API Routes stopped working in Sitecore 9

We recently undertook a Sitecore 9 upgrade and one issue we encountered was controllers we had set up for API routes stopped working on content delivery servers. Content management and single server setups were unaffected.

Our routes had been set up by the controllers inheriting from SitecoreController and then using the default route which Sitecore would create. e.g. /api/sitecore/foo/getFoo

public class FooController : SitecoreController
{
    ...
    [System.Web.Http.HttpPost]
    public ActionResult GetFoo(FooModel queryModel)
    {
        ...
    }
}

MVC.LegalRoutes

After a bit of investigation we found a new setting in Sitecore 9 called MVC.LegalRoutes. From the documentation:

MVC: Pipe separated list of route URL’s that are not valid for use with Sitecore.Mvc.
For instance, the default ASP.NET route ({controller}/{action}/{id}) catches most requests that are actually meant to be handled by the default Sitecore route.
Default: “{controller}/{action}/{id}”

If we added our route to the list everything started to work ok.

<setting name="Mvc.LegalRoutes" value="|Sitecore.Mvc:sitecore/shell/api/sitecore/{controller}/{action}|Sitecore.Mvc.Api:/api/sitecore/{controller}/{action}|" />

A different approach

Not wanting to just change random settings we stumble across we contacted Sitecore support to see what they thought.

The route ‘api/sitecore/{controller}/{action}’ is a pre-defined Sitecore SPEAK route for Sitecore Client usage. So when trying to access on a content delivery server where the Sitecore Client is disabled, it no longer works.

So to get around the issue we can start registering the route on content delivery servers through the Global.asax file.

public override void Application_Start(object sender, EventArgs args)
{
    base.Application_Start(sender, args);

    if (System.Configuration.ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["role:define"] == "ContentDelivery")
    {
        System.Web.Routing.RouteTable.Routes.MapRoute("Sitecore.Speak.Commands", "api/sitecore/{controller}/{action}");
    }
}
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Sitecore SXA example site

Recently I’ve been looking into building sites using Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA). If you haven’t heard of it, in short SXA cut’s the amount of dev effort by building sites through pre-built re-usable components and then adding some styling. For a brochure type site this can (in some cases) remove virtually all the back end dev. You can read more about it here https://www.sitecore.com/en-gb/products/sitecore-experience-platform/wcm/experience-accelerators

Getting your head around SXA however can be a slight challenge. There is a getting started guide from Sitecore, which covers grid layouts, choosing features etc, but being able to understand how a site should actually be constructed and how the editor will use it can become confusing.

What would really help which Sitecore don’t provide is an example site. However Cognifide have and you can download it from Github here: https://github.com/Cognifide/Sitecore.XA.Showcase

To get started with it:

  1. Install a clean copy of Sitecore with SXA
  2. Download the code from github
  3. Restore the NuGet packages
  4. In the App_Config you will see a config file named Sitecore.XA.Project.Showcase.User.config. This includes one setting that needs updating to point to the folder you downloaded the solution to. This is then going to be used by unicorn to synchronize the items.
  5. Publish the solution into your Sitecore install
  6. Login as an admin and go to http://<yourinstancename>/unicorn.aspx
  7. Click the sync button, to synchronize the items
  8. Publish the site

You will now be able to see the showcase site in the admin and have a click through it on the published version.

SXA Showcase

What’s really great about the SXA showcase site is it’s a site all about SXA with loads of useful information on how you build an SXA site as well as actually be being built in SXA.

Sitecore – Creating an admin menu item

If your building a Sitecore admin application, your going to need to link to them from the Sitecore start screen/launch pad.

To create a menu item on Sitecores start screen:

  1. Log into Sitecore and switch to the core db
  2. Open content editor and navigate to /sitecore/client/Applications/Launch Pad/PageSettings/Buttons
  3. You will see groupings for each of the sections that appears on the start screen/launch pad
    Launchpad buttons
  4. Add a new Launch Pad-Button item to the section you want it to appear in
  5. Give it a name, icon and link
    Button details
  6. Your button now appears on the start screen
    New button

Related Posts

A first look at Sitecore SPEAK 3

Force clients to refresh JS/CSS files

It’s a common problem with an easy solution. You make some changes to a JavaScript of CSS file, but your users still report an issue due to the old version being cached.

