Sitecore SPEAK 3 – Creating an application

At the end of last year I wrote a post on A first look at Sitecore SPEAK 3 which gave an overview of what Speak is, and the large architecture change that has happened between Speak 1/2 to 3.

In this post I’m going to share my experience on how to set up a Speak 3 application with Angular.

Step 1 – Creating the Angular project

To start your going to need a few things installed:

  • An IDE – I’m using VS Code
  • NodeJs – This is to get access to node package manager and to run your application in debug mode
  • Angular

If you don’t already have Node and Angular installed, I suggest going through Angular’s quick start guide. If your also new to Angular I suggest going through their Tour of Heroes tutorial first. This will give you a good understanding of how Angular applications are built and some knowledge around a few key files.

One you’ve got everything installed, create a new angular project from the command line.

ng new app-name

1 - Create Angular app

At this point you could try manually installing the various modules Sitecore provide, covering things like common components, logout functionality etc. However I personally found this a bit awkward. Unless you know what your doing your probably going to run into issues such as compatibility between the latest version of Angular and the Sitecore components (at time of writing Angular is on version 5 but Speak 3 only supports Angular 4).

Instead I would recommend downloading the sample application from https://dev.sitecore.net/Downloads/Sitecore_SPEAK/3/Sitecore_SPEAK_3.aspx and then copy over the .npmrc and package.json file to your solution.

By including these files, the .npmrc file will add a reference to Sitecores package repository and the package.json file will make sure the right packages and versions will be installed. Use npm to install the packages.

npm install

1 - Install NPM Packages

Next we need to update a couple of files in the application to reference some Sitecore specific bits. This is explained in Sitecores documentation, in my examples though I’ve also included referencing some modules that you are likely to use.

app.module.ts

The app module file defines the modules that are going to be used in the application. Here we need to add the references to the Sitecore modules.

import { BrowserModule } from '@angular/platform-browser';
import { NgModule } from '@angular/core';

import { ScAccountInformationModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/account-information';
import { ScActionBarModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/action-bar';
import { ScApplicationHeaderModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/application-header';
import { ScButtonModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/button';
import { ScGlobalHeaderModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/global-header';
import { ScGlobalLogoModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/global-logo';
import { ScIconModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/icon';
import { ScMenuCategory, ScMenuItem, ScMenuItemLink, ScMenuModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/menu';
import { ScTableModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/table';
import { ScPageModule } from '@speak/ng-bcl/page';
import { CONTEXT, DICTIONARY } from '@speak/ng-bcl';
import { NgScModule } from '@speak/ng-sc';

import { AppComponent } from './app.component';

@NgModule({
  declarations: [
    AppComponent
  ],
  imports: [
    BrowserModule,
    ScAccountInformationModule,
    ScActionBarModule,
    ScApplicationHeaderModule,
    ScButtonModule,
    ScGlobalHeaderModule,
    ScGlobalLogoModule,
    ScIconModule,
    ScPageModule,
    ScMenuModule,
    ScTableModule,
    NgScModule.forRoot({
      contextToken: CONTEXT, // Provide Sitecore context for SPEAK 3 Components (optional)
      dictionaryToken: DICTIONARY, // Provide translations for SPEAK 3 Components (optional)
      translateItemId: '0C979B7C-077E-4E99-9B15-B49592405891', // ItemId where your application stores translation items (optional)
      authItemId: '1BC79B7C-012E-4E9C-9B15-B4959B123653' // ItemId where your application stores user access authorization (optional)
    })
  ],
  providers: [],
  bootstrap: [AppComponent]
})
export class AppModule { }

app.component.ts

The component file needs updating to call init on the ngScService.

import { Component, OnInit  } from '@angular/core';
import { NgScService } from '@speak/ng-sc';

@Component({
  selector: 'app-root',
  templateUrl: './app.component.html',
  styleUrls: ['./app.component.css']
})
export class AppComponent implements OnInit {

  constructor(
    private ngScService: NgScService
  ) {}

  ngOnInit() {
    this.ngScService.init();
  }
}

.angular-cli.json

In the angular-cli.json file you will see a styles section which references the main css file in the solution. Here you will need to add an additional reference to Sitecores css file.

