P.S. It's been a year since I started up this new blog and, while my regular posting has been down, this is definitely better than I've ever been about communicating what I know and do. The fact that a year in I'm now a contributor to now 2 different PnP repositories and an author in the tech community blog feels good. Now, on to the post.
Ever get annoyed with the page properties web part put out by Microsoft? If you've got some OCD issues (like me) then it may not take very long. At ThreeWill, we help clients with their digital workplaces and improving the way their users can obtain information and makes sense of it all. Oftentimes, the Page Properties web part can be useful here, as we very often add valuable metadata to pages in a digital workplace, which we often tie to page templates as well. News might roll up based on these page properties, which can assist in finding information in many ways. But its often handy to display this metadata in a clean way on a page as well. The standard Page Properties web part seeks to do just that. And, for the most part, it does a fine job with it. But it has a few deficiencies. The most annoying thing to me, when setting up digital workplaces was that it only supports a white background. But there are other small things, like the limitations with pretty standard field types. I like the idea of taking advantage of metadata columns for pages, but being able to use it visually is equally important. I finally decided to do something about it and build a new version of this web part. So with this in mind, let's lay out our goals with this new web part. We will call it the Advanced Page Properties web part.
For a part like this, it's all about getting the property page figured out first. We want this to feel familiar too and not stray too much from the original design, unless it helps.
Let's start by recognizing our chief property that the web part needs: selectedProperties. This array will hold the internal names of the fields that a user has selected for display in our web part. We intend on passing this property down to our React component. Here's a look at our property object:
We are using the PnP JS library for gathering the fields in the Site Pages library. Figuring out the right types of filters to gather was a bit of trial-and-error. We are excluding anything that's inherited from a base type or is hidden in any way. We are also excluding 3 standard types so far: boolean, note and user. Note doesn't make sense to display. Boolean can definitely work, but needs a good display convention. User was the only tricky object, which is the reason it isn't done yet.
We call the above method prior to loading up the property pane.
Our React component needs to properly react to the list of selected properties changing. It also needs to react to our theme changing. I leveraged this awesome post from Hugo Bernier for the theming, so I will not cover that in-depth, although you will see how it's being leveraged in the code snippets below. Here are the properties we plan to start with and respond to:
We will track the state of our selected properties and their values with hooks. We want to trigger off of changes to our properties, so we will setup a reference to their current state. We will also establish our themeVariant and context at the start of our component.
// Main state object for the life of this component - pagePropValues
So we are tracking the state of pagePropValues, which is an array of type PageProperty. What is PageProperty?
Our effect is looking to see when changes are made to the properties, then is peforming our core logic to refresh properties and values.
* @description Effects to fire whenever the properties change
// No cleanup at this moment
The core method is refreshProperties. It has 2 main calls it needs to make, whenever selected properties has changed: Establish any known metadata for each property that will assist in display and obtain all actual values for this property and the specific page id that we are viewing.
* @description Gets the actual values for any selected properties, along with critical field metadata and ultimately re-sets the pagePropValues state
As we loop through all of the properties that have been selected, we make calls with PnP JS to get all of the metadata per field and all of the values per field. The call to get all of the values can return with any number of data types, so we need to be prepared for that. This is why it is of type any to start. But this is also why we have a switch statement for certain outlier situations, where the line to set the array of any need to be done a little differently than the default. Our 3 known cases of needing to do something different are TaxonomyFieldTypeMulti, MultiChoice and Thumbnail.
This method then calls our final display method, RenderPagePropValue, which performs our 2nd layer of array display, mapping all of the values and providing the correct display, based on the field type of the selected property. This is the heart of the display, where various type conversions and logic are done real-time as we display the values, including trying to achieve a slightly more modern SharePoint look using capsules for array labels.
* @description Focuses on the 3rd and final row layer, which is the actual values tied to any property displayed for the page
So that's all of the necessary code. Here's what the finished product looks like, compared to the original page properties web part.
This web part is now officially apart of the PnP Web Parts repository and can be found here. I would love to hear about improvements you'd like to see and obviously you are more than welcome to contribute. I already have a bit of a list of things I'd love to see it do.
