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A Tridion tree-walk in Powershell

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Apr 08, 2013 08:30 PM |
Filed under: , ,

Now that I've got some reasonably terse syntax working for Tridion scripting, it's time to start building out some tooling to make the whole thing useful. It's quite often useful to be able to enumerate everything in your Tridion system, so walking the tree is a basic operation. You don't want to write the tree walk every time you have a different operation to perform, so it's handy to abstract the mechanics of the recursion out into a function. Somewhere in the nether regions of this blog, you'll find a JavaScript implementation of such a function. The basic technique I used in JavaScript was to have my tree-walking function accept a "process" function as an argument. For each item in your system, this is invoked, and is able to perform whatever processing is necessary on your item. (In the JavaScript version, I actually had two functions: process and filter. The filter function was responsible for deciding whether the item was interesting to process. In practice, this is probably too much abstraction. You can just as easily code an if-block in your process function, so on this occasion I'm restricting myself to just the one.)

To anyone who has written any JavaScript, it's pretty much impossible to miss the fact that functions are first-class objects. It may not be immediately apparent that this is true in Powershell, but it is. A Script Block in Powershell, is simply an anonymous function, and you can pass them around in variables or as parameters to other functions. (These days, the concept isn't even weird to C# hackers, what with lambda expressions and all.)

So - here goes: if you start with the function "recurseTridionItems" shown below....

import-module Reflection
import-namespace Tridion.ContentManager.CoreService.Client

function recurseTridionItems{
	[int]$level = 0
	$ro = new-object ReadOptions
	if ($parent -eq $null){
		[PublicationData[]]$items = @($core.GetSystemWideList((new-object PublicationsFilterData)))
		foreach ($item in $items) {
			$fullItem = $core.Read($item.Id, $ro)
			&$Scriptblock $fullItem $level
			recurseTridionItems $core $fullItem $scriptblock ($level + 1)
	else {
		if ($parent -is [OrganizationalItemData]){
			$items = $core.GetList($parent.Id, (new-object OrganizationalItemItemsFilterData))
		} else {
			$items = $core.GetList($parent.Id, (new-object RepositoryItemsFilterData))

		foreach($item in $items) {
			$fullItem = $core.Read($item.Id, $ro)
			&$Scriptblock $fullItem $level
			if ($fullItem -is [PublicationData]) {
				recurseTridionItems $core $fullItem $scriptblock ($level + 1)
			} elseif ($item -is [OrganizationalItemData]) {
				recurseTridionItems $core $fullItem $scriptblock ($level + 1)

... this will take care of all the tree walking. For an example to show how you might use this, I've written a script block that outputs the Title of the item, indented based on the recursion level.

EDIT: my first version of this function didn't re-read the items that come from GetList. It worked fine for the trivial case of listing the titles but as soon as I tried anything more interesting, I discovered that GetList returns objects that are only partially loaded. This is apparently by design, as the documentation mentions it.

recurseTridionItems $core $null {param($item,$level)"`t" * $level + $item.Title}

On my system, this produces output like this:

_Empty Master
        Building Blocks
                Default Templates
                        Outbound E-mail
                                Generate Plain Text E-mail
                                Outbound E-mail Post-processing
                                Outbound E-mail Pre-processing
                                Generate Plain Text E-mail
                                Outbound E-mail Post-processing
                                Outbound E-mail Pre-processing
                                Set Output Item By Email Mode
                        SDL External Content Library
                                Adjust SiteEdit 2009 markup for External Content Library i
                                Adjust SiteEdit 2012 markup for External Content Library i
                                Resolve External Content Library items
                                Search External Content Library items
                        Component Query
                        Convert Html to Xml
                        Convert Xml to Html
                        Default Finish Actions
                        Dreamweaver Region Selection
                        Enable inline editing for content
                        Enable inline editing for Page
                        Extract Binaries from Html
                        Image Resizer
                        Link Resolver
                        Publish Binaries in Package
                        Default Component Template
                        Default Component Template for UGC
                        Default Page Template
                        Default Page Template for UGC
                        Activate Tracking
                        Cleanup Template
                        Component Query
                        Convert Html to Xml
                        Convert Xml to Html
                        Default Dreamweaver Component Design
                        Default Dreamweaver Page Design
                        Default Finish Actions
                        Default UGC Dreamweaver Template design
                        Enable inline editing for content
                        Enable inline editing for Page
                        Enable User Generated Content Processing
                        Extract Binaries from Html
                        Extract Components from Page
                        Image Resizer
                        Link Resolver
                        Publish Binaries in Package
                        Sample XSLT Component Design
                        Target Group Personalization
                Default Multimedia Schema
01 Definitions
        Building Blocks
                Default Templates
                        Outbound E-mail
                                Generate Plain Text E-mail

I think I'll truncate it there: you get the picture. Obviously, this is a trivial use-case that probably isn't terribly useful on an industrial scale installation. Fortunately, your script-block doesn't have to be a one-liner, and you can easily expand on this technique to meet your own needs. I should think I'll find quite a few uses for it myself. Just one word of caution: this was just a quick hack, and I haven't tested it exhaustively.