You could wait for the browsers cache to expire, but that isn’t a great solution. Worse if they have the old version of one file and the new version of another, there could be compatibility issues.

The solution is simple, just add a querystring value so that it looks like a different path and the browser downloads the new version.

Manually updating that path is a bit annoying though so we use modified time from the actual file to add the number of ticks to the querystring.


DefaultLayout.cshtml

using Utilities;
using UrlHelper = System.Web.Mvc.UrlHelper;

namespace Web.Mvc.Utils
{
    public static class UrlHelperExtensions
    {
        public static string FingerprintedContent(this UrlHelper helper, string contentPath)
        {
            return FileUtils.Fingerprint(helper.Content(contentPath));
        }
    }
}

UrlHelperExtensions.cs

using System;
using System.IO;
using System.Web;
using System.Web.Caching;
using System.Web.Hosting;

namespace Utilities
{
	public class FileUtils
    {
        public static string Fingerprint(string contentPath)
        {
            if (HttpRuntime.Cache[contentPath] == null)
            {
                string filePath = HostingEnvironment.MapPath(contentPath);

                DateTime date = File.GetLastWriteTime(filePath);

                string result = (contentPath += "?v=" + date.Ticks).TrimEnd('0');
                HttpRuntime.Cache.Insert(contentPath, result, new CacheDependency(filePath));
            }

            return HttpRuntime.Cache[contentPath] as string;
        }
    }
}

FileUtils.cs

Sitecore SPEAK 3 – Creating an application

At the end of last year I wrote a post on A first look at Sitecore SPEAK 3 which gave an overview of what Speak is, and the large architecture change that has happened between Speak 1/2 to 3.

In this post I’m going to share my experience on how to set up a Speak 3 application with Angular.

Step 1 – Creating the Angular project

To start your going to need a few things installed:

  • An IDE – I’m using VS Code
  • NodeJs – This is to get access to node package manager and to run your application in debug mode
  • Angular

If you don’t already have Node and Angular installed, I suggest going through Angular’s quick start guide. If your also new to Angular I suggest going through their Tour of Heroes tutorial first. This will give you a good understanding of how Angular applications are built and some knowledge around a few key files.

One you’ve got everything installed, create a new angular project from the command line.

ng new app-name

1 - Create Angular app

At this point you could try manually installing the various modules Sitecore provide, covering things like common components, logout functionality etc. However I personally found this a bit awkward. Unless you know what your doing your probably going to run into issues such as compatibility between the latest version of Angular and the Sitecore components (at time of writing Angular is on version 5 but Speak 3 only supports Angular 4).

Instead I would recommend downloading the sample application from https://dev.sitecore.net/Downloads/Sitecore_SPEAK/3/Sitecore_SPEAK_3.aspx and then copy over the .npmrc and package.json file to your solution.

By including these files, the .npmrc file will add a reference to Sitecores package repository and the package.json file will make sure the right packages and versions will be installed. Use npm to install the packages.

npm install

1 - Install NPM Packages

Next we need to update a couple of files in the application to reference some Sitecore specific bits. This is explained in Sitecores documentation, in my examples though I’ve also included referencing some modules that you are likely to use.

app.module.ts

The app module file defines the modules that are going to be used in the application. Here we need to add the references to the Sitecore modules.

import { BrowserModule } from '@angular/platform-browser';
import { NgModule } from '@angular/core';

import { ScAccountInformationModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/account-information';
import { ScActionBarModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/action-bar';
import { ScApplicationHeaderModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/application-header';
import { ScButtonModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/button';
import { ScGlobalHeaderModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/global-header';
import { ScGlobalLogoModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/global-logo';
import { ScIconModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/icon';
import { ScMenuCategory, ScMenuItem, ScMenuItemLink, ScMenuModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/menu';
import { ScTableModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/table';
import { ScPageModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/page';
import { CONTEXT, DICTIONARY } from '@speak/ng-bcl';
import { NgScModule } from '@speak/ng-sc';

import { AppComponent } from './app.component';

