Headless CMS: Enable In-Context Preview and Editing in an External Application

Do you have an existing application that has content in it that you want to manage but you don’t want to completely rebuild in a CMS? This use case is more common than you can imagine. Developers start building an application only much later to find it would benefit from CMS authoring capabilities like in-context editing and preview. What’s the solution? Rebuild the application? No. Crafter CMS is a headless CMS that’s front-end agnostic. It can plug into any application.

Let’s look at a very simple example. Just recently I posted a blog that used Node JS an external application that called Crafter CMS headless CMS capabilities for content via APIs.

In the screenshot above the content “Hi, I’m Editorial by HTML5 UP” is being served to the NodeJS application via APIs.

Content authors are used to working with in-context editing and preview as seen below:

In this blog, I’ll extend the example above to show how to enable those features for your content authors. The techniques shown in this blog are applicable to any web-based front-end technology. Crafter CMS provides additional help for specific frameworks like React JS. These are/will be covered in other blogs.

Getting Started

Follow the instructions in this blog to get an external application that pulls editable content from Crafter CMS via API. If you prefer to work the browser rather than Node JS, here is another example of a simple application that runs entirely in the browser. For this blog, I’ll use the Node JS example.

Once you have completed this step you should be able to:

  1. Make a change to the hero text in the editorial website via Crafter Studio
  2. See the change in your external application running in Node JS

Enabling Preview

The next step is to enable preview for content authors so they can see how the content will look in the external application. To keep things simple in our example I will change the Editorial site to preview the external application. In some cases, you may wish to leave the Editorial site/authoring experience as is and create a new project for the External app. Let’s keep to the basics.

Step 1: Configure the Site Preview

  1. In the Editorial site, click on the Sidebar to open the Sidebar menu.
  2. Click Site Config to go to site administration.
  3. On the Site Config console, click Configuration, then choose Environment Configuration from the drop-down.
  4. Add the following line to the XML in the location shown and click Save.
    <preview-server-url>http://localhost:3000</preview-server-url>

  5. Click the Crafter logo to return to the content authoring for the site.
  6. Go to preview for the home page and you will see your Node JS application showing in preview.

With the configuration made, Crafter Studio now looks to the external application for its preview. As long as the external application is pointing to APIs running the Crafter Engine supporting preview you will be able to make edits and see them in the preview.

Enabling In-Context Editing

Crafter Studio makes it easy to get to the content you want to edit. The Sidebar, Dashboard and other UI elements make navigating to the content quick and easy. In-Context Editing is the ability to click on elements in your preview, edit them and see the change. This is a much more visual way of locating and editing content because its location in the information architecture doesn’t matter.

In Crafter Studio you turn on in-context editing by clicking on the pencil in the toolbar at the top of the screen. This enables pencils throughout your preview that allows you to edit the related elements directly as shown in the picture above.

In-Context editing is an integration with Crafter Studio, there’s a collaboration of sorts between the Studio application and the site/application being previewed that enables the in-context editing features like pencils and drag and drop. In this blog, we’re going to show a simple, framework agnostic way to support this integration. Crafter CMS has additional libraries for specific frameworks like React JS, Angular, Freemarker etc that encapsulate many of these details.

Step 1: Enable Communication

To enable communication between your application preview and Crafter Studio you must include a tiny piece of Javascript we call the “Guest” library.

To do this add the following include to the bottom of your page

<script src=”/studio/static-assets/libs/requirejs/require.js” data-main=”/studio/overlayhook?page=x&site=id&cs.js”></script>

In our Node JS example, we’re going to edit directly through the application. To enable this, add the following to your package.json:

“proxy”: {
“/api”: { “target”: “http://localhost:8080” },
“/studio”: { “target”: “http://localhost:8080” },
“/static-assets”: { “target”: “http://localhost:8080” }
},

Step 2: Indicate Where the In-context Editing Regions “Pencils” Belong

To enable point and click editing on content you must indicate where the regions are and what content the regions relate to. To do this in HTML5 applications Crafter Studio (and the Guest library) uses HTML5 attributes.

The following attributes are used:

  • data-studio-ice: This property marks the element as the container for in-context editing. No value is required.
  • data-studio-component-path: This is the path of the content object. Example: “/site/products/a-component.xml”
  • data-studio-ice-path: This is the path of the content object. Example: “/site/products/a-component.xml”
  • data-studio-component: This is the content type name. Example: “/component/product”

Example Container element:

<div data-studio-component-path=”/site/products/a-component.xml”
data-studio-component=”/component/product”
data-studio-ice=””
data-studio-ice-path=”/site/products/a-component.xml”>
INNER HTML
</div>

Step 3: Try it!

Once you have marked elements in the application with the proper metadata you are ready to begin editing.

  1. Log in to Crafter Studio (for our example: http://localhost:3000/studio)
  2. Go to the preview for the application
  3. Turn on in-context editing by clicking on the pencil icon in the main navigation menu.

  4. Click the pencils and start editing🙂  It’s as easy as that.

Conclusion

Many times developers want to content enable an application that is external to their CMS. Either the application was built before it needed CMS features or the developers built outside a CMS to avoid being constrained by traditional CMS frameworks. Headless CMS platforms are Content / API first CMS architectures that loosely couple your application to the CMS. This new architecture has enabled a host of new content managed channels including native mobile apps and new user-friendly app frameworks like ReactJS and AngularJS. The problem is that almost no CMS out there supports preview and editing of the applications and channels that pull content from them. Here Crafter CMS is different. Crafter CMS has always been decoupled and its architecture has always been agnostic to the frontend. Crafter CMS is a headless CMS that supports the authoring experience your content authors are accustomed to.