../node_modules/@speak/styling/dist/styles/sitecore.css

Launch

You can now launch your application from the command line and see the default start screen.

ng serve --open

Step 2 – Building your application

It’s not time to start building your application. If you don’t know Angular I suggest going through a couple of tutorials, and go from there. I’m not going to go into any details about how Angular apps are and should be written, but I am going to go through a few of the Sitecore controls needed to make an application that fit’s the Sitecore admin.

Example Page


To make this page first I cleared out everything from app.component.html and started adding some Sitecore components. Normally you would start generating your own components to represent things like pages, but for the purposes of the example I placing everything in the one file.

To start I have a sc-page containing a header. This comes out of Sitecores demo application and will give you the standard bar that sites at the top of the Sitecore admin, informing users where they are.


<div>
    
      <a href="#"></a>
      <!-- AccountInformation gets accountName and accountImageUrl automatically from Sitecore context which is configured in AppModule -->
      
    </div>

To create the menu I’m using an sc-menu. Notice how some items are marked as active.


<aside>
    
      
        
          <a>Menu item 1</a>
        
        
          <a>Menu item 2</a>
        
      
      
        
          <a>Menu item 3</a>
        
        
          <a>Menu item 4</a>
        
      
    
  </aside>

Lastly to create the main content of the page I’m using a scPageAppHeader, scPageContent and an scTable for the table.

<div>
    </div>
<article>
<table>
<thead>
<tr>
<th>Name</th>
<th>Status</th>
<th>Created by</th>
<th>Created data</th>
</tr>
</thead>
<tbody>
<tr>
<td>Lorem</td>
<td>Active</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 20, 2018</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Ipsum</td>
<td>Active</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 20, 2018</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Foop</td>
<td>Inactive</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 22, 2018</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>
</article>


The complete code looks like this:


<div>
    
      <a href="#"></a>
      <!-- AccountInformation gets accountName and accountImageUrl automatically from Sitecore context which is configured in AppModule -->
      
    </div>
<aside>
    
      
        
          <a>Menu item 1</a>
        
        
          <a>Menu item 2</a>
        
      
      
        
          <a>Menu item 3</a>
        
        
          <a>Menu item 4</a>
        
      
    
  </aside>
<div>
    </div>
<article>
<table>
<thead>
<tr>
<th>Name</th>
<th>Status</th>
<th>Created by</th>
<th>Created data</th>
</tr>
</thead>
<tbody>
<tr>
<td>Lorem</td>
<td>Active</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 20, 2018</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Ipsum</td>
<td>Active</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 20, 2018</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Foop</td>
<td>Inactive</td>
<td>sitecore\admin</td>
<td>Jan 22, 2018</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>
</article>


To avoid some build errors later on we also need to update the app.components.ts file (think of this as a code behind file), to have an additional property and service.

import { Component, OnInit  } from '@angular/core';
import { NgScService } from '@speak/ng-sc';
import { SciLogoutService } from '@speak/ng-sc/logout';

@Component({
  selector: 'app-root',
  templateUrl: './app.component.html',
  styleUrls: ['./app.component.css']
})
export class AppComponent implements OnInit {

  isNavigationShown = false;

  constructor(
    private ngScService: NgScService,
    public logoutService: SciLogoutService
  ) {}

  ngOnInit() {
    this.ngScService.init();
  }
}

How to find more components

Unfortunately the Sitecore documentation doesn’t currently contain a list of what’s available. However if you look in your node_modules folder there is a change log containing information on each component here \node_modules\@speak\ng-bcl\CHANGELOG.md.

Step 3 – Publishing the application

Once you’ve built the application you need to publish it and copy it into Sitecore.

There are some differences in the way a Speak 3 Angular application needs to work which differ from the normal way an Angular application runs. Among others these include having an index.apsx page rather than an index.html and the application not being located in the root of a site. You can read more about this in Sitecores documentation. The good news though is Sitecore have provided a post build step to sort this out for you.

If you copied the package.json file at the beginning this will already be set up, one thing you do need to do though is update the base location to be where your application is going to live.

Once this is done you can run a build.

npm run-script build

Note this is using npm to run the build script from the packages.json file rather than doing a regular ng build from Angulars CLI.

If all succeeds your dist folder will now contain a compiled version of the application.

Copy these files into the destination folder in your Sitecore site. For me this is \sitecore\shell\client\Applications\Speak-Example. You should now be able to log in and view your application.

Notice the logout button now functions and the current user is displayed in the top right. The menu sections are also collapsible, but other than that our application doesn’t actually do anything.

