Author Archives: Robert Curlette

About Robert Curlette

Initiated into the Tridion ways at a young age, Robert has traveled the world using his Tridion knowledge to help other new Tridion initiates learn the secrets of building websites with the Tridion CMS. He also organizes the Tridion Developer Summit, where the Tridion community gets together to share their stories and experience.

DXA JSON 2 – Honey we shrunk the JSON

June 5th, 2018 | Posted by Robert Curlette in DXA - (1 Comments)

DXA 2 promises to publish less verbose JSON, sending smaller JSON items into the Publishing Queue and therefore speeding up our publish times.  It will also consume less space in the Broker DB.  So they say!  But, what does the new and old JSON look like and is it much lighter?  In this article I’ll highlight only the diffs between the rendering of a Keyword field JSON and Textfield JSON.  And, you might be wondering why I even care (aside from curiosity), but I’ve built a TBB that amends the Published DXA JSON and injects Structure Group Metadata fields masquerading as Page Metadata fields (in the JSON) and therefore available to our DXA Frontend WebApp.  OK, so here it is:

DXA 1.7 Keyword Field

"people": {
 "Name": "people",
 "Values": [ "Public and Member Communications", "Public Interest people", "Publications and Databases" ],
 "NumericValues": [ ],
 "DateTimeValues": [ ],
 "LinkedComponentValues": [ ],
 "FieldType": 3,
 "CategoryName": "people List",
 "CategoryId": "tcm:11-11393-512",
 "XPath": "Metadata/custom:people",
 "KeywordValues": [
 {
 "IsRoot": false,
 "IsAbstract": false,
 "Description": "",
 "Key": "",
 "TaxonomyId": "tcm:11-11393-512",
 "Path": "\\people List\\Public and Member Communications",
 "RelatedKeywords": [ ],
 "ParentKeywords": [ ],
 "MetadataFields": { },
 "Id": "tcm:11-106852-1024",
 "Title": "Public and Member Communications"
 },
 {
 "IsRoot": false,
 "IsAbstract": false,
 "Description": "",
 "Key": "",
 "TaxonomyId": "tcm:11-11393-512",
 "Path": "\\people List\\Public Interest people",
 "RelatedKeywords": [ ],
 "ParentKeywords": [ ],
 "MetadataFields": { },
 "Id": "tcm:11-106848-1024",
 "Title": "Public Interest people"
 },
 {
 "IsRoot": false,
 "IsAbstract": false,
 "Description": "",
 "Key": "",
 "TaxonomyId": "tcm:11-11393-512",
 "Path": "\\people List\\Publications and Databases",
 "RelatedKeywords": [ ],
 "ParentKeywords": [ ],
 "MetadataFields": { },
 "Id": "tcm:11-106853-1024",
 "Title": "Publications and Databases"
 }
 ]
}

DXA 2.0 Keyword Field

"people": {
 "$type": "KeywordModelData[]",
 "$values": [
 {
 "Id": "106852"
 },
 {
 "Id": "106848"
 },
 {
 "Id": "106853"
 }
 ]
},

DXA 1.7 Text Field

"language": {
 "Name": "language",
 "Values": [ "English" ],
 "NumericValues": [ ],
 "DateTimeValues": [ ],
 "LinkedComponentValues": [ ],
 "FieldType": 0,
 "XPath": "Metadata/custom:language",
 "KeywordValues": [ ]
},

DXA 2.0 Text Field

"language": "English",

Summary

So, there we have it, the new DXA 2.0 JSON delivers what it promises – much leaner and meaner JSON for the benefit of us all.

During a recent DXA project we experienced strange errors when publishing some content.  We are moving to DXA and the new DXA templates try to render every field of the Component and linked-to Components.  This is usually great, but if your content is a bit stale or outdated, or possibly contains an invalid value (like mine did) then the following script might be helpful.  (You should create a normal Core Service app, mine is a Console App, and reference all the usual Tridion Assemblies).