@NgModule({
  declarations: [
    AppComponent
  ],
  imports: [
    BrowserModule,
    ScAccountInformationModule,
    ScActionBarModule,
    ScApplicationHeaderModule,
    ScButtonModule,
    ScGlobalHeaderModule,
    ScGlobalLogoModule,
    ScIconModule,
    ScPageModule,
    ScMenuModule,
    ScTableModule,
    NgScModule.forRoot({
      contextToken: CONTEXT, // Provide Sitecore context for SPEAK 3 Components (optional)
      dictionaryToken: DICTIONARY, // Provide translations for SPEAK 3 Components (optional)
      translateItemId: '0C979B7C-077E-4E99-9B15-B49592405891', // ItemId where your application stores translation items (optional)
      authItemId: '1BC79B7C-012E-4E9C-9B15-B4959B123653' // ItemId where your application stores user access authorization (optional)
    })
  ],
  providers: [],
  bootstrap: [AppComponent]
})
export class AppModule { }

app.component.ts

The component file needs updating to call init on the ngScService.

import { Component, OnInit  } from '@angular/core';
import { NgScService } from '@speak/ng-sc';

@Component({
  selector: 'app-root',
  templateUrl: './app.component.html',
  styleUrls: ['./app.component.css']
})
export class AppComponent implements OnInit {

  constructor(
    private ngScService: NgScService
  ) {}

  ngOnInit() {
    this.ngScService.init();
  }
}

.angular-cli.json

In the angular-cli.json file you will see a styles section which references the main css file in the solution. Here you will need to add an additional reference to Sitecores css file.

../node_modules/@speak/styling/dist/styles/sitecore.css

Launch

You can now launch your application from the command line and see the default start screen.

ng serve --open

Step 2 – Building your application

It’s not time to start building your application. If you don’t know Angular I suggest going through a couple of tutorials, and go from there. I’m not going to go into any details about how Angular apps are and should be written, but I am going to go through a few of the Sitecore controls needed to make an application that fit’s the Sitecore admin.

Example Page


To make this page first I cleared out everything from app.component.html and started adding some Sitecore components. Normally you would start generating your own components to represent things like pages, but for the purposes of the example I placing everything in the one file.

To start I have a sc-page containing a header. This comes out of Sitecores demo application and will give you the standard bar that sites at the top of the Sitecore admin, informing users where they are.


<div>
    
      <a href="#"></a>
      <!-- AccountInformation gets accountName and accountImageUrl automatically from Sitecore context which is configured in AppModule -->
      
    </div>

To create the menu I’m using an sc-menu. Notice how some items are marked as active.


<aside>
    
      
        
          <a>Menu item 1</a>
        
        
          <a>Menu item 2</a>
        
      
      
        
          <a>Menu item 3</a>
        
        
          <a>Menu item 4</a>
        
      
    
  </aside>

Lastly to create the main content of the page I’m using a scPageAppHeader, scPageContent and an scTable for the table.

<div>
    </div>
<article>
<table>
<thead>
<tr>
<th>Name</th>
<th>Status</th>
<th>Created by</th>
<th>Created data</th>
</tr>
</thead>
<tbody>
<tr>
<td>Lorem</td>
<td>Active</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 20, 2018</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Ipsum</td>
<td>Active</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 20, 2018</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Foop</td>
<td>Inactive</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 22, 2018</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>
</article>


The complete code looks like this:


<div>
    
      <a href="#"></a>
      <!-- AccountInformation gets accountName and accountImageUrl automatically from Sitecore context which is configured in AppModule -->
      
    </div>
<aside>
    
      
        
          <a>Menu item 1</a>
        
        
          <a>Menu item 2</a>
        
      
      
        
          <a>Menu item 3</a>
        
        
          <a>Menu item 4</a>
        
      
    
  </aside>
<div>
    </div>
<article>
<table>
<thead>
<tr>
<th>Name</th>
<th>Status</th>
<th>Created by</th>
<th>Created data</th>
</tr>
</thead>
<tbody>
<tr>
<td>Lorem</td>
<td>Active</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 20, 2018</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Ipsum</td>
<td>Active</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 20, 2018</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Foop</td>
<td>Inactive</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 22, 2018</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>
</article>


To avoid some build errors later on we also need to update the app.components.ts file (think of this as a code behind file), to have an additional property and service.

import { Component, OnInit  } from '@angular/core';
import { NgScService } from '@speak/ng-sc';
import { SciLogoutService } from '@speak/ng-sc/logout';

@Component({
  selector: 'app-root',
  templateUrl: './app.component.html',
  styleUrls: ['./app.component.css']
})
export class AppComponent implements OnInit {

  isNavigationShown = false;

  constructor(
    private ngScService: NgScService,
    public logoutService: SciLogoutService
  ) {}

  ngOnInit() {
    this.ngScService.init();
  }
}

How to find more components

Unfortunately the Sitecore documentation doesn’t currently contain a list of what’s available. However if you look in your node_modules folder there is a change log containing information on each component here \node_modules\@speak\ng-bcl\CHANGELOG.md.