Moving on from this there’s lot’s more to cover on building out the functionality in the application and you may have also noticed in the app.module.ts file a reference for translations which I never created, but this should be enough to get anyone started with building an Angular Speak 3 project and then publishing it into Sitecore.

Related Links

Speak 3 Official documentation
Speak 3 Downloads

A first look at Sitecore SPEAK 3

SPEAK (Sitecore Process Enablement and Accelerator Kit) is the framework for constructing admin interfaces in Sitecore. It was introduced to the platform prior to Sitecore 8, but really became the way to do things after Sitecore 8’s UI refresh which introduced the start page and made accessing full page SPEAK applications logical.

Sitecore9StartScreen

SPEAK 1 and 2

The goals of SPEAK were to:

  • Provide a streamlined approach to application development.
  • Enable reuse of UI elements.
  • Enforce a consistent look and feel.

In order to achieve this SPEAK 1 and 2 provides a component library of controls that can be used to construct pages. This ensures that the UI retains a consistent look and feel, and also minimizes the amount of work on a Sitecore developer. Logic is then added to an application using JavaScript for the front end and C# for server side code.

While this all sounds great many developers find SPEAK hard to use. In order to construct a UI out of the re-usable components, Sitecore lent on it’s existing functionality to be able to construct pages out of presentation items, however there is no WYSIWYG editor and the only real way to construct the layout is through Sitecore Rocks. This in itself isn’t awful, but when combined with the fact the average Sitecore developer doesn’t need to build an admin application that often, it presents a steep learning curve using a tool they may not use to put together components they’re not familiar with.

SPEAK 3

SPEAK 3 aims to address complaints in previous versions by introducing a completely new framework based on Angular.

Since SPEAKs initial incarnation, client side application development has moved on a long way, so rather than continuing to construct their own framework, Sitecore has chosen Angular as the the platform to use going forward.

Begin Angular, SPEAK 3 applications can run independently of Sitecore, however the purpose of SPEAK 3 is still to make it simple to integrate Sitecore-branded applications into the content manager.

My First Look

Before being a Sitecore back-end developer I worked on bespoke web based applications using client side frameworks such as Knockout, so the news that Sitecore was going to adopt Angular was great. Digging into Angular again however has given me a first hand experience of how fast the JavaScript world is changing. Gone is the promotion of MVC on the client being replaced with service/controller patterns. Whereas with Knockout and AngularJS (what Angular 1.x is now known as) we could add data binding to just an aspect of a page, Angular is really for running an entire application, routing and all.

Building an SPEAK 3 application really means building an Angular application with some modules provided by Sitecore. These modules will provide integration features such as:

  • Sitecore context
  • Translations for applications
  • Translations for the SPEAK 3 component library
  • Component user access authorization
  • Preventing cross-site request forgery (Anti-CSRF)

In addition to this the SPEAK 3 components will also sort out compatibility issues such as modifying the routing so that the application no longer needs to be in the route of the site and can be in a sub-folder of sitecore.

Angular for a Sitecore dev

To start it’s good to know an outline of what developing Angular involves.

Angular 2+ is built using TypeScript. You don’t need to use TypeScript, but as most of the examples are you probably will want to too. TypeScript is a superset of of JavaScript which adds strong typing support as well as other features of ECMAScript 2015 to backport it to older versions of JavaScript.

TypeScript needs to be compiled into JavaScript before it can run in the browser.

The easiest way to get started with Angular and TypeScript is using Node.js to install tools via NPM. Node is not a requirement for Angular and you won’t need it in production, but for local dev using Node to host your application can make life a lot easier.

Angular has a CLI which makes things easy to create and run an Angular application.

Visual Studio can be used as an IDE for TypeScript and Angular, but you might find life easier using Visual Studio Code.

It’s better than it sounds 🙂

All this might sound a bit daunting to the average C# developer. Technologies like Node and NPM traditionally are more at home in the open source community.

There is however a lot to be positive about. If your the type of dev that prefers writing c# to JavaScript, then the inclusion of TypeScript is going to please you, as it brings the type checking structure and class organisation that we’re used too.

The angular cli (command line interface) is also a reason to be pleased. One large difference between the .net and open source world has been the ability to click a button and get going. Open source typically comes with the setup of many components to get a solution working. At times when you try to learn something it can feel like your spending more effort doing setup that actual dev on the platform. Angular still needs to have all these components put together, but the cli takes care of all this for you, effectively recreating a file new project experience, just through a command line.