It was complaining that a Category did not contain the Keyword.  The error message was ‘Keyword with title ‘Long Lost Keyword’ does not exist in Category ‘Amazing Category’ [tcm:7-12345-512].’ After some digging we found a Multimedia Component with invalid Metadata.   To view the invalid Metadata we used the excellent Tridion Alchemy Plugin Show Item XML from the team at Content Bloom.  If you haven’t yet tried Alchemy yet, now is the perfect time, and this plugin alone makes it worth the (free) install.  You can even just install it on your Dev server if you want.

The simple solution for our invalid metadata problem would be to change it in the GUI, but the GUI didn’t show the value, and we were stuck.  So, we decided to write a small Core Service script that updates the Metadata field or Removes it.  Hope this helps.

 

Change the PublishState of an Item

April 4th, 2018 | Posted by Robert Curlette in Tridion | Tridion Core Service - (0 Comments)

Currently as part of the Publish process, in a post-build event I am sending JSON to an external search engine.  As part of that process, I wait for a response from the search engine that the content arrived successfully.

However, when it doesn’t arrive, I wold like to notify authors via the PublishQueue status that it didn’t get there.  One solution is to update the Publish Status on the published item, setting it to Warning or Failed, and also update the text in the Publish Transaction.  The code below shows how we can do this.  I implemented it as a WebService, so it is possible to be called from any external system, including the event system.

 public void Get(string transactionUri)
 {
      string uri = "tcm:" + transactionUri;
      string binding = "netTcp_201501";
      SessionAwareCoreServiceClient client = new SessionAwareCoreServiceClient(binding);
      PublishTransactionData trans = client.Read(uri, new ReadOptions()) as PublishTransactionData;
      string title = trans.Title;
      trans.State = PublishTransactionState.Warning;
      trans.Information = "Didn't make it to Search Index - please publish again";
      client.Update(trans, new ReadOptions());
 }

 

Tips for using JSON.NET to Update existing JSON Objects

January 24th, 2018 | Posted by Robert Curlette in .NET - (0 Comments)

Here are some helpful tips when working with JSON.NET.  It is sometimes challenging to find the right method or property to use because we don’t have access to intellisense when using the ‘dynamic’ object type often preferred by JSON.NET.Here are some helpful tips when working with JSON.NET.  It is sometimes challenging to find the right method or property to use because we don’t have access to intellisense when using the ‘dynamic’ object type often preferred by JSON.NET.
The context is that I get an existing JSON document, and I need to add new properties and nodes into the document.

Hope this was of some help to you with providing some more examples of the excellent JSON.NET library.  If you have any more tips or suggestions for the code I am happy to hear them.  Thanks.

Accessing an Embedded Schema field Definition in a C# TBB

January 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Robert Curlette in .NET | Tridion - (0 Comments)

While creating some JSON for the Metadata on a Structure Group in C# I came across an interesting challenge to display the URI and Title of the Embedded Schema. Initially I was using a FieldDefinition instead of an EmbeddedFieldDefinition and then the ID and Title properties were not available of the Embedded Field. Casting the variable to an EmbeddedSchemaFieldDefinition was the proper way to access the EmbeddedField definition info.

 

EmbeddedSchemaField right1Field = pageMetaFields[fieldName] as EmbeddedSchemaField;
EmbeddedSchemaFieldDefinition def = right1Field.Definition as EmbeddedSchemaFieldDefinition;

embeddedSchemaFieldDef.RootElementName = def.EmbeddedSchema.RootElementName; //"Content";
embeddedSchemaFieldDef.Id = def.EmbeddedSchema.Id; // "tcm:11-123-8";
embeddedSchemaFieldDef.Title = def.EmbeddedSchema.Title; // "Metadata fieldname";

Amending DXA JSON

January 18th, 2018 | Posted by Robert Curlette in DXA - (0 Comments)

Sometimes you may wish to add additional content into the default DXA JSON content that is published to the Broker that are not part of the default Component Fields. In my situation I would like to have fields from the Page and Structure Group Metadata available in my DXA view. While using DXA 1.7 there is no out of the box, or ‘accelerated’, way to do this. My idea is to create an additional C# TBB, and in that access the DXA JSON and also add a field to it. The advantage to this approach is that the additional field will be seen by the DXA runtime as a Page Metadata field, and therefore serialized and available to us in the View without doing anything special on the DXA Frontend Webapp.