Straightforward Powershell scripting with the Tridion core service

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Apr 04, 2013 11:30 PM |

Almost exactly a year ago, I blogged about Getting to grips with the Tridion core service in Powershell. The core service had been around for a while even then, and the point was to actually start using it for some of the scripting tasks I had habitually done via the TOM. In many ways the TOM was much more script-friendly. Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that it was created expressly for use from scripting languages. The Tridion core service API wasn't. I don't know exactly what they had in mind, but I'd imagine the thinking was that most mainstream users would use C#. Yeah, sure - any compliant .NET language would do, but F#? Nah!

But a year further on, and where are all those scripts I was going to write? I have to say, the comfort zone for scripting is quite different than for writing "proper" programmes. There's huge usefulness in being able to hack out something quickly, and very much a sense that stuff will be intermingled ina-code-is-data-stylee. So when I started actually trying to use the core service for scripting tasks, it sucked pretty hard. There were two main areas of difficulty:

  1. Getting the core service wired up in the first place
  2. Powershell doesn't natively have the equivalent of C#'s using directive to allow you to avoid typing the full namespace of your type.


I covered the first point last year. Suffice it to say that currently, I'm still using Peter Kjaer's Tridion powershell module, although at the moment I'm running a local copy, modified to cope with the Tridion 2013 client, and also to allow me to specify which protocol I want to use. (Obviously I don't want to have a permanent fork, so with a bit of luck, Peter will be able to integrate some of this work into the next release of the module.) On a related subject, my experience has been that working with the core service client has some fundamental differences with using the TOM. You could keep a TDSE lying around for minutes at a time, and it would still be usable, even after a method call had failed. The core service, even when you're on the same server, is most definitely a web service. Failed calls tend to leave your connection in a "faulted" state (i.e. unusable), and the timeouts are generally shorter. Once you are aware of this, you can adjust your coding style accordingly, but it adds somewhat to the ritual.

The namespace issue is on the face of it more trivial. OK - so it's a PITA to have to type something like:

$folder = new-object Tridion.ContentManager.CoreService.Client.FolderData

when all you wanted was a folder. You could argue: "well it works, doesn't it? Get over it!". However, I found all this extra verbiage too much of a distraction, not only when reading and editing longer scripts, but also when "knocking off a quick one". After all, what's the point of having a great scripting environment if your one-liners aren't?

So what to do? Well I scoured the Internet, and discovered that Powershell has something called a Type Accelerator. You've seen these often enough, as there are several available by default. For example, you can (and should) type "[string]" when what you really mean is "[System.String]". Unfortunately, creating type accelerators isn't completely straightforward, but No Worries, the Powershell community is vibrant and there are implementations available that take care of it for you. (OK, at the time of writing I know of one that works, but that's enough, eh? My first Googling had taken me to the Type Accelerators module (PSTX) at codeplex. At first this seemed to be useful, but as soon as I moved to Tridion 2013, support for Powershell 3 became a hard requirement. This project is not actively maintained, and it doesn't work in Powershell 3. As I said, it's not straightforward to wire up type accelerators, and the code uses an undocumented API, which changed. Not Microsoft's fault.)

At this point, I went to the Powershell IRC channel (#powershell on freenode) and asked there if anyone knew about fixes or updates. I was steered in the direction of Jaykul's reflection module, available on Poshcode. (Make sure you get the latest version, and beware of the script getting truncated.) Installing modules is a fairly straightforward task: often as simple as dropping the files into a suitably named directory in your WindowsPowerShell modules directory (sometimes you need to "unblock" them) . Here's a shot of what mine looks like: (What you can see is C:\Users\Administrator\Documents\WindowsPowerShell\Modules)

My Modules folder

In there you can see the Reflection module and AutoLoad (which is another module it depends on). Apart from that you can see the Tridion core service module (and Pscx).

