SharePoint Wednesday CodePlex Roundup #1

Welcome to a new blog series I thought might be useful. Each Wednesday I'll post a short review of new SharePoint related projects on CodePlex. These are new projects that a) have been added to CodePlex in the last week and b) have a public file release (I won't include projects that don't have file releases). I was going to call this "Woody's SharePoint Roundup" but that name would be best left to my good friend with that other SharePoint site.

 

Alright, let's get this party started!

SharePoint jQuery MultiSiteAdmin UI

A bit of a mouthful but hey, it's got jQuery in the name so that's got to be good right? This is a low-impact install (REALLY low-impact) that will give you some neat tools to do things against your site. It uses Javascript, jQuery, and SharePoint Web Services to Add / Remove / Update WebParts / Lists / Document Libraries / Folders / List Columns on a large amount of sites (around 1 minute to add a list to 50 sites).

What it does

The app lets you perform actions on sites, lists, etc. by asking you minimal information. For example you can create a new list called "Project Info" on every site in a site collection by just entering a few pieces of information. Then you can turn around and add some columns to all those lists you just created. You can also perform actions like updating columns on a list and even drop new web parts (via their xml definition) onto every site in your site collection with just a few clicks.

How it works

Here's the funny part. It's a web page (well, technically a page with some javascript). You drop the files into a document library and view the page. The UI is built in HTML and populated with jQuery/javascript and the very cool jQuery library for SharePoint. You basically use the web page to issue commands against the site and the javascript kicks in, working with jQuery library for SharePoint to do the heavy lifting. All you really have to do is enter the information like the list name or some CAML for a query. It is destructive as you can do something like wipe out all task lists in a site collection on every site so be careful. This is not a tool for admins that are click happy.

Bottom line

This tool, while somewhat ugly, is pretty slick and a great example of one person building on a series of services available to create a solution. There are some nice things here that are useful for perforning changes across all sites that you would normally have to write a small console app for. It's great that it leverages jQuery services for SharePoint and web services so the install is minimal (nothing goes into the GAC or bin) and you can do this on hosted scenarios. Highly recommended but a word of caution. Try before you buy. Test out your queries in a VM before you try this on your test or production environments. It can lead to a pretty global change so be sure you have the right values set before you click!

Project Site
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SharePoint 2010 Developer Dashboard Visualizer

This is just downright cool. Not only it's cool looking, it's one of the first SharePoint projects I've seen on CodePlex specifically for SharePoint 2010. SharePoint 2010 Developer Dashboard Visualizer is a jQuery-based solution that extends the Developer Dashboard by plotting an interactive diagram with data from the Developer Dashboard, giving you an instant insight into where the bottlenecks are in your code.

What it does

The Developer Dashboard feature of SharePoint 2010 is a kick-butt tool and something like an uber version of the page trace you can get from ASP.NET. It's geared for SharePoint so knows about SharePoint-y things as well as SQL calls to the content database and other cool stuff. However it is limited and doesn't offer a ton of customization other than what you get OOTB. This project kicks things up a notch and is like the developer equivalent of YSlow for Firebug by providing you with a visualization of the page load. This is great in finding bottlenecks and deciding where to start with your code optimization (or if you have some troublesome webpart).

How it works

It's jQuery man, and that's a good thing. Actually it doesn't do much other than re-present what the dashboard already contains however trying to decipher the call stack from numbers is for the birds. The visualization is nice and helpful in trying to wrap your head around what your web parts are doing. The package is cool as a WSP so deployment is a breeze. It just adds a new ASCX control to the AdditionalPageHead delegate control and spits out additional javascript tags. You'll need to turn the developer dashboard on to see the results but the install was simple and worked great.

Bottom line

This is just the beginning of hopefully a lot of add-on tools for developers. SharePoint 2010 offers a lot of great tools but sometimes their visibility is lost or hard to find. Tools like this are simple add-ons for your development environment and low hanging fruit to help you along. Even if you're not looking for code bottlenecks (who is?) it's nice to have this on the page so you can take a look and say "Hmmm, I should really look into that long call to load". I'm not saying let's install these tools and go nuts on pre-optimization, but knowing about something is half the battle. Install this on your VM and pull it out from time to time.

Project Site
Download

SharePoint Discussion Board orphaned attachments analyzer

My woop woop alarm is already going off with this one. On the home page you see a disclaimer saying that this tool works directly against the database. Not cool. In any case, it's a tool to clean up attachments that have been orphaned in your system. The tool addresses a problem in that discussion board items with attachments can somehow find their way into la-la land with the attachment still in the database but the discussion board item nowhere to be found. The issue comes up when you try to export the site data, then an exception is thrown.

What it does

The tool will scan through the content databases finding any attachments that have been orphaned. And basically, it just deletes them. Once the tool had done it's magic, you should be able to export your site or use the content migration API without error. Also not having orphaned attachments is probably a good thing (however I have issues the approach, see below). 

How it works

SQL baby, plain old SQL. Yup, this puppy issues rips through all web apps in your farm then doing a connection to the database deletes any orphaned attachments. Permanently. What's even better is that all of this is done in a single class (Form1) with happy-go-lucky SQL statements right in the code. This sucker is permanent so if there's a slipup you can kiss whatever it thought was your orphans buh-bye.

