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Comparing Sitefinity 3.x to 4 (Beta): Configuration

by Josh Morales

Today's post in this series comparing Sitefinity 3.x to 4 (Beta), we'll take a brief look at what is probably one of the most significant improvements in the Sitefinity core system: Configuration Settings.

In previous versions of Sitefinity, a significant portion of configuration settings (Toolbox controls, Provider definitions, etc.) were stored directly in the site web.config file. Thankfully, Sitefinity 4 now removes this dependence, moving all customizable settings into local XML files, managed directly from the Sitefinity Administration Dashboard!

Settings

The Settings section is available under the Administration menu of the Sitefinity Administration.

Sitefinity-Administration-Settings

From here there is an expansive TreeView containing all of the configuration settings you can modify within Sitefinity.

Sitefinity-Settings

Because configuration settings are now stored locally as XML files (in the folder App_Data/Sitefinity/Configuration), Sitefinity 4 gains the following new benefits over 3.x:

  1. Leaner web.config file, and no longer needs to be modified for Sitefinity settings
  2. Changes no longer result in a restart of the Application
  3. Settings can be modified manually if necessary, but shouldn't be because now:
  4. Most Sitefinity settings can now be edited directly in the Sitefinity Dashboard!

Sitefinity-Configuration-Settings-Folder

Little more needs to be said about this new and welcome feature to Sitefinity, so I just want to show you a few screenshots of the different areas to give you a feel of where this is going. This is still being actively developed, and improves with every release (currently Sitefinity is in Beta 2 as of this post).

Themes

Here you can see how to specify the site Theme. Notice you can now set both a Frontend Theme and a Backend Theme, meaning it's now easier than ever to customize the Sitefinity Administration Theme!

Sitefinity-Settings-Appearance

You can also install new Themes through the Configuration Manager. Notice that you're now able to define a theme by Path, or by referencing an embedded resource. The standard ASP.NET Theming is still supported, and we'll go into more detail on what's new in Themes in a future post. But as you can see, Sitefinity 4 still keeps things flexible, but accessible.

Sitefinity-Administration-Configuration-Theme-Path Sitefinity-Administration-Configuration-Embedded-Theme

SMTP

Another example of an important setting is SMTP for sending emails. Usually this is in the system.net node of the web.config file. Now you can edit it right from the Configuration interface:

Sitefinity-Administration-Configuration-STMP

Connection Strings

Connections strings are another big one that I'm glad to see available as a configuration setting. Not only can you modify the existing one (which might not ever be necessary, but still glad it's an option), but you can add new ones on the fly to take advantage of new data sources and define new Providers for Content modules.

Sitefinity-Administration-Configuration-Connection-Strings

Toolbox Controls (Widgets)

The last thing I want to make sure I mention is probably the most useful change to the Configuration, and that is the ability to define and edit your Toolbox Controls (or Widgets). You no longer have to wade through page after page of web.config settings, nor do you have to remember to sync these settings from development to staging to production!

Sitefinity-Settings-Toolbox-Controls Sitefinity-Settings-Toolbox-Control-Settings

Multiple Policies

One more thing I wanted to mention is the support for different configurations based on the user. This is a powerful new feature allowing you to setup specific subsets of configurations for different users based on role or even at the individual user level!

Sitefinity-Administration-Configuration-Policies

This means you could allow certain users access to certain Toolbox Controls or Themes while restricting others as needed! This is similar to how the new granular permissions work (which we'll look at later on), but allow specific, targeted configurations to simplify access to Sitefinity settings. Very handy and a great new feature to 4.0!

Future Improvements

As I mentioned, Configuration is still being actively developed and improving with every release. There is already plans to implement a "Basic" settings editor, similar to the "Basic" and "Advanced" tabs for configuring user controls on Sitefinity Pages. This will make it even easier for administrators to configure settings, while still making sure they have access to deeper settings if necessary. Yet another example of Sitefinity's commitment to balancing power and flexibility with simplicity and ease of use.

Here is a preview concept of what the "Basic" editor might look like. This is from an early build so the finished product is likely to be different, but it should give you an idea of where things are headed.

Sitefinity-Administration-Configuration-Basic-Settings

Wrap Up

This section is still being actively developed by the Sitefinity Team, so expect to see a lot more improvements, including wizards and helpful dialogs to assist you in configuring each of these settings in a future release. However, it is clear that Sitefinity 4 offers a significant improvement in managing settings over 3.x, and another example of the power and simplicity that is coming soon!

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