With all this in place, you are set to start writing your "straightforward" Tridion scripts. I've chosen to demonstrate this by hacking out a script that will create a default publication layout for you. It will be a handy tool to have on my research image, but mostly it's to show some real-world scripting.

param ($publicationPrefix = "")

$core = Get-TridionCoreServiceClient -protocol nettcp
import-module reflection
import-namespace Tridion.ContentManager.CoreService.Client

function createPublication {
	write-host "Creating publication $title"
	$newPublication = $core.GetDefaultData([ItemType]::Publication,"",$null)
	$newPublication.Title = $title
	if ($key -eq [string]::Empty){
		$newPublication.Key = $title
	else {
		$newPublication.Key = $key
	foreach ($parent in $parents){
		$link = new-object LinkToRepositoryData
		if ($parent -match "^tcm:"){
			$link.IdRef = $parent
		} elseif ($parent -match "^/webdav"){
			$link.WebDavUrl = $parent
		} else {
		$newPublication.Parents += $link
	if ($Passthru){
		$core.Create($newPublication, (new-object ReadOptions))
	else {

function createFolder([SessionAwareCoreServiceClient]$core, [string]$parentId, [string]$title, [switch]$Passthru){
	write-Host "Creating folder $title"
	$newFolder = $core.GetDefaultData([ItemType]::Folder, $parentId, $null)
	$newFolder.Title = $title
	if ($Passthru){
		$core.Create($newFolder, (new-object ReadOptions))
	else {
		$core.Create($newFolder, $null)

function createStructureGroup([SessionAwareCoreServiceClient]$core, [string]$parentId, [string]$title, [string]$directory, [switch]$Passthru){
	write-Host "Creating Structure Group $title"
	$newStructureGroup = $core.GetDefaultData([ItemType]::StructureGroup, $parentId, $null)
	$newStructureGroup.Title = $title
	$newStructureGroup.Directory = $directory
	if ($Passthru){
		$core.Create($newStructureGroup, (new-object ReadOptions))
	else {
		$core.Create($newStructureGroup, $null)

$chainMasterPub = createPublication $core "$($publicationPrefix)ChainMaster" -Passthru
$rsg = createStructureGroup $core $chainMasterPub.Id "root" "root" -Passthru

$definitionsPub = createPublication $core "$($publicationPrefix)Definitions" -parents @($chainMasterPub.Id) -Passthru
$systemFolder = createFolder $core  $definitionsPub.RootFolder.IdRef "System" -Passthru
createFolder $core $systemFolder.Id "Schemas"

$contentPub = createPublication $core "$($publicationPrefix)Content" -parents @($definitionsPub.Id) -Passthru
$contentFolder = createFolder $core $contentPub.RootFolder.IdRef "Content" -Passthru

$layoutPub = createPublication $core "$($publicationPrefix)Layout" -parents @($definitionsPub.Id) -Passthru
createFolder $core $core.GetTcmUri($systemFolder.Id, $layoutPub.Id, $null) "Templates"

createPublication $core "$($publicationPrefix)Web" -parents @($contentPub.Id,$layoutPub.Id)

The script accepts a parameter which lets me prefix the publications with some name relevant to whatever I'm doing, so if you invoke it like this:

PS C:\code\dominic\tridion> .\CreateDefaultStructure.ps1 "Apple"
Connecting to the Core Service at localhost...
Creating publication Apple 00 ChainMaster
Creating Structure Group root
Creating publication Apple 01 Definitions
Creating folder System
Creating folder Schemas
Creating publication Apple 02 Content
Creating folder Content
Creating publication Apple 03 Layout
Creating folder Templates
Creating publication Apple 04 Web
PS C:\code\dominic\tridion> .\CreateDefaultStructure.ps1 "Banana"
Connecting to the Core Service at localhost...
Creating publication Banana 00 ChainMaster
Creating Structure Group root
Creating publication Banana 01 Definitions
Creating folder System
Creating folder Schemas
Creating publication Banana 02 Content
Creating folder Content
Creating publication Banana 03 Layout
Creating folder Templates
Creating publication Banana 04 Web
PS C:\code\dominic\tridion>

... you end up with publications like this:

The resulting publications


I import the Tridion-CoreService module in my Powershell profile, so it's not needed in the script. (As noted earlier, my copy is a bit hacked, as you can see from the fact that I'm passing a protocol parameter to Get-TridionCoreServiceClient). I don't import the reflection module by default, so this is done in the script, followed immediately by "import-namespace Tridion.ContentManager.CoreService.Client", which is the magic from the Reflection module that wires up all the type accelerators. Once this is done, you can see that I can simply type [ReadOptions] instead of [Tridion.ContentManager.CoreService.Client.ReadOptions], and so on. Much better, I think! :-)

If you're wondering about the -Passthru switch on my functions, this is a powershell idiom that lets you indicate whether or not you are interested in the return value. In Tridion, this is controlled by whether or not you pass a ReadOptions argument. Perhaps obviously, the Read() method wouldn't make any sense if it didn't return anything, so a $null works fine - I'm still agonizing over whether it would be more stylish to pass a ReadOptions anyway. What do you think?)