In this post I will share a sample app I used to access the DXA JSON and add an additional property into the MetadataFields collection. It was quite tricky to get this code to work, as we need to use the ‘dynamic’ type in C#, and this is without intellisense, so finding the appropriate methods and properties to use was a bit of a challenge. You will need to add the Newtonsoft JSON library from Nuget to get the code to work.

In a future article I will share more about the C# TBB that uses this code. The dxa.json file is the output of the Generate Dynamic Page (DXA) TBB form Template Builder. Also, in the code below, I only show an example for a text field, and I also do not product the JSON for XPM – as I have no intention of using XPM on these ‘fake’ Page Metadata fields.

using System.Collections.Generic;
using Newtonsoft.Json.Linq;
using System;

namespace temp1
{
    class Program
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            string text = System.IO.File.ReadAllText(@"C:\RC\dxa.json");
            dynamic jsonObject = JObject.Parse(text);
            dynamic meta = jsonObject.MetadataFields;

            dynamic zone = new JObject();
            zone.Name = "zone";

            List values = new List()
            {
               "value"
            };

            dynamic array = JArray.FromObject(values);
            zone.Values = array;
            zone.FieldType = 0;  // text type, need to change if other field type

            // title is a mandatory metadata field on the Page
            meta.Property("title").AddAfterSelf(new JProperty("zone", zone));

            Console.ReadLine();
        }
    }
}

Creating a PublishNavigation JSON TBB in DXA

December 3rd, 2017 | Posted by Robert Curlette in DXA - (1 Comments)

DXA 1.7 includes Template Building Blocks that help us publish content in JSON format to the Tridion Broker database. One of these Template Building Blocks is the GenerateSitemap.tbb that publishes all Pages and Structure Groups from your entire website as 1 JSON file. You might think this sounds great – and it really is – one great big file! However, if you have thousands of Pages and hundreds of Structure Groups, you might just be interested to publish the Structure Group info and Index pages in the Navigation JSON file. In this short post I’ll share the code I used to get started.  If this is your first time hacking the DXA Template Building Blocks, you might want to check out my post here on how to get started compiling the DXA TBBs.

The idea here is to create a new TBB, GenerateNavigation tbb, that publishes just the Structure Groups and index pages.

I’ve re-used the entire GenerateSitempa.tbb file and just modified one of the methods.

Here is my new modified method and also the call to it.

 

public override void Transform(Engine engine, Package package)
{
    Initialize(engine, package);

    _config = GetNavigationConfiguration(GetComponent());
   
    SitemapItem sitemap = GenerateStructureGroupNavigation(Publication.RootStructureGroup, true);

    string sitemapJson = JsonSerialize(sitemap);

    package.PushItem(Package.OutputName, package.CreateStringItem(ContentType.Text, sitemapJson));
}

 

private SitemapItem GenerateStructureGroupNavigation(StructureGroup structureGroup, bool structureGroupsOnly)
{
    SitemapItem result = new SitemapItem
    {
        Id = structureGroup.Id,
        Title = GetNavigationTitle(structureGroup),
        Url = System.Web.HttpUtility.UrlDecode(structureGroup.PublishLocationUrl),
        Type = ItemType.StructureGroup.ToString(),
        Visible = IsVisible(structureGroup.Title)
    };

   
    foreach (RepositoryLocalObject item in structureGroup.GetItems().Where(i => !i.Title.StartsWith("_")).OrderBy(i => i.Title))
    {
        SitemapItem childSitemapItem = null;
        Page page = item as Page;
        if (page != null)
        {
            if (page.FileName == "index")  // Add pages with the name index - APA Custom
            {
                if (!IsPublished(page))
                {
                    continue;
                }

