Sunday, June 18, 2017

SPE Workflow Action using Slack Notifications

Have you ever wondered how to notify a user about workflow changes to an item in Sitecore, but not through email? In this post I'll show you in a few steps how to send notifications to a user or channel in Slack when transitioning an item's workflow state in Sitecore.


  1. Setup a Slack authentication token here. The documentation indicates there are some newer ways to acquire a token, but for now we'll go with the low effort approach.
  2. Setup the PSSlack module for PowerShell found here. Optionally, run Install-Module PSSlack from an elevated PowerShell console. Big thanks to @pscookiemonster for putting this together.
  3. Create a SPE workflow action like described here.
  4. Update the script to send messages to Slack.
  5. Celebrate!

Example Notification

Friday, April 21, 2017

Custom Rendering Variant Token Tool for SXA

Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) provides a great way to alter how components render using a feature called Rendering Variant. The following post describes how I developed a new Rendering Variant tool that implements NVelocity templates. I found a way to extend a feature built into the great SXA.

For those that have not yet worked with NVelocity, it's essentially a mechanism for converting tokens into other text. This is often used in Sitecore standard values where you use $name to populate the title field.

UPDATE: SXA comes with some tools that you can take advantage of right now called $dateTool and $numberTool. Read more about them here and here.

Problem Statement

Marketing would like to have the page Url output in the website global search results.

As you can see above, the rendering shows a title, description, and url. Unfortunately  I was not able to figure out how to do this OOTB with SXA. Fortunately it took very little effort to write code for this.


There are a few steps you need to take in order for this to work.
  1. Have a need for it. Duh.
  2. Setup a Visual Studio project, something like Company.Foundation.Variants.
  3. Reference the SXA library Sitecore.XA.Foundation.Variants.Abstractions.dll, Sitecore.Kernel.dll, and Sitecore.NVelocity.dll.
  4. Add a new class to define the tool, such as Company.Foundation.Variants.NVelocityExtensions.LinkTool.
  5. Add a new class to register the tool, such as Company.Foundation.Variants.Pipelines.GetVelocityTemplateRenderers.AddTemplateRenderers.
  6. Patch the new pipeline in to getVelocityTemplateRenderers.
Here's a little snippet to get you started.


In the Rendering Variant configured for search results, add a VariantTemplate item. The template field should then contain something like the following:

<a href="$linkTool.GetItemLink($item)">$linkTool.GetItemLink($item,true)</a>

Here is the html set within the VariantTemplate.

That's pretty much all there is to setting it up. Hope you find this feature as helpful as I did!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Unicorn Serialization for SXA Projects

Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) is organized in a way that aligns with Sitecore's Helix design principles and conventions. The following post describes how I structured a solution with Unicorn serialization to allow for low complexity management.

I'll try to explain as much as I can using pictures; everyone likes pictures.

Organizational Structure

The following names will be used to organize code and serialized content.
  • Feature
  • Foundation
  • Project
  • Website

Starting from the bottom I have a project using the naming convention [COMPANY].Website. This project contains code and configurations needed to bootstrap a website that would keep it in an operational state. Changes to Sitecore.config would appear as patch-configs in this project.

Let's have a look at this node expanded.

The configuration Company.Serialization.config contains all of the root items necessary for Unicorn to work in the solution. I've sanitized the example to use the generic name Company

Now let's have a quick look at some of the places where those items are in the Sitecore tree. The company name here is Concentra.

The configuration file is designed to create all of those root items. When a new developer joins, he/she will want to sync the Company.Website configuration first so all these root nodes appear.

The configuration Company.Project.DotCom.Serialization.Dev.config contains all of the descendant items that are project specific, such as site templates. This config contains the settings necessary for TransparentSync.

When you create a new tenant and site with the SXA wizard (powered by Sitecore PowerShell Extensions!) you will want to use the structure Tenant Folder > Tenant > Site (i.e. Concentra > DotCom > usa). I like this pattern because you future-proof the structure to support multiple companies.
You will want to use this configuration on your developer machine. Everything is tracked and transparently synced.

The configuration Company.Project.DotCom.Serialization.Cm.config contains the same as before, but disables TransparentSync and uses exclusions. You will want to use this configuration on Content Management environments, the primary reason is because the Home and Data trees should not be overwritten; Marketers will want to punch you if you do.

Putting it all together

So let's recap what we have.
  • Visual studio projects for Website, Project, Foundation, and Feature.
  • Unicorn serialization configurations that capture root nodes for the company (Website) and then other configurations for the tenant and site (Project). Foundation and Feature work the same way but have no information about the tenant/site.
  • Unicorn serialization configurations take into account what developers want to capture and own versus what should be deployed to other environments.
  • Unicorn files and configurations are removed before each deployment to ensure renamed or unused files are removed.
Here's a short video to add more detail.Thanks for watching!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Build a Location Finder search using SXA

Recently I've been playing around with the new Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) and wanted to share something that is possible without any coding.

Here's a preview in case you don't want to read the rest of the post.

Isn't the kitty cute? Moving on...

SXA is bundled with quite a number of search components. Let us see what is in use.
  • Location Finder - essentially a search box with label and button.
  • Search Results - just like it sounds.
  • Filter (Radius) - used to reduce the search results by geospatial comparison.
  • Map - a map using the Google Maps JavaScript API.
When you add search components to the page, they automatically interact with one another. In the event you want to have multiple searches on the same page, change the signature property on the components.

I have no need to make the search signature unique for this page so I will leave it empty. 

