Category Archives: Did you know…

All the cool things I find out as I go along in my Sitecore development that make say, “Cool, I didn’t know that”.

3 Basic Steps to Help You Become a Sitecore MVP

At the end of the year 2014 when the Sitecore MVP’s were awarded their MVP status, it was then that I decided I wanted to become a Sitecore MVP.  Below are some simple steps that I used to obtain my Sitecore MVP status for 2015 in as little as 30 minutes a day, which is 2.5 hours a week added on to your daily/weekly routine.

I have been bodybuilding this year, and I am going to relate becoming a Sitecore MVP to bodybuilding.  Here’s the secret:

It’s all about passion and consistency!

When you walk into the gym you will almost always see the guys that are bigger and ripped.  So you ask yourself, “What are they doing to get that size and definition?”  Yes, they could be on steroids, which is what most believe, but I assert that’s not the case.  More often than not, they have just made it a habit to show up every day, and made it a point to not let anyone else outwork them in the gym.  It’s their passion, and they are consistent in showing up and working hard 5-6 days a week to reach their bodybuilding goals.

Becoming a Sitecore MVP is very similar to bodybuilding in the aspect that it’s much easier and less stressful to work on your MVP status daily/weekly.  This is a much better strategy than waiting until nominations come around in October/November of every year to start getting to work on the MVP award.  That can be time-consuming and stressful if you need to play catch up on a lot of the things that Sitecore is looking for to reward you with the MVP award.  To make this even more clear, if you relate this to bodybuilding, that’s like walking into the gym after you haven’t worked out all year long and stacking 500 pounds on chest press, and going for it.  It’s just not a smart idea!

Below is a brief list of things you should focus on when seeking to obtain the Sitecore MVP status.  The panel looks at the quality, quantity, and the level of impact of these particular contributions:

  • General (technical) advocacy
  • Contributing to the Sitecore community via blogs
  • Contributing to Sitecore Community forums (SDN forums have moved)
  • Helping others on online communities like Stackoverflow
  • Visiting and/or Contributing to the Sitecore User Groups
  • Writing and/or publishing content such as white papers and articles
  • Sitecore Marketplace contribution
  • Support tickets contribution

Consistency and involvement is key and I will give you some pointers on where you should spend your time below to help you in your quest to become a Sitecore MVP.

Step 1: Become selfless not selfish

I still remember about 6 years ago when I was the Lone Ranger in my company that just got a license for Sitecore.  I was tasked with learning and becoming the sole developer/resident expert on Sitecore 6.0.  At that time, I was a complete Sitecore rookie, and my only source of knowledge was the documentation that Sitecore provided on the SDN.  Back then there wasn’t much for Google searches when it came to troubleshooting. I struggled to take in all the information and learn on my own, but I was determined to rise up as a solid Sitecore developer. It was at that time that I vowed that should I ever become knowledgeable with the product that I would help others in the Lone Ranger situation. Hence, the reason I share my knowledge today, which is to share and give back to the Sitecore community as they have given back to me in my time of need.

Start with a selfless heart when seeking to obtain the Sitecore MVP status. Realize that most of the MVP’s would probably still do all these things even if there wasn’t an MVP program. It’s just a unique character attribute to possess where you want to help others and not keep all this information to yourself.

Step 2: Set daily/weekly goal on hourly commitment

Nothing is free.  If you want to become a Sitecore MVP or a have a healthy, fit body you simply have to commit to how much time you are going to spend to obtain that which you seek.  What I do every morning is try to wake up about 30 minutes early before work and focus on those contributions above that can help the Sitecore community.  Once you have a time commitment you can then decide where to spend that time.

