A new extension for MS Visual Studio makes Sitecore Web CMS integrators' lives just that much easier. Here's a quick look at the features.

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International Web CMS vendor Sitecore (news, site) has recently released a new Visual Studio plug-in called Sitecore Rocks (download here). Sitecore Rocks is a Community Technology Preview (CTP) available for free from Microsoft's online Visual Studio Gallery. The Sitecore Rocks extension has a range of features that both speed and simplify development of projects based on the Sitecore Web CMS platform.

Closing Gaps in the Development Process

Sitecore is well-known for having a strong developer focus. Virtually every aspect of the system is accessible via their extensive API. This, and the active developer community, make Sitecore attractive for customers require application flexibility based around a solid content services core.

The one gap in this story has been Sitecore's weak integration with Visual Studio. Historically developers had few options for simplifying the Sitecore development process. With the addition of Sitecore Rocks that gap is closing rapidly. And although the plug-in is still in a technology preview state, its broad feature set, slick execution and focus on developer productivity is already notable.

Happiness is Never Leaving Visual Studio

Much of the Sitecore Rocks functionality is focused on giving developers the ability to access and manipulate Sitecore entities directly from Visual Studio.

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Sitecore Rocks Visual Studio Extension -- Working with Sitecore UI Presentation Layouts

Using the Sitecore Explorer and Item Explorer features you can navigate, manage and edit content in the CMS. You can also manage access to multiple Sitecore installations and sites, which is ideal for those of us who work in multi-system, staged environments or with Sitecore installations for a variety of clients.

This aspect of the plug-in is most impressive -- the Sitecore Explorer works well, is responsive and is a vast improvement over the previous working process, which required you to repeatedly switch between Visual Studio and Sitecore's browser-based tools.

In addition, Sitecore Rocks provides logging, job tracking and debug functionality that ties directly into your Sitecore instances. This keeps you working directly in Visual Studio, instead of having to go from Visual Studio to browser, to log file and back again. In short, it's a big productivity win.

Eliminating Coding Roadblocks

The Sitecore Explorer is definitely the flashiest part of the integration, but equally if not more important are the plethora of Sitecore development templates the integration kit provides.

Often the biggest question facing a Sitecore developer is not if you can accomplish a certain thing, but -- given the product's extreme flexibility -- how exactly you'd best go about doing it. Sitecore Rocks helps in this area by providing a large number of templates and file types for most common Sitecore development tasks, eliminating a lot of guesswork and developer confusion.

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Sitecore Rocks Visual Studio Extension -- Simplifying Life via Development Templates

Development previously done by hand is now drag-and-drop, and new components get registered directly in the Sitecore database as they are added in Visual Studio -- a much appreciated bit of functionality that eliminates numerous time-consuming steps.

The Focus: Streamlining Common Tasks

The Sitecore Rocks plug-in does a number of things quite well:

  • It goes a long way to giving Sitecore a strong foothold in Visual Studio integration, something that was lacking in the past.
  • It has a consistent focus on making common development tasks quicker and easier
  • It keeps you focused by reducing the need for developers to leave the Visual Studio environment. 

Overall, the new Sitecore Rocks plug-in is a credible effort by the company to empower partners. And while Sitecore's choice of name for the extension does set the bar high, there's no doubt that integrating the tool into your team's dev kit is sure to yield significant efficiencies and geeky smiles. In other words, with this project they've put the money where their mouth was.