Bottom line

I have said in the past and will continue to take this stance. The SharePoint object model is your contract, use it. Now, I will give kudos to this guy for coming up with a solution. No, there is no API to find orphaned attachments but frankly, I've never come across this problem in my 10 year marriage with SharePoint. Maybe it's a problem but personally if I did stumble over this I would look for an alternative way to do it (or at least build an app without a honking MEGA class to do it). My opinion is to stay away from this project. If you need a solution to this problem consider alternatives (including putting in a PSS call to Microsoft to let them provide a supported way out this mess).

Project Site
Download

MAPILab Explorer for SharePoint

At first I thought this was a commercial product pretending to be an open source one. The name just sounded too commercial and the screenshots on the home page looked too polished. MAPILab also rang a bell for me as we just spent some time looking at the MAPILab product as a potential for gathering stats on SharePoint. Still, it took me some time to get my head around what exactly this project.

What it does

One would say it's part Reflector, part script compiler, part swiss army knife for SharePoint. It's touted as a developer tool (which it is) and it will allow you to browse the object model on a SharePoint server. The difference between browsing the object model using this tool from say Reflector, is that you're actually interrogating your running SharePoint server and performing tasks against it. The UI provides a view of the object model. In the UI you select objects you're interested in working against (for example a site collection or list). Then in the code editor you write snippets (in C# or VB.NET) against those selections. It's pretty neat and does allow you to see everything that's there.

How it works

The project is a Windows form application that runs on your SharePoint server. It uses reflection itself to poke and peek inside your server and allows you to execute code snippets against your running SharePoint server. Just unzip the exe to your server and run it. You'll need a copy of PKZIPC.EXE on your server if you want to create zip archives of your solution builds, but otherwise nothing else is needed. This will do things against your current SharePoint system (basically whatever you tell it to do in the code editor) so be careful or else you might wipe out your development environment.

Bottom line

There is a connection to the commercial MAPILab product here, at least from what I can tell. There are links to the product and this project seems to infer that they used this tool (internally) to build the MAPILab stats product for SharePoint. In any case, this is a developer tool and an interesting one. They claim you can save about 50% of your time doing research and testing code sections. I can't say I see those results as you're sort of locked into their object model which just convolutes simple things that can be done with the SharePoint OM (like programmatically creating sites).

Still a neat tool and maybe something to consider for your toolbox. Note that this tool works against your system and exposes everything. IMHO the contract you have with SharePoint is the public API so just because there's a property or method available privately, doesn't mean it's something that you should be mucking around with. So be smart, but be cautious. If anything, the source code is well structured and something fun to read (if you're into that sort of thing) that might provide some insights into SharePoint programming you might not have known.

Project Site
Download

Well, that's it for the first roundup. Hope you enjoyed it! See you next Wednesday.

5 Comments

  • Bil:

    I'm looking forward to more in this series. I find your summaries to be very useful. It's sometimes difficult to tell from what the *developers* say about their stuff whether it's any good at all. Thanks for mentioning my jQuery library for SharePoint Web Services, too.

    Any thought of coordinating this with SharePointReviews.com?

    M.

  • @Marc: No plans on co-ordinating with sharepointreviews.com. They have a different purpose in that it seems the reviews are short and quick with ratings and don't really dig into the nitty gritty of a product. In addition, they seem mostly geared for the "free" versions of commercial products and use the crack cocaine method of advertising. Pimp up your free product so the user needs the pay one. My series are short from-the-hip reviews from someone in the trenches who uses these products and want something free and open source so I can help people adapt them as needed. And hey, thanks for your awesome jQuery library. It rocks!

  • Thanks also for mentioning Developer Dashboard Visualizer, I feel flattered :)

  • @Inna: Where in my comment did I *trash* sharepointreviews.com? The reviews posted by users are short with some good info. There are other reviewes posted by regulars that go on with some good details. All in all, the site has useful information for people looking to see what others have said about the product and I would recommend anyone to check it out as a resource to find out more information about a product. The "crack cocaine" comment was directed at the products, not the ads on the site and I still stand by it. Companies put out free limited versions of their products in order to entice users to try them out and then sell them up on the stuff that really gets the job done. It's a business model and many people use it. This has nothing to do with sharepointads.com.

    The comment was all about the point of this blog series. It's unique as it only reviews projects from CodePlex that are SharePoint related added with releases in the past 7 days. I don't see this as competition or even complimentary to your site. Just because they're both reviews means very little. Your site has a specific purpose and serves the community well for that as does mine.

  • Bil, is your "crack cocaine" comment also targeting Microsoft, with their free (wss) vs. paid (MOSS) product?

    I guess it's a matter of seeing the bottle half full or half empty. As for me, I am happy to have access to products like wss or Colligo Reader, an I see this as a win-win strategy.

    Think about it - you are doing the same, providing some free advice on the Web and selling your consulting services. Should this be tagged the "crack cocaine" of blogging? I don't think so.

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