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Wrap a User Control inside a Web Part using WSPBuilder

July 23, 2009 11 comments

This post will describe how to wrap an ASP.NET User Control in a Web Part for deployment to SharePoint using WSPBuilder. Sharp-eyed readers will notice the similarity with the SharePoint Guidance package article How to: Wrap a User Control Inside of a Web Part for SharePoint which is intential only in an attempt to provide a useful comparison between the different tools, VSeWSS and WSPBuilder.

Creating the Web Part

This procedure demonstrates how to create an ASP.NET Web Part to wrap the user control.

To create the ASP.NET Web Part

  1. In Visual Studio, point to New on the File menu, and then click Project.
  2. In the Project types pane, click WSPBuilder. In the Templates pane, click WSPBuilder Project. In the Name box, type MyWebPart, and then click OK.
  3. Right-click the MyWebPart project, point to Add, and then click New Item…
  4. In the Categories pane, click WSPBuilder. In the Templates pane, click Web Part Feature. In the Name box, type MyWebPart, and then click OK.
  5. In the Feature Settings dialog, type My Web Part for the Title, A web part built using WSPBuilder for the Description and set the Scope to be Web. Click OK.
  6. Open the elements.xml file and edit the values for the Group and QuickAddGroups properties. The following code shows the corrected values:
  7. <Property Name="Group" Value="My Group"></Property>
    <Property Name="QuickAddGroups" Value="My Group" />
    
  8. Right-click on the MyWebPart soluction, then select Build Solution. Note the PublicKeyToken for the compiled assembly.
  9. Optional: Add the following property to the Properties block in the MyWebPart.webpart file to prevent users from closing the web part once it is on a page:
  10. <property name="AllowClose" type="boolean">False</property>

Adding ASP.NET Project Types to the WSPBuilder Project

This procedure demonstrates how to add the ASP.NET web application templates to a WSPBuilder project. This is required to permit the use of the ASP.NET User Control within the WSPBuilder project.

To add the ASP.NET templates

  1. In Visual Studio, right-click on the MyWebPart project and select Unload Project.
  2. Right-click on the MyWebPart project again and select Edit MyWebPart.csproj. Locate the ProjectTypeGuids element and add the ASP.NET web application project type guid {349C5851-65DF-11DA-9384-00065B846F21}. The following code shows the corrected element:
  3. <ProjectTypeGuids>{349C5851-65DF-11DA-9384-00065B846F21};{FAE04EC0-301F-11D3-BF4B-00C04F79EFBC}</ProjectTypeGuids>
  4. Save and then close the MyWebPart.csproj file.
  5. Right-click on the MyWebPart project and select Reload Project.
  6. Right-click on the MyWebPart project and select Properties On the Application tab, change the Target Framework to be .NET Framework 3.5. Save the changes.

Creating the ASP.NET User Control

This procedure demonstrates how to create an ASP.NET user control that uses SharePoint.

To create the ASP.NET user control

  1. In Visual Studio, right-click the TEMPLATE folder, select Add then click New Folder. Name the folder CONTROLTEMPLATES.
  2. Right-click the CONTROLTEMPLATES folder, select Add then click New Folder. Name the folder MyWebPart
  3. Right-click the MyWebPart folder, select Add then click New Item.
  4. In the Categories pane, click Web. In the Templates pane, click Web User Control. Name the control MyWebUserControl.ascx, and then click Add.
  5. Delete the CodeBehind attribute in the MyWebUserControl.ascx file. Replace the Inherits attribute with MyWebPart.MyWebUserControl, MyWebPart, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=[your PublicKeyToken]. The following code shows the corrected file:
  6. <%@ Control Language="C#" AutoEventWireup="true" Inherits="MyWebPart.MyWebUserControl, MyWebPart, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=9410bf5b454f3bbd" %>
  7. Open the MyWebUserControl.ascx file in the designer view. Click the Toolbox, and then add a Label using a drag-and-drop operation. Switch to the code view and rename the ID property to be MyLabel.
  8. Open the MyWebUserControl.ascx.cs file and the MyWebUserControl.ascx.designer.cs file. Change the namespace to MyWebPart in both files.
  9. Open the MyWebUserControl.ascx.cs file. Add a public string property named DisplayText to the MyWebUserControl class. The following code demonstrates this:
  10. public string DisplayText { get; set; }
  11. Add the following code to the Page_Load method. This will display the value of the DisplayText property using the MyLabel control.
  12. protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        MyLabel.Text = DisplayText;
    }

Wrapping the User Control and Connecting the Properties

This procedure demonstrates how to wrap the user control inside the web part and connect the properties between SharePoint, the web wart and the user control.

