Getting started with ASP.NET MVC3 and Tridion

December 13, 2011

Introduction

In this post I am going to explain how to set up and use the Dynamic Delivery For Tridion Framework. If you haven’t heared of this framework check out this site: http://code.google.com/p/dynamic-delivery-4-tridion/
In short: Dynamic Delivery For Tridion (DD4T) is an ASP.NET MVC3 framework specifically designed to build a web(site) application using SDL Tridion.

Prerequisites:
1. Visual Studio 2010 (With Entity Framework 4.1 installed and MVC3)
2. SDL Tridion 2011 Content Management Server
3. SDL Tridion 2011 Content Delivery Instance
(The DD4T Framework also supports SDL Tridion 2009. But in this post I use SDL Tridion 2011)

Also make sure that you are publishing everything to the Tridion Broker Database. (You can configure this in the cd_storage_conf.xml)

High level overview

For a highlevel overview of the framework, check out this url: http://prezi.com/tzxk2w9ic284/developing-with-aspnet-mvc-and-tridion/

To get your website up and running using the DD4T framework, the following steps are needed:

  1. Upload the Dynamic Delivery Template Building Blocks to your Content Management Server
  2. Create Component Templates and Page Templates using the Dynamic Delivery Template Building Blocks
  3. Create a webapplication that uses the DD4T DLL’s to show your published page

Getting started

Download the sources from code.google.com
(Use a SVN Client like TortoiseSvn in combination with a Visual Studio plugin like AnkhSvn)

The sources contain the Java version and the .NET MVC3 version of the project. We are only interested in the .NET MVC3 version of the framework.

Template Building Blocks

First, we have to upload the Template Building Blocks to the Tridion Content Management Server.
Check out this WIKI page on how to upload the templates

Component Templates and Page Templates

Once you uploaded the Template Building Blocks, you can use these to create Page- and Component Templates. To create a Component Template, open up the Templatebuilder tool and create a new Component Template. Drag and drop the following (DD4T) Building Blocks on your template:

  • Generate dynamic component
  • Publish binaries for component

Also, create a Page Template with the following (DD4T) Building Blocks:

  • Generate dynamic page
  • Publish binaries for page

Next, create a simple meta-data schema with one single line text (Preferably it’s a selectlist with values from a category) for usage on the newly created Component- and Page Template.
This schema allows you to tell the DD4T framework which View (visual representation, ASP.NET MVC3 Razor template) to use when this Page/Component is rendered in the browser.
Xml name of the field should be ‘view’.

Component Template for Articles, using the View ‘Article’:

Do the same for the Page Template: Give it a metadata-schema, with one field called ‘view’ and insert which view to use in the framework:

Visual Studio Projects setup

Open up Visual Studio and create new project of type ‘ASP.NET MVC3 Web Application’ (Make sure you are using the Razor view engine)

Next, we are going to add some projects (dll’s) from the just downloaded DD4T framework. Choose from the ‘File’ menu for ‘Add’ -> ‘Existing Project’. Add the following DD4T projects to your solution:

  • DD4T.ContentModel
  • DD4T.ContentModel.Contracts
  • DD4T.Factories
  • DD4T.Mvc
  • DD4T.Providers.SDLTridion2011 (Or DD4T.Providers.SDLTridion2009 if you are using SDL Tridion 2009)

Your solution looks something like this:

Remark: in a real life application you don’t want hard references to all these dlls. You want to load the dependencies by means of Dependency Injection (Unity, MEF, etc)
Next, we have to copy some Tridion dll’s into the following folder: %DD4T Install Path%\dependencies\Tridion 2011 DLLs. In here you find a file called ‘Missing files’. Read it, and copy-paste all the Tridion Dll’s into this folder.
Now, add all the DD4T projects as a reference to your MvcApplication. Your solution should build fine now.

The DD4T framework uses the web.config to find out from which publication to request content. Add the following 2 keys to the web.config. (Of course, fill in your publication id)

<add key="Site.ActiveWebsite" value="Corporate.En"/>
<add key="WebSite.Corporate.En.PublicationId" value="7"/>

Writing *some* code

Now we have added all the necessary framework parts, it’s time to wire up our first controller so we can view our page in the browser. Luckily for us, the DD4T framework has already done a lot for us. Al we have to do is to use the right methods and classes!
If you aren’t familiar with the .NET MVC pattern, this is roughly how it looks like:

