Precompiled Views with Sitecore 8.2

A while ago I wrote a post about speeding up your views with precompilation.

After writing that post I learned about RazorGenerator which Chris van de Steeg blogged about. RazorGenerator is better in just about every way compared to aspnet_compiler.exe. Whereas the aspnet_compiler just warms the compiler cache for the current machine, RazorGenerator builds the generated classes for your Razor files directly into your assemblies.

With RazorGenerator you can compile once and deploy everywhere. Getting started with it is almost stupidly simple. Seriously, I described the whole process in one tweet: Install the RazorGenerator.MsBuild NuGet package. That’s it. So what does that get you?

  • Compile-time view syntax checking. Ever deployed a Razor file that broke at runtime after a “successful” build? Well now your builds will fail if your Razor syntax is invalid. Hoorah!
  • Your Razor views are compiled into your output assembly (look at it in DotPeek and see the ASP namespace)
  • It’s fast. You probably won’t even notice the build time difference.

But that’s not quite all

Right, so how do you get your precompiled views to actually get loaded? ASP.NET MVC doesn’t understand how to resolve classes instead of files out of the box. With Sitecore 8.1 and earlier, you could use the RazorGenerator.Mvc NuGet package and wire up its PrecompiledViewEngine to accomplish this.

Sitecore 8.2 modernizes a lot of the MVC implementation under the covers, and part of that is that the Sitecore infrastructure now supports precompiled views natively! (Wondering why the experience editor starts up a lot faster in 8.2? That’s why.) It’s really easy to use, in fact: all you have to do is tell Sitecore which assemblies to look for precompiled views in and it does the rest. Behold:

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
  <sitecore>
    <mvc>
      <precompilation>
        <assemblies>
          <assemblyIdentity name="My.Project" />
          <assemblyIdentity name="My.OtherProject" />
        </assemblies>
      </precompilation>
    </mvc>
  </sitecore>
</configuration>

CAVEAT: The Sitecore precompiler is greedy by default. When it is on, if a class exists for your view, the physical file for the view is not checked. You can even delete it. This means that you cannot tweak the cshtml file and have updates be reflected. You can enable timestamp checking if you must by changing this setting:

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
  <sitecore>
    <settings>
      <!--  MVC: Flag for controlling whether Razor View Engine will look at physical view last modified dates 
        when determining to use a view file from a pre-compiled assembly or from the file system.
        Default: "false"
        -->
        <setting name="Mvc.UsePhysicalViewsIfNewer" value="false" />
      </settings>
  </sitecore>
</configuration>

Because there are (minor) performance implications of doing the timestamp checks, I would advise enabling this setting for development and disabling the setting for production. You should never, ever be changing files on production after a deployment anyway.

Recap

If you’re on Sitecore 8.2, you can get view performance gains by:

  • Installing RazorGenerator.MsBuild on each Visual Studio project that contains Razor views
  • Registering each of those assemblies with the Sitecore precompiled view engine so that it uses your precompiled classes for view rendering

Big thanks to Kern for setting up the MVC expert panel, without which this feature might well not exist. And we might still have 1:40 startup times after a compile. :)

Sitecore hangs on startup when using MongoDB

I ran across a tricky issue today where a Sitecore content delivery cluster would simply hang on startup. No errors in the logs. Nothing in the windows event logs. The content editing server worked just fine.

Mystifying, right? So it came down to process of elimination: I disabled analytics and removed all Mongo connection strings and the site worked. The obvious answer here would be “it’s a firewall issue.”

It wasn’t. mongo.exe could connect to the replica set just fine. The connection was using SSL, so I checked the server certificate. It was valid and trusted.

Eventually it came down to a few important facts:

  • We were using SSL.
  • Because we weren’t using client certificates, mongo.exe had to use --sslAllowInvalidCertificates, which meant that it was not verifying the server certificate.
  • The Mongo C# driver does validate the server certificate.

But you said the server certificate was totally valid, right? Right - and it was valid.

Except for the sneaky fact that the certificate had a Certificate Revocation List (CRL) URL embedded in it. The Mongo C# driver defaults to checking the CRL to make sure the server certificate is not revoked.

Normally that’s a good thing, but in this case the CRL was behind the firewall, and the delivery servers were not. So the CRL could not be checked, and the server certificate was treated as invalid due to that.

Why this results in straight up hanging the site instead of an error I’m not sure. But that leads to how it got fixed.

Extending the Mongo Client Settings

The most obvious fix would be to add something to the connection string to disable the CRL check, as it would be undesirable to expose the PKI server that issued the certificate to the DMZ where the delivery servers live. Unfortunately, there is no option to do that in the Mongo connection string format.

