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Experience Sitecore! | All posts tagged 'Placeholders'

Experience Sitecore!

Martin Miles on Sitecore

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..


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..


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;

    "/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) {

  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");

            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")
                base.OnOK(sender, args);

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

            if (Mode == "webedit")
                base.OnCancel(sender, args);

        protected string Mode
                string str = StringUtil.GetString(base.ServerProperties["Mode"]);
                if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(str))
                    return str;
                return "shell";
                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
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];

function scCancel() {
function scCloseWebEdit(embedTag) {
    window.returnValue = embedTag;
if (window.focus && Prototype.Browser.Gecko) {
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.


Thanks for reading and watching!

Mythical SXA body-top placeholder shown in Experience Editor

Recently I came into a weird situation. So, to start with ...

I got Sitecore 9.0 update 2, installed SXA 1.8 for 9.0 on top of it. Created a tenant and a site, also made few pages for test and some initial settings as we usually do as per documentation, so far so good. 

Then I made a solution, configuration and serialized everything I made on the previous step, then reinstalled an instance in order to test my solution, configuration and serialization deploys well on top of clean Sitecore and to confirm everything works as expected.

Build process went fine, deployment worked well, Unicorn ran and created the site with all my pages and all relevant items - all good, except for one issue. Before Sitecore reinstallation, a new page in Experience Editor looked that way:

After the deployment on top of the new clean instance, running Experience Editor brought the following layout:

Clearly, there was something missing from either my configuration or serialization. So I started troubleshooting and comparing.

In both scenarios, I had instances sites of the same version and both with SXA 1.8. Since this issue was reproducible, next time I made git init just within webroot in order to get a version diff with a post-deployment state, so that I could see all modified files and see the diff as I usually do with git tools. However, nothing suspicious found at bin and within App_config folder. Deployment went as expected so that should be something in Sitecore then.

First of all, I compared templates and standard values, but they were the same for both cases. Next, I ensured presentation details are also identical, even ensured Layout files and binary equal.  Yes, it contains body-top placeholder, but in one scenario it is presented for some reason.

Then I went to the actual page items in order to compare those, but they were also the same. View options have same parameters checked. No idea then...

Finally, after spending plenty of time I figured out that something was wrong with SXA themes. Unfortunately, did not identify what exactly causes the problem, but after re-creating it at serialization config and re-serializing items the issue has gone. So, the outcome is: if you see unexpected placeholders - please make sure your SXA theme is in the correct state and serialized properly.

Migrating existing code to Helix. Fixing invalid dynamic placeholders

Recently I have inherited a project that utilised dynamic placeholder in a weird way:

public static HtmlString DynamicPlaceholder(this SitecoreHelper helper, string placeholderKey)
    if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(RenderingContext.Current.Rendering?.DataSource))
        return helper.Placeholder(placeholderKey);

    var currentRenderingId = Guid.Parse(RenderingContext.Current.Rendering.DataSource);
    return helper.Placeholder($"{placeholderKey}_{currentRenderingId}");

instead of more commonly used way suggested by Jason Bert:

namespace DynamicPlaceholders.Mvc.Extensions
	public static class SitecoreHelperExtensions
		public static HtmlString DynamicPlaceholder(this SitecoreHelper helper, string placeholderName)
			string text = PlaceholdersContext.Add(placeholderName, RenderingContext.Current.Rendering.UniqueId);
			return helper.Placeholder(text);

In two words, the first approach generates placeholder name using an ID of datasource item. The second approach is more traditional and is default for Helix. It was suggested by Jason Bert and also utilised by sitecore - that relies on rendering's UniqueID. In both cases, dynamic placeholders look like: /content/name-of-placeholder_017c3643-0fef-475c-95d2-bb1107beb664.

So I need to update it across entire solution. Let's iterate our items.

First of all, I do not need to go through all of item, but only those that are pages and have presentation configured, as I am going to adjust it. Secondly, those items are located under /sitecore/content folder. As many of you should know, presentation details (or deltas) for a page are kept within two fields of Standard Template - Renderings and Final Renderings that correspond to configuration you see at Shared Layout and Final Layout tabs. These thoughts resulted in using following Sitecore query to identify those items:

/sitecore/content//*[@__Renderings != '' or @__Final Renderings != '']

So far, so good. Also need to mention that I will perform the operation for master database only and for Default device:

private const string DatabaseName = "master";
private const string DefaultDeviceId = "{FE5D7FDF-89C0-4D99-9AA3-B5FBD009C9F3}";

