Book Review: DotNetNuke Skinning Tutorial
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Published: 30 Jul 2008
In this review, Shaun discusses Darren Neese's book, DotNetNuke Skinning Tutorial. Shaun looks at the book from the eyes of a developer whose area of expertise is not design. He offers his insight into the book here.
by Shaun Eutsey
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As a developer one of my greatest areas of weakness is in the area of design.  Where I have always been able to make a site functional, my designs have been merely passable. 

The author, Darren Neese, takes you from concept to finished product.  This book is aimed at beginners, so it is perfect for me, perhaps it will fit your DotNetNuke Skinning needs as well.

The book contains 10 chapters, chapter one gives an overview of DotNetNuke skinning, including a look at the default skins that ship with DotNetNuke, the file types that make up a skin and a high level overview of the skinning process.

Chapter two takes you through creating your first skin, from choosing your editor to placing tokens in your newly created skins.  This chapter walks you through installing Visual Web Developer 2005, I use Visual Studio 2008, installing the starter kits (see my recommendations at the end for a little on installing starter kits for VS 2008) and setting up your development environment.  It then walks you through creating your very first skin.  In programmer speak, this skin is the "Hello World" of skinning.  You wouldn't use it in the real world, but it gives you the very basics of the technology.

Chapter three takes you through laying out your skin.  It takes you through laying out a page using tables and using CSS.  It takes a look at using the best tools to make the skin appear correctly in the most browsers.  By the end of the chapter you have a slightly prettier version of "Hello World".  However, it builds on the basics learned in Chapter 2.

Chapter four is a basic CSS refresher.  It walks you through creating a style sheet that can be used with the "Hello World" skin, including some of the irregularities between IE and Firefox.

Chapter five begins to explore some of the real power in skinning DotNetNuke, the skin objects.  It starts out by giving a list of the objects in DotNetNuke that are skinnable, the names used in CSS and the names of the tags that will be put in the HTML layout.  It also walks you through creating the XML file that is needed to make the skin objects available for editing for administrators of DotNetNuke.  One of the nicest features shown in this chapter is some of the more obscure tags that can be used in the layout, such as the [HOSTNAME], [LINKS] and [HELP] tags. 

Chapter six goes through menu configuration.  It starts out explaining the difference between the original DotNetNuke menu and the "new" DotNetNuke menu, both functional and performance.  The rest of the chapter is about configuring the menu, through location and adding the CSS to make it look nice within the skin, going from the parent menu to child menus.

Chapter seven is a large chapter, 38 pages, and it is well worth the time to go through.  This is where I fall horribly short, the actual graphical design of the site.  It takes you from choosing a graphic editor (Photoshop or GIMP are the ones they mention) to finding pre-packaged designs.  It then takes you through the design process of creating the graphics to adding them to your HTML design. 

Chapter eight goes through creating containers for which you will place the DotNetNuke Modules as you start working on the site.  This covers the creating of the containers and the XML that is needed to make them available to the site.

Chapter nine goes through the packaging and deployment process.  It explains what packaging is and why you should or should not perform the packaging process.  It then walks through the actual process of packaging, deploying, creating thumbnails and handling bad installs

Chapter ten, the coup de grace, takes you through the process of skinning the control panel.  This part is short and appears to have been added as an after thought.  Since the control panel is limited in it's skinnability and it's only viewed by people who can modify the site, I don't believe it is every anything that I would personally use anyway.

Now, I mentioned earlier that I would mention one of the issues that I ran into while trying to install the starter kit on Visual Studio 2008.  While this is not an issue with this book, it is an issue with the DotNetNuke install package for the starter kit.  And I believe, that until DotNetNuke corrects the issue, that it deserves mention in this book, to make life easier for people installing the starter kit. 

As I mentioned I use VS 2008.  My laptop is relatively new and I decided to not install VS 2005 when I got it because I can use VS 2008 to develop for the 2.0 framework.  However, the installer for the starter kit actually checks to see if VS 2005 is installed before it will install.  It doesn't check to see if it is a least 2005, it checks to see if it is 2005.  For me to get the starter kit installed I had to install Visual Web Developer 2005, install the starter kit and uninstall the VWD.  I then had the starter kit available for use in VS 2008.

As mentioned at the beginning, this is a book for beginners.  A DotNetNuke skinning expert would not get too much out of the book.  However, as a beginner I found this book priceless and I highly recommend this book to get you over the DotNetNuke design hump.

About the Book


DotNetNuke Skinning Tutorial


Darren Neese


PACKT Publishing


May 2008




US $34.99



Related URL

DotNetNuke Skinning Tutorial


User Comments

Title: renantech   
Name: renanorola
Date: 2010-02-07 7:21:30 PM
Dotnetnuke is the leading web content management system or CMS because it is easy to use, flexible and extensible, and highly scalable. It runs hundreds of community edition and thousands of production web sites.

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