Fortunately, There’s A Micro-Pipeline For That™. Sitecore exposes the updateMongoDriverSettings pipeline, which is empty by default. This pipeline allows you to fool with the MongoClientSettings object and alter configurations that are not available in the connection string.

Here’s an example patch to add a processor to said pipeline:

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
    <sitecore>
        <pipelines>
            <updateMongoDriverSettings>
                <processor type="Me.Pipelines.UpdateMongoDriverSettings.DisableCrlChecks, Me"/>
            </updateMongoDriverSettings>
        </pipelines>
    </sitecore>
</configuration>

And the processor implementation that alters the MongoClientSettings to disable CRL checks:

using MongoDB.Driver;
using Sitecore.Analytics.Pipelines.UpdateMongoDriverSettings;

namespace Me.Pipelines.UpdateMongoDriverSettings
{
    public class DisableCrlChecks : UpdateMongoDriverSettingsProcessor
    {
        public override void UpdateSettings(UpdateMongoDriverSettingsArgs args)
        {
            args.MongoSettings.SslSettings = new SslSettings { CheckCertificateRevocation = false };
        }
    }
}

This technique could also be used to diagnose other SSL issues that might involve invalid certificates, because you can also alter the certificate validity handling to get diagnostic output.

Caveat: Sorry, not for you Mongo Session Provider

vader.jpg

Unfortunately if you’re using the MongoDB Session State provider, it does not respect this pipeline. In fact, it makes itself highly extensible, by hiding the place to put your options in a private static method! Called by internal methods!

private static MongoCollection GetCollection(string connectionString, string databaseName, string collectionName)
{
    return (MongoCollection) new MongoClient(new MongoUrl(connectionString)).GetServer().GetDatabase(databaseName).GetCollection(collectionName);
}

So you’re hosed if you’re using Mongo sessions.

Dependency Injection in Sitecore 8.2

Sitecore 8.2, hot off the presses yesterday, includes built in dependency injection. If you’ve been following the internal architecture of Sitecore for very long, you’ve probably realized that a lot of it is uglier than it needs to be - and less extensible - thanks to the lack of system-wide DI support. It’s kind of a big deal. Even if Nat Mann hates conforming containers ;)

The Sitecore IoC container is based on Microsoft’s Dependency Injection library that was written for .NET Core. It is not the world’s most flexible or performant container (nor was it designed to be), but it works and is a decent choice. If you wish you can change the underlying IoC library being used, but we aren’t going to cover that today.

Sitecore’s built in DI offers two major advantages over the third party dependency injection that most advanced Sitecore teams have been using for a long time:

  • Sitecore itself is using it (and thus you can extend Sitecore itself by replacing dependencies)
  • You can natively dependency inject into pipeline processors (which you could sort of already do)

Controller Injection

As with most ASP.NET DI implementations, most dependency resolution will take place in controllers. If you’ve already been using constructor injection with Sitecore, you may have to change absolutely nothing:

public class FooController : Controller
{
    private readonly IDependency _dependency;

    public Foo(IDependency dependency) 
    {
        _dependency = dependency;
    }

    public ActionResult Index() 
    {
        return View(_dependency.DoStuff());
    }
}

Be aware that the built in IoC container has two major limitations when injecting controllers:

  • You may only have one public constructor for your controller - or any other registered dependency. This is a good thing, as multiple public constructors are a DI antipattern anyway.
  • The controller class must be registered with the container to be resolvable (e.g. you must register it such as container.AddTransient<FooController>()).

The latter limitation we can do something nice about: read on and we’ll get to that when we talk about registering dependencies :)

Pipeline Injection

You may also inject dependencies into pipeline processors using the same constructor injection pattern as controllers. Processors are not injected by default, presumably for performance. As with controllers, processors may only have one public constructor. I suspect, but have not tried, that this trick would also work with commands.

To inject a processor, simply add resolve="true" to its registration. For example:

<processor type="Foo.BarProcessor, Foo" resolve="true" />

Web Forms Dependency Injection

grumpy-cat-no.jpg

(You can actually do Web Forms DI with Sitecore but I’m not going to tell you how. Quit using Web Forms.)

Service Locator

You can also resolve dependencies from the Sitecore container using the Service Locator antipattern. This is where you explicitly ask the container to give you an instance of an object. It’s an antipattern, and you should use it as a weapon of last resort, because it tightly couples your class to the IoC container and makes things difficult to test.