                childSitemapItem = new SitemapItem
                {
                    Id = page.Id,
                    Title = GetNavigationTitle(page),
                    Url = GetUrl(page),
                    Type = ItemType.Page.ToString(),
                    PublishedDate = GetPublishedDate(page, Engine.PublishingContext.TargetType),
                    Visible = IsVisible(page.Title)
                };
            }
        }
        else
        {
            childSitemapItem = GenerateStructureGroupNavigation((StructureGroup)item, true);
        }
        if(childSitemapItem != null)
        {
            result.Items.Add(childSitemapItem);
        }
    }
   
    return result;
}

DXA Default Template Building Blocks – Updating

December 3rd, 2017 | Posted by Robert Curlette in DXA - (0 Comments)

In this article I’ll discuss the process of downloading and compiling the Default DXA TBBs, and then we can add our new TBB to the default DXA project.  You might want to do this so you can add another TBB into the DXA project, or to modify one of the existing ones.  However, the DXA team would like to get your updates as a Pull Request so they can make the existing ones even better.

Modifying the Default DXA TBBs

1. Download the sources (with the correct version selected) from here: https://github.com/sdl/dxa-content-management

2. Open the solution and look at the Properties, then Build Events. There is a post-build event with the following:
“C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft\ILMerge\ILMerge.exe” ^
/out:Sdl.Web.Tridion.Templates.merged.dll ^
/targetplatform:v4 ^
/lib:C:\_references\cm-8.1 ^
Sdl.Web.Tridion.Templates.dll DD4T.ContentModel.Contracts.dll DD4T.ContentModel.dll DD4T.Serialization.dll DD4T.Templates.Base.dll Newtonsoft.Json.dll /log

3. Check if you have ILMerge.exe in the folder C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft\ILMerge\ILMerge.exe. If not, then download here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=17630

4. Copy the DLLs from the Tridion/bin/client folder to a folder on your local drive. I prefer to keep the references as part of the project. For example, I use: C:\RC\dxa-tbbs-1.7\dxa-content-management-release-1.7\references

All DLLs are required, even the ECL ones, and they’re all listed on the README here: https://github.com/sdl/dxa-content-management. If you don’t have ECL installed, you’ll need to install it at least on your Dev server to get the DLLs. You can use the Add/Remove Programs and ‘Change’ option to add the feature. Restart required, because the GUI will complain after you install the ECL without a restart.  Also, The DLLs after the path are expected to be found in the /bin/debug folder of the project.

5. Build

Potential errors:
1. Error code 3 – This means Visual Studio cannot find ILMerge.exe
2. Error code 1 – It cannot find the DLLs folder specified in the post-build script

Tips:
– Use the /log switch in the post-build command to write the output to the ‘Output’ window for easier debugging

Happy hacking!

DXA and the SDL.Web.Tridion.dll

September 28th, 2017 | Posted by Robert Curlette in DXA - (0 Comments)

When creating a new DXA (1.7) Web Application we can use DXA Core sample website to get started or we can start fresh, and build it from ground up using the NuGet packages.  In a recent project we wanted to start fresh, only using the framework itself and not any of the samples provided OOTB.  While some may say we lose the ‘acceleration’ by taking this path, others could argue that in most client applications they prefer to have a clean solution where they know what all the code does, and why, and have no extra stuff that is not needed or used inside.  So, anyways, we decided to take the high road and start from a ‘file, new project’ approach.  It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been real.

While making the new project you will have almost everything you need – except for one very important and not included DLL – the SDL.Web.Tridion.dll file.  This is referenced from the Unity IoC container…and you can see it in the Unity.config file.  It is not referenced in the project references.  When you don’t have this file in the /bin folder, you will get the following error message:

The type name or alias DefaultCacheProvider could not be resolved. 
Please check your configuration file and verify this type name.