CMS for SPAs Tutorial: Using React and Node JS with Crafter CMS

The most traditional, full-featured CMS platforms are not designed to handle headless content and most headless CMS platforms aren’t full-featured and have only basic authoring support.

Crafter CMS is both full-featured and fully supports headless CMS capabilities. That’s pretty unique. In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a content-rich, ReactJS-based Single Page Application (SPA) with in-context editing and other full-featured authoring capabilities.

Our React Application

We need an application to base our tutorial on. For our example we have the following criteria:

  • An existing, open source application that serves a content-rich use case where the content in the application is likely to be updated regularly by non-developers.
  • The application is sophisticated enough to be interesting but not too complex to be understood.
  • The application looks good and is responsive.
  • The application is based on React JS.

With these criteria in mind, I found this terrific open source React-based shopping cart application by Jefferson Ribeiro: https://github.com/jeffersonRibeiro/react-shopping-cart, Thanks, Jefferson!

We’re going to break our tutorial down into a number of broad steps:

Step 1: Download and run the application locally. First, thing’s first let’s get our local application development environment (React and NodeJS) up and running. Here we’ll see that the application already relies on a RESTful service to acquire its content.

Step 2: Create a project in Crafter CMS and set it up to preview our React application running in Node JS. Now that our application is running let’s get the CMS set up and previewing our application.

Step 3: Model a product in Crafter CMS. We have an application and we have a CMS. It’s time to connect them. Here we’ll learn how to model content and we’ll do some minor configuration along the way to customize the Studio UI for the use case.

Step 4: Create a basic RESTful service. Now that we have content, we can create a RESTful service to return the content from the CMS as JSON. Once our service is in place we’ll modify the application to consume our service instead of the service it uses out of the box.

Step 5: Extend the service to include images managed by authors. The out of the box application uses statically managed images and convention. We’ll add images to the CMS to demonstrate extending our content model and app.

Step 6: Add in-context editing to the solution. Now that the app’s content is driven by the CMS we want to make it easier for the content authors to find and edit their content. Making content editable directly through the app is one of the best ways. In this step, we’ll make the small modifications and configurations necessary to support this.

Step 7: Considerations for operationalizing the solution. Now that we have a working solution we’ll talk through some additional thoughts around development process integration and production operations.

Let’s get started!

Prerequisites for the Tutorial

  • NPM / Yarn installed
    • NPM will help you easily download the proper dependencies. You can also use NPM or Yarn to build and execute your application.
    • In our example, I will use Yarn to manage my package.json file and to assist me in building my application.
  • Access to a running Crafter Studio instance.
    • You will need access to create a site and modify its configuration.

Step 1: Download and run the application locally

The first step is to download the application and make sure we’ve got a local environment that will allow us to modify and run the application. This step does not involve the CMS. In many ways, it emulates a common real-world scenario in which the need for authors to modify content without the help of develops is discovered late in the development process or even post-launch. Let’s begin.

  1. On your local machine clone Jefferson Ribeiro’s project: https://github.com/jeffersonRibeiro/react-shopping-cart,
  2. Change directory into the react-shopping-cart folder that was created and run yarn install
    This will install the libraries necessary to run your application.
  3. Run the React application by executing yarn start.
    This will start a NodeJS and run the react application.
  4. Open your browser to http://localhost:3000

This application is pulling content for the product catalog in a JSON feed format from the following URL:https://react-shopping-cart-67954.firebaseio.com/products.json

Step 2: Create a project in Crafter CMS and set it up to preview our React application running in Node JS

Now that our application is running let’s get the CMS set up and previewing our application. The first thing that you need to accomplish this is a running instance of Crafter Studio, the authoring component of Crafter CMS. You can learn how to get this set up here.

  1. Log in to Crafter Studio as the administrator and on Site Dashboard, click the Create Site button.
  2. Following the picture above, populate the dialog. Give the site an ID and select “Empty” blueprint then click the Create button.  Once complete, you will see your empty site previewed in the Crafter Studio application.  Now we want to tell Crafter Studio that our application is not running in Crafter Engine, but instead on NodeJS @ port 3000.
  3. Open the sidebar by clicking the Sidebar button in the navigation.  Then navigate to the site configuration panel by clicking on the Site Config item in the Sidebar menu.

  4. Open the main Studio configuration for the site by clicking the Configuration menu item then selecting the Environment Configuration option in the drop-down.
  5. Add the following tag (<preview-server-url>http://127.0.0.1:3000</preview-server-url>) to the configuration as shown below and then click the Save button.
  6. Click on the Crafter logo up in the upper left-hand corner to return to the dashboard.
  7. In the Sidebar, open Pages and click on Home Page and you will see your site that is running in NodeJS within the preview window of Crafter Studio. At this point, we have both our application (running in NodeJS) and our CMS running with the ability to preview our application.  That means we can continue to use our standard development tools and practices for the React application while integrating it into the CMS.

Step 3: Model a product in Crafter CMS

Now that the two main components (our app and our CMS) are up and running it’s time to connect them.  To start we need to describe the structure of our content, in this case, a product.  To understand what the app is looking for we can examine the UI or because we already know the application is reading a RESTful JSON API from Firebase we can look at that.

Step 3 A: model the content


It’s clear that each product has a title, a description, a style, a price and so on.  To model these in the CMS we must add a new content type.