There are actually multiple ways you can use Service Locator:

// the MVC DependencyResolver can be used
DependencyResolver.Current.GetService<IService>();

// the Sitecore ServiceLocator can be used
using Sitecore.DependencyInjection;
ServiceLocator.ServiceProvider.GetService<IServiceCollection>();

Again don’t use these…unless you have no other choice.

Registering Dependencies

Of course an IoC container is useless if it has no registered dependencies to resolve! Sitecore’s container can be configured in multiple ways, all of which involve some level of XML. I heard you groan when you read that ;)

Keep in mind when wiring dependencies that the IoC container is not multitenant. Your dependencies are sharing the container with Sitecore’s - and if you have more than one site, potentially other sites as well. So don’t go expecting to have IFoo resolve to different implementations in different sites!

If you get confused and want to see a list of every dependency that is currently registered, along with its scope and type, there’s a page for that! Just visit /sitecore/admin/showservicesconfig.aspx and there you are. While you’re at it, check out the other handy tools in the admin pages too.

Configurators

A configurator is probably what you think of when you consider IoC configuration if you’ve been using any modern container library. It’s a C# class that conforms to an interface where you are given a container object, and expected to wire your dependencies to it. You can register as many configurators as you like in the <services> section.

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
    <sitecore>
        <services>
            <configurator type="MyProject.MyConfiguratorClass, MyProject" />
        </services>
    </sitecore>
</configuration>

Here’s an example configurator implementation that registers a couple dependencies. As with most containers Transient and Singleton dependencies are available, and I believe Scoped as well, but I’m not sure what the exact behaviour of that is in this case.

using Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection;
using Sitecore.DependencyInjection;

namespace MyProject
{
    public class MyConfiguratorClass : IServicesConfigurator
    {
        public void Configure(IServiceCollection serviceCollection)
        {
            serviceCollection.AddSingleton<IDependency, Dependency>();
            serviceCollection.AddSingleton<IService>(provider => new Service("withFactory"));
        }
    }
}

Note: You cannot use Sitecore Factory conventions when registering configurators, for example setting properties on the configurator with child elements. This is because the Factory also speaks DI now as a fallback, so it’d be like asking the container to resolve itself :)

Direct Registration

You can also register individual dependencies with XML, just like we did ten years ago! I wouldn’t suggest doing this as it is less expressive than a configurator, not type-checked by compilation, and probably marginally slower as well due to having to convert the string to the type for every dependency.

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
    <sitecore>
        <services>
            <register 
                serviceType="Type.IName, Assembly" 
                implementationType="Type.Name, Assembly" 
                lifetime="Transient" />
        </services>
    </sitecore>
</configuration>

Automatic Controller Registration

If you’re actually reading this, you may have noticed that I mentioned earlier that you must register every MVC controller you wish to dependency inject with the IoC container. Sounds like a drag, right? Not so fast! Pull out your robe and wizard hat, grab this handy code, and register all your controllers automatically within a configurator:

public void Configure(IServiceCollection serviceCollection)
{
    // configurator per project? Use this:
    serviceCollection.AddMvcControllersInCurrentAssembly();

    // configure all the things from on high by convention? Use this (Habitat as the example):
    serviceCollection.AddMvcControllers(
        "Sitecore.Feature.*", 
        "Sitecore.*.Website");

    // you can also pass Assembly instances directly, but why?
    serviceCollection.AddMvcControllers(
        Assembly.FromName("Foo"), 
        Assembly.FromName("Bar"));
}

And without further ado, here’s the code that makes that possible.

Have a nice day!

Configuring domains from patch files

Sitecore domains are logical security groupings, for example the product ships with “sitecore” (backend users) and “extranet” (frontend users). But you do not have to stick with only the domains the product ships with, as usual for Sitecore you can extend and add your own.

Normally adding a domain means editing App_Config\Security\Domains.config, but we don’t want to do this. Why? Because editing standard Sitecore config files makes it difficult to upgrade Sitecore and introduces error prone file merging.

What we want to do instead is use config patch files. These allow us to add our config completely separately from Sitecore’s standard configuration files. But there’s a problem when it comes to domains: Domains.config does not live in the requisite <sitecore> config section so we cannot patch it.

Fortunately there’s a little known way around this. Someone at Sitecore implemented a config-based domain manager, but it’s not the default - presumably for backwards compatibility. And you can activate that, and add domains to it, using patch files.

So next time you want to add a domain to Sitecore, like say adding a domain for each site to provide logical author role groupings, switch over to the config domain manager. You know you want MySite\Editor instead of sitecore\MySite Editor. It’s easy to do, too.