Another interesting part about these components is the use of the hash parameters. In this example, I changed the distance filter to 500 miles and the data was automatically populated in the url.

In the above image, the hash query contains an entry for the geolocation (g), order (o), and distance (DistanceMi).

Let's have a look at each of the search components in greater detail.

Location Finder

This control deals with accepting search criteria from the user in the form of a city, state, or zip code.

As you enter data in the field you'll see the Google Autocomplete feature activate. Selecting the city will immediately trigger the hash query to update with the new location which in turn runs a search.

As of version 1.1 there is no out of the box way to limit the results by country or city.

Note: Before adding this component to the page you'll need to create a few settings.

Distance Facet
I created a new DistanceFacet item to specify that the filter will use the unit of miles. Add a new facet under Settings -> Facets.

Location Filter
Next I created a new LocationFilter item to be used as the data source. This item makes use of the  DistanceFacet. Go ahead and set the placeholder text, label text, and finally the button text. Add a new filter under Data -> Search -> Location Filter.

Search Results

This control is responsible for rendering the queried items. We will need an item to specify the search scope.

The Scope item uses a Sitecore query to get the appropriate data. The query needs to return items that inherit from the POI template which contains fields like Latitude and Longitude. Add a new scope under Settings -> Scopes.

I used this query to get the job done. The default scope is the entire site so be sure to do this. Further down in this post you'll see how I created the POI items returned by this query.


While you are there make sure that the Search Results component has a default data source for use when no results are found under Data -> Search -> Search Results.

Edit the component properties to make use of the scope and default result.

Filter (Radius)

This control enhances the results by filtering our the specified radius (miles or kilometers).

Radius Filter
The Radius Filter item specifies which distance facet to use. Add it under Data -> Search -> Radius Filter.

Radius Scheme
The Radius Scheme item specifies which options are available for filtering.

Note: I was not quite sure where to place the Radius Scheme item because no insert option existed so I placed it under Data -> Search -> Radius Filter. I also didn't know the Radius Scheme existed until I dug around to see what I needed to create. Looking forward to the detailed documentation for each of this features in the near future.


This control renders the search results on a map with location markers. The search results need to have the Latitude and Longitude populated for this to work properly. Be sure to create a Map item under Data -> Maps before adding this control to the page.

POI Type
The POI Type item provides a way to customize the marker icon. For this demo I created a new POI type under Presentation -> POI Types, which allowed me to specify the awesome SPE custom marker icon.

The POI item as mentioned before contains the Latitude and Longitude necessary for the spatial search to function. I used the POI Group item to help organize the POI items by state. Notice that the Type field uses the custom SPE POI.

Each of the cities are represented by the base POI which comes with a title, description, and image field.

Rendering Variants
The creation of new Rendering Variants for these controls is the last piece to making this work. The following should be added or updated to meet your visual needs.

For the POI rendering variant I set the Default Variant on the custom SPE POI. This should influence the presentation of the InfoWindow that appears on the map.

For the Search Results rendering variant I created a new Location Variant and applied it in the Experience Editor for the component.

I styled the rendering variant to help position the title, description, latitude, longitude, and image into the beautiful structure seen above.


That's pretty much all it takes to build a custom Location Finder on your website. The only code required was using SPE to siphon all of the geo data and images into Sitecore.

Additional Resources
If you haven't checked out Reinoud's post on Partial Designs and Page Designs I would highly recommend you do that today as it will give you some clue at how to build up the page in this article. Looks like there was even a refresh on the icons too!

I've chosen to use the Basic provided with SXA rather than the Wireframe theme so all my images show up.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sitecore PowerShell Extensions Remoting v2

Let me start off by saying that the work done by Himadri here is a great example at the flexibility of SPE. Not long ago Adam posted about Remoting in SPE, it became clear that we needed to have a Windows PowerShell module that users can setup outside of Sitecore that would come with all the necessary commands to interact with SPE. In our 3.1 release we included the module, so feel free to grab that now.

In this post I would like to show some recent enhancements made in 3.2 that will make interacting with SPE even better!

The packaged Windows PowerShell module can be found on the marketplace listed as SPE Remoting. That is the preferred method for interacting with SPE outside of the Sitecore environment. If you wish to use the same code from within the browser, such as to interact with another instance of SPE, you'll find the commands under here:
master:/system/Modules/PowerShell/Script Library/Platform/Functions/Remoting2

We've included all of the documentation below in our book.
When you execute the script or import the module you'll get the following commands:
  • New-ScriptSession - This can be reused between calls to all the other commands.
  • Invoke-RemoteScript - Best option for performing any remote script execution.
  • Send-MediaItem - Remotely upload.
  • Receive-MediaItem - Remotely download.
Let's walk through a few examples at using the commands.

Create a new session object that will contain a reference to the SPE session id and the web service proxy. Next we invoke a scriptblock on the server within the session.

If you would like to download images from the media library you can do something as simple as the following:

If you would like to upload images from the filesystem to the media library you can do something like this:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sitecore PowerShell Extensions - System Maintenance

Here recently I was thinking about how I could perform some of the system maintenance tasks that you would have to manually run from the Sitecore Control Panel. I decided to add these scripts to the System Maintenance script module in the Sitecore PowerShell Extensions module. I hope this encourages you to spend a little more time in SPE.

// michael

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sitecore PowerShell Extensions Tip - Count Items

Today I needed a quick report to find out the number of "pages" on our site. I came up with a quick estimate using the Sitecore PowerShell Extensions module.

I hope this encourages you to spend a little more time in SPE.

// michael