  1. Open the Content Type administration tool by opening the Sidebar and clicking on the Site Config item within the Sidebar. In the Site Config panel, click the Content Types item, then click on Create New Type
  2. Fill out the dialog by labeling the content type “Product“, select “Component” for the type and then click the Create button.  Once you click create you will be taken to the schema editor.
  3. Drag and drop the controls and from the Controls area to model the product.
  4. Remember to set property values for each control including constraints. To configure a control: click on it and its properties will appear in the property sheet on the right.

  5. Note that for our product sizes I chose to give the author a list of sizes to click on.  Since a product may come in many sizes I’ve used a group checkbox control.
  6. Group checkboxes require a data source.  To keep things really simple let’s supply a static list of sizes with the key-value data source.  Drag the data source from Data Sources and drop it on the form editor under the purple data sources region.
  7. Click the Options property in the data source and then add a row for each option as shown above.
  8. Remember to hook the data source to the control.  To do this, click on the group checkbox control and find the Data Source property.  Select your data source.
  9. Once the model is complete, click the Save button at the bottom of the screen.
  10. Create a content and the sidebar config.

Step 3 B: Configure the UI for Products

Once you save your content type it will be available for content authors to use it.  Studio does this automatically. That said, the more tailored the UI is for your content authors, the easier it will be for them to use it.
Note that this step is not necessary to complete the integration but it does make a difference for authors.

  1. If you click the Crafter CMS logo, you will be taken to the dashboard.  Open the Pages folder on the Sidebar and note that you can right-click on the Home page.  In the drop-down menu, you will find an option for “New Content” as shown below.
  2. Click on the New Content option and you will see your new content type as shown below.A product doesn’t really map to any of the out-of-the-box content folders.  It’s not a page and it’s not a component.  What we want is a unique store just for products.  Cancel the create operation and let’s set up a folder for products and then tie the product content type to it.
  3. Using the Sidebar, navigate to the Site Config panel and then to the Configuration tool.
    Select the Sidebar Configuration tool.
  4. In the configuration, you will note the various modules shown in the Sidebar navigation.  Add a new module block as shown below for products.  You’ll note that at first, we’ll “root” the folder at “/site.”  We’re going to change this later but for now, setting it up this way will allow us to create additional folder structure within the CMS.  Add the module configuration snippet and click the Save button.

    <modulehook>
      <name>wcm-root-folder</name>
      <params>
        <label>Products</label>
        <path>/site</path>
        <showRootItem>true</showRootItem>
        <onClick>preview</onClick>
       </params>
    </modulehook>
  5. Once complete, navigate back out to the dashboard via the Crafter CMS logo and open the Sidebar.  You will find your new Products folder displayed.
  6. Open the products folder, right-click the site folder and then click the New Folder option.  When prompted for a name, enter products and click the Create button.
  7. Now, return to the Sidebar Configuration.  Let’s update the folder so that it shows only the products.  We do this by modifying the path parameter for the module.  Further, we’ll add some custom icons to help visually differentiate the folder within the sidebar.

    <modulehook>
      <name>wcm-root-folder</name>
      <params>
        <label>Products</label>
        <module-icon-open>
          <class>fa-shopping-bag</class>
        </module-icon-open>
        <module-icon-closed>
          <class>fa-shopping-bag</class>
        </module-icon-closed>
        <path>/site/products</path>
        <showRootItem>true</showRootItem>
        <onClick>preview</onClick>
      </params>
    </modulehook>
  8. Now let’s update the Studio Site config so that Studio better understands the content found under the /site/products path.  In the Configuration tool open Site ConfigurationAdd configuration under folders and patterns as shown below:
    
    
    <folders>
      <folder name="Pages" path="/website" read-direct-children="false" attach-root-prefix="true"/>
      <folder name="Products" path="/products" read-direct-children="false" attach-root-prefix="true"/>
      <folder name="Components" path="/components" read-direct-children="false" attach-root-prefix="true"/>
      <folder name="Assets" path="/static-assets" read-direct-children="false" attach-root-prefix="false"/>
      <folder name="Templates" path="/templates" read-direct-children="false" attach-root-prefix="false"/>
    </folders>
    ...
    <pattern-group name="component">
      <pattern>/site/components/([^&lt;]+)\.xml</pattern>
      <pattern>/site/products/([^&lt;]+)\.xml</pattern>
      <pattern>/site/system/page-components/([^&lt;]+)\.xml</pattern>
      <pattern>/site/component-bindings/([^&lt;]+)\.xml</pattern>
      <pattern>/site/indexes/([^&lt;]+)\.xml</pattern>
      <pattern>/site/resources/([^&lt;]+)\.xml</pattern>
    </pattern-group>
  9. Once you save this file and return to the dashboard or preview you will note that Products now has its own icon and when you open it, it is specifically rooted in the products folder in the repository.
  10. Modify the content types to tie them to the IA.  An author should not be able to create a product anywhere except under products.  Other content types may also be tied to specific folders.  Let’s look at how we can configure this.In the content type editor for a product, under the Basic Properties for the type, find the Configuration Property.  Click the pencil to open the editor for the configuration.
    Add the following XML snippet to the content type configuration:

    <paths>
      <includes>
        <pattern>^/site/products/.*</pattern>
      </includes>
    </paths>


    Open the other 2 content types and add the following snippet.  This snippet hides these types because it does not make sense for authors to be able to create new objects of these types.