Step 3 – Publishing the application

Once you’ve built the application you need to publish it and copy it into Sitecore.

There are some differences in the way a Speak 3 Angular application needs to work which differ from the normal way an Angular application runs. Among others these include having an index.apsx page rather than an index.html and the application not being located in the root of a site. You can read more about this in Sitecores documentation. The good news though is Sitecore have provided a post build step to sort this out for you.

If you copied the package.json file at the beginning this will already be set up, one thing you do need to do though is update the base location to be where your application is going to live.

Once this is done you can run a build.

npm run-script build

Note this is using npm to run the build script from the packages.json file rather than doing a regular ng build from Angulars CLI.

If all succeeds your dist folder will now contain a compiled version of the application.

Copy these files into the destination folder in your Sitecore site. For me this is \sitecore\shell\client\Applications\Speak-Example. You should now be able to log in and view your application.

Notice the logout button now functions and the current user is displayed in the top right. The menu sections are also collapsible, but other than that our application doesn’t actually do anything.

Moving on from this there’s lot’s more to cover on building out the functionality in the application and you may have also noticed in the app.module.ts file a reference for translations which I never created, but this should be enough to get anyone started with building an Angular Speak 3 project and then publishing it into Sitecore.

Related Links

Speak 3 Official documentation
Speak 3 Downloads

Bundling with Gulp in TeamCity

Like most, our front end developers write CSS in LESS or SASS and then use Gulp to compile the result. This is great but up until recently both the compiled and source style files would end up in our source control repository.

While this isn’t a major issue it was more of an annoyance factor when doing a merge that the compiled file would need to be merged as well as the source files. Any conflicts in bundled/minified files also can become problematic to solve. As well as this it also just seems wrong to have both files in a repo, effectively duplicating the file. After all we wouldn’t put compiled dll’s into a repo with their source.

Our solution was to get the build server to start running the gulp tasks to produce the bundled files.

Step 1 – Install Node on the build server

To start we need NodeJS installed on the build server. This allows extensions to be installed via NPM (Node Package Manager), it’s a similar thing to NuGet,

nodejs-install-4

Step 2 – Install the TeamCity plugin for NodeJS

To add built steps for Node and Gulp we need to install a plugin to make them available. Lucking there is one that does such a thing here https://github.com/jonnyzzz/TeamCity.Node

The actual build of the plugin you can download from Jetbrains team city here https://teamcity.jetbrains.com/viewType.html?buildTypeId=bt434. Just login as guest and then download the latest zip from the artifacts of the last build.

To install the plug you need to copy the zip to Team City’s plugin folder. For me this was C:\ProgramData\JetBrains\TeamCity\plugins, if your having trouble finding your’s just go to Administration > Global Settings in Team City and it will tell you the data directory. The plugin folder will be in there.

Restart the TeamCity server and the plugin should now show under Administration > Plugins List

NodeJS Plugin

Step 3 – Add a NPM Setup build step

NPM Build Step

The NPM step with a command of install will pick up dependencies and get the files.

Step 4 – Add a Gulp build step

Gulp Build Step

In your gulp step add the path to the gulp file and the tasks in your gulp file that need to be run. I’m using a gulp file that our front end devs had already created for the solution that contained as task for bundling css and another for bundling js.

Step 5 – Including bundled files in a MSBuild

As the bundled files are no longer included in our Visual Studio solution it also means that they arn’t included in the set of files which will be included in a publish when MSBuild runs.

To overcome this update the .csproj file with a Target with BeforeTargets set to BeforeBuild and list your bundled files as content. In my example I’m included the whole Content\bundles folder

<Target Name="BundlesBeforeBuild" BeforeTargets="BeforeBuild">
    <ItemGroup>
      <Content Include="Content\bundles\**" />
    </ItemGroup>
  </Target>

Sitecore Alias as Redirect

One feature of Sitecore that I have always disliked is Alias’s. On each page of a site, content editors have the ability to click an alias button on the presentation tab and add alternative urls for the page.

