Thursday, November 11, 2010

SharePoint 2010: Leveraging Visual Studio 2010 to Deploy Custom Content Types

lIt's fairly easy to create content types right within SharePoint itself. However, when in a development scenario, you need an easy way to replicate custom content type creation without having to manually enter site columns and site content types by hand. Luckily Visual Studio 2010 has a project for that. Generating  a Content Type project will easily package up site column and content type definitions into a re-distributable solution/feature allowing for seemless deployment between environments (e.g. dev, staging, uat, production, etc.).

The first step is to fire up Visual Studio 2010 and select File -> New -> Project. The New Project dialog appears:

In the New Project dialog  change the target platform at the top to .NET Framework 3.5.and select the Content Type template. Enter the appropriate name and location and click OK. The SharePoint Customization Wizard dialog appears:

The local site should be populated automatically but you may enter a different address if needed. Clicking on the Validate button will ensure the server is reachable. Change the trust level option to Deploy as a farm solution and click Next.

Select the type of base content type that your new content type should inherit. For document libraries, select Document, for lists, select Item. Click Finish.  The project is generated and displays the Elements.xml contents.
TIP: The Document content type actually inherits off of the Item content type. You may use the same type of hierarchical structure if you have a common custom content type that can act as a base for additional custom content types.
The content type structure is displayed but there are no fields. For each custom field you wish to create for the content type, you need a Field Definition. Therefore at the top of the Elements.xml  before the Parent Content Type comment but after the <Elements> tag, enter a field definition entry similar to the following:
<!-- Site Columns -->
<Field ID="{1B0D25D8-5A89-45C0-AE25-FA6726063EB2}" Name="CustomField1" DisplayName="Custom Field 1" Type="Text" Required="FALSE" Group="Custom Document Columns"/>
<Field ID="{3EE19A29-D064-4188-BFA1-BC23968BF1BC}" Name="CustomField2" DisplayName="Custom Field 2" Type="Text" Required="FALSE" Group="Custom Document Columns"/>

To create the ID, use the Create GUID utility which is accessible from the Tools menu. Select the Registry Format (option 4) and click the Copy button. Paste the GUID into the ID. Click the New GUID button for all subsequent columns (field defs). The Elements.xml should look similar to the following:

NOTE: The use of site columns is necessary!! Generating the fields as site columns allows you to use them in other content types.

The current state of the Elements.xml will generate the site columns but not place them into the content type. For that to happen, you need to enter Field Reference entries based on the site column definitions:

<FieldRef ID="{1B0D25D8-5A89-45C0-AE25-FA6726063EB2}" Name="CustomField1" DisplayName="Custom Field 1" />
<FieldRef ID="{3EE19A29-D064-4188-BFA1-BC23968BF1BC}" Name="CustomField2" DisplayName="Custom Field 2" />
Place these field reference lines within the <FieldRefs></FieldRefs>  tags. Your content type section should look like the following:

Rename the Content Type to a more meaningful descriptive name. Use the same name to rename the Content Type object in the project within the Solution Explorer pane as well as within the Project-level properties. Save the Elements.xml changes.

Double-click the Feature1 entry in the Solution Explorer pane and modify the Title and Description accordingly as well as the Feature1 item. Save the Feature1.feature file. Double-click the  Package.package file and change the name of the solution file. Save the Package.package file.

If you have a new list or library that will use the new content type you may want to include that within this solution such that they can be deployed together (see this post).

Right-click the Project in Solution Explorer and select Deploy:

The content type package is built and added to the SharePoint site as a farm solution. The solution is deployed globally as a feature that is available at the site level. The site feature will be activated at the root site collection but may not be activated within other sites. The site columns and content type are created accordingly on the root site.

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