    <paths>
      <includes>
        <pattern>^hidden</pattern>
      </includes>
    </paths>
  11. Navigate to the dashboard and try to create content in the products area.  If the previous steps were performed correctly the form for the Product content type will be automatically launched as soon as you click the New Content button.  Studio understands (based on the configuration) that this is the only type that is allowed to be used here and thus defaults to it.

    The form will automatically open:

 

Step 3 C: Create Product Content

Now that your authoring tools are set up to make it easy to add products it’s time to create some product content.  Using the New content option, and following the content on the site (or in the JSON response) create at least two products by right clicking on the product folder then filling out the product form and saving.


  1. You can easily create new content by right-clicking on the products folder and selecting the New Content option.
  2. Create as many products as you like by filling out the Product form and clicking the Save and Close button.  You will need at least 2 products for the example to work well.

Step 4: Create a basic RESTful service

Now that we have content, we can create a RESTful service to return the content from the CMS as JSON. Once our service is in place we’ll modify the application to consume our service instead of the service it uses out of the box.

Step 4-1: Create the Service

Crafter allows us to easily create RESTful services through scripting.  By putting the Groovy script in the right location with the right naming convention we define an RESTful endpoint. https://docs.craftercms.org/en/3.0/developers/projects/engine/api/groovy-api.html

  1. In the Sidebar, open the Scripts folder and then open the rest folder.
  2. On the rest folder right click and choose Create Controller option.
  3. Provide your service name and http method you want.  In our case our service is going to return products so our service name is “products” and the HTTP method the service will respond on is a GET so we append .get to the name.
    1. This is a convention in Crafter CMS.  Under the rest folder we can create any number of sub folders and the file name of the RESTful endpoint is named by the script as NAME.HTTPD_METHOD.groovy.
    2. all standard request methods are supported ex: get, post, put, delete,
  4. Click Create and then supply some basic code in your controller as shown below.
    This code will result in an object with an empty products array.  By returning the result value at the end of the script Crafter knows to marshal this object in to JSON for us when the service is invoked via the URL.
  5. Test the service.
    1. Go to http://localhost:8080/api/products.json in your browser and you will see the JSON representation of the object returned by the script.
  6. Now we that we see our service working we can update it to return the content we want in the structure we want.
    1. Right click on the controller and then click Edit.
    2. Update the code as show below.
def result = [:]

def queryStatement = 'content-type:"/component/product"'

def query = searchService.createQuery()
 query = query.setQuery(queryStatement)
 // limit returned fields if you like
 //query.addParam("fl", "localid:cmsId,sku,title,style,description,price,installments,freeShipping,sizes.item.key")

def executedQuery = searchService.search(query)
def itemsFound = executedQuery.response.numFound

result.products = []

executedQuery.response.documents.eachWithIndex { document, idx ->
 def product = [ 
 id: idx,
 cmsId: document.localId,
 sku: document.sku, 
 title: document.title, 
 style: document.style,
 description: document.description,
 price: getPrice(document),            // potentially get the price from external system
 installments: getInventory(document), // potentially get inventory from external system
 isFreeShipping: document.freeShipping,
 availableSizes: document["sizes.item.key"],
 currencyId: "USD", // hard code USD for now
 currencyFormat: "\$", // hard code currency format for now
 ]
 
 result.products.add(product)
}

return result

def getPrice(document) {
 // simple example of abstracting where price comes from
 return new Float(document.price)
}

def getInventory(document) {
 // simple example of abstracting where inventory comes from
 return new Integer(document.installments)
}

 

The code above makes a query to Crafter Search / Solr and then iterates over the results to format, structure and possibly embellish them with additional data.  Note, that if there is no need to restructure or augment the results differently than the Solr response the results could be returned directly without any additional code.  Simple field name mappings can be done with the fl query parameter.

7. Invoke the response and confirm it now meets the structure and contains the content that the application expects.

Go to http://localhost:8080/api/products.json in your browser and you will see the JSON representation of the object returned by the script.

Step 4-2: Modify the App to use the Service

Now that we have a service which dynamically provides the products that are created and edited/managed by the authors in the CMS we can update our React Application to use it.

To do this:

  1. Change line 5 in src/store/actions/productActions.js to

    const productsAPI = "/api/products.json"
  2. Add the following to package.json
    "proxy": {
      "/api": { "target": "http://localhost:8080" },
      "/studio": { "target": "http://localhost:8080" },
      "/static-assets": { "target": "http://localhost:8080" }
    },
  3. Preview the application at http://localhost:3000
    Note the content showing in the store is from the CMS

Step 5: Extend the service to include images managed by authors

The out of the box application uses statically managed images and convention. We’ll add images to the CMS to demonstrate extending our content model and app. This step is optional and is simply meant to show how you can extend the functionality if choose.