Actually that's a good question. What do you think? I'm still trying to find my feet in terms of the correct idioms for this kind of work. Let's get the debate out in the open. Feel free to say mean things about my code (not obligatory). I've got a thick skin, and I'd genuinely value your feedback, especially if you think I'm doing it wrong.

Dominic is no longer a geek

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Mar 03, 2013 10:08 PM |

For as long as I've run a web site at, I've run the server at home, and used the free services of DynDns to take care of the fact that my Internet Service provider assigns my IP address dynamically.The way this works is that DynDns have a list of domains that they will let you use for free by assigning you a sub-domain. One of these domains (perhaps the most famous) is "". For the last several years, I have had the use of "". For free. So thanks DynDns. There's a protocol for automatically updating the IP address associated with this name, so should I ever get assigned a different IP, the dynamic DNS name would stay pointing to the right place. When you type in "" into your browser, it actually goes to the DNS services at Qweb somewhere near Rotterdam, who host the records for my "real" domain name. The response you get from there includes a CNAME record pointing at (or at least it did), and for all practical purposes, you end up at the right place.

Of course, it's great that DynDns offer these free services, but sooner or later they want people to upgrade to their paid services, so for the last few years they've made it so that you have to "refresh" your free name every month. They send an email, you click on a link, and all is good. At least until today, when i realised that not only had my free name expired, they also wouldn't give it back to me if I wanted to stay a cheapskate. They had obviously cottoned on to the fact that the is-a-geek names are desirable (to some people). So there it is. My long-standing use of is over. The end of an era, I suppose.

For what it's worth, I'm still using a free DynDns account, but now it's "". Doesn't have the same ring about it, though. :-(

Fortunately - these days, QWeb have an excellent web administration interface, and within half an hour of realising the problem, I had it all joined up and working again. So I might be QWeb's most insignificant customer - it's hard to imagine anyone buying smaller amounts of service from them - but I'm definitely a happy customer.

As for DynDns - sure, I'm crying inside, but really - you can't accept free service for years and then whinge about it. It wouldn't be right, especially as they are still keeping my site running.

Alt text, title text and web content management

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Mar 03, 2013 09:35 PM |

I've been reading Alvin Reyes' recent blog post about "alt" text for images, and how you should manage it in Tridion. That triggered me to think about a few of these issues, and I'd like to respond to Alvin's post, and perhaps also broaden out the discussion a bit.

The typical scenario he describes is that you have a "content" component which links to a multimedia component representing an image. In the web site output, of course, the alt text needs to be associated with the image, but Alvin raises some questions over where we should manage this data in the CMS. He starts off by saying that the "Common practice" (of putting the alt text in the metadata of the multimedia component) is wrong, and that instead you should put the alt text in the content component. OK - so he then goes on to show that he understands the practical benefits of keeping the alt text with the image, and suggests a couple of other approaches, including putting the data in both places.

What Alvin describes may indeed be good practice for some organisations, but so much depends on the requirements. I think perhaps the most important take away from this discussion might be that unless you can elicit accurate requirements, you are going to get this wrong. Let's face it, the "common practice" technique is pretty solid. You have metadata that describes an image, so you manage it with the image. This isn't just an 80:20 rule, it's a 99% rule. The cases where you need multiple descriptions of the same image are rare in practice. Perhaps the obvious exception is where you're using the image as a link. Stop there a second... I mean the case where you're using a meaningful image to link to something and the description of your linking image is inappropriate for your link target.

OK - before I get carried away, let's deal with this. Firstly - there ought to be various distinct multimedia schemas in your site, intended for different purposes. Having a single "Image" schema is probably an anti-pattern. Tridion schemas have great support for constraining the choice of multimedia schema in helpful ways. (Although maybe it's weaker in Rich Text format areas). If you really, truly have a site where simple 80:20-rule alt text down on the bare metal doesn't work, then you can probably isolate the difficult cases to a particular image type or types. Obviously, you will want a schema for layout images (Lime green bullet, gothic top left corner, and so forth.) This schema should not allow for alt text, and the templating should always emit an empty alt attribute.