Alias Toolbar

Once added these will appear in the Aliases folder under system.

Alias

However all this accomplishes is multiple URLs existing for one page which is a big SEO no no.

Content editors like to do this in order to create simple URLs for things like landing pages. e.g. himynameistim.com/Sitecore but search engines hate it as they see multiple pages with the exact same content. As a result the value of each page gets lowered and appears lower in search engine results. What Content editors really want is to set up a 301 redirect so that they can have the simple URL but redirect users to the actual page on the site.

Aliases as Redirects

One solution is to updated the aliases functionality to cause a redirect to it’s linked item rather than resolve the page.

To do this we need to create a pipeline processor that inherits from AliasResolver.

using Sitecore;
using Sitecore.Configuration;
using Sitecore.Diagnostics;
using Sitecore.Pipelines.HttpRequest;
using System.Net;
using System.Web;
using AliasResolver = Sitecore.Pipelines.HttpRequest.AliasResolver;

namespace HiMyNameIsTim.Pipelines
{
    public class AliasAsRedirectResolver : AliasResolver
    {
		public override void Process(HttpRequestArgs args)
		{
			if (!Settings.AliasesActive)
			{
				return; // if aliases aren't active, we really shouldn't confuse whoever turned them off
			}

			var database = Context.Database;

			if (database == null)
			{
				return; // similarly, if we don't have a database, we probably shouldn't try to do anything
			}

			if (!Context.Database.Aliases.Exists(args.LocalPath))
			{
				return; // alias doesn't exist
			}

			var targetID = Context.Database.Aliases.GetTargetID(args.LocalPath);

			// sanity checks for the item
			if (targetID.IsNull)
			{
				Tracer.Error("An alias for \"" + args.LocalPath + "\" exists, but points to a non-existing item.");
				return;
			}
			var item = args.GetItem(targetID);

			if (database.Aliases.Exists(args.LocalPath) && item != null)
			{
				if (Context.Item == null)
				{
					Context.Item = item;
					Tracer.Info(string.Concat("Using alias for \"", args.LocalPath, "\" which points to \"", item.ID, "\""));
				}

				HttpContext.Current.Response.RedirectLocation = item.Paths.FullPath.ToLower()
					.Replace(Context.Site.StartPath.ToLower(), string.Empty);
				HttpContext.Current.Response.StatusCode = (int)HttpStatusCode.MovedPermanently;
				HttpContext.Current.Response.StatusDescription = "301 Moved Permanently";
				HttpContext.Current.Response.End();
			}
		}
    }
}

And patch in in place of the regular Alias Resolver.

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
  <sitecore>
    <pipelines>
      <httpRequestBegin>
        <processor type="HiMyNameIsTim.Core.Pipelines.AliasAsRedirectResolver, LabSitecore.Core" 
                   patch:instead="*[@type='Sitecore.Pipelines.HttpRequest.AliasResolver, Sitecore.Kernel']"/>
      </httpRequestBegin>
    </pipelines>
  </sitecore>
</configuration>

The above code is adapted from a solution given by Jordan Robinson but with a bug fixed to stop every valid URL without an alias writing an error to the log file.

Using compile options for version compatibility

Here’s the scenario; Your building a module and it needs to be compatible with different versions of a platform. e.g. Sitecore, and everything’s great up until the day you need to call different methods in different versions of the platform. You’d rather not drop support for the old versions, and nor do you want to start maintaining two code bases. So what do you do?

C# Preprocessor Directives

Preprocessor directives provide a way to give the compiler instructions to follow while its compiling a project. By using this we can give the compiler conditions to compile different versions in different ways. Thereby allowing us to maintain one codebase, but produce compilations for different versions of the platform. e.g. One for Sitecore 8.0 and another for Sitecore 9.0.

#if, #else and #endif

When the compiler encounters an #if followed by an #endif, it will only compile the code between the two if the specified symbol had been defined.

#if DEBUG
    Console.WriteLine("Debug version");
#else
    Console.WriteLine("Non Debug version");
#endif

Defining a preprocessor symbol

For the if statement to work, your going to need to define your symbol which is being evaluate.

This can be included in code as follows

#define YOURSYMBOL

A more useful was of defining this however is to include it in your call to MSBuild (this is particularly useful when using a build server).

-define:name[;name2]

If your compiling from Visual Studio an easier solution is to set up a new build configuration with a conditional compilation symbol.