This patch will activate the config domain manager (the defaults for the config manager already are the same as Domains.config so nothing else needs to be registered):

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
    <sitecore>
        <domainManager defaultProvider="file">
            <patch:attribute name="defaultProvider">config</patch:attribute>
        </domainManager>
    </sitecore>
</configuration>

And this patch is an example of adding a domain to the config domain manager:

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
    <sitecore>
        <domainManager>
            <domains>
                <domain id="MyNewDomain" type="Sitecore.Security.Domains.Domain, Sitecore.Kernel">
                    <param desc="name">$(id)</param>
                    <ensureAnonymousUser>false</ensureAnonymousUser>
                </domain>
            </domains>
        </domainManager>
    </sitecore>
</configuration>

And there you have it. Enjoy!

Synthesis 8.2.1 Released

I am happy to announce that Synthesis 8.2.1 is available on NuGet. This release primarily adds additional features.

What’s New?

Improved Multiple Configuration Support

Previously registering multiple configurations in Synthesis was possible but way too hard. Configurations may now register themselves using code, similar to MVC area registrations.

To register a new configuration with Synthesis 8.2.1:

  • Add a class to the assembly you want the configuration’s model to live in that derives from SynthesisConfigurationRegistration
  • Implement the abstract members of SynthesisConfigurationRegistration. Much deeper customization is also available by overriding other optional members.
  • Add a SynthesisConfigRegistrar processor to the initialize pipeline that is set to scan your assembly, e.g.

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    <pipelines>
    <initialize>
    <!-- IMPORTANT: Each registrar instance must have a unique hint value for the patch to work correctly. -->
    <processor type="Synthesis.Pipelines.Initialize.SynthesisConfigRegistrar, Synthesis" hint="Hinty McHintface">
    <assemblies hint="list:AddAssembly">
    <meAssembly>My.Assembly.WithModel</meAssembly>
    </assemblies>
    </processor>
    </initialize>
    </pipelines>
  • That’s it! Your configuration will now be activated.

Auto Friending

WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU?

Along with simpler configuration registration, allowing your configurations to reference each other’s generated classes is also far easier with “Auto-Friending.”

To illustrate this, suppose you were using Habitat and in your Project layer you had templates that inherited Feature templates. Without auto-friending (or previously manual friending), the Project would generate duplicate interfaces for the Feature templates. This is a bad thing. But with friending, the Project generated template will simply inherit from the already existing Feature model, extending implicit dependency in the database into explicit dependency at a code level (also a good thing!).

With auto-friending, configurations automatically friend each other in the order they are registered. So for the example above, as long as the Feature’s model configuration was registered before the Project’s model, everything would Just Work. You can control the order of registration by the order in the SynthesisConfigRegistrar assemblies.

IRenderingContext and improved IoC support (Synthesis.Mvc)

A pattern that I’ve been using for a while (as have others) to improve testability is to make a facade over the RenderingContext that turns it into a Synthesis API and removes all Item dependencies. This IRenderingContext can be registered with your IoC container (to SitecoreRenderingContext) and constructor-injected into controller renderings to make Item-free controllers that are easy to test without any hacks. Even awesome hacks like FakeDb.

For example:

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public class FooController : Controller
{
private readonly IRenderingContext _renderingContext;
public FooController(IRenderingContext renderingContext)
{
_renderingContext = renderingContext;
}
public ActionResult Foo()
{
var dataSource = _renderingContext.GetRenderingDatasource<IExpectedTypeItem>();
if(dataSource == null)
{
// no datasource set, or datasource is wrong template type (or context item, if no datasource set)
return Content("Derp.");
}
var model = new FooViewModel(dataSource);
// set other model props here
// Note that none of this controller directly used Sitecore APIs and thus does not require FakeDb nor HTTP context
// to have unit tests written against it.
return View(model);
}
}

Additional, more specific interfaces are also available for more specific use cases: IContextItem, IContextDatabase, and IContextSite. These can all be bound to SitecoreRenderingContext and provide smaller interfaces for more specific tasks.

Config Patching by Default

Synthesis now ships with Synthesis.LocalConfig.config.example, which is designed to be duplicated to form your own configuration patch. This encourages leaving the default configurations alone, which in turn greatly simplifies upgrading. The documentation and README has also been updated to reflect this.