  1. In the product content model:
    1. Add image pickers for both large and small images
    2. Add a data source for picking images from the desktop.
    3. Configure the data source to put images in /static-assets/images
    4. Click on the image picker properties and connect the data sources to the image pickers
  2. Test the forms by updating your products with image content.
  3. Update your RESTful product service to return image values.

    def product = [ 
     id: idx,
     cmsId: document.localId,
     sku: document.sku, 
     title: document.title, 
     style: document.style,
     description: document.description,
     price: getPrice(document), // potentially get the price from external system
     installments: getInventory(document), // potentially get inventory from external system
     isFreeShipping: document.freeShipping,
     availableSizes: document["sizes.item.key"],
     currencyId: "USD", // hard code USD for now
     currencyFormat: "\$", // hard code currency format for now
     largeImage: document.largeImage,
     smallImage: document.smallImage
    ]
  4. Update the application to pull the images from the service rather than assume their location in the application.
    1. Update the file src/components/Product.js line 34
      <Thumb
       classes="shelf-item__thumb"
       src={product.largeImage}
       alt={product.title} />
    2. Update the file: src/components/Thumb.js
      import React from 'react';
      import PropTypes from "prop-types";
      
      
      const Thumb = props => {
       return (
       <div className={props.classes}>
       <img src={props.src} alt={props.alt} title={props.title} />
       </div>
       );
      };
      
      Thumb.propTypes = {
       alt: PropTypes.string,
       title: PropTypes.string,
       classes: PropTypes.string,
       src: PropTypes.string.isRequired,
      };
      
      export default Thumb;
  5. Preview the application at http://localhost:3000
    Note the content showing in the store is from the CMS

Step 6: Add in-context editing to the solution

Now that the app’s content is driven by the CMS we want to make it is easier for the content authors to find and edit their content. Making content editable directly through the app is one of the best ways. In this step, we’ll make the small modifications and configurations necessary to support this.

  1. Note that in our service we are returning a property called cmsId.  This property will be used by the app to identify the content that the editing tools will be associated with.



6.1 Indicate Where the In-context Editing Regions “Pencils” Belong

To enable point and click on content editing on content, you must indicate where the regions are and what content the regions relate to. To do this in HTML5 applications Crafter Studio (and the Guest library) uses HTML5 attributes.

The following attributes are used:

  • data-studio-ice: This property marks the element as the container for in-context editing. No value is required.
  • data-studio-component-path: This is the path of the content object. Example: “/site/products/a-component.xml”
  • data-studio-ice-path: This is the path of the content object. Example: “/site/products/a-component.xml”
  • data-studio-component: This is the content type name. Example: “/component/product”

Example Container element:

<div data-studio-component-path=”/site/products/a-component.xml”
data-studio-component=”/component/product”
data-studio-ice=””
data-studio-ice-path=”/site/products/a-component.xml”>
INNER HTML
</div>

  1. Update the application to pull the images from the service rather than assume their location in the application.
    1. Update the file src/components/Product.js line 34
      <Thumb
       classes="shelf-item__thumb"
       src={product.largeImage}
       alt={product.title}
       cmsId={product.cmsId} />
    2. Update the file: src/components/Thumb.js
      import React from 'react';
      import PropTypes from "prop-types";
      
      
      const Thumb = props => {
       return (
       <div className={props.classes} 
       data-studio-component-path={props.cmsId} 
       data-studio-component="/component/product" 
       data-studio-ice="" 
       data-studio-ice-path={props.cmsId}>
       <img src={props.src} alt={props.alt} title={props.title} />
       </div>
       );
      };
      
      Thumb.propTypes = {
       alt: PropTypes.string,
       title: PropTypes.string,
       classes: PropTypes.string,
       cmsId: PropTypes.string,
       src: PropTypes.string.isRequired,
      };
      
      export default Thumb;
  2. Preview the application at http://localhost:3000/studio
    Note the content showing in the store is from the CMS

  3. Turn the pencils on by clicking on the pencil in the main toolbar.
  4. Hover over each product content item.
  5. Click the pencils to edit and the user will get the form where they can edit the content.
  6. Update the content.
  7. Click the Save and Close button. On save the preview will update to reflect the changes.
  8. That’s it! The preview updates.


Conclusion

 

React has become the de facto way to build highly usable web-based applications.  React helps developers create Single Page Applications that are fast and extremely usable for end users.  When those applications need content that’s managed by business users, developers have turned to headless CMS solutions to supply the content.  Unfortunately, most Headless CMS platforms do not provide full-featured editing tools like in-context editing, preview, and drag-and-drop.  Content editors are used to these tools and when they are missing it can be frustrating.

With Crafter CMS, everybody wins.  Content authors get the experience they are used to.  Developers get the architecture and development frameworks and the process they want.

CMS for NodeJS: Using Crafter CMS Javascript SDK on the Server with Node JS

In this blog, we will focus on the language-specific bindings for Javascript, the Crafter CMS Javascript SDK applied on the server side with Node JS. A deep dive on the Javascript SDK and architecture can be found in this blog post: Introducing Crafter CMS Javascript SDK

Pre-requisites for Using the Library

  • NPM / Yarn installed
    • The SDK releases are published to Node Package Manager (NPM.)  Example: https://www.npmjs.com/package/@craftercms/content
    • NPM will help you easily download the proper dependencies.  You can all so use NPM or Yarn to build and execute your application.
    • In our example, I will use Yarn to manage my package.json file and to assist me in building my application.
  • Access to a running Crafter Engine instance and site.

Building a Simple Javascript Application

The point of our application in this blog is to demonstrate how to include and use Crafter CMS’s Javascript SDK in an application and to use it to retrieve content from a running Crafter Engine instance.   We’re going to keep the application extremely bare bones in order to illustrate that this library is independent of any specific frameworks or platforms such as Node.js, React, Angular, Vue etc.

For those looking to get right into the meat of the integration, use of the SDK starts at Step 4.