  1. Right click your solution item in Solution Explorer and select Properties
  2. Click Configuration Properties on the left and then Configuration Manager on the right
  3. In the pop up window click the Active solution configuration drop down and then click New
    BuildConfiguration
  4. Enter the name of the build config. In my example above I have SC82 for Sitecore 8.2 and SC90 for Sitecore 9.0.
  5. Click Ok and close all the windows you just opened
  6. Right click the project that your going to build and select Properties
  7. Select the Build tab
  8. Select your build configuration from the configuration at the top
  9. Enter the symbol your using for the #if directives
    Conditional Compilation Symbols

Reference different versions of an assembly

Adding conditions to our code is good, but for this to fully work we also need to reference different versions of the assemblies that are causing the issue in the first place.

There’s no way of doing this through Visual Studio but by editing the .csproj file manually we can update the hint path on a reference to include the configuration name as a variable.

    
       ..\libraries\$(Configuration)\Sitecore.Kernel.dll
      False
    

This example shows how different versions of the Sitecore Kernel can be referenced by keeping each version in a subfolder that corresponds with the build configuration name.

As well as different versions of assemblies, it may also be needed to target different versions of the .net framework. This can be done in the .csproj file by including additional proerty groups that have a condition on the configuration name.

  
    bin\SC82\
    TRACE;SC82
    true
    v4.5.2
  
  
    bin\SC90\
    TRACE;SC90
    true
    v4.6.2
  

In this example I’m targeting .net 4.5.2 for my Sitecore 8.2 configuration and 4.6.2 for my Sitecore 9 configuration.

Useful Links

C# preprocessor directives
-define (C# Compiler Options)

Adding Build Statuses to Pull Requests with TeamCity and GitHub

I’m always looking for ways to improve our build server setup and improve our overall efficiency. So a recent change I’ve made is to get Team City to start building pull requests and pushing the resulting status back to GitHub.

This improves our dev flow by eliminating the need to do any testing on a pull request if we can already see it will fail a build. Previously someone doing a code review would only find out once they’ve checked out the change and built it locally, or even worse after approving the request and then breaking the build.

Pull Request Build Status

What’s particularly good with this setup, is it’s testing the resulting merge rather than just the branch being merged in.

Team City Setup

As this is covering a different scenario to our normal build processes which are focused on preparing a build version to be deployed, I set this up as a second build configuration on our projects.

Version Control Settings Root (VCS Root)

The VCS Root needs to be configured to fetch each pull request that is creating in GitHub. To do this, you will need to add a Branch specification which will tell Team City to monitor additional branches rather than just the default branch specified.

Branch Specification

I’m using the branch specification +:refs/pull/(*/merge) .

This syntax is telling Team City to monitor references to pull for pull request, the * refers to any pull request, and the merge indicates that we only want to resulting merge of the pull request.

When you create a pull request in GitHub, this merge reference is automatically created for what the resulting merge would look like.

In the projects list, builds will now get labels indicating what they were for:

Pull Requests on dashboard

Build Steps

I created my build configurations by duplicating the existing ones we have that take care of creating builds to be passed onto Octopus Deploy for release. If you do this, it’s important to remember to disable all the steps you no longer need.

Build Steps

The less steps you have the quicker your build will run and the quicker the pull request will be updated with a status. Ideally you want the process to finish before someone starts doing a code review! Steps like running Inspections may prove counter productive if the builds are never finished on time.

Triggers

Having a build running automatically for your releases can be a drain on server resources, particularly if you never have any intention of actually doing a deploy for most of them. For this reason our builds are set to manual.

However for statuses to be of any use, they’re going to need to be running automatically so that the status is ready for the code reviewer, so we need to add a VCS Trigger.

Triggers

Build Features

To get Team City to start posting status updates back to GitHub we need to add a build feature. If your on a version of TeamCity prior between 7.1 and 10 then there is a plugin you can grab here https://github.com/jonnyzzz/TeamCity.GitHub. If your on a newer version of TeamCity. i.e. 10+ then the build feature is now built in and is called Commit status publisher. The built in version also has support for Bitbucket, Gerrit, GitLab, JetBrains Upsource and Visual Studio Team Services.

Add the build feature and fill in the config settings.

CommitStatusPublisher.PNG

And that’s it. Your pull requests will now automatically build and have the status sent back to GitHub.