Step 3: Setup this time allotment in your calendar and stick to it

Take the time to put in your calendar this time commitment so you can keep yourself accountable. When the time comes to work on knowledge sharing, hopefully, you will already have a plan of what you are going to do.  But here is what you can do with your time allotment of simply 30 minutes a day:

  • Jump on the Sitecore Community forums and/or Stack Overflow and help others to work through their issues. You may not know the answer, but maybe you can help lead someone in the right direction.  Try answering the issues or offering input where you can with your knowledge and experience. It all helps even to stir up thought that may help that person reach a final solution. Make sure to set up your notifications to come directly to your email inbox so you can see what’s new and respond promptly to ones that you previously were helping with.
  • Use this time to blog on a topic that you find would help the Sitecore community.  I usually have found that as I am working through my normal work, I have these moments where I say to myself, “I bet others could benefit from what I just went through.”  And that is the starting point of a new blog that I start while it’s still fresh in my mind. So as you are working always be thinking of what it is that you’re doing that could help others.
  • Use this time to build a Sitecore Marketplace module.  If different clients are asking for the same type of component or module and it’s not on the Sitecore marketplace consider developing a Sitecore marketplace module.  Chances are that other Sitecore clients will want to use it.  Just be ready to support it as well i.e. bugs, new features, updating to work with newer releases of Sitecore.

In addition, to what is above that you can spend 30 minutes a day on you should also get involved in the social Sitecore community via Twitter and Slack.  Slack is used to bounce ideas around on the Sitecore Slack channel.  Great to see what other Sitecore developers are talking about and get involved.  What’s best about slack is it’s real-time chat with other Sitecore developers from around the world!

If you live in a state where you have a Sitecore User Group that meets regularly get involved! Definitely show up to the meetings on a regular basis but if there is something you would like to present on then let the User Group leader know. For those of us, that live in areas where there is not a Sitecore User Group consider starting one up.  Here is a link to the Sitecore User Groups directory. Here you can see where a User Group is located near you.  For us that live in disparate areas, there is a Sitecore Virtual User Group but it’s based on presenters.  No presenters, no meeting.  Hence, another area where you can pitch in and contribute towards becoming an MVP if you feel comfortable enough to present on a topic.

Lastly, as you go about your day and encounter issues with Sitecore that can’t be resolved with your technical ability and the help of Google, then consider putting in a support ticket to Sitecore Support.  Again, chances are it’s a bug that needs to be addressed and fixed in the next release. Sitecore wants to know about all these bugs so don’t think you’re being a pain in the neck, it’s helping them to build the most solid, robust, enterprise level CMS system in the world.

So remember, do it because Sitecore is your passion and you love to share NOT because you have to.  Next, set aside time each day to make it simple and easy for yourself to reach your goal of MVP. Lastly work your plan daily/weekly to share to the best of YOUR abilities with your knowledge and expertise. Happy coding!

 

Sorting Template Sections in Sitecore

Here is a little nugget for those Sitecore enthusiasts who want the ability to sort the sections in a content item.  For years I didn’t know about this as a Sitecore Developer so if this helps just one person I have done my job to pass on this helpful knowledge.  Kudos to the guys at Active Commerce for showing me when I went through Active Commerce Certification training.  Active Commerce is a fantastic add-on to Sitecore for E-Commerce functionality and I highly recommend for businesses with lots of products that need an online storefront.  You can find out more about Active Commerce at their website http://www.activecommerce.com.

So let’s just say you have a Content Page template that has the following sections:

  • Page Data
  • Meta Data

I would like the Page Data section to come before the Meta Data section when the template is used to create a new item.  Below is what my template structure looks like:

Template Structure

Template Structure

The Content Page has the PageBase template selected as the Base Template.  The PageBase template has the _pageBase and _metaBase templates selected as the Base Templates.  Both _pageBase and _metaBase templates have the Standard template selected as the Base Template.

