Its Time to Start Using Rocks

Recently I attended Sitecore AND (Advanced .Net Developer) training. The trainer of the class started off by asking if anyone had used Sitecore Rocks before. I was the only one in the class to raise his hand. I thought it was surprising that in a room full of experienced developers, I was the only one who had used Rocks. And to be honest, I hadn’t really used it that much. My only experience with rocks had come from building SPEAK apps.

I am not really sure why I had never embraced it – I guess we can chalk it up to being a creature of habit; you do something one way for so long, it’s hard to change it all of a sudden. The other reason, ignorance. I had no idea some of the cool thing Rocks can do. Here is a short, unordered list of things I think are cool about Rocks.

  1. Visual Studio Templates for Sitecore

Once you connect your Solution to Rocks – You’ll be given a library of Visual Studio Templates for Sitecore.  To connect your Solution: Make sure Rocks is connected to your site, right click on your solution in Visual Studio and select Sitecore > Project Properties. Once the properties box opens select your site from the Sitecore Explorer Connection drop down.

  1. Adding a Sublayout

Having Visual Studio templates for Sitecore in itself may not be that awesome. But creating the Sublayout in Rocks and having the associated .ascx file sure is. With Rocks, you don’t have to worry about making sure your Sublayout is pointed to the correct path in your file structure. Rocks does all the work for you creating your Sublayout in Sitecore as well as the required file in Visual Studio. It’s not earth shattering, but it makes sense and helps the over site building process go smoother and faster.

  1. Package Building

Before I get into what’s cool about building a package, I want to share one thing.  My thought about Rocks previously was that it did the same things as Sitecore… only in Visual Studio. This is not true. Rocks has functionality that Sitecore does not, two examples are with the package builder.

  1. Add related items – When building a package in Rocks, you simply drag the item from Sitecore explorer over to main panel. You then have an option to add all or some of its dependencies. This is awesome. If you’re anything like me, you have missed things in the past when building a package. This featured should drastically help mitigate that.

  2. Anti-package – Simply, the ability to uninstall a package. No need to create backup packages or restore entire databases. You can see the anti-package feature to uninstall any packages applied to a Sitecore instance.

  3. Open Expanded web.config

You are probable familiar with /Sitecore/admin/showconfig.aspx to view the actual runtime web.config. With Rocks, you can do this from visual studio and see exactly where each setting is coming from. This can be done by right clicking on your site in Sitecore Explorer and selecting Tools > Open Expanded web.config

  1. Job Viewer

Have you ever kicked off a publish just to watch it say “Initializing…” for 20 minutes? With the Job Viewer you can keep an eye on what tasks are running in Siteocre. Of course you can publish, reindex, and rebuild the links database within Rocks, but what I think is cool is that you can see what tasks are going on Sitecore wide, you are not limited to viewing the tasks you kicked off.