Step 1: Create a basic structure and build for the app

The first thing we want to do is to create a directory for our application source.  I will call my directory simple-node. Inside that directory add a file called package.json with the following content:

{
 "name": "simple-node",
 "version": "1.0.0",
 "description": "Simple Node JS Server that will use Crafter CMS Javascript SDK",
 "main": "server.js",
 "scripts": {
 "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
 },
 "author": "",
 "license": "ISC",
 "dependencies": {
 "@craftercms/classes": "^1.0.0",
 "@craftercms/content": "^1.0.0",
 "@craftercms/models": "^1.0.0",
 "@craftercms/search": "^1.0.0",
 "@craftercms/utils": "^1.0.0",
 "express": "^4.16.3",
 "url-search-params-polyfill": "^5.0.0",
 "xmlhttprequest": "^1.8.0"
 },
 "proxy": {
 "/api": {
 "target": "http://localhost:8080"
 },
 "/static-assets": {
 "target": "http://localhost:8080"
 }
 }
}

This file describes our application, how to build it and what is needed to build it.  In the content above we can see:

  • The application metadata.
  • The application dependencies we are requiring are the various Crafter CMS Javascript SDK dependencies ( “@craftercms/content”: “^1.0.0”, “@craftercms/search”: “^1.0.0”, etc.)
  • The application build/dev dependencies that help us compile the application for distribution (xmlhttprequest”: “^1.8.0.)
  • Configuration for your Crafter CMS endpoint.

Step 2: Perform an initial build

Run yarn in your application directory.  This will download all of your dependencies.

Step 3: Create an application Javascript

Note that in our package.json we’ve listed server.js listed as the main for the application.

Create a server.js file and place the following content in the file:

console.log('server is starting');

var express = require('express');
var app = express();
var server = app.listen(3000, listening);

app.get('/', test);

function listening() {
 console.log('listening...'); 
}

function test(request, response) {
 response.send('Hello World!');
}

app.use(express.static('website'));

 

Now run the application by typing: node server.js

Finally, access your application via the browser at http://localhost:3000

 

Step 4: Calling Crafter CMS API’s with our application

Now that we have a very basic, working application it’s time to use the Crafter CMS Javascript SDK.

Crafter Engine Instance

In order to use the Crafter CMS APIs, you will need a running Crafter Engine instance with a project set up that you have access to.  It’s easy to get started. Here are some helpful links on getting things set up:

Import the APIs into your application javascript

Add the following code at the very top of your server.js script file.  Here we are declaring the classes we will use and indicating where they are imported from (the SDK.)

var classes = require('@craftercms/classes'),
    content = require('@craftercms/content'),
    crafterConf = classes.crafterConf,
    ContentStoreService = content.ContentStoreService;

XMLHttpRequest = require("xmlhttprequest").XMLHttpRequest;

Configure the SDK for your Crafter Engine endpoint base URL (server name, port etc)

Now that you have declared the Crafter CMS SDK services you want to use you are almost ready to start retrieving content.  Before we can, we need to make sure the SDK APIs know where Crafter Engine “endpoint” / server is and what site to pull the content from.  To do that we have two options:

  • We can create a configuration object and pass it with each call
  • Or we can explicitly supply the endpoint configuration with each call

Since we’re going to use the same endpoint and site, we’ll set up a configuration object and pass it when we call the APIs.  To configure the endpoint we add the following code to our script after the import statements:

crafterConf.configure({
 baseUrl: 'http://localhost:8080',
 site: 'editorial'
});

The configuration above states that our API calls will reference the site in Crafter Engine that has the “editorial” ID. By default, the configuration assumes that Crafter Engine is running locally on port 8080. To change this, add the following:

baseUrl: “YOUR_PROTOCOL//YOUR_DOMAIN:YOUR_PORT ”

crafterConf.configure({
 site: 'editorial',
 baseUrl: "https://mydotcomsite"
});

If you want the system to assume that the app and the API endpoints are on the same server you can set base URL to an empty string (“”)

Call a Crafter CMS API and get content

Make the code changes:

Now that the library is imported and configured, we’re ready to use it.  Let’s add the code to our example to make a request for content and put it on the screen for the user.   Below is the entire server.js script for our application with changes:

console.log('server is starting');

var express = require('express');
var classes = require('@craftercms/classes'),
 content = require('@craftercms/content'),
 crafterConf = classes.crafterConf,
 ContentStoreService = content.ContentStoreService;

XMLHttpRequest = require("xmlhttprequest").XMLHttpRequest;

var app = express();
var server = app.listen(3000, listening);

app.get('/', test);

crafterConf.configure({
 baseUrl: 'http://localhost:8080',
 site: 'editorial'
});

function listening() {
 console.log('listening...'); 
}

function test(request, response) {
 ContentStoreService.getItem('/site/website/index.xml')
 .subscribe(item => {
  var htmlTitle = item.descriptorDom.page['hero_title'];
  response.send('Hello World: ' + htmlTitle);
 });
}

app.use(express.static('website'));

What we’ve done is replace the code in the test function that was hardcoded to write “Hello World” on the screen for the user with the code that calls Crafter CMS for content and write the retrieved content on the screen instead.

Let’s take a closer look at the API call; ContentStoreService.getItem

  • The first parameter is the path of the content item we want to return.  The example uses the home page of the editorial site.

Test the application

After you have made your changes, stop the Node server (Ctrl+C) and restart it. Once it’s restarted, reload your application in the browser to see content coming from your Crafter CMS site:

 

Congrats!  Your application’s content is now externalized and managed in the CMS.

