Packaging solutions built on the SharePoint platform into WSP packages has proven to be the way to deploy your work in a structured and repeatable manner. While there are many different tools available which can support you in packaging your work, there are scenarios when they are not sufficient. As some of the tools are open source you could modify them to fit your requirements but did you know that Visual Studio can help you with creating WSP files?
In the last Web Content Management (WCM) project built on top of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 I’ve worked on, we’ve used a couple of new tools and development approaches. One of such things was leveraging the power of ASP.NET UserControls for developing Page Layouts and Web Parts – approach promoted by fellow SharePoint MVP Chris O’Brien.
For quite some time I have been busy with trying to increase my productivity while working on SharePoint solutions. In the last two years I helped design a couple of tools and developed a few of them myself: all that to simplify the most common tasks and be able to focus on the solution-specific things. Recently I have focused on code generation: based on the information already present either in SharePoint or in your solution generate source code. You can see a part of the results of my efforts in Imtech Fields Explorer: generating wrapper classes and Page Layouts. What I’ve learned is that generating source code with code can get really complex. But just recently I’ve found a simpler way to get the things done: introducing Imtech SharePoint Templates for CodeSmith.
Recently I have found that you could actually provision Publishing Pages using the declarative markup of Features. Right after that discovery I have found that you could benefit of that functionality in quite a few scenario’s, like provisioning test content wrapped in Features. The biggest downside against provisioning Publishing Pages would be having to generate the XML manually. To simplify the process I have decided to create a tool which would export the existing Publishing Pages to Feature XML. Guess what: the tool is ready now and you can take a test drive.
Just recently I started using AC’s Visual Studio CodeRush/Refactor Tools for SharePoint Developers. I know that the AC’s Tools have been there for a while. Somehow I missed them. Lucky for me, just recently I stumbled upon them once again and decided to give them a try and guess what: they are great and they save you a lot of time typing SharePoint XML.