Pull Status Pass.PNG

Not only will you be able to see this status in GitHub, you’ll also be able to click a details link to see the build. Useful in the event that it’s failed and you want to see why.

 

A first look at Sitecore SPEAK 3

SPEAK (Sitecore Process Enablement and Accelerator Kit) is the framework for constructing admin interfaces in Sitecore. It was introduced to the platform prior to Sitecore 8, but really became the way to do things after Sitecore 8’s UI refresh which introduced the start page and made accessing full page SPEAK applications logical.

Sitecore9StartScreen

SPEAK 1 and 2

The goals of SPEAK were to:

  • Provide a streamlined approach to application development.
  • Enable reuse of UI elements.
  • Enforce a consistent look and feel.

In order to achieve this SPEAK 1 and 2 provides a component library of controls that can be used to construct pages. This ensures that the UI retains a consistent look and feel, and also minimizes the amount of work on a Sitecore developer. Logic is then added to an application using JavaScript for the front end and C# for server side code.

While this all sounds great many developers find SPEAK hard to use. In order to construct a UI out of the re-usable components, Sitecore lent on it’s existing functionality to be able to construct pages out of presentation items, however there is no WYSIWYG editor and the only real way to construct the layout is through Sitecore Rocks. This in itself isn’t awful, but when combined with the fact the average Sitecore developer doesn’t need to build an admin application that often, it presents a steep learning curve using a tool they may not use to put together components they’re not familiar with.

SPEAK 3

SPEAK 3 aims to address complaints in previous versions by introducing a completely new framework based on Angular.

Since SPEAKs initial incarnation, client side application development has moved on a long way, so rather than continuing to construct their own framework, Sitecore has chosen Angular as the the platform to use going forward.

Begin Angular, SPEAK 3 applications can run independently of Sitecore, however the purpose of SPEAK 3 is still to make it simple to integrate Sitecore-branded applications into the content manager.

My First Look

Before being a Sitecore back-end developer I worked on bespoke web based applications using client side frameworks such as Knockout, so the news that Sitecore was going to adopt Angular was great. Digging into Angular again however has given me a first hand experience of how fast the JavaScript world is changing. Gone is the promotion of MVC on the client being replaced with service/controller patterns. Whereas with Knockout and AngularJS (what Angular 1.x is now known as) we could add data binding to just an aspect of a page, Angular is really for running an entire application, routing and all.

Building an SPEAK 3 application really means building an Angular application with some modules provided by Sitecore. These modules will provide integration features such as:

  • Sitecore context
  • Translations for applications
  • Translations for the SPEAK 3 component library
  • Component user access authorization
  • Preventing cross-site request forgery (Anti-CSRF)

In addition to this the SPEAK 3 components will also sort out compatibility issues such as modifying the routing so that the application no longer needs to be in the route of the site and can be in a sub-folder of sitecore.

Angular for a Sitecore dev

To start it’s good to know an outline of what developing Angular involves.

Angular 2+ is built using TypeScript. You don’t need to use TypeScript, but as most of the examples are you probably will want to too. TypeScript is a superset of of JavaScript which adds strong typing support as well as other features of ECMAScript 2015 to backport it to older versions of JavaScript.

TypeScript needs to be compiled into JavaScript before it can run in the browser.

The easiest way to get started with Angular and TypeScript is using Node.js to install tools via NPM. Node is not a requirement for Angular and you won’t need it in production, but for local dev using Node to host your application can make life a lot easier.

Angular has a CLI which makes things easy to create and run an Angular application.

Visual Studio can be used as an IDE for TypeScript and Angular, but you might find life easier using Visual Studio Code.

It’s better than it sounds 🙂

All this might sound a bit daunting to the average C# developer. Technologies like Node and NPM traditionally are more at home in the open source community.

There is however a lot to be positive about. If your the type of dev that prefers writing c# to JavaScript, then the inclusion of TypeScript is going to please you, as it brings the type checking structure and class organisation that we’re used too.

The angular cli (command line interface) is also a reason to be pleased. One large difference between the .net and open source world has been the ability to click a button and get going. Open source typically comes with the setup of many components to get a solution working. At times when you try to learn something it can feel like your spending more effort doing setup that actual dev on the platform. Angular still needs to have all these components put together, but the cli takes care of all this for you, effectively recreating a file new project experience, just through a command line.