The solution is quite simple, but can be deceiving.  The DXA Sample Project .csproj file includes a very important command to tell the project to copy the DLL.

 <Target Name="BeforeBuild">
 <CallTarget Targets="CopyDxaFrameworkLibsToOutput" />
 </Target>

In your own .csproj file, copy the above config anywhere on the top level.  I placed mine before the final closing </Project> tag.  Now, re-open the project in Visual Studio and build, and you should see the friendly SDL.Web.Tridion.dll file in the bin folder and your website will be happy again.

Year in Review: DXA, Alchemy and Conferences

December 31st, 2016 | Posted by Robert Curlette in A4T | Alchemy | Conference | Tridion | Tridion Tips - (0 Comments)

2016 has been a crazy year – let’s just agree on this and not get into the details!  But, 2016 also did have some positive moments, especially in the Tridion community. Here I hope to highlight some of the positive contributions the community has made this year and hope that next year we will see continued support for these amazing initiatives!

DXA

This year has been the year the DXA framework (formerly known as the SDL Tridion Reference Implementation) has made made some traction and we’ve seen increased usage in projects.   The DXA team recently released version 1.7 and if you’re curious to find out what has been added, fixed and improved in this version then please see the release notes here.

We can see that DXA has been very active from a number of areas, such as their github repository with 1465 commits (https://github.com/sdl/dxa-web-application-dotnet/commits/master) and 360 questions on the Tridion StackExchange forum (http://tridion.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/dxa?sort=newest&pageSize=50)

One of the nice things about using DXA is the modules that play nicely with other SDL products, such as Experience Manager, Audience Manager, Media Manager and Context Expressions. If you’d like to download them for free, then the latest versions can be found here, https://github.com/sdl/dxa-modules/releases

The official documentation has some good content and can be used as a reference, https://docs.sdl.com/LiveContent/content/en-US/SDL%20DXA-v7/GUID-8173623D-D605-4962-AFBD-25D5F6DC6D93

And if you prefer online or classroom training, it’s now available from SDL for DXA too, http://training.sdl.com/services/education-certification/training-product/web-content-management/index-tab4.html

If you would like to build a small microsite with your team in a workshop setting, then you may be interested in the DXA Microsite workshop that I teach. It is a 4 day course where we go over all the basics and walk the team through building a microsite based on your requirements. It is taught both online and remote. If you’re interested, please contact me at robert.curlette@gmail.com and mention the DXA microsite workshop.

Alchemy

Alchemy is the framework that makes your editors and authors happy, and saves time for everyone using the Tridion CMS Editor interface. A full plugin GUI framework created by Alex Klock and supported by Content Bloom, this is the framework you’ll install in 2017 to impress your content authoring team. The only requirement is that you use Tridion 2013 or SDL Web 8.

Installing the framework takes minutes, thanks to the nice MSI install, and it’s a 1 time install on the CMS server. The installer can be downloaded from here, just need to register first,  https://www.alchemywebstore.com/ See how easy it is with this video from John Winter, http://www.tridiondeveloper.com/how-to-install-and-uninstall-alchemy-for-tridion-web

Alex Klock and Tanner Brine  presented Alchemy at the Tridion Developer Summit 2015 and the video can be seen here, http://2015.tridiondevelopersummit.com/2015/home/transmute-tridion-into-the-lean-green-content-management-machine-of-your-dreams-with-alchemy4tridion/

This year the Alchemy Webstore  saw a lot of nice improvements and is a really easy to use one-stop-shop for finding all your Alchemy community plugins. As of now, all plugins are free, and can be used in your project without worries. Several new plugins arrived this year, including ‘CommonKeyboardShortcuts’ (https://www.alchemywebstore.com/plugins/CommonKeyboardShortcuts), Save Close Publish Page, (https://www.alchemywebstore.com/plugins/Save-Close-Publish-Page), and Peek (https://www.alchemywebstore.com/plugins/Peek).