Improvements

  • The default settings have been improved:
    • Creating model backup files is now disabled by default because it is of questionable utility when using source control
    • The InterfaceOutputPath and ItemOutputPath settings have been deprecated and merged into a single ModelOutputPath because it’s silly to emit more than one model file. The separate settings will still operate if you wish to use them.
    • Uncommonly used settings have been removed from Synthesis.config (SitecoreKernelAssemblyPath, SynthesisAssemblyPath, and InterfaceSuffix). They continue to work if set, but are removed for brevity as they are generally not used other than at default values.
  • The SynthesisEditContext class has been marked obsolete because the pattern is a bad idea
  • WebForms related classes have been marked obsolete because don’t use WebForms
  • The ability to attempt to automatically rebuild the project containing the model on startup has been removed due to being a generally bad idea
  • The ModelOutputBasePath setting has been added. This path is prepended to the ModelOutputPath for all configurations. The advantage of using this is that for people who work out of webroot, they can use <sc.variable> values in a setting (e.g. the out of webroot project location) whereas Sitecore does not expand variables in the ModelOutputPath. #27

Bug Fixes

  • Setting max backups to 0 no longer results in an infinite loop and now does not make backup files #28
  • Registering the same assembly twice in the type list provider will no longer scan the assembly twice
  • Wildcards that do not end in (e.g. Foo..Web) will not operate correctly when adding assemblies to the type list provider

Upgrading

Upgrading should be as simple as a NuGet upgrade*. If you have customized your Synthesis.config you may need to merge it with the default (or even better make it a patch file).

* as long as you are using Sitecore 8.1. As with the 8.2.0 release, it is designed only for Sitecore 8.1 due to breaking Sitecore API changes in 8.1. Sorry about that :(

Thanks!

Thank you to the community members who contributed to this release:

As always, happy coding!

Unicorn 3.1.5 Released

Unicorn 3.1.5 and Rainbow 1.3 are released to NuGet right now. This is a maintenance release. Upgrading is recommended, particularly if you are using Transparent Sync.

New Features

The new <syncConfiguration> dependency (see Unicorn.config) enables configurations to opt in to having synced items be updated into the link database and/or the search indexes after being changed by a sync.

This improves Unicorn’s compatibility with content syncing scenarios that are less developer focused, at the expense of reduced sync performance.

Transparent Sync also supports these flags, and items changed while Sitecore is alive to see them will have their links and indexes taken care of if set to do so. However if the IIS App Pool is not active during the file changes, nothing is updated.

Per-configuration concurrency

Unicorn 3 has always supported multithreaded sync and reserialize, but it has been disabled since release due to a concurrency bug in the Sitecore Template Engine that results in sync deadlocks when it is used to sync template item changes.

3.1.5 brings the ability to set the max thread count per-configuration (using the same <syncConfiguration> as indexing support) so that for configurations that are not syncing templates (or on Sitecore prior to 8.0U2) you may again enable concurrency. Threaded syncing can be 30-50% faster than non threaded.

Control panel UX improvements

Unicorn 3.1.5 brings a ‘Sync all’ button to the control panel, and a few minor UI tweaks such as relegating the log verbosity to an options modal.

Bug Fixes

  • Checkboxes inherited through several layers of standard values will no longer result in the derived template being reset to base standard values
  • Auto-publish no longer will miss publishing unversioned fields in certain cases
  • Renaming or moving items with transparent sync enabled and data cache turned on no longer results in a corrupted data cache
  • Change Template now works correctly with transparent sync
  • Unicorn now understands content items that are using Sitecore 8.1 language fallback without creating extra versions on the serialized copy
  • The log verbosity feature has had several issues fixed that would result in logs incorrectly not being shown at the selected level
  • Unicorn’s Micro IoC container now understands int constructor parameters
  • Adding or changing serialized template items when using transparent sync will now correctly clear the template engine, preventing an error
  • Automated build powershell examples are now more flexible when invoked in unusual path locations
  • In the control panel, the batch action buttons will no longer ‘overlay’ configuration checkboxes in certain situations
  • Logging of unversioned field updates will no longer incorrectly show a version number alongside the update in the logs
  • Certain unusual situations when syncing templates and items of that template will no longer throw a null reference due to stale caches

Upgrading

Upgrading from 3.1.4 is just a NuGet upgrade away. There are some config changes, so overwrite files and merge anything custom back in. Or even better use config patches and leave the default config alone :)

Note that Unicorn 3.1.5 changes the storage format for checkbox fields so that unchecked checkboxes are stored as ‘0’ instead of Sitecore’s standard blank value. This makes sync more reliable, however it does means that the first sync after serializing a new item with an unchecked checkbox will result in a ‘change’ as the zero value is pushed back into the Sitecore database. Checkboxes that are already serialized with blank values will continue to work just fine as they are.

