. Data folder for the site
  3. Rendering Parameters
  4. Renderings
  5. Site Media items
  6. Templates for site
All these are located under different paths, and I am still surprised meeting some folks who try to manipulate all of the above within single content tree of single Content Editor. I'd prefer spending time on something more productive rather than manipulating the content tree and have been previously pre-opening these items in individual Content Editor windows of Sitecore Desktop. As a hidden benefit, that approach raises a habit of having your stuff in persistent windows, for example, I got used to having Rendering Variants in the third tab. However, after each session reset or VM restart, I still had to re-open six editors and select items individually - that reduces the benefits of a given approach. Thus, let's fix this with automation.

In order to do that, I will employ such called User Scripts. But firstly, what are User Scripts? As per definition, a user script is programming that modifies the appearance or behavior of an application. A user script for a Web site, for example, can customize the way that content will display in the host browser. That's what we'll do with our beloved Sitecore. As for now, only Google Chrome supports these scripts out of the box and treats them as regular extensions. Opera browser also has support in some way, for the rest of browsers you may need to run an extension which will intermediate between the browser and Web servers. For Firefox, use the GreaseMonkey extension (it worked for me as well)

I am using TamperMonkey for Chrome as it gives additional benefits over OOB browser support, such as built-in editor with hotkeys and syntax highlighter, and more precise settings. 


First script

To start with lets practice on something very simple just to prove user script does work in principle. I decided to write a small script that after logging to Sitecore open Content Editor for you instead of the default behavior of showing LaunchPad. Here is its code:

// ==UserScript==
// @name         Launchpad redirects to shell
// @namespace    http://tampermonkey.net/
// @version      0.1
// @description  try to take over the world!
// @author       You
// @match        */sitecore/client/Applications/Launchpad*
// @grant        none
// ==/UserScript==

(function() {
    'use strict';

     window.location.href = "/sitecore/shell/default.aspx";
})();

The first nine commented rows at the beginning are specifying user script parameters and should not be removed. Please pay attention to @match parameter - it configures URL match where the script should run (however does not work with GreaseMonkey in FireFox). TamperMonkey also allows overriding this value.

After adding it to TamperMonkey, it looks like below:



Another simple example

I am quite often kicked-off into login screen due to session expiration or other reason that invalidate the current session. Even browser kindly stores last username and password for me, it takes some time to figure out what went on and use a mouse in order to click Submit button. If you opted out of browser remembering passwords for you and your password is smth. more complicated than b - then you'll likely to lose even more time. Let's fix that by writing auto-login script:

// ==UserScript==
// @name         Sitecore autologin
// @namespace    http://tampermonkey.net/
// @version      0.1
// @description  Automatically logs into Sitecore, especially helpful on session timeouts
// @author       Martin Miles
// @match        */sitecore/login*
// @grant        none
// ==/UserScript==

(function() {
    'use strict';

    var login = document.getElementById('UserName');
    var password = document.getElementById('Password');
    var submit = document.getElementById('LogInBtn');

    login.value = 'admin';
    password.value = 'b';
    submit.click();
})();

Works like a sharm - as soon as timeout brings you to Login screen, scrip does the rest! This of course is good to use on dev machines, but not qute suitable for production scenarios due to security concerns.


More advanced script

So now, after re-logging to Sitecore, you'll be redirected to Content Editor within Sitecore Desktop opened. It works!

Now I am going to write a more complicated script that will open 6 Content Editors and each of them will open its's predefined item.

The full code of this script can be obtained from my GitHub designated repository by this link: the code. Please keep in mind that this is a quick demo variant I have quickly created for the purpose of this blog post, so the code is quite minimal just to meet the objectives  Below I am showing how the execution looks like:

    start                        // click Sitecore Start button
        .then(loadContentEditor) // select Content Editor from start button menu
        .then(getContentEditor)  // gets iFrame handler in order to pass down the pipeline to furhter callers
        .then(clickId)           // expand Content node
        .then(clickId)           // expand tenant node
.then(clickId) // expand site node
.then(clickId) // expand Home page node
.then(selectItem) // click home item in order to select .then(startPromise) // a 'promise' version of clicking Sitecore Start button .then(loadContentEditor) // ... repeat the above actions for new Content Editor iframe .then(getContentEditor) .then(clickId) .then(clickId) .then(clickId) .then(clickId) .then(selectItem)
and parameters:
const items = {
    content: "{0DE95AE4-41AB-4D01-9EB0-67441B7C2450}",
    content_tenant: "{3E49489A-45F6-4FDC-BC53-CA40592AE944}",
    content_site: "{6B81532B-FCF4-461A-9964-C82980AE2933}",
    content_site_home: "{8CCB4C5D-B4A2-4476-91AA-275E9D1FB05B}",
    content_site_data: "{D1F7AC1A-9A4F-4009-A9F4-F8012C25FD9D}",
    content_site_presentation: "{2273EE5A-C314-4453-A2F4-69AD28B5B252}",
    content_site_presentation_renderingVariants: "{A9A0A0B7-C16F-49C9-BDBB-4CCFFC15124A}",

    layout: "{EB2E4FFD-2761-4653-B052-26A64D385227}",
    renderings: "{32566F0E-7686-45F1-A12F-D7260BD78BC3}",
    feature: "{DA61AD50-8FDB-4252-A68F-B4470B1C9FE8}",
    renderings_tenant: "{CD3E1C5B-DF68-439B-8AA3-055FE2FD7D42}",
    renderings_tenant_components: "{A69A614C-11BC-4052-949F-54978988F653}"
}
With that enabled, here's how the working result looks like: 
 

Future plans

I am thinking of wrapping more methods into a Selenium-like framework, so that one could chain any sequence of actions in an easy manner without the need of having any sort of dependencies, apart from framework script itself.