To wrap the user control and connect the properties

  1. Open the MyWebPart.cs file.
  2. Edit the attributes of the MyProperty property. The code below shows the changes:
  3. [Personalizable(PersonalizationScope.Shared)]
    [WebBrowsable(true)]
    [System.ComponentModel.Category("Custom")]
    [WebDisplayName("MyProperty")]
    [WebDescription("Message to be displayed within Web Part")]
    
  4. Within the CreateChildControls() method, delete the single line of code under the // Your code here... comment. Enter code to load the MyWebUserControl, assign the value of MyProperty to the DisplayText property of the control and then add the control to the web part’s Controls collection. The code below demonstrates how to do this:
  5. // Your code here...
    MyWebUserControl myControl = 
       (MyWebUserControl)Page.LoadControl("~/_controltemplates/MyWebPart/MyWebUserControl.ascx");
    myControl.DisplayText = MyProperty;
    this.Controls.Add(myControl);
    
  6. Right-click on the MyWebPart solution and select Rebuild Solution.

The completed solution structure is shown below:

SolutionStructure

Deploying the Web Part and Testing Functionality

This procedure demonstrates how to deploy the web part and the user control, and how to test their functionality. This procedure assumes that there is a local instance of SharePoint to deploy to.

To deploy the web part

  1. Right-click on the MyWebPart project, select WSPBuilder and then Build WSP. Follow the progress of the build in the Output window and wait for the process to complete.
  2. Right-click on the MyWebPart project, select WSPBuilder and then Deploy. Follow the progress of the build in the Output window and wait for the process to complete.
  3. Browse to the local SharePoint site.
  4. In the Site Actions drop-down box, click Site Settings. On the Site Settings page, click on the Site features link.
  5. Click on the Activate button next to the My Web Part feature.
  6. Click on the link to the default home page for the SharePoint site.
  7. In the Site Actions drop-down box, click Edit Page.
  8. Click Add a Web Part in one of the Web Part zones on the page, click the My Web Part Web Part (located in the My Group section), and then click Add.
  9. Click Exit Edit Mode. You should now see the default “Hello SharePoint” message.
  10. To change the text displayed, click the drop-down box on the Web Part, and then click Modify Shared Web Part.
  11. Expand the Custom group, enter the new display message in the My Property box, and then click Apply.
  12. Click Exit Edit Mode. You should now see the new message.

Notes

  1. Obtaining the PublicKeyToken from the compiled assembly is detailed in numerous places however I recommend Todd Bleeker’s blog.
  2. The MyWebPart.cs file produced by WSPBuilder contains much more “helper” code than that created by VSeWSS. Although this is useful in that it provides an example of a browsable web part property and some hints on where to place customisations, most of the code can be stripped out if required. Only the CreateChildControls() method is mandatory.
  3. WSPBuilder will deploy to all web applications within the local SharePoint farm.
  4. Take care over providing the correct path to the user control when calling the LoadControl() method.

Alternatives

As an alternative to modifying the ProjectTypeGuid property, it is possible to add an ASP.NET Web Application project to the solution and then xcopy the project outputs to the correct location within the WSPBuilder project.

Greg Galipeau provides a excellent walkthrough of this approach.

Windows 2008 & SQL Server 2008 Development Environment Tips

Given the requirements for SharePoint 2010, I suspect it will be increasingly common for SharePoint development environments to move to 64-bit Windows 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

Here are a few tips to help get your favourite development working as they should:

Turn off User Access Control
Most developers log into their development environment using an account with local administrator privileges. User Access Control (UAC) however means that the account can only perform administrative operations when applications are explicitly run as an administrator and doesn’t permit spawned applications to inherit the administrator permission.