Credits

Unicorn is a team effort of the Sitecore community. I’d like to thank the following folks who contributed to this release:

Dana Hanna
Kasper Gadensgaard
Mark Cassidy
Mike Carlisle
Søren Kruse
WizX20

And extra special thanks to Robin Hermanussen, Richard Seal, Alex Washtell, Mark Cassidy, and everyone else I missed for tirelessly answering questions in #unicorn on Sitecore Slack when I’m busy or not around!

The Solr Cannon: Rapid Solr Setup for Sitecore

Have you ever wished that standing up a Solr server for Sitecore was easy? I have. So I made a script to make it so.

The Solr Cannon automates the setup and configuration of Solr on Windows (Note: Linux may be a better production choice if you have the option), including installation as a background service, Sitecore schema installation, core creation, and generating a Sitecore config patch file that will point Sitecore at your shiny new Solr server and its cores.

What you’ll need

  • A copy of the Bitnami Solr Stack for Windows (I used 5.5.0-1)
  • A copy of the script and the solr schema file (the schema was generated with Sitecore 8.1 Update 1, you might need to generate your own if it doesn’t work)
  • PowerShell 3.0 or later

Let’s do this

  • Copy the Solr stack and scripts to a folder on the server that will run Solr
  • Review the Install Solr.ps1 script to make sure the variables are to your liking (project name, ports, solr stack installer path, etc)
  • Open an administrative PowerShell prompt
  • Execute Install Solr.ps1
  • Kick back for a couple minutes
  • Bask in the glow of your new Solr server and all of its Sitecore cores

But what about the rest?

Ok ok, that’s not all you need to do in order to configure Solr and Sitecore.

  • Check out Patrick Perrone’s post to help you swap in Solr as the search provider and configure the Solr IoC container. Note: I’d recommend Windsor for the IoC. Autofac and Ninject were less than awesome install experiences…
  • Once you have the Sitecore configuration flipped to Solr, you can grab the Solr.config file that the Solr Cannon produced when it installed Solr (written to the script directory). This config patch will:
    • Point Sitecore at your Solr server
    • Make Sitecore look at the correct core names for each index
    • Enable SwitchOnRebuildSolrIndex which allows you to rebuild indexes without any index downtime (great for production…or dev)
  • Load up Sitecore, open the indexing manager, and rebuild all your indexes. With a bit of luck, you’ll be good to go!

Multi-tenant Solr

Suppose you’re working on your own machine and you’ve got more than one dev site that’s using Solr. The Solr Cannon scripts can act to create a new config set and cores for several Sitecore installations on the same Solr server. Edit the script to have a different $ProjectName set, run it again, and say no when asked if you need to install a Solr server. In this mode, the script will build out a config set and cores for a new Sitecore site, as well as the patch file.

Have fun :)

Branch Datasource Presets

Ever stored rendering component data source items under a page? For example:

/sitecore/content/Page
/sitecore/content/Page/Datasources/ComponentDataSourceItem

It’s a good practice and it seems to work quite well for page specific components. I use it all the time.

But have you ever wished branch templates understood that pattern in a logical fashion? What if this:

/sitecore/templates/branches/Foo/$name
/sitecore/templates/branches/Foo/$name/Datasources/ComponentDataSourceItem

…expanded out to have the branch create the hierarchy and re-link the layout details on the instiantiated branch item to point to the right relative child data source item, instead of the child item under the branch template?

Doing this lets you use branch templates to create preset rendering hierarchies, including page specific data source items.

Sound good? Well you’ve found the right place to get the code to do just that. This requires Sitecore 8 or above with the pipeline-based item provider to operate.

Unicorn 3.1.4 Released

Unicorn 3.1.4 and Rainbow 1.2 are released to NuGet. This is a maintenance release which contains a few UX improvements and minor bug fixes and improvements.

What’s new?

Logging Verbosity

The most obvious change is that you can now select a logging verbosity in the control panel. If you’ve ever run a sync where many, many changes were synced you may have run into the issue where browsers start to crawl when fed that many log messages. Now you can choose to log only warnings or errors for that kind of situation. The Sitecore log files always get full verbosity, so you can see what exactly happened even if it was not written to the browser. Your verbosity setting is stored in a persistent cookie, so your selection is remembered.