Then let's imagine we have a News schema, which allows for a relevant picture. When displaying the detail view of the news item, you obviously want the alt text that describes the image. "President Obama concedes defeat to the President of the NRA, at their meeting at the Whitehouse". When you render the thumbnail variant of the same image in a list of news items, the alt text will tell you that it's a link, and use the title of the news item. "Link to: Hope dies for gun control as Obama confirms his commitment to 2nd Amendment". You don't need to store any extra metadata to do this. Your multimedia schema (News event image) has exactly the metadata it needs, and your news item schema allows you to use multimedia components of this schema for adding a picture of the news event being described. (Should you also have a distinct schema for pictures whose only purpose is to look nice?)

Of course, there are sites where a high value is placed on accessibility, and where they'll do everything. Often these are government sites, or those of large enterprises that can afford the investment in keeping a squeaky clean image on how they treat the disabled. This still isn't the majority, though - by any means. The rest don't want to pay for it, and by that, I don't just mean they don't want to pay for the extra complexity in implementing all the bells and whistles. Perhaps even more to the point, they don't want to invest the extra effort that it will cost their "content" department to actually work with all this extra detail. To achieve an accessible web site, you need more than just clued-in technologists. The web content people need a pretty sophisticated understanding of the issues too. For alt text, they need to know when it should be empty, and they need to know how to write it with the right amount of context when it is needed. Generally, if you have optional fields in your schema, you'll need fairly good editorial control to ensure that it gets filled in at all. When your implementation has some sort of fallback mechanism that puts in a default when you leave it empty, how are you going to deal with that? An extra checkbox next to the alt text field that says "Yes, I really meant to leave it empty". (I'm joking, but if you're doing the site for a blind peoples' charity, you might even go to these extremes). So even with all the complexity built in to your implementation, you're still going to have to send all the content workers on courses where they get to play with screen readers and live for a day like the visually disadvantaged part of their audience, and then you're going to have to repeat this often enough to keep it real next year, and the year after.

So - most organisations aim way lower. If I had a Euro for every professional web content worker I've met who didn't know the difference between title text and alt text, I could probably go on a nice holiday. This is by no means a tirade against the content workers. Most of them are working very, very hard just keeping their sites updated, and it's no wonder they just want the CMS implementation to magically take care of all that accessibility stuff. If you put a separate field for alt text and title text, or a separate field for alt text in a different context, they will probably write something straightforward, paste it in all those places, and then curse you (again) for an idiot for making them do that last step (again). And then they'll go home and tweet that they hate Tridion.

So again, it's about the requirements. Requirements, requirements, requirements!. If your organisation is very, very keen on getting this stuff right, then your shiny new implementation isn't going to help them unless they plan for those training sessions for the web team, and then allow the content team to adjust their estimates on every new piece of content to allow for all that extra effort.... It's half past four in the afternoon, and someone in marketing or communications has emailed them a word document with the text of the press release that absolutely must hit the site at midnight tonight. Knocking-off time is half past five, but what the heck, we'll stay late to show commitment, but really, if I'm staying late it had better be for something more profound than faffing around with the third variation of the alt text. The chief editor might just bother to look for a tooltip on the image if they are on the ball, and the rest of the team are already in the pub. Whatever!

So really - if you are in that elite group that wants to do full-on accessibility, and understands and is willing to deal with the implications, good for you. Alvin's "ultimate practice" might be for you, but that'll be OK, because the team will know enough to be able to work with it. If, on the other hand, you want to do the right thing (so presumably you'll go at least as far as some moderately good alt text) the best bet might be to just stick with putting the alt text in the image component, and re-using this text for the title attribute. At least, make sure you have the requirements discussion, because the costs are very clearly not just one-off implementation costs. Even that copy-paste-paste-paste cycle will cost them time and patience every single day. Anyway - my point is that the web content management implementation needs to support the actual practices that people want or expect to follow in their day to day work.

While we're on the subject... when exactly was the last time you sat down with the person responsible for the web site and discussed the need for quote tags, or longdesc attributes? Isn't it about time?

