Thursday 26 March 2009

Command-line support for Content Deployment Wizard now available

I'm pleased to announce I've now completed initial development on the next version of the Content Deployment Wizard - this is a beta release for the next few weeks so if you need it "just work", you should continue to use the previous version (1.1), but I'm hoping some people out there are happy to test this beta. The tool has become fairly popular as a 'handy tool to have in the SharePoint toolbox', and hopefully this release extends it's usefulness significantly for some scenarios. If you're not familiar with the tool, it provides a way to import/export site collections, webs, lists, and files or list items, either between farms or between different sites in the same farm - the Codeplex site has more details. As previously mentioned, the key new additional functionality in this release is:

  • Command-line support
  • Support for saving of import/export settings to a file (in the Windows Forms app) for later re-use
  • An installer

Having command-line support for the Wizard means that it can now be used in an automated way. Some key scenarios I think this might be useful in are:

  • Continuous integration/automated builds - if your site relies on SharePoint content, you can now move 'real' data as part of a build process, copying selected content from 'dev' to 'build' or 'test' for example. I often see static data (perhaps from an XML file or Excel spreadsheet) used in this way in nAnt/CruiseControl/MSBuild scripts, but for frequently changing data (config values, lookup lists etc.), this doesn't work so well as there is always a static file to maintain separately. 
  • Deployment scripts - if you have deployment scripts to 'bootstrap' a website on developer machines, again pulling real data from a central 'repository site' can help here.
  • As part of a production 'Content Deployment strategy' - since out-of-the-box Content Deployment is restricted to deploying a web as the smallest item, the Wizard could be used to deploy selected lists/list items/files

Obviously you might have your own ideas about where it could slot into your processes too.

How it works

  1. First, we select the content to move as we would normally using the Wizard..

  2. ..and select the options we want to use for this export..


  3. On the final screen, the new 'Save settings..' button should be used to save your selections to an XML file: 

    This will then give you an XML file which looks like this:
  4. <ExportSettings SiteUrl="" ExcludeDependencies="False" ExportMethod="ExportAll" 
                    IncludeVersions="LastMajor" IncludeSecurity="None" FileLocation="C:\Exports" 
        <DeploymentObject Id="b0fd667b-5b5e-41ba-827e-5d78b9a150ac" Title="Blog" Url="" Type="Web" IncludeDescendants="All" />
        <DeploymentObject Id="cfcc048e-c516-43b2-b5bf-3fb37cd561be" Title="" Url="_catalogs/masterpage/COB.master" Type="File" IncludeDescendants="None" />
        <DeploymentObject Id="670c1fb3-12f3-418b-b854-751ba80da917" Title="" Url="_catalogs/masterpage/COBLayoutSimple.aspx" Type="File" IncludeDescendants="None" />

  5. So we now have an XML 'Wizard deployment settings file' which has the IDs of the objects we selected and the export options. We'll go ahead and show how this can be used at the command-line, but note also these settings can also be loaded into the Wizard UI on future deployments to save having to make the selections again - the key is the 'Load settings..' button on the first page (which we didn't show earlier):


  6. For command-line use of the Wizard a custom STSADM command is used. We pass the settings file in using the -settingsFile switch. To run the export operation we showed above, our command would look like:
    stsadm -o RunWizardExport -settingsFile "C:\DeploymentSettings\ExportBlogSubwebAndTemplates.xml" -quiet
    The -quiet parameter is optional, and suppresses some of the progress messages which are returned during the operation.

  7. For an import operation, we follow the same process - go through the Wizard and select the settings for the import operation, then click 'Save settings..' at the end to get the file (N.B. note the 'Import settings' screen has been simplified slightly from previous versions):

  8. The command to import looks like this:
    stsadm -o RunWizardImport -settingsFile "C:\DeploymentSettings\ImportBlogSubwebAndTemplates.xml" -quiet
    So that's both sides of it.

Using it for real

In real use of course, you may be deploying from one SharePoint farm to another. In this case, you also need to deal with copying the .cmp file from the source environment to the target if you're going across farms - if you have network access between farms (e.g. you're using it internally for automated builds/CI), a simple XCOPY in your scripts is the recommended way to do this. For production Content Deployment scenarios with no network connectivity, what I'm providing here will need to be supplemented with something else which will deal with the file transport. Clearly something web service based could be the answer.


Using the Wizard at the command-line may prove extremely useful if you need to move any SharePoint content regularly in an automated way. In contrast with other ways you might approach this, the XML definition file allows you to choose any number of webs/lists/list items/files to move in one operation, which may suit your needs better than shipping items around separately.

This is very much a beta release, but as a sidenote I'm expecting the initial issues to mainly be around the installer rather than core code - hence I'm providing a 'manual' install procedure which will get you past any such issues (see the readme). Needless to say, all the source code is also there for you on Codeplex if you're a developer happy to get your hands dirty. As I say, I'm hoping a couple of friendly testers will try it out and help me iron out the wrinkles - please submit any issues to the Codeplex site linked to below.

You can download the 2.0 beta release of the Wizard (and source code) from:

Monday 9 March 2009

Update on next version of Content Deployment Wizard

Generally I only ever talk about SharePoint tools I'm working on once they're 100% complete and ready for use, but recently I had a conversation with someone at a user group which made me think about a policy change. Regular readers will know the main tool I'm associated with is the SharePoint Content Deployment Wizard which has become fairly popular (over 7000 downloads) - occasionally I've mentioned that one goal was to implement a command-line version, since this opens up all sorts of deployment possibilities. However I've not talked about this for a while, and just recently I've spoken to a couple of people who assumed I dropped this/didn't have the time to look at it, so here I am to tell you this is not the case!

For anybody that cares, the good news is I've actually been working on this since December interspersed with blogging, and am nearly done. The yicky refactoring work is complete, and I got chance to write the custom STSADM command on the front of it on the flight to the MVP summit last week. I need to do more testing first, but I'm hoping to release a beta to Codeplex over the next couple of weeks - if you're interested in the idea of scripted deployment of specific sites/webs/lists/list items between sites or farms (remember MOSS Content Deployment only does sites/webs and requires HTTP(S) connectivity), I'm hoping some friendly beta testers will help me screw the last bits down. The key aspects of this release are:

  • Command-line support
  • Support for saving of import/export settings to a file (in the Windows Forms app) for later re-use

Shortly after this release, I'm hoping to add support for incremental deployments (so only the content which has actually changed in the sites/webs/lists/you select will be deployed), but that's not going to make into this next cut unfortunately.

Keep tuned for further updates :-)

Other stuff

Whilst I'm at it, other things in the pipeline from me include:

Needless to say, there are plenty of other blog articles on my 'ideas list' too.

Sidenote - reflecting on 2 years of SharePoint blogging

Bizarrely, I'm into my 3rd year of SharePoint blogging now. I've no idea how this happened. Having done some interesting work with SharePoint's Feature framework, the initial idea was to write 4 or 5 articles I had material for - as a record for myself more than anything - and be done with it. Since then, although I do write the odd 'easy' post (like this one), generally my articles seem to take a long time to get completed, but I know they could be better. Occasionally I get reminded of this! So there's a long way to go for me to become a better blogger, but I'm fully hoping to still be at it in another 2 years time - and I'll have plenty more to say when the next version of SharePoint approaches :-)