Verbosity does not affect automated tools that invoke Unicorn. They always receive full verbosity. (#112)

XML Field Formatting Improved

XML fields are now stored by default with attributes on new lines. This further improves mergeability of Rainbow serialized items by allowing attribute merges. If you hate this idea, you can turn it off in Rainbow.config. (#12)

Rainbow 1.1:

<r xmlns:xsd="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema">
  <d id="{FE5D7FDF-89C0-4D99-9AA3-B5FBD009C9F3}" l="{0DAC6578-BC11-4B41-960A-E95F21A78D1F}" />
</r>

Rainbow 1.2 (Unicorn 3.1.3+):

<r xmlns:xsd="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema">
  <d
    id="{FE5D7FDF-89C0-4D99-9AA3-B5FBD009C9F3}"
    l="{0DAC6578-BC11-4B41-960A-E95F21A78D1F}" />
</r>

This formatting change is completely backwards compatible and no reserialization is required. As items are saved, they will be rewritten to use attributes on newlines.

Fixes & Minor Improvements

  • The UX of the control panel has been streamlined to result in less vertical space for each configuration, a boon for setups like Habitat with lots of configurations.
  • Unicorn auto publishing now functions correctly on items with versions in several languages (#114)
  • Using the “Copy to” function will no longer result in an incorrect serialized parent ID on the copied item. Other forms of duplication were not affected. (#119)
  • Fixed a case where NullReferenceException was incorrectly thrown when using transparent sync (#117)
  • Fixed an error when duplicating items that did not exist in the database when using transparent sync (#116)
  • Rainbow YAML formatting is more friendly to third party YAML parsers with the way it escapes values. This does mean that some values that did not previously get wrapped in double quotes (like GUIDs), will now have it going forward. Format is backwards compatible, no reserialize required. Items will upgrade to the new version on save. (#11)

Upgrading

To upgrade simply update your NuGet packages. There are no other steps required for this release unless coming from Unicorn 3.0.x.

If you wish to completely normalize your items to the latest Rainbow 1.2 format, you may reserialize them. But it is not a requirement, as Rainbow 1.2 can parse 1.1 serialized items.

Credits

As usual, Unicorn updates are a community effort. Big thanks to the folks below for reporting bugs, sending pull requests, and general encouragement.

Unicorn 3.1 Released

Unicorn 3.1 and Rainbow 1.1 are released to NuGet. These updated versions bring several new features and a bunch of fixes. Upgrading is recommended for all users of Unicorn 3.0 due to the fixing of some data issues.

What’s new?

Configuration Dependencies

Unicorn configurations may now declare dependency relationships between each other. This is useful for example when one configuration may contain templates and another configuration might contain items based on those templates. With a dependency relationship the dependent configurations are guaranteed to always go first when configurations are synced. Transitive relationships (e.g. A -> B -> C) are supported.

Dependencies are defined using a dependencies attribute on the configuration.

Dependencies do not force dependent configurations to sync. If config A depends on config B and you choose to sync only config A, B will not be synced. However if you sync both A and B, then B will always sync first due to the dependency.

Include/Exclude Predicate Enhancements

The predicate system has been significantly overhauled in Unicorn 3.1 to allow more advanced include and exclude scenarios.

  • Exclude entries may now use paths relative to the parent <include> by omitting a leading slash. This would exclude /foo/bar:

    <include path="/foo">
        <exclude path="bar" />
    </include>
    
  • A new explicit grammar for excluding all children of an include has been introduced. This replaces the previous implicit grammar of adding a trailing slash (which still works but is deprecated).

    <include path="/foo">
        <exclude children="true" />
    </include>
    
  • The explicit children grammar supports <except> syntax to exclude all children except for specific ones.

    <include path="/somechildren">
        <exclude children="true">
            <except name="tests" />
            <except name="fests" />
        </exclude>
    </include>
    
  • A new explicit grammar for excluding only children of a specific sub-path has been added. This grammar also supports <except> syntax and relative paths.

    <include path="/foo">
        <exclude childrenOfPath="/foo" />
        <exclude childrenOfPath="bar"> <!-- /foo/bar/* -->
            <except name="quux" /> <!-- include /foo/bar/quux -->
        </exclude>
    </include>
    

Take a look at the test predicate configuration for examples of all available grammars.

Control Panel Tool Authentication

The method used to authenticate automated tools to Unicorn has been updated to be significantly more secure using a CHAP implementation. This also comes with a handy PowerShell module that you can use to simply invoke the handshake from a build script.

Should you require the legacy shared secret method, that is still available but it is not the default. Security is also now pluggable, if you wanted to use your own implementation.

The remote API ships disabled by default and you must activate it by generating a random shared secret and adding it to the config. This same secret must be known to invoke the API, and unlike the legacy API the secret is never transmitted directly.

