DotNetNuke, ASP.NET, Web Development Blog

Styling the DotNetNuke Form and List module

Image: Styling the DotNetNuke Form and List module

The are lots of very powerful forms modules available for DotNetNuke, but many of them seem like overkill for what we are usually looking for. The Form and List module often meets our functional needs when we are looking for a simple form module but in the past, I was disappointed with the look of the forms it produced.

The Form and List team, (mostly Stefan Cullmann), has done a nice job of adding features to improve the styling options. In particular, I like the ability to use CSS and Separators/Fieldsets for form layout.

Stefan wrote a brief blog showing how he styled the Feedback Form on the formandlist.com site. We used that as our starting point for a membership form we created and found we needed some additional tweaking to get the form looking just right...

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DotNetNuke: Improving the tracking and reporting of Ad Views and Clicks - Part I

Adding the time dimension

This is the first in what we plan on being a 3 part series on improving the tracking and reporting of Ad viewership and clickthroughs within DNN.

Overall, DotNetNuke'sBanner / Ad / Vendor implementation is a nice solution. It does a great job of serving up the appropriate ads based on a nice variety of options. But there's been very little change to the implementation over the last few years and we've found some areas of needed improvement. Efficion is hoping to contribute new features and improvements to these modules based on work we've done to bring it up to the next level.

One of the biggest weaknesses we found was it's reporting capabilities. It's easy enough for us to create reports for our clients (we'll be covering that in Part II of this series) but in this case, we didn't have the data we needed.

Our client wanted to be able to provided statistics on the views and clicks of their ads for a given time period (i.e. September 2010). The problem is, DNN only stores the total number of clicks and views for a given ad. There's no associated time period with those numbers.

So, we need to start storing clicks and views in a way that is time oriented. After some thought on this we decided that we should really accumulate the numbers on daily basis for each ad. Daily seems to be the standard in the analytics world and provides enough granularity to get the time frame you want while also not collecting data at too granular a level.

Daily totals will make it easy to create reports that show totals for a given period or to create trend charts for a particular ad or all ads over a given time period.

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SQL Function to Parse First Name from Full Name

Ever needed to get a users first name out of a SQL table or field where only the full name was collected? We've create a SQL Function that does a pretty good job of this.

This is partially based on a script provided by JosephStyons in this thread on Stack Overflow. Joseph's script parses the name into Title, First, Middle, and Last. For my purposes, I only needed the first name and so was able to simplify the script and breaking it out into a function makes it easy for us to reuse in a variety of places. Read More...

Tableless Banners in DotNetNuke

A quick conversion of the DNN Banners Module to Tableless Display

We've been working on our first site that really makes heavy use of DotNetNuke's Banners module for displaying revenue generating ads. Today I was trying to get the banners module to work for a Newsletter piece (more on that later) of the site that has a very tight layout but the way Banners is implemented didn't allow me to do what I needed. Currently, the banners module renders banners in a table and the only way to add spacing between banners is by setting cellpadding and/or cellspacing. We needed a solution where we could ad space between the banners without adding space on the sides of the banners. This wasn't possible with the current implemenation (other than by adding whitespace to the banner images which we didn't feel was a good solution) so we needed another solution.

I could have gone in and made a couple quick changes to the banners module to get it to do what I needed but then, we would've have had to reapply the changes every time we upgraded the site.

Instead, I spent about 10 minutes creating a new module based on the existing banners module. Luckily, DNN makes this easy.

The change to the code is the easy part (though really it was all very easy). I just changed the RepeatLayout attribute for the DataList to "Flow" instead of the default "Table" and then added a class to the label within which the banner is implemented.

The more involved process was copying and renaming the files and class. In all though, it took less then 10 minutes to think up and implement this solution.

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Cleaning and Re-Indexing your DotNetNuke Search Tables

Last week, we put a lot of effort into improvements to the search and RSS aspects of Efficion's Articles module. As part of that, we noticed that no matter how many times you hit the Re-Index content link on the Host->Search Admin page, the links never actually get updated. As we dug further, it became clear that to update the links used by DNN's search and RSS, you actually have to purge the search tables.

This has implications beyond our module so I thought I'd share the steps as a good practice to do every once in awhile on your DNN site to make sure you Search Results and RSS Feeds are linking properly.

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DotNetNuke: Improving Paste From Word in the fckEditor

As most HTML aware folks know that when you paste content from Microsoft Word or Outlook for use as HTML, it includes all sorts of gobbledygook that clutters up your markup and overrides your CSS. Luckily, the fckEditor has a couple ways to handle this. If you're pasting from Word into the editor using IE, it pops up a dialog that gives you a chance to clean up the markup which is nice. If you're using Firefox you can achieve the same results by clicking on the special Paste from Word icon. But, there's an issue...

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DotNetNuke: Custom Module Permissions

One of the under-utilized features in the DotNetNuke module development API is the ability to utilize DotNetNuke's built in Permissions architecture within your own custom modules.

Rather than having to write your own code to display a grid of available roles and special permissions, it's fairly easy to add your permissions to the existing permissions grid that usually just displays "View" and "Edit".

I found a nice article that gives a very good overview on how to do this
Extending DotNetNuke Module Permissions for Custom Modules

DotNetNuke: Hiding and Showing Checkbox with asp.net and Javascript

As I build out the settings for DotNetNuke modules, I only like to display settings that are relevant to the other selections the user has made. The best way to do this is with Javascript so users don't have to wait for a postback everytime they change a relevant control.

In trying to put these things in place, I often find the code often doesn't work quite the way I expect (or at least used to expect) it to. The issue usually has to do with the way asp.net renders controls. I usually find I have to dig into the source view a bit to see exactly how asp.net rendered something and then fiddle a bit to get everything working right.

Here, I'll describe, one particular case where I had two checkboxes linked. The 2nd checkbox should only be displayed when the first checkbox is checked...

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DotNetNuke and MySQL

A question that I see a lot of is, "Can DotNetNuke run on top of MySQL?" The short answer: while It is possible, it is a terrible idea. The same answer is also true for Oracle. But that doesn't mean you can't write DotNetNuke modules that consume data from MySQL, Oracle, or any external data source.

The Long Answer

While DNN does provide a data abstraction layer so that it can, in theory, be run on top of any modern DBMS, the reality is DNN is a very large and complicated system that relies heavily on SQL Server specific Stored Procedures. The SQL used for DotNetNuke is chock full of Stored Procedures. The Stored Procedures improve the performance and security of the system.

A few intrepid souls have attempted to create and maintain MySQL providers but, with the availability of cheap hosting and free versions of SQL Server, there simply isn't enough need for that in order to make it worthwhile and those providers are long out of date.

Even if someone does manage get the latest version of DNN's core running against MySQL, it's still a bad idea because you would lose the key thing that makes DNN special, Modules. You would need to ensure that every module you ever want to use has a MySQL provider and that that provider would continue to be updated throughout the life of the module. Or, you would have to create a MySQL provider for every module that you want to use. The cost of doing this would far exceed the cost of using a hosting company that would provide you a shared SQL Server on which you can run DNN.

But don't lose hope...
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DotNetNuke and IIS7 Integrated Pipeline Vs. Classic Mode

When I first started trying to install DNN on a local Vista installation I had various strange errors that I eventually determined to be due to the fact that I was running my IIS7 App Pool in Integrated Pipeline mode instead of Classic (IIS 6). And so, from that I learned DNN can't run in Integrated Pipeline more.

Today, I discovered that DotNetNuke can run in integrated pipeline mode as long as you're running DNN version 4.8 or greater. Charles Nurse discusses this in this blog.

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