Tridion Practice moves to GIT

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Mar 03, 2013 12:10 PM |
Filed under:

Back when Tridion Practice began in 2011, most of us were happy enough to use Subversion as the underlying version management system. Since that time, distributed versioning systems have shown their usefulness, and if I'm starting a new project these days, I generally begin by setting up a GIT repository. Tridion Practice is hosted at Google Code, and since those early days, they have added support for GIT, so it was just a matter of time before we ended up moving. To be honest, this was a bit of a dry run for moving the Tridion Power tools on to GIT. The power tools project has far more active committers working on code, so there are even more benefits to be had there. We discussed it in the team, and at first there seemed to be a consensus that it would be good to do this before SDL Tridion release their "2013" product, which will inevitably bring changes to the power tools: most likely a new branch at the least. In practice, getting a team that size all saluting the same flag is a bit more difficult, and sometimes consensus is more valuable than progress.

Git comes with some pretty solid tools for migrating from Subversion, and the Google Code support pages have a guide for migrating one of their projects from Subversion to GIT. Even with that guide, I found I had to read around the subject a bit first before having the confidence that I could follow the instructions well enough It's funny how much you come to rely on your source repository "just working", which leads to an extra bit of care in doing the migration. But, having taken that care, I can now report that the switch over went without a hitch.

Debugging 64 bit Tridion content delivery on IIS 7.5

I'm currently developing a web application which will run on Windows 2008 R2 and which is intended to run in a 64bit Application pool. This means that I'm running IIS 7.5, and that the web application is installed with the 64 bit versions of the Tridion content delivery assemblies. As you'll know if you've tried to run this kind of web application in a 32 bit process, you pretty soon get exceptions telling you that you have an invalid format. This gets a little inconvenient if you just start to debug your web application in Visual Studio. By default, if you have a page selected, and hit the big green Run triangle, the page will launch in IIS Express. If you have IIS 7.5, then IIS Express runs a 32 bit process, so the default setup just isn't going to work for you.

So - what to do? I had two options:

  1. Configure the properties of the web application to debug using IIS rather than IIS Express
  2. Launch the web page directly from the browser, and attach the debugger to the correct w3wp.exe process.


To be honest, the second of these was the choice that most matched my usual debugging approaches. Having said that, I did try the first approach, but so far without success. Visual Studio 2012 has frozen on me a few times while trying this. I'm interested if anyone has any tips on getting this working, but right now, I'm happy enough that I was able to succeed in attaching a debugger to w3wp.exe.

My biggest challenge was to figure out which process I wanted to attach to. On my development server, I have quite a few web sites running, and it's not altogether obvious which w3wp.exe to attach to. Attaching to them all might work in a trivial case, but realistically, it takes quite a while to load all the dlls, and adding any more processes than necessary is just going to hurt too much. So - how do you find out which process it is?

The first step is to ensure you have the IIS powershell provider installed on your server. These days, this is shipped as a module, so if it's available on your system, you should be able to open a powershell and type:

Get-Module -ListAvailable

If the response includes "WebAdministration" you are good to go. Just import the module as follows:

Import-Module WebAdministration

If this succeeds, you should be able to "change directory" into the IIS provider. (Although a PowerShell purist might prefer set-location... whatever floats your boat!)

cd IIS: 

If you can't find the module, then go into the Server manager, and check that you have the relevant role services for IIS installed. On other platforms, you might find that you can install it from the WebInstaller from the MSDN web site.

Now you're ready to find the process that you want to attach to: Assuming that your application pool is called "MyApplicationPool", then you can list its worker processes like this: (or use "dir" or "ls", either of which is an alias for "gci")

> gci IIS:\AppPools\MyApplicationPool\WorkerProcesses
Your output should look something like this:
Process  State      Handles  Start Time
-------- -----      -------  ----------
2608     Running    776      1/2/2013 6:55:33 PM

This assumes, of course, that your app pool is actually running, but you'd have made sure it was before trying to debug it, right. Anyway - as you can see, the process id is there just to read off, and you can get straight on with your debugging session.

Mysterious 404 errors showing up in the Tridion message centre

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Dec 19, 2012 11:37 PM |

Today I spent some time setting up a Tridion 2011 Content Manager server. In fact, the content manager had already been installed and had been working fine. Then we'd installed Microsoft Search Server. OK - so it's quite unusual to be doing quite so much all on one server, but this is a customer with minimal needs. Not everyone has 200 servers in the rack! Although Search Server is packaged as a product in it's own right, it's built on Sharepoint, and when you install it, it seems to bring two thirds of Sharepoint with it, including 2 MSSQL instances and three web sites. So to get the benefit of Microsoft's "free" search services, we'll probably have to configure another couple of gigs of RAM. (SFX: Sound of a cash register going "ca-ching" at VMWare headquarters)

Anyway to be fair, the search solution looks pretty good and it definitely does what it says on the box, although it's got about a hundred configuration screens (I haven't actually counted them, though). Well anyway - we'd installed this beast on our previously working Tridion server, and most things were going OK. Until I did an IISRESET, and then suddenly the Tridion CME started to complain about a 404 problem. So when you started the CME, you'd get error messages like:

The remote server returned an error (404) not found

On examining the message centre, I found this message 6 times, along with "Loading list of languages failed" and "Loading list of locales failed". Sure enough, the relevant drop-downs in the User preferences are not  populated.