This is especially important for WSPBuilder which executes a command-line tool to build and deploy the WSP file. With UAC turned on you may encounter the following “pre-flight” errors:

  • SharePoint is not installed on [host]
  • Microsoft Office Server is not installed on [host]
  • Microsoft SharePoint Services Administration is not running on [host]
  • Microsoft SharePoint Services Timer is not running on [host]

Check permissions within SQL Server 2008
Basic I know, but it is worth reviewing the security settings on the SQL Server 2008 instance to make sure that the account used to deploy solutions has sufficient permission. In the development environment you are master of your own domain, so go wild and give it sysadmin privileges.

Some symptoms of not having sufficient permission include:

  • WSPBuilder
    User [account] does not have installation permissions on [host]
  • VSeWSS
    VSeWSS Service Error: No SharePoint Site exists at the specified URL.

Further thoughts on VSeWSS…

Having maligned the previous versions of VSeWSS, I feel it’s only fair to provide more feedback on the latest version… I’ve been using the March CTP version of VSeWSS 1.3 for a while now and it is a vast improvement on the previous versions.

However I still have issues with the solution, manifest and feature XML files being hidden under the pkg folder and VSeWSS automagically updating them on every build. Care needs to be taken in editing these XML files to avoid losing changes or ending up with multiple features, and supporting folders, being created with _1 (or _2 or _3 if you’re really unlucky) appended to the end.

Fortunately there is some guidance on the supported modifications to these files in the latest release notes.

However, in summary, I think VSeWSS 1.3 is very useful SharePoint development tool and I’m looking forward to the full release.

…the alternatives…

One of the advantages offered by VSeWSS is the tight integration with Visual Studio however with the advent of the WSPBuilder Extensions for Visual Studio the game has changed.

Using the WSPBuilder Extensions add-in, SharePoint projects can be created in Visual Studio just as easily as with VSeWSS. WSPBuilder offers a slightly different set of pre-configured SharePoint development projects; these are well described by Tobias Zimmergren on his blog.

WSPBuilder gives the developer access to the feature and element XML files and doesn’t seek to obfuscate them; which is good. The solution and manifest files are generated automatically by WSPBuilder and only visible by extracting the contents of the WSP package. This could prove problematic if any manual edits are required.

It appears that the WSPBuilder extensions still uses the command-line version of the tool to produce the WSP file and therefore can’t use files added to the Visual Studio project as a link because they don’t exist in the physical file structure of the project.

The ability to add linked files is very useful when developing an ASP.NET application to be hosted within SharePoint as the actual .aspx files can be added to the SharePoint solution without xcopying them from the ASP.NET web application’s solution. It is also the method used by the patterns and practices group in their SharePoint Guidance for wrapping an ASP.NET user control in a web part.

Finally, it’s somewhat annoying that WSPBuilder targets all web applications within the farm by default and I’ve not been able to change this behaviour yet.

…and the future

And, as a last word, Visual Studio 2010 should offer built-in SharePoint development projects. Once I’ve had a play with the CTP hopefully I’ll be in a position to offer an opinion on how these compare.

Are we there yet?

You need to know what you want to achieve before you can claim to have achieved it.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Paul Culmsee’s insightful blogging at CleverWorkarounds and in particular his series focussed on the importance of shared understanding in preventing SharePoint projects from failing.

This has all come from advising on SharePoint development recommendations which transformed into providing detail on more general SharePoint governance that then metamorphosed into attempting to define the business requirements for implementing SharePoint in the first place. I’d liken the experience to taking a series of steps backward to gain a wider view of an sculpture only to discover that you’ve inadvertently left the art gallery.

The real problem is that currently there are no clear business requirements and little awareness throughout the organisation about the potential benefits. This threatens to result in other, more business critical, projects venturing down paths that don’t lend themselves to SharePoint integration at a later date.

This is something of a journey of discovery beyond that of the normal technical nature of this blog but if I can glean anything of value for other developers/architects then I’ll carry on posting on this theme.

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