Step 5: Update your content using the CMS

Now that our code is complete our content authors can update the content at any time via the CMS and we don’t need to rebuild or redeploy the application.  Let’s use Crafter Studio to update the content for our app.   You can find detailed how-to help here:  Creating and working with your First Crafter Site

In Crafter Studio, find the content you want to edit

In our case, the content we’re consuming is the hero title.  Let’s make an edit to that content:
In your site’s content preview, turn on the editing pencils and click the pencil for the Hero Title (as shown above.)


Note that the author has a preview of the content.  This is something very different and ultimately much better than what you see with other Headless CMS systems.

With Crafter, it’s always possible to provide the user with a preview of the content they are editing regardless of the front end framework.  Preview capability is key because it makes editing content easier for authors.

Make a content change and save

After you click the pencil for the Hero text make the change and then click the Save and Close button at the bottom of the form.  You will see your update in the CMS right away.

Refresh the example application

Wow! Those changes in the CMS look great (if I do say so myself :D!)  Now it’s time to see the changes in our application.  Simple, just refresh your application in the browser. No code updates required!

It’s really just that simple!  A few lines of code allows us to create applications with content, configuration and other strings that we can update at any time without needing to update or redeploy our application code.

What about the full API, workflow and publishing?

This blog is meant only to cover the basics of using the Crafter CMS SDK with Node JS. A deep dive on the Javascript SDK and architecture can be found in this blog post: Introducing Crafter CMS Javascript SDK.

Conclusion

Crafter CMS’s Javascript SDK gives front end and full stack developers who work in Javascript and Javascript related technology a native programming API to work with that makes building content-rich applications much easier to do.

When we stop and think about it, almost every application has content in it.  If that content is easy to update and updating the content can be done by non-technical users at any time without a build or deployment everybody wins:

  • The content in the application is richer and much fresher
  • Developers spend time developing rather than making non-code related updates
  • Removing non-feature related deployment distractions gives us more time and makes our teams more agile.
  • Our business users can make their changes at any time which makes the business more agile.

Headless CMS capabilities provide non-technical users with the ability to update, workflow and publish an application’s content at any time without the involvement of developers and IT.

Crafter CMS’s headless capabilities go beyond traditional headless CMS systems by providing authors with an in-context preview for content editing and giving developers the freedom to use whatever front-end technology they want.

CMS for SPAs (2 of 4): Save the Content Authors

In Part 1 of the series CMS for SPAs: Are Single Page Applications and Headless CMS a Slam Dunk?  we looked at the trend toward Single Page Applications (SPA) and Headless Content Management Systems (CMS) in general. SPA applications are becoming the de facto way to build web-based applications and sites. Headless CMS is a decoupled, API-first approach to content management that aligns neatly with SPA architecture. Further, the decoupled nature of the architecture makes content more reusable (multi-channel) and completely divorces development from the CMS allowing for greater freedom and agility for developers. While these can be seen as major wins, several developer and DevOps issues remain while others have been created. Further, most of the headless CMS solutions available today set content authors back nearly 20 years in terms of content editing and workflow tooling and practices.

In this installment, we’ll focus on the various ways content authors have been impacted by headless CMS and how Crafter CMS addresses these issues to provide authors with true headless CMS support for SPA applications.

Authors Forced into the Wayback Machine

Clumsy tools and processes for editing, reviewing and testing content offered by headless CMS platforms have content authors, the primary stakeholder of CMS platforms, wondering if they fell asleep and woke up back in the early 2000’s. Let’s take a look at some of the issues facing authors in the Headless CMS space.

Preview and In-Context Editing

Authors are accustomed to easy-to-use tools that enable them to visually locate, edit and publish content in websites or applications. Many headless CMS platforms provide no way for authors to preview their work prior to publishing it. Authors are forced to change content via content entry forms that are completely disconnected from the presentation.  In order to see what the content will look like on the website or in the application, they must publish the content. No author should be forced to work with slow and clumsy deployment iterations just to ensure their content fits and looks good on destination channels. That’s a major step backward.

Some CMS vendors and practitioners argue that by completely obscuring the presentation from the authors, content gets created in a fashion that is naturally more reusable. That’s not necessarily accurate. Content is more reusable when stored and transmitted in a fashion that is divorced from presentation — but that does not mean authors should be forced to ignore how their content will be presented on key channels. As the saying goes: “the medium is the message.” To most authors, the layout is just as important as the content itself. Authors need tools in their headless CMS that are on the level of the tooling they have become accustomed to with more traditional CMS platforms.

Delivering Editing and Preview tools for SPAs

Crafter CMS gives authors a full, interactive in-context preview and editing experience within SPAs. Authors have exactly the same tooling they have become accustomed to with traditional CMS.

Crafter’s preview capability can sit in front of any web-based application. The specific technology does not matter. Crafter’s preview and editing tools are front-end agnostic. One of the key reasons Crafter is able to do this is that Crafter CMS has always separated authoring and delivery into distinct but integrated components. We’ve been assuming a decoupled architecture for years.

Authors are the main users of any CMS and their needs must be properly addressed. A solid authoring experience with true in-context editing and preview is table-stakes for any headless CMS.

Personalization of Headless / API based Content

Another area that Headless CMS platforms have impacted authors is support for targeted/personalized content. Content authors need to be in control of the rules that drive the right content to the right people at the right place and time.

To support personalization your headless CMS must support the following two capabilities:

  • The ability to design, configure or code business rules behind the services.
  • The ability to preview content and functionality driven by personalization rules prior to publishing.