When I F12'd the browser. (Is there a verb, to F12? There should be.) I could see that the browser wasn't seeing any responses with HTTP status 404. So what was going on?

After digging a bit on the server, I found that there were entries in the web server log like this:

2012-12-19 12:59:41 ::1 POST /WebUI/Models/CME/Services/General.svc/GetListCustomPages - 80 BLAH\Administrator ::1 - 404 0 0 58
2012-12-19 12:59:41 ::1 POST /WebUI/Models/CME/Services/General.svc/GetListFavorites - 80 BLAH\Administrator ::1 - 404 0 0 62
2012-12-19 12:59:41 ::1 POST /WebUI/Models/CME/Services/General.svc/GetListSystemAdministration - 80 BLAH\Administrator ::1 - 404 0 0 15
2012-12-19 12:59:41 ::1 POST /WebUI/Models/TCM54/Services/Lists.svc/GetList - 80 BLAH\Administrator ::1 - 404 0 0 30
2012-12-19 12:59:41 ::1 POST /WebUI/Models/TCM54/Services/Lists.svc/GetListEnumerationValues - 80 BLAH\Administrator ::1 - 404 0 0 5
2012-12-19 12:59:41 ::1 POST /WebUI/Models/TCM54/Services/Lists.svc/GetListEnumerationValues - 80 BLAH\Administrator ::1 - 404 0 0 8

So I could see from here that the errors were taking place when the CME web application made a local call-back on the server to it's own service layer. A bit more poking around showed that the problem was displayed whenever the CME made a callback to a service.

So what was going on? (Did I ask that already?)

It turned out that installing large portions of Sharepoint had had the undesired effect that the Tridion CME web site no longer owned the default binding. We had a host header binding mapped in IIS, and you could reach this just fine, but since the install, traffic aimed at 'localhost' was going to the wrong web site. Actually, Tridion has got this covered, because in the WebRoot Web.Config there's a an app setting called "Tridion.WCF.RedirectTo". This was pointing to localhost (which had worked fine when the server was first intalled). So when the CME tried to make calls back to the Model services, it was aiming these calls at localhost, which of course, ended up in the sharepoint site and a 404.

We fixed the immediate problem by editing the IIS bindings, but we're considering whether it might be good practice to always configure Tridion.WCF.RedirectTo to go to the name of your site, and not to localhost.

The relevant Tridion documentation is here,

Tridion Explorer reports System.ServiceModel.ServiceActivationException

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Dec 15, 2012 08:50 PM |

I'd been noticing strange messages popping up in the message centre of the SDL Tridion Explorer. The messages were about some service call failing with a 500 status and System.ServiceModel.ServiceActivationException, and seemed to be coming from various service points under C:\Program Files (x86)\Tridion\web\WebUI\Models\TCM54\Services. Here's an example:

/WebUI/Core/Services/Communicator.svc/Invoke failed to execute. STATUS(500): System.ServiceModel.ServiceActivationException

Not all the time, just occasionally when I did certain things. The thing that got me irritated enough to do something about it was when I wanted to delete a list of old versions of some items, and the multiple items functionality was breaking, and throwing up these messages. I could delete them one item at a time, but not all together. I suspect you can get problems with other things too, looking at the list of services that are served the same way from Models\TCM54\Services, and I think I remember also having problems with publishing and where-used.