Another reason to use Alchemy is the excellent packaging model, with .A4T files, and easy drag-n-drop deployment of the plugins you write. So, if you haven’t given it a spin, please do so now.

And, if you’d like to watch some video tutorials to help get you started, check out the amazing Alchemy Code Dojo presented by John Winter here, where he builds an Alchemy plugin from scratch in front of a live audience, https://vimeo.com/170368377

In case you can’t get enough of John or videos, check out the excellent series below on creating an Alchemy plugin:

Creating an Alchemy Plugin: Step 1 – The tools, http://www.tridiondeveloper.com/creating-an-alchemy-plugin-step-1-the-tools

Creating an Alchemy Plugin 2: Sample project overview and refactoring, http://www.tridiondeveloper.com/creating-an-alchemy-video-2-sample-project-overview-and-refactoring

Creating an Alchemy Plugin 3: Ribbon Toolbar and Context Menu, http://www.tridiondeveloper.com/creating-an-alchemy-plugin-2-ribbon-toolbar-and-context-menu

Alchemy Training Video 4: Creating a Popup Window, http://www.tridiondeveloper.com/alchemy-training-video-4-creating-a-popup-window

Alchemy Training Video 5: Adding CSS and JavaScript to our Tridion Popup Window, http://www.tridiondeveloper.com/alchemy-training-video-5-adding-css-and-javascript-to-our-tridion-popup-window

If you would like a hands-on workshop or course on Alchemy, I am teaching a 2 day course online or onsite, and if interested please contact me at robert.curlette@gmail.com

Conferences

Finally, this year we saw 3 technical Tridion conference events, recognizing the appreciation of sharing knowledge in the Tridion (SDL Web) community and that meeting and discussing technical solutions in person is priceless.

The Tridion Developer Summit saw more than 140 Tridion developers and consultants get together in Amsterdam for another 2 days and over 20 great sessions and sharing. If you missed it, or would like to see a talk again, all videos are available online here, http://2016a.tridiondevelopersummit.com/2016/videos-tds/

The next TDS is taking place on 11-12 May 2017 in Amsterdam and promises to be filled with technical Tridion content and lots of sharing opportunities.  Registration will open in early January.  If you would like to attend or present, please contact me at robert.curlette@gmail.com

This year we saw the first India Tridion Developer Summit, and I was honored to present about the Alchemy Framework. It was very well organized and had more than 60 enthusiastic Tridion developers from across India attending. I really enjoyed meeting so many active Tridion implementors and discussing implementations with them over delicious Indian food. I wrote about my experience here, http://www.curlette.com/?p=1492 Great job for the organizers and a nice writeup by Pankaj Gaur here, https://pankajgaur83.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/highlights-sdl-web-8-dev-summit-at-india/

Just last month we had the SDL Connect event in San Francisco and it was filled with an amazing energy and spirit. Days 1 and Day 2 were mostly for the business and marketing professionals.   It was great connecting with former colleagues and meeting new people.  Highlights from day 1 are here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeRe95Q8nAM.  The best was saved for last, and on day 3 we had a day of technical Tridion sessions in the same flavor as TDS, including a great Product Roadmap presentation by Alvin Reyes, DXA session by Bart Koopman, Cache invalidation talk by Mihai, Alchemy talk by Tanner Brine, and I presented a talk about upgrading to Web 8. Overall the event was a lot of fun and I look forward to the next one.

DD4T

This year the DD4T framework continued to mature and we saw a 2.1 version released.  But, most importantly, a decision was made to merge DD4T and DXA into 1 version, and to be named ‘DXA 2.0’.  We expect to see a release of the love child of DXA and DD4T sometime in 2017.   You can read more about it from Nuno and Quirijn here, and from Pankaj about why it’s merging here.

Summary

2016 was a year that we saw the DXA and Alchemy frameworks mature and gain wider acceptance. This should be a bright spot for anyone working with Tridion and investing in improving their implementations. I hope next year will bring more opportunities for sharing, more conferences, more events, and most of all, more fun!