Breaking Changes

Unicorn 3.1 has some breaking changes compared to Unicorn 3.0, so upgrading requires reserializing your items to get them in a consistent format with the latest version. Unicorn 3.1 does understand Unicorn 3.0-formatted items, but Unicorn 3.0 does not understand Unicorn 3.1-formatted items. There will also be some repeated changes in the logs if you sync 3.0 items with 3.1, so usage with 3.0 items is not recommended.

Introducing breaking changes was a hard decision to make, but I think the saner defaults and new capabilities will justify the slightly more difficult upgrade process. So what’s breaking?

  • The item’s database name is now stored in the serialized data (#7). This enables parsing serialized items in contexts where the database cannot easily be inferred, such as Courier.
  • Unversioned fields have official support and are nested under the Language instead of under a Version within the language which was incorrect. Prior to reserializing, syncing a 3.0-formatted item with 3.1 may result in messages that the field has been reset to standard values and then set again. IItemData now has an UnversionedFields property to store unversioned fields by language.
  • The name on serialized fields has been converted from a comment in the YAML into an actual parsed value. Note that this value is just a hint and if a template field is renamed it is NOT updated automatically.
  • The default setting of Rainbow.SFS.ExtraInvalidFilenameCharacters has been changed to "$" to make Rainbow compatible by default with TFS, and the TFS config example that previously set this has been removed.
  • The default setting for Rainbow.SFS.SerializationFolderPathMaxLength has been increased from 90 to 110 based on real world experience that 90 is too short.
  • The default setting for Rainbow.SFS.MaxItemNameLengthBeforeTruncation has been reduced from 100 to 30 based on real world experience that 100 was long enough to break the path length limitation for items with near 100 length names.
  • Automated deployment tools calling Unicorn have a new security API. See below for details on this, but it’s now more secure.

Other Improvements:

  • Syncing dictionary items will now cause the dictionary cache to be cleared at the end of the sync, forcing the synced entries to be loaded.
  • The Unicorn Control Panel is now pipeline-based and extensible so that modules may define their own verbs or alter the UI if needed.
  • Error messages when serializing and deserializing XML-based fields (layout, rules) have been improved.
  • Unicorn and Rainbow both now utilize the C# 6.0 syntax and require the C# 6.0 compiler to build. They still target .NET 4.5.
  • Config file comments and documentation have been updated to cover the new features of Unicorn 3.1.

Bug fixes:

  • Renaming or moving items which are serialized on loopback paths will no longer cause the serialized children to be deleted.
  • Missing field errors on the root item of a tree now result in a retry and non fatal error as expected.
  • A non fatal warning when syncing multiple configurations will no longer result in the sync stopping at the end of the configuration with the non fatal warning.
  • When using the New Items Only evaluator, you will no longer receive sync conflict warnings when saving items created by the evaluator.
  • Copying items when Transparent Sync is enabled and the source item is not in the Sitecore database now works correctly.
  • Empty field values will no longer cause problems when Transparent Sync is enabled.
  • XML-based fields (layout, rules) with empty values will no longer cause exceptions. #6, #90
  • Items installed by Sitecore packages or update packages into Unicorn configuration areas will no longer lose some field values in the serialized items. #92
  • Predicate include entries and SFS trees are no longer confused by paths which are different but start with similar bases, such as /sitecore/content and /sitecore/content monkey
  • Plain text Unicorn logs returned to automated tool calls will no longer include HTML-encoded values such as &gt;
  • Naming items a Windows reserved file name.aspx) such as CON or COM1 will no longer result in an error. #8
  • Fields with a blank value in Sitecore that were not included in the serialized item were not being correctly reset to standard values. This has been fixed.

Upgrading

Ok so there are breaking changes, how do I upgrade? Thankfully it’s not too hard.

  1. Before you upgrade, run a full sync of all configurations. If some have Transparent Sync enabled, turn that off during the upgrade. (you can reenable after step 4)
  2. Upgrade your NuGet packages to Unicorn 3.1. (which will also install Rainbow 1.1)
  3. Run a build of your solution, and if you develop out of webroot publish your changes.
  4. Using the Unicorn control panel, Reserialize all configurations to flush them to disk as 3.1-format items.
  5. If you use the automated tool API to do automated execution of Unicorn, migrate to the PowerShell module to invoke the new API.
  6. Have fun!

Contributors

Unicorn 3.1 has seen contributions from many community members. Thank you all for your support, testing, bug reports, and contributions!