Hopefully, I've gotten you excited about Page Properties again and you've learned a little along the way around how the current Page Properties part might be doing what it does under the hood. Please consider contributing and feel free to reach out to me anytime. Thanks for your time!
#Adventures in getting your kids interested in coding
This is a series of posts I hope to do cataloging some of my progress with spreading the gospel of code to my kids. Recently I made some progress with my son, Nate, and hope to share what we build together in this series. 😊
For many years, I've struggling in fits and spurts to get my kids to embrace coding. I took to it like a duck to water and was coding on this when I was 9 years old:
Behold the Radioshack TRS-80
I've had a few glimmers of hope, like when they were in robotics and were helping to write the programs, but eventually that died out. Then I had a brief period where my sons were doing lessons on freecodecamp.org. That site is fantastic, by the way. But so far, nothing lasting. But I press on.
About a month ago, I challenged my sons to come up with an app idea. My thinking was that they might be more inclined to learn something if it would result in something that originated from their imagination. My son Nate started doing the Swift Playground lessons and things were looking up. But as usual, things sputtered out.
2 weekends ago, we were playing our favorite collector card game, Marvel Legendary. I have amassed pretty much the entire collection and we spent a fair bit of the weekend battling supervillains. There have been some apps made by the community already - namely one called Assemble. It randomizing matchups, which is really nice for a game that keeps growing with 3 or 4 expansions a year. But this app was starting to slow down in its updating. Additionally my son voiced his frustration with not being able to search up cards by the text on them or by their features. Suddenly, I saw the light go on and he turned to me and said, "Maybe this is the app we can build."
Eureka! We had a problem that we wanted to solve and it was surrounding a topic that we both enjoyed. It was the perfect storm.
So the basics for the idea are now there. We want a mobile app that will allow for in-depth searching of thousands of cards and that will also randomize setups of games.
Technically, here's the early plan: a database of cards built in Azure Data Storage, accessible from Azure Functions, via a mobile app built in React Native. We will open source the whole thing, so feel free to contribute or give feedback, especially if you happen to also play the game.
Our first order of business was getting the data figured out. My first real teachable moment. We examined various cards and started making notes, first in bullet lists of the various types of cards and the properties we were seeing on them. Here are some examples.
As you can see, there are many various qualities and this is just a small sample. In fact, just at the top-most level, there are 10 types of cards: Wound, Token, Officer, Sidekick, Bystander, Scheme, Enemy Leader, Enemy Support, Enemy Group, Playable. Pretty quickly in, we switched to a JSON document and started going over samples of each card type, appending properties to the same single JSON as we discovered new things on a card. This actually sunk in with him. Seeing the JSON get updated live as we were reviewing information on a card was like seeing the objects and properties come to life real-time on the screen. Here's what we ended up with:
"Color":"Yellow | Blue | Green | Red | Silver | Grey",
"Fight or Fail",
"X Uru-Enchanted Weapon"
"Expansion":"Core | Villains | Civil War | X-Men | S.H.I.E.L.D.",
Seeing as we will have to start simple, we will begin by manually creating JSON docs for cards, until we get a UI going. So to try and make it easier on us, especially Nate, I set out to make a schema for this sample doc. This route would give us intellisense and document validation in a good editor, like VS Code.
This was my first foray into JSON Schema. I started at the source and read through this walkthrough: Getting Started Step-by-step. That gave me most of the tools I needed to understand what was going on. Essentially, you're setting up type definitions and other rules as you identify them.
That said, it was still a pretty big doc for me to try and render out the schema manually, so I started with a schema generator - found here - and applied changes from there, namely titles and descriptions, as well as identifying things we missed as I was validating fields. The generator helps a lot with following along, as you can compare your node to the schema generated. The only big thing I had to learn how to add was the enum property. This is a great option for string properties. It allows you to provide an array of options for editors to leverage. Here's an example:
So far, the schema is all we have and we're starting to create the data for Azure Storage. I'll share more as we make progress. Hopefully he stays interested and we actually produce a working product in the App Store. We shall see.