  1. Url is typed into the browser
  2. Request is fired to the webserver and our webapplication. It goes through a ‘rout-engine’ (Global.asax) to find out what to do with this url (request)
  3. This route-engine looks at the url and based on the parts of the url it sends it to a controller
  4. The controller builds up the Model and passes this model on to the View
  5. The (razor)View renders the HTML and pushes the output back to the browser

First step is adding a rule to the Global.asax that makes sure that (for now) all requests are handled by the same controller. Add the following code to the ‘RegisterRoutes’ method from the Global.asax:

routes.MapRoute(
               "TridionPage", // Route name
               "{*PageId}",
               new { controller = "TridionPage", action = "Page" }, //Parameter defaults
               new { pageId = @"^(.*)?$" } //Parameter constraints
           );

This makes sure that every request is passed on to the TridionPageController.

Time to make the TridionPageController! Go to your MvcApplication and create a new controller. Right click on the ‘Controller’ folder in the solution explorer and choose ‘Add’-> ‘Controller’.
Name it: TridionPageController

By default all controllers from ASP.NET MVC inherit from the Microsoft Controller class. We don’t want this. We want to inherit from the TridionControllerBase class from the DD4T.Mvc project.
Make sure your TridionPageController inherits from the TridionControllerBase:

public class TridionPageController : TridionControllerBase
{
        public TridionPageController()
        {
            this.PageFactory = new DD4T.Factories.PageFactory();
            this.PageFactory.PageProvider = new DD4T.Providers.SDLTridion2011.TridionPageProvider();
        }
}

Remark about the above code: The factories and providers are created here for simplicity. In a real world scenario you don’t want to do this, but you want to load the Factories and Providers by means of Dependency Injection (Unity, MEF, etc). But for now it’s ok.

The TridionControllerBase defines a set of useful methods. We want our controller to look up the page (url) we requested in the browser from the Tridion Broker Database. Normally you would write code, using the Tridion dll’s to retrieve the Pagecontent from the Tridion Broker Database yourself, but the DD4T framework has already done this for us.

Add the following code to the TridionPageController:

public override ActionResult Page(string pageId)
{
    return base.Page(pageId);
}

This method retrieves the PageContent from the Tridion Broker Database by finding the Page by it’s Url (pageId = Url). So, make sure you published a page to the Tridion Broker Database using the DD4T Templates!

The View

The ‘Page’ method returns *something*, but we have to define of course how that ‘something’ needs to be visualed. In other words: we need to create a (razor) view.
ASP.NET MVC3 uses a pattern to find the right View to visualize this page and it uses (among others) the name of the Controller to find the view. So, in the ‘Views’ folder, create a new folder
‘TridionPage’. In here we have to define the View. Remeber the metadata schema we made for Component- and Page Templates? Well, your Pagetemplate has this metadata on it, and you gave it a meaningfull name. I named mine ‘General’. So I have to create a view named ‘General’. Here is how my folder structure looks like:

Views contain the HTML. Here we define how our page looks like. One of the advantages of the DD4T Framwork is, that you can have strongly typed views. This means that you tell your View that he (she) needs to render HTML for object of type IPage or IComponent or String (not very usefull) or MyArticleObject, etc. This gives you full intellisense when writing your View.

Your view needs to render the HTML for an IPage object. (IPage object comes from the DD4T Framework).
Add the following code to your view:

@using DD4T.ContentModel;
@model IPage</pre>
<h2>@Model.Title</h2>
<pre>
    Some info about this page:

    Filename: @Model.Filename

    Title: @Model.Title

    Publication Title: @Model.Publication.Title

Component presentations on this page:</pre>
<ul>
<ul>@{</ul>
</ul>
&nbsp;
<ul>
<ul>foreach (IComponentPresentation cp in Model.ComponentPresentations)</ul>
</ul>
&nbsp;
<ul>
<ul>{</ul>
</ul>
&nbsp;
<ul>
<ul>
	<li>@cp.Component.Fields["title"].Value</li>
</ul>
</ul>
&nbsp;
<ul>
<ul>}</ul>
</ul>
&nbsp;
<ul>}</ul>
<pre>

ASP.NET automatically wires up the properties from the IPage to the ‘Model’ keyword because we told this View that he (she) is destined to render HTML for an IPage object. (The ‘@model IPage’ directive).

And now: RUN! (F5)
Make sure you are requesting an Url that is published to the Tridion Broker Database 🙂

I hope this gives you enough information to get started with the DD4T Framework. The framework is actively developed and it is already running live in at least one big financial organisation.
So far everything runs just fine 🙂

Disclaimer:This example is provided as is and is simplified for the obvious reasons.