In general, this post demonstrates one of the thousands of possible use cases of User Scripts with Sitecore. Wise usage may save you and your content editors plenty of time by implementing reasonable automation. Hope this post helps.

Uploading scheduled auto-backups of editors content for your Helix / SXA website into Azure Blob storage

INTRODUCTION

I assume you are following good practices and develop Helix-powered websites (or SXA, that follows Helix by definition). In that case, you do separate actual user-generated content items from definition items, normally shipped along with each release and created by developers (if not, then please refer to an article I've previously written on that), so you end up having a Unicorn configuration that stores all of your author-edited content:

Will are going to split the process into 3 major steps

  1. Re-serialize Unicorn configuration for content items
  2. Archive serialized content
  3. Upload an archive into Azure Blob Storage

IMPLEMENTATION

1. Re-serialize Unicorn configuration for content items. Luckily, Unicorn provides us with MicroCHAP.dll library helping to automate the sync process as a part of your deployment process (note that the DLL and corresponding PowerShell module Unicorn.psm1  should be referenced from your code). The good news is that any verb can be passed to it, not just sync, so one can use 'Reserialize'. That call will look like:

$ErrorActionPreference = 'Stop'
$ScriptPath = Split-Path $MyInvocation.MyCommand.Path

Import-Module $ScriptPath\Unicorn.psm1
Sync-Unicorn -Verb 'Reserialize' -Configurations @('Platform.Website.Content') -ControlPanelUrl 'https://platform.dev.local/unicorn.aspx' -SharedSecret '$ecReT!'

2. Archiving serialized content would be the next step. If you click Show Config button for Platform.Website.Content configuration in Unicorn configuration page, you may find all the relevant information about it, including the physical folder where items are serialized. We need this folder to be archived. The step comes as:

$resource = "Content_$(get-date -f yyyy.MM.dd)"
$archiveFile = "d:\$resource.7z"
$contentFolder = "C:\inetpub\wwwroot\Platform.dev.local\App_Data\serialization\Project\serialization\Content"

7z a -t7z -m0=lzma -mx=9 -mfb=64 -md=32m -ms=on $archiveFile $contentFolder
I am using 7zip as an archiver, as my content is slightly more than 4GBs and traditional zip cannot handle that. As a hidden bonus, I am getting the best compression ratio coming with 7zip. Also, It would be worth checking if a file with such name exists at target and deleting it before archiving, especially if you run the script more often than daily.

3. Uploading to Azure Blob Storage concludes given routine. To make this happen you should have a subscription, and ideally a connection string to your Storage account. Then you may use the following code to achieve the result:
$containerName = "qa-serialization"
$ctx = New-AzureStorageContext -ConnectionString "DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName=lab1234;AccountKey=y9CFAKE6PQYYf/vVDSFAKEzxOgl/RFv03PwAgcj8K80mSfQFDojdnKfakeaLMva0S9DbrQTzNjDMdGCp7rseRw==;EndpointSuffix=core.windows.net"

Set-AzureStorageBlobContent -File $archiveFile -Container $containerName -Blob $resource -Force -Context $ctx

Also, it is assumed you already have blob container created, if not you need to create it upfront:
New-AzureStorageContainer -Name $containerName -Context $ctx -Permission blob
Optionally, you may want to delete the temporal archive, once it's uploaded to blob storage.


RUNNING

Here's an entire code that works for me:
# Step 1: re-serialize user-generated content
$ErrorActionPreference = 'Stop'
$ScriptPath = Split-Path $MyInvocation.MyCommand.Path

Import-Module $ScriptPath\Unicorn.psm1
Sync-Unicorn -ControlPanelUrl 'https://platform.dev.local/unicorn.aspx' -Configurations @('Platform.Website.Content') -Verb 'Reserialize' -SharedSecret '$ecReT!'
# Step 2: archive serialized user-generated content with 7zip using best compression $resource = "Content_$(get-date -f yyyy.MM.dd)" $archiveFile = "d:\$resource.7z" $contentFolder = "C:\inetpub\wwwroot\Platform.dev.local\App_Data\serialization\Project\serialization\Content" 7z a -t7z -m0=lzma -mx=9 -mfb=64 -md=32m -ms=on $archiveFile $contentFolder # Step 3: upload generated content into Azure Blob Storage $containerName = "qa-serialization" $ctx = New-AzureStorageContext -ConnectionString "DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName=lab1234;AccountKey=y9CFAKE6PQYYf/vVDSFAKEzxOgl/RFv03PwAgcj8K80mSfQFDojdnKfakeaLMva0S9DbrQTzNjDMdGCp7rseRw==;EndpointSuffix=core.windows.net"
Set-AzureStorageBlobContent -File $archiveFile -Container $containerName -Blob $resource -Force -Context $ctx #Step 4: clean-up after yourself Remove-Item $archiveFile -Force
I run it on a daily basis by Windows Task Scheduler in order to get a daily snapshot of editors' activity. The script produces the following output:


As a result of running script, I get an archive appearing in the Azure Blob Storage:



RESTORING

There's no sense in making backups unless you confirm restoring the data out of it works well. For content items, download an archive, restore and substitute content serialization folder with what you've extracted, then sync content configuration. As simple as that!

Note that your content should be aligned with the definition items, or it may not work well!

Hope this post helps!