The following template sections are selected in this order on the PageBase template __Base template TreeView:

  • _pageBase
  • _metaBase

Being that they are selected in this order you would think that they should show up in the Content item sorted in this manner since the TreeView allows you to sort them.  However, below is what the __Standard Values for the Content Page displays:

Template Sections Order

Template Sections Order

Here is the solution to get the template sections in the order you wish.  In order to sort the sections you must set the Sortorder in the the Template Sections items.  In this case, there are 2 sections; Page Data and Meta Data as seen below:

Template Section

Template Section

The section sorting order is sorted alphabetically unless the sortorder is specifically stated using the Sortorder field in the Template Section items.  Hence, the reason Meta Data comes before Page Data (refer to Template Sections Order).  By default, the Sortorder field is set to 100 as seen below:

Sortorder Field

Sortorder Field

Depending on how many sections you want to sort you can increment these numbers to achieve the desired result.  For example, if I had 4 sections I would just add 100 to the other Sortorder fields in the respective Template Section items.  Since I have 2 sections I only need to set the other Meta Data Sortorder field to 200 and it will place that section underneath the Page Data section as seen below:

Section Sorting Order Achieved

Section Sorting Order Achieved

This knowledge can be used to help out the organization of your templates and give power to Content Editors to access the most relevant sections of items first when there are many sections in the an item.  Happy coding!

How to Uninstall a Package or Module from Sitecore

There are times when I have been asked to uninstall a package, Sitecore Marketplace module (package), or even an internal Sitecore module (package) that your company has developed for a client.  In the event you are not aware of this fact, there is not a rollback feature on packages in an out of the box Sitecore installation.  Hence, if you want to rollback a package you basically need backups of the files and the databases and can then perform a restore procedure with them. If you don’t have the time for backups or forgot to make backups before installing the package below are the basic steps to uninstall a package manually:

Basics for uninstalling a package:

Download the original package/module again so you can analyze the contents.  It should be downloaded as a .zip file.

Extract the .zip file and you will see a package.zip file.  Extract the contents of that as well and you will see the contents of the package as such:

Package Contents

Start with the manual deletion of the items first. Please keep in mind that every module may be different so prior planning on what items or fields need to stay is dependent upon client needs and the architecture.  Just make sure that when you delete items that they truly need to be deleted based on your clients needs. In my case, I moved a couple of fields to another template so the data and field ID’s remained after I uninstalled the module.

Drill down into the items folder and you will see where the items are. These will be the items that you need to manually delete.  For instance, in my example I need to delete the following: \items\core\sitecore\content\Applications\WebEdit\Edit Frame Buttons\Metadata\Edit Metadata\{E43B0BB5-2158-4880-AC16-ABE74593B556}

The GUID is the item and you can find it easily by using search in the Content Editor as such:

Item Search

Sometimes it’s best to open up another Sitecore admin instance for that same version or similar to compare the content items to just to make sure you are not deleting an item that was already in place before the package or module was installed.  It’s always a good reference. Also, if you are deleting from the master database it’s best to delete in this order:

  1. content
  2. layouts
  3. system
  4. templates

This will give you minimal to no linking issues as you manually delete the installed items.

After deleting the items from the core and master database, I perform a full republish just to ensure nothing is missed from the web database and everything is synced in entirety. Next, I rebuild the Link databases just to make sure that all links are correctly pointed.  You can Rebuild the Link Database in the Control Panel of the Desktop:

Rebuild the Link Database in Control Panel

Next, are the manual deletion of the files.  In my case there is only a .config file I need to delete in the \files\App_Config\Include directory and a .dll in the \files\bin directory.

The .config file I simply deleted so that the processor does not show up in the Web.config at runtime. However, I had to delete a reference to the .dll in a few projects from within the solution and this is where some refactoring may need to take place that was using that .dll.  In my case, there is some dependent code that was referencing the .dll used in the module so I had to refactor, delete code, rebuild, and publish back out to my website folder to test and make sure everything is working as it should.  After my testing, I am good to go!

That is all there is to it to uninstall a package or Sitecore module.  Just take your time and pay attention to detail.  I hope these steps can help you.  Happy coding!

