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Oct 23

Written by: kchristo
Sunday, October 23, 2011  RssIcon

I haven’t been able to post during the last week. It’s been a very hectic week and I didn’t have time or when I did have the time I didn’t have the courage…

Anyhow, I am going to share with you issues I had to face creating my first LightSwitch Extensions project.

First thing was to create the Color business type. I already had custom Silverlight control and value converters I had already published in a sample in MSDN’s LightSwitch Developer Center. So half of the work was done, right? Well, not quite…

I must say here that many of the problems were a result of the fact that editing the lsml file is very error prone as there is nothing to help you while editing the file by hand. I mean it’s not like editing the XAML of a Silverlight control, with code completion, syntax checking and all the goodies. It’s raw XML editing. And the thing with errors in lsml is that the result is terrifying…a tag improperly closed crashes the universe. The LightSwitch test project becomes unloadable (screens and data sources disappear). Of course it’s only temporary since as soon as you fix the syntax or spelling error everything (no matter if the extension works as expected or not) comes back to normal. There are a few things I learned during the numerous (to say the least) trial and error editing-running-debugging cycles and I want to share. They are not advices they just that; sharing:

  • When the above mentioned mess happens (the test project fails to load) the best thing to do is try to build. Most (not all, depending on the kind of error) of the times examining the error list bottom-up, you can deduce useful information about the origin of the error and where is the lsml is the error.
  • Make small changes between testing cycles as this makes it, obviously, easier to locate any potential syntactical or spelling error. This is one of the most important rules of thumb I ended up with.
  • Copy-paste-modify of correct xml blocks is the safest way to minimize syntactical and spelling errors. In general, I dislike copying blocks of code because I fill like I am using something I don’t understand, even if it’s not really so. But, in this case I ended up copying whole blocks of XML from the How to articles and edit afterwards and it felt right…
  • And one last practical thing. The procedure that worked better for me, regarding debugging the extensions was not the one suggested and preconfigured when creating an extension project. I had various debugging issues I didn’t manage to identify and solve. Most probably it’s something I was doing wrong since the procedure described in the above link is used for all extensions of VS for some years now. Anyhow, for what it might worth what I did was:
    1. I created a LightSwitch project in the same solution as the extension that used the extension.
    2. When I wanted to test a change, I was going to Extensions Manager and uninstall the extension. I closed the Extensions Manager (don’t press Restart Now, not now)
    3. Right click the vsix project select build.
    4. After build right click and choose Open Folder in Windows Explorer. Install the package from the bin folder.
    5. Go back to Extensions Manager and choose Restart Now, now.

I know these are more procedure details, rather than technical or implementation ones, but I wanted to share with anyone that might be interested. In the next post, which I hope I will write in the next couple of days, I will share more technical details like read-only, collection / details controls, identifying nullable types.

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