All I want for Christmas is an SDL Web 8 Developer Course (DXA)

Earlier in December, I had the opportunity to travel to Boston for the two-day SDL Web 8 System Administration Course in Wakefield, MA. It’s an excellent course, especially for those transitioning from Tridion 2013 to Web 8 and for people like myself who are traditionally weak in the area of sysadmin. I would highly recommend it.

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Caching In: Revisiting Data Sharing across Templates

A while back I wrote a post on using Context Variables as a templating cache. When I came across some requirements to cache data between templates on a recent project I revisited this concept, but found some limitations with Context Variables which I had not realized before. As such I ended up implementing a different approach to caching

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WebSphere 8.5.* Content Delivery Issues

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Recently I was involved in the setup of a new content-delivery environment, migrating from a WebSphere 7.* application server to WebSphere 8.5.5. Right away when we started up the application, we started seeing some content-delivery errors with our session preview web-service which we did not experience on WebSphere 7. I’m going to review the problem, and talk about how it was resolved. Continue reading

Translation Manager – would it ever unlocalize something in my translation publication?

Oddly enough, yes it can – in a very specific scenario – of course, this can be avoided with clear processes (or even better automation) with the right hotfix (TT88491: Translation Manager revert retrieved translation for target item in “Reserved state”) but it’s good to know as tracking this down was a real bugger!

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What I learned from building my first Alchemy plugin

I finally found some time to start working on my own plugin built in this incredible new framework developed by Content Bloom called Alchemy. You can see my plugin on the Alchemy Webstore here. It’s called Not Used and it’s really just a basic cleanup tool that allows a Tridion user to search for and remove various items that are not in use. Perhaps more interesting than the plugin itself is the process of learning to work within the Alchemy framework, which requires a combination of knowledge in Tridion’s Anguilla framework, C# core service API and standard .NET web technologies. Some of these have documentation that is seemingly hidden or otherwise very difficult to track down and/or decipher. Here I discuss some of the trickier bits of my experiences developing an Alchemy plugin, in hopes that these details will help others encountering the same challenges. Continue reading

Setting up your development Environment (.NET)

Welcome to my attempt to introduce you to Digital Experience Accelerator (DXA) in a 7 days posting marathon, explaining how DXA works, what are the ways to use it and how you can contribute.

But first of all, what is Digital Experience Accelerator or shorter named DXA?

DXA is an open source product build on top of the very popular framework DD4T (Dynamic Delivery 4 Tridion), available in Java (https://community.sdl.com/developers/tridion_developer/m/mediagallery/1241) and .NET (https://community.sdl.com/developers/tridion_developer/m/mediagallery/852).

DXA is intended to help you create, design and publish SDL Web (formerly known as Tridion) based websites, together with its out-of-the-box modules like Experience Manager, SmartTarget and Search.

In order to set-up the development environment for .NET, visit the community website to download the source files, https://community.sdl.com/developers/tridion_developer/m/mediagallery/852.

The following items are found in the zip file:

  • Import package and scripts for the BluePrint
  • HTML designs that are optional to use
  • Code folders, used to connect to the SDL Core Services
  • An available module for this version supported by SDL
  • The src that we will be using for our project
  • A prebuild web application of the src
  • Web-ref- folders containing configurations for your live or staging website
  • Information about the location of the documentation.

First step is to copy the content of the src folder into your code repository and make a clean initial commit. TIP; if you are using a Git repository, I strongly recommended to take a look at Git flows. More information about Git flows at the following link: http://blog.sourcetreeapp.com/2012/08/01/smart-branching-with-sourcetree-and-git-flow/

Second step is to create the .gitignore file. If you are not sure what to put in there, have a look at the one from DXA https://github.com/sdl/dxa-web-application-dotnet/blob/master/.gitignore

Last step is to copy and update the configuration files into our project. The files can be found in the web-ref-staging folder. Update the cd_storage_conf.xml with the staging databases that you are using.

All we have left to do is commit our code to the repository and we are ready to start our DXA development.

Now there are a few ways to develop and/or extend the default site project. One way is to add everything in the existing site project. Personally I’m not in favor of this method as it limits your flexibility and capability to develop in an agile way, not to mention adding additional complexity to any future upgrades that you plan. Instead of that, you might want to split up the components in projects, develop and deliver shippable products at every sprint.

Creating separate modules for functionality increases flexibility, re-usability and a cleaner, more transparent work environment. More about creating separate modules for functionality in the following blog posts. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at creating a site “module” as component.

The simplest way to do this is to use an (Open Source) Visual Studio Extension for DXA available at https://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/2e4c85a5-3f90-4f01-97e3-515cc99d9891.

It contains prefabricated project templates for a Site, Modules and other classes; handy for new developers to become familiar with DXA faster. During today’s post and in the next, we will be using it as a reference, helping to speed up things.

With the extension downloaded and installed, when adding a new project, the DXA option becomes visible below Visual C#, DXA. For our work today, select the Site Project.

CustomerWebSite

The newly added site project has by default a folder structure with an Area for your views, Controllers and Models. It contains a disabled build event that can copy the Views, DLLs, etc. into the site project when removing the rem in the “Post-build event command line”.

CustomerBuildEvent

At the moment of writing this post, the site project is missing two references namely, Sdl.Web.Common and Sdl.Web.Mvc. These references you can manually add yourself from the default site project.

Now you can add an AreaRegistration class, this class is used by the web application to look up the strongly typed models and match them with a view. This can simple be done by adding a new item, as seen in the picture below.

CustomerAreaRegistration

I would recommend to rename the Areas/Site folder to Areas/Customer and update the Site in the CustomerAreaRegistration.cs to Customer too.

That’s it; you have setup your development environment and are ready to build your first DXA site with a clear separation of components. Hope to see you tomorrow for another DXA post.

Intro to the Event System

rear-view-mirrorAn event, in any computer system, is an interruption in the current process. The computer is busy doing what it should be doing, and then something happens to stop it and send it in a different direction. In old systems this was limited to the user clicking a keyboard key or a mouse button. Now, with much more complex systems, it can include state changes, network events, new data, and nearly everything else. Continue reading