I am using Sitecore presentation API in order to achieve my goal. Below is my Iterate() method:

public Dictionary<Item, List<KeyValuePair<string, string>>> Iterate()
    var result = new Dictionary<Item, List<KeyValuePair<string, string>>>();

    var master = Factory.GetDatabase(DatabaseName);
    var items = master.SelectItems(ItemsWithPresentationDetailsQuery);

    var layoutFields = new[] {FieldIDs.LayoutField, FieldIDs.FinalLayoutField};

    foreach (var item in items)
        foreach (var layoutField in layoutFields)
            var changeResult = ChangeLayoutFieldForItem(item, item.Fields[layoutField]);

            if (changeResult.Any())
                if (!result.ContainsKey(item))
                    result.Add(item, changeResult);

    return result;

That method iterates through each item from returned from the query and calls ChangeLayoutFieldForItem for that item twice - for both presentation fields Renderings and Final Renderings.

private List<KeyValuePair<string, string>> ChangeLayoutFieldForItem(Item currentItem, Field field)
    var result = new List<KeyValuePair<string, string>>();

    string xml = LayoutField.GetFieldValue(field);

    if (!string.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(xml))
        LayoutDefinition details = LayoutDefinition.Parse(xml);

        var device = details.GetDevice(DefaultDeviceId);
        DeviceItem deviceItem = currentItem.Database.Resources.Devices["Default"];

        RenderingReference[] renderings = currentItem.Visualization.GetRenderings(deviceItem, false);

        var datasourceGuidsToRenderingUniqueIdMap = renderings
            .Where(r => !string.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(r.Settings.DataSource))
            .Select(r => new KeyValuePair<string, string>(Guid.Parse(r.Settings.DataSource).ToString(), r.UniqueId));

        if (device?.Renderings != null)
            foreach (RenderingDefinition rendering in device.Renderings)
                if (!string.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(rendering.Placeholder))
                    var verifiedPlaceholderKey = FixPlaceholderKey(rendering.Placeholder, datasourceGuidsToRenderingUniqueIdMap);
                    result.Add(new KeyValuePair<string, string>(rendering.Placeholder, verifiedPlaceholderKey));
                    rendering.Placeholder = verifiedPlaceholderKey;

            string newXml = details.ToXml();

            using (new EditContext(currentItem))
                LayoutField.SetFieldValue(field, newXml);

    return result;

Further down it creates a list of matches for all the renderings within current presentation field of that particular item - datasource GUIDs matching to unique rendering IDs to go through it and do a replacement - that is done in FixPlaceholderKey method. Once everything is replaced, save the field by calling LayoutField.SetFieldValue() of course wrapping that call with EditContext as we are modifying item's field value.

FixPlaceholderKey is a simple method that just does case insensitive replacement by using Regex:

private string FixPlaceholderKey(string renderingInstancePlaceholder, IEnumerable<KeyValuePair<string, string>> map)
    var value = renderingInstancePlaceholder;

    foreach (var oldValue in map)
        value = Regex.Replace(value, oldValue.Key, Guid.Parse(oldValue.Value).ToString(), RegexOptions.IgnoreCase);

    return value;

That is pretty everything about the dynamic placeholder fixing logic.

But as for my case - I was aware that I'll need to run this dynamic placeholder replacements few more times in future and will likely need to implement some other similar small tools. So I decided that it would be great to place it under /sitecore/admin folder along with other admin tools - exact location by purpose! And since we're now going Helix, I decided to follow good principles and created a foundation module called AdminTools, where I will be adding similar admin folder tools. So here's how it looks for me in the Solution Explorer:

FixDynamicPlaceholders.aspx is a classical ASP.NET WebForm with one line markup (ah-h, I was so lucky not to deal with Webforms for couple past years till the moment)

<%@ Page Language="C#" AutoEventWireup="true" CodeBehind="FixDynamicPlaceholders.aspx.cs" Inherits="HomeServeUsa.Foundation.AdminTools.sitecore.admin.Maintenance.FixDynamicPlaceholders" %>

and the codebehind. Since FixDynamicPlaceholders.aspx is admin tool page - codebehind is inherited from Sitecore.sitecore.admin.AdminPage:

public partial class FixDynamicPlaceholders : AdminPage
    protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
        var fixRenderings = new DynamicPlaceholdersModifyService();
        var result = fixRenderings.Iterate();


    private void OutputResult(Dictionary<Item, List<KeyValuePair<string, string>>> result)
        Response.ContentType = "text/html";

        Response.Write($"<h1>{result.Count} items processed</h1>");
        foreach (var pair in result)

            foreach (var kvp in pair.Value)
                if (kvp.Key != kvp.Value)
                    Response.Write($"<div>{kvp.Key} ==> {kvp.Value}</div>");

Finally, it is complete. Hope this helps someone!