A bit of Googling pointed me in the right direction, and I ended up after a couple of false starts editing: C:\Program Files (x86)\Tridion\web\WebUI\WebRoot\Web.Config

What you need to do to fix the problem is to add some configuration to get WCF to behave properly. On my, now working, system, it looks like this, but YMMV.
    <add prefix="http://localhost/"/>
Actually - once you're poking around in the web.config file, it's pretty easy, because it turns out that Tridion have already included the relevant configuration, commented out.
It may be that it's also called out in the installation documentation, and that I've missed it. Anyway - joining up the dots between the symptoms and this particular piece of config isn't so obvious, and it's always possible that you set up your system correctly and then add a new name binding in IIS, So therefore this "note to self" post, which will maybe help me to remember the extra step that's needed. And it can't hurt to have the cause and solution in close proximity in a Googleable location. :-)

Using helpers in Tridion Razor templating

Today, for the first time, I used a helper in a Razor Tridion template. I'd made a fairly standard 'generic link' embedded schema, so that I could combine the possibility of a component link and an external link in a link list, and allow for custom link text. (Nothing to see here, move along now please.)  However, when I came to template the output, I wanted to have a function that would process an individual link. A feature of Razor templating is that you can define a @helper, which is a bit like a function, except that instead of a return value, the body is an exemplar of the required output. There is also support for functions, so to lift Alex Klock's own example:

@functions {
    public string HelloWorld(string name) {
        return "Hello " + name;


@helper HelloWorld(string name) {
    <div>Hello <em>@name</em>!</div>

will serve fairly similar purposes.

What I wanted to do today, however was slightly different; I didn't want to pass in a string, but a reference to my embedded field. All the examples on the web so far are about strings, and getting the types right proved interesting. I started out with some code like this:

@foreach(var link in @Fields.links){

So I needed a helper called RenderLink (OK - this might be a very trivial use-case, but a real problem all the same.). But what was the type of the argument? In theory, "links" is an EmbeddedSchemaField (or to give it it's full Sunday name: Tridion.ContentManager.ContentManagement.Fields.EmbeddedSchemaField) but what you get in practice is an object of type "Tridion.Extensions.Mediators.Razor.Models.DynamicItemFields". I'd already guessed this by poking around in the Razor Mediator sources, but after a few of my first experiments went astray, I ended up confirming that with @link.GetType().FullName

Well I tried writing a helper like this:

@using Tridion.Extensions.Mediators.Razor.Models 
@helper RenderLink(DynamicItemFields link){
... implementation

but that didn't work, because when you try to call the methods on 'link' they don't exist.

And then, just for fun, of course, I tried

@using Tridion.ContentManager.ContentManagement.Fields 
@helper RenderLink(EmbeddedSchemaField link){
... implementation

but that was just going off in an even worse direction. Yeah, sure, that type would have had the methods, but what I actually had hold of was a DynamicItemFields. Eventually, I remembered some hints in the mediator's documentation and tried using the 'dynamic' keyword. This, it turns out, is what you need. The 'dynamic' type lets you invoke methods at run-time without the compiler needing to know about them. (At last, I was starting to understand some of the details of the mediator's implementation!)

@helper RenderLink(dynamic link){
... implementation

This may be obvious with hindsight (as the old engineers' joke has it ... for some value of 'obvious') . For now, I'm writing another blog post tagged #babysteps and #notetoself, and enjoying my tendency to take the road less travelled.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-- Robert Frost

Enabling XML syntax-highlighting for .config files in gVim

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Nov 23, 2012 10:15 PM |

I've used the vi text editor for many years; (at least long enough to know that it's pronounced vie and not vee-eye!). Over those years my level of expertise has varied somewhat - I'm fairly sure I've learned some commands and forgotten them several times over. Anyway - recently (i.e. in the last year or so), I've put some more effort in to reacquainting myself with some of its many joys. In practice, of course, I really mean vim: I'd be hard-pressed to remember the last time I saw vi in its "good-old-fashioned" form (does one say Plain-old-vi?) As most of my work is on Windows systems, this means using gVim.

Of the many improvements that vim has over vi, syntax highlighting is one of my favourites. The trouble is, one of my commonest use-cases for editing text files on Windows systems is .NET configuration files. Because these have a file extension of .config, they aren't recognised by default as XML files, and I end up going through the rigmarole of selecting one menu option to get a choice of file types added to the menus, and then locating XML among those newly added options to get highlighting to come on. Well there had to be a better way, and of course there was. What you have to do is this:

  • Locate your vi directory (on the system I was working on this evening, it's "C:\Program Files (x86)\Vim\"
  • Having found this directory, locate or create C:\Program Files (x86)\Vim\vimfiles\ftdetect
  • In ftdetect, create a file called config.vim with the following contents:
au BufRead,BufNewFile *.config     set filetype=xml

I have Windows configured to use vi as the default editor for .config files, so now with this in place, all I have to do is double-click on the file and it opens with XML syntax-highlighting enabled. Great stuff!