Monitoring a Sitecore package install in real time

When you install a package into a Sitecore instance you have no idea what is going on behind the scenes because all you see is a progress bar.  If the package fails then it will let you know but don’t get to see what is happening.  And sometimes if it is a large package you don’t really know if there was an error and if the package is going to be installed, has installed, or is trying to be installed so you wait and wait but don’t want to end the installation because then you will have to start over but you really don’t know.  Well…now you can know and it’s very simple.  This will help you to know in real-time what errors are happening during the install and what items are being installed.

You can monitor any Windows log file in real time by using Windows PowerShell.  I am not a command line type of guy but there is only one command you need to know and I will explain the steps you need to take:

  1. Open up Windows PowerShell on your machine
  2. Get the file path and file name with extension to most recent Sitecore log file
  3. Type in:
    type -wait PATHTOFILEANDFILENAMEWITHEXTENSION

    Example:

    // Use if path has no spaces in path folder names
    type -wait C:\inetpub\wwwroot\SitecoreSandbox\Data\logs\log.20140812.txt
    
    // Use if path has spaces in the path folder names
    type -wait "C:\inetpub\wwwroot\Sitecore Sandbox\Data\logs\log.20140812.txt"

    Then press Enter.

    Windows PowerShell Command

    Windows PowerShell Command

  4. Now install your package using the Installation Wizard

You will see the log now being updated in real-time as the package installs.

In my most recent install this saved me a lot of time troubleshooting because I was able to see why my package was failing in real-time because of MemoryMonitor thresholds, InvalidItemNameChars, and ItemNameValidation.  Once I adjusted these values in the Web.config my package was installed in my local development environment.  Now I can change them back and keep coding like a ninja.  Happy coding!

Using field item id to render field contents in Sitecore

Did you know that you can use the field item id for use with the FieldRenderer server control in the FieldName attribute?  For instance, take a look at this sample template item:

Sample Template

Sample Template where “Single Line Text Field” item id is {D2775315-00DC-4CF4-8B68-E9748127D188}

<sc:FieldRenderer ID=”frSingleLineText” runat=”server” FieldName=”{D2775315-00DC-4CF4-8B68-E9748127D188}” Item=”<%# Sitecore.Context.Item %>”></sc:FieldRenderer>

Why would you do this? Well, instead of having to memorize field name you can simply use the field item id.  But a much better reason is because if anyone ever changes the field name then the FieldRenderer will not work whereas if you put the field item id it will still continue to work regardless of how many times someone changes the field name.  You want to stay away from using Field names altogether in your code and stick to using id’s wherever possible.  This is why GlassMapper and other ORM tools are great because they do much of the same similar thing by wrapping up the fields so you can access the template as an object and the fields as a property.  However, sometimes you have to use the traditional Sitecore API to get things done and this is one way to keep code robust.

You can also do this as well in the code behind for a sample Literal control that is going to render the Single Line Text Field contents:

litSingleLineText.Text = myItem[“{D2775315-00DC-4CF4-8B68-E9748127D188}”];

This would require a compile in the solution though.  A better solution is to add the item in the HTML markup and you have a tag that is completely in the presentation and doesn’t need to be compiled when changed.

<sc:FieldRenderer ID=”frSingleLineText” runat=”server” FieldName=”{D2775315-00DC-4CF4-8B68-E9748127D188}” Item=”<%# Sitecore.Context.Item %>”></sc:FieldRenderer>

What type of Sitecore license do we have?

Ever wonder this question?  Maybe you have inherited the Sitecore development work or you are a consultant and now taking over the Sitecore development work and need to know what the client has got in their licensing agreement with Sitecore.

Take a look at the “About Sitecore” area in the Desktop area as seen below:

About Sitecore

About Sitecore in Desktop View

Once you click on the “About Sitecore” link you will see the licensing as seen below:

Licensing for Sitecore

Licensing for Sitecore

 

Sitecore Query with MultiList and multiple sites

Have you ever been in the situation where you would like to point the “Source” field of template field to an item that will be used with a List Type field such as the MultiList, but you wanted that field to be pointed to a folder in the site the user is currently visiting?