P.S. of course, that would be easier (and more elegant) to perform with Sitecore PowerShell extension. But unfortunately I am the only person in the organisation who uses it regardless of my promotional activity.

Sitecore 8: Federated Experience Manager - what is all about?

One of the greatest features of Sitecore 8 is Federated Experience Manager (FXM). What is FXM about and how can it help us?

Previously we had Page Editor - the tool allowing content editors to author and save content inline, right on the page. It also offered other flexible options to operate with non-visible content of features that cannot be edited inline (ie. Edit Frames), also do customisation (A/B multivariate testing), personalisation on rule-based criteria and much more. So far, so good.

In Sitecore 8, Page Editor was replaced with a new feature called Experience Editor (EE). EE is not just a rename for Page Editor, despite it does all the same old good features, it brings great new opportunities in chain with FXM.

With FXM it is now possible to customise any other website page, not only those coming from Sitecore, but even any PHP or just static HTML. And further on, with EE it is now possible to do all good old Page Editor features, such as replace content on external website, create placeholders and append sitecore components there, apply personalisation, set goals etc.

Sounds fantastic and impossible? Not as much - all that is working out box now, and moreover is very simple. Let's take a look on how that works and what is involved.

FXM is an applications shipped out of box and is available from Launchpad - just a usual SPEAK application. As soon as it loads, you'll get a management screen to register external websites. Clicking Add External Website will load you the following screen:

What is required on that step is to provide a hostname for external website and add one line of code into external website pages - a javascript reference for a beacon:

So, it stands obvious that you need to have an access to modify the code of pages on that website. Normally you'd do that for all pages, so it makes sense to modify some master layout or any sort of global header.

One important thing to note: external html should be properly formed, otherwise there will be an error. Saying properly formed I mean just opening and closing tags for html head and body, as minimal as:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en" xmlns="">
After that done - it becomes possible to open that external website with Experience Editor. And here you can perform:
  • tracking of external website into xDB
  • create placeholders before, after or instead certain html elements on external website
  • having Sitecore-controlled placeholders it is now possible to append components from Sitecore there
  • components from Sitecore can be literary everything, even WFFM forms (however not yet in current version)
  • cleaning up, replacing or extending original content from external website
  • apply customisation and / or personalisation to external content, controllable from Sitecore
  • set goals

It is essential to understand that those features work due cross site scripting called CORS, so certain limitations should be taken off, other wise it won't work

After site has been created at /sitecore/system/Marketing Control Panel/FXM/External you need to open that node and create a rule in order to match the same domain. Without doing that it would work only in Experience Editor, but not on the live website.

When opening external website it in Experience Editor, click on Add Placeholder button twice (to get it activated), then click first paragraph. You will see it identified as div with three options on how to insert a Sitecore-controllable placeholder: before, after or replace that div element. Let's choose after, in order to implement sitecore controllable rendering in between those two paragraphs on external website:

After choosing where exactly to implement a placeholder, you'll be prompted to enter placeholder name and select parent website:

Note: licensing is important to mention. FXM works only with new license issued with Sitecore 8, so if you have license file from one of previous versions, it would not have appropriate permission (Sitecore.Federated Experience) for running FXM. For some reasons Sitecore did not implement obvious message telling that you are not able to set a placeholder externally because of license. I spent decent time previously trying to understand why that did not work for me. Please find more details in my answer on StackOverflow for that question.

Once done, there will be last screen, showing newly created placeholder exactly in between those two paragraphs and offering to append a rendering to it:

To make things easier, I have just slightly modified Sample Rendering that comes with Sitecore, so that it now looks like that:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0"
  exclude-result-prefixes="sc sql">
  <xsl:output method="html" indent="no" encoding="UTF-8"  />

  <xsl:template match="*">
      <h3>FXM-powered placeholder</h3>
      <span>This content comes from Sitecore and is editable with Experience Editor. 
      Other cool features as personalization are also available with FXM.</span>
That's mostly done! Do not forget to publish your site definition (under FXM node) with children (there will be placeholder item we've just created) to content delivery environment in order to work there. Let's now test it! I enter http://external into a browser and get exactly what expected - there is a sitecore controllable placeholder in between the paragraphs and it has a rendering being set into it:

Opening that in any dev. tools like Firebug will show the following nice and clean code has been rendered:

canlı tv