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Building a SharePoint 2007 Web Part using Web User Controls
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by Steven Barden
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Introduction

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how to develop a SharePoint 2007 Web Part from scratch that dynamically loads users' web user controls, rather than using the HTML render method. This method allows the developer to use the full power of Visual Studio 2005 in the rapid development of rich, web user control based SharePoint web parts.

Assumptions

1.    You are running or have access to an instance of Windows Server 2003 running WSS 3.0 or MOSS.

2.    An existing instance of a WSS/MOSS website.

3.    You have installed Visual Studio 2005.

Steps

We will perform the following actions, broken into document parts:

·         Build a Web Part by hand (as opposed to using templates)

·         Build a simple web user control

·         Load the web user control in the SharePoint Web Part via code

·         Deploy the web user control by placing the development location in the SharePoint site

·         Deploy the Web Part by compiling it to the bin directory of the SharePoint site

·         Add a safe-control entry in to the Web.config and modify the security settings

·         Modify the Web Part Gallery to display the Web Part for testing and debugging

Part 1: Starting the Required Projects

1.    Create a directory under the root of the SP web called /usercontrols. It may help to drag and copy the existing /bin directory and clear out the contents. This ensures the proper file based permissions are added to your project.

2.    Open Visual Studio 2005 and start a new file system based C# website project. Make sure the location is your new /usercontrol directory. Remove the initial aspx page.

3.    Add a new C# based windows library project to the solution. Name it appropriate to the fact that this will be your Web Part project.

4.    Open the Web Part project properties and change the compile output location to the /bin directory of your SP web, not the /bin directory of your user control project.

Part 2: Developing the User Control

1.    In the usercontrol project add a new user control, naming it appropriate to your needs. In this case we will call it the HelloControl. This, of course, adds the HelloControl.ascx file and the HelloControl.cs files.

2.    Open the ascx file, switch to Design mode and add a Textbox control.

3.    Use F7 to switch to the C# code view and in the Page_Load event add code that changes the text output of the Textbox control, for example:

Listing 1

protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
  this.TextBoxHello.Text = @"Hello Control World!!!";
}

Part 3: Developing the Web Part

1.    Open the Web Part control project and change the name of the cs file appropriate to your needs, for example HelloLibrary, which will change the name of the class declaration inside the code file.

2.    Open the class file and change the using statements to reflect the following listing.

Listing 2

using System;
 using System.Web;
 using System.Web.UI;
 using System.Web.UI.WebControls.WebParts;

3.    Change the class declaration to ensure the class inherits from the Web Part class.

Listing 3

public class HelloLibrary:WebPart

4.    Add a Control object that will represent the usercontrol.

5.    Override the CreateChildControls to load your control with the Page object LoadControl method that will load the HelloControl control from the file system.

6.    The LoadControl method has two overloads. The method we will use expects a string representing the virtual location of the usercontrol on disk. This will point to the virtual location by using the "~" and the path. The "~" represents the location of the code that is running. As such, the path "~/usercontrols/HelloControl.ascx" means, start from where I am running and consider that the root of this path, then locate the file to use.

7.    Follow this up by adding this loaded control to the page controls collection.

Listing 4

Control control;
protected override void CreateChildControls()
{
  this.control = this.Page.LoadControl(@"~/usercontrols/HelloControl.ascx");
  this.Controls.Add(this.control);
}

Part 4: Adapting the Web.Config

1.    Now, two changes need to be made to the web.config. Locate and open it from the root of your SP website.

2.    One change needed is to adjust the security settings. The discussion of SP application security is beyond the scope of this article, but we will cover the change needed for this application. A search of the internet will cover the fact that there are other ways to adapt security than what we will use, but this will work for our needs.

3.    Locate the line in the web.config that reads:

Listing 5

<trust level="WSS_Minimal" originUrl="" />

Change it to read:

Listing 6

<trust level="Full" originUrl="" />

By doing this we are granting full access to this SP site, which is needed to allow file IO access and to load the usercontrol from a disk.

4.    Next, locate the SafeControls block. Make a copy of the last line and replace the information with your project information. If we were using a GAC installed assembly, our SafeControl line would look more like the line you cut and paste. But because we are putting the assembly in the bin directory, we can keep it simpler.

Listing 7

<SafeControl Assembly="HelloSmartPart" 
Namespace="HelloSmartPart" TypeName="*" Safe="True" />

·         The Assembly tag refers to the physical name of the assembly without the .dll extension.

·         The NameSpace is the same as the assembly namespace.

·         The TypeName denotes the safe methods, in this case * indicates all methods are safe.

Part 5: Deployment and Testing

1.    Open your website. At this point your new Web Part is not yet an option to be selected and must be enabled for use.

2.    Open the Site Settings.

3.    Under Galleries, click the Web Parts link.

4.    Web Parts are controlled by XML files. But in this case, we did not craft an XML file for this Web Part. The act of enabling this Web Part for use will assist with this need.

5.    Click New, which causes SharePoint to read the Web.config file. It reads the config and uses reflection to build the information needed to allow you to use the Web Part.

6.    You should now see the webpart. Click the Populate Web Part option.

7.    Now back in the main Web Part Gallery page, take a minute to review the Web Part properties by clicking on the Edit link button. Click on the View Xml link. You may find this bare-bones config file useful in other development tasks.

8.    Now go to the main page. Click on Site Settings, and edit page. In the middle, click on Add A Web Part and locate the Hello webpart.

9.    Your Web Part should now be displayed. The labor of your efforts should now be realized in the fact that you have crafted a user control that is loaded into a Web Part. If you were using the Web Part only method (without a usercontrol), all of your code would need to be built by hand. This means that the creation of all controls, event wire-ups and such would need to be written into the Web Part by way of the html render code. With this method you use the Web Part as the container for one or more usercontrols that do all of the heavy lifting. And one more great aspect to this method is that you do not even need to compile the usercontrol. You simply edit the usercontrol code-behind and IIS and .NET take care of the rest.

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Conclusion

This article examined how to build a SharePoint 2007 Web Part using web user controls with the help of a series of steps.


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