Multiple Sites

Multiple sites in Sitecore

One reason you may want to set a “Source” field to an item in the context site may be because the item you are creating is intended to be used with the DMS (Digital Marketing System) for personalization, A/B, and multivariate testing.  We can get solid results in those areas with a data source component-based architecture where components can be conditionally rendered across pages in the same site or even across all sites in the Sitecore instance.

Anyways, an easy way of setting up a “Source” for a MultiList is simply just to point the “Source” field to the /sitecore/content/ item and let the user drill down into the folders to get to the folder they want.  However, depending on how many sites the Sitecore instance has, in addition to the amount of content, this will turn out in most cases to be a bad user experience, and could lead to error where the user may accidentally choose items from another site.

A better solution is to use Sitecore query to set the “Source” field in the template field.  If you are not familiar with the Sitecore Query or Sitecore Fast Query, I would recommend visiting the Sitecore Developer Network and reading up on it.  The most recent Sitecore Query documentation I found was here: Sitecore Fast Query documenation.  You will find it’s not that difficult to grasp and you can start using it right away once you see how the useful the queries can be in your day to day Sitecore development.  In addition, Sitecore was kind enough to provide us Developers with the XPath Builder available in the Developer Center application via Tools –> XPath Builder.  Below is a screen shot of the XPath Builder application:

XPath Builder

XPath Builder application in Sitecore Developer Center

All you need to do is set the Context Node to the item you want to start with for the query, build your XPath expression in the next field, and hit the Evaluate button and you will see the results in the Result field.  Using this tool you don’t have to guess if your query is correct when you insert it in the “Source” field.  Build it here, test it, then just copy and paste it into the “Source” field (along with “query:” added to the beginning of the query).  That simple!

In one of my projects, I needed to point to a data folder in the context site that had the items I needed, as children, that I wanted to show in my MultiList.  In the example, below I wanted to set the “Source” field in my ScriptSelectionItem to the ScriptItems folder for the context site so the user would only see the ScriptItems created for that site only and the user can just select the ones they want.  Again, we want to get away from drilling down into the site specific folders and then making selections to create a better experience for the user and reduce errors.

Sitecore template

We will set the Source field with the Sitecore query built and tested in XPath Builder

Below is my query that I built and tested in the XPath Builder to start with the ancestor-or-self of the context item and then match up the template ids of the items once the initial ancestor-or-self item is established:

./ancestor-or-self::*[@@templateid='SITE TEMPLATE ID']//*[@@templateid='DATA TEMPLATE ID']//*[@@templateid='SCRIPTS TEMPLATE ID']//*[@@templateid='SCRIPTITEMS TEMPLATE ID']/*

When you add the query to a “Source” field you need to add the “query:” to the front of the query as such:

query:./ancestor-or-self::*[@@templateid='SITE TEMPLATE ID']//*[@@templateid='DATA TEMPLATE ID']//*[@@templateid='SCRIPTS TEMPLATE ID']//*[@@templateid='SCRIPTITEMS TEMPLATE ID']/*

Now, when I add the query to the “Source” field in my ScriptsSelectionItem template field and open the ScriptSelectionItem in the Content tree, I now see that the MultiList field points to only the items in the context site for the user.  I have not gotten this to work with the DropTree List Type but the MultiList has worked just fine for my purposes.  Happy coding!

The ScriptSelectionItemSiteB should only point to the 1 script in the ScriptItems folder

The ScriptSelectionItemSiteB should only point to the 1 script in the ScriptItems folder

Notice only the 1 script is available for Site B

Notice only the 1 script is available for Site B

Now for Site A:

The ScriptSelectionItemSiteA should only point to the 3 scripts in the ScriptItems folder

The ScriptSelectionItemSiteA should only point to the 3 scripts in the ScriptItems folder

Notice the 3 scripts are available for Site A

Notice the 3 scripts are available for Site A