To date, most headless CMS platforms are simple repositories of content that are retrievable by API call. These systems offer no ability to create rules that can be executed based on the request parameter variations and characteristics of the requester.

Further, based on the previous section, we already know that most Headless CMS platforms don’t support pre-publishing preview of content — let alone the ability to preview content and experience as it would appear in different scenarios. There is little point in writing rules or variations of content without the means to properly test them prior to publishing.

Delivering Personalization for SPAs

Crafter CMS provides excellent support for targeted and personalized content even when content is delivered in a headless environment. Authors can configure scenarios and simple rules via the UI or leverage sophisticated rules built-in scripting languages by the development staff. Further, Crafter CMS provides rich preview tools that allow authors to impersonate different users and other types of content consumers within the authoring tools so that content and scenarios can be properly tested well before they are published.

The Need for Real Versioning and Branching

Most CMS platforms (traditional and headless) support some kind of basic versioning.  For the most part that support extends only to a single content item. Each item has its own history.  There is no way to look at the entire content collection at it existed at a specific point in time. That can be a major challenge for authors if they need to reference a previous campaign or support an audit.  The ability to maintain a version history is paramount and rudimentary versioning is typically not enough.

Another key feature that is missing from CMS platforms is the ability to support branches.  Branches allow us to work on different variants of the content at the same time. A branch not only allows concurrent work but it also enables us to sync up variants when it’s appropriate.  This extraordinarily important to authors who are supporting a re-branding or a major content overhaul. Most CMS systems can’t support that without content freezes and manual “double publishes”

Delivering Real Versioning and Branches

Crafter CMS’ repository is based on Git. Git provides authors using Crafter with a versioning system that is multi-file — meaning that an author can see the entire content collection at any moment in time in its history.  Git also provides support for branches which means that authors using Crafter can support difficult operational scenarios like re-brands without any content freezes or extra publishing.

Content freezes and Other Business Interruptions

New features, design refreshes, and integrations are a way of life for today’s customer-focused market. Agility and innovation at scale and speed are key to winning in this competitive landscape. Wherever you have innovation you will find developers and development process along with its procedures, tools, and environments. Businesses want innovation without disruption. Unfortunately with most CMS platforms, due to their architecture, business disruptions are exactly what content authors and other business users end up with. Outages and complicated deployment processes along with content freezes are realities for most innovative organizations use CMS.

When we look at the reason for the disruptions to the business activity we find that the development and testing process requires that we maintain independent testing environments and that we do code deployments. It’s during this maintenance activity that authors are often told to “hold off” or “stay out of the system.” Content freezes waste time and money and they hurt the business. SPAs and Headless CMS platforms do nothing to solve this problem.

In order to get content to lower environments like Dev, QA, and Test we have to take an export of Production. Authors need to stop working during exports. Imports on the lower environments are no fun either. Every environment needs to be painstakingly and individually updated. When coding is complete it has to be rolled out. Once again authors need to refrain from using the system. Complicated deployment procedures and models can take hours, days and in some cases even weeks. More valuable time and money are wasted.

Uninterrupted Business Activities with SPAs

Crafter CMS has an architecture that is different from other CMS platforms. Crafter is designed and implemented with repository technology specifically designed to handle these processes with minimal effort and friction. Crafter CMS leverages Git at its repository layer. In contrast to CMS platforms that rely on databases or JCR repositories that rely on exports and imports that require outages to sync data between environments, Crafter’s repository is meant to be distributed and as such it natively supports syncing between related stores. We call this push button process “Code Forward, Content Back”™ Crafter CMS allows developers along with their tools and process to live and work in harmony with content authors. This enables collaboration together without interruption and with much less friction so that a greater level of innovation and ongoing operations can all take place at the same time.

Conclusion

The net-net of it is simple. Regardless of any improvement in content reusability or ease of development, authors need to be able to do their jobs easily and efficiently without interruption. New tools and approaches need to move the ball forward, not back. Unfortunately for authors, headless CMS has lost major ground.

Some of these shortcomings can be overcome with time but all of the shortcomings we looked at here are architectural in nature. Architecture changes are the most difficult and time-consuming to make. You don’t have to wait for your current headless CMS to correct course. Crafter CMS is an open source headless CMS with the right architecture to take full advantage of the benefits of SPA applications provided to end users and developers while giving authors the tools, process and uninterrupted service they need to succeed.

What has your experience been working with SPAs and your CMS?

CMS for SPAs (1 of 4): Are Single Page Applications and Headless CMS a Slam Dunk?

From web-based applications like Gmail, Instagram, and Google Maps to websites like The New York Times and Facebook, real-world examples of Single Page Applications (SPA) are everywhere you look. Developers have been turning to SPA frameworks and architectures to create better, more usable, richer applications for their users.

Nearly every Content Management System (CMS) out there purports to support SPA frameworks and architectures. In this blog series, we’ll look at SPA use in the CMS space to learn more about what’s working, what’s not and what we can do about it. Let’s jump in.

SPAs are web-based applications built with rich UI frameworks that run client side and use partial page updates rather than full page refreshes to update data, content, and UI. SPAs have several advantages:

  • Great user experience: SPAs make the user experience more fluid with rich UI interactions that leverage asynchronous calls to the server for data and partial page refreshes.

  • Clean architecture: SPAs architecture promotes a clean separation of the frontend application and backend services and data. This approach makes development faster and more flexible.

  • Great frameworks: There are a lot of great frameworks that make developing SPAs faster and easier including React, Angular, Vue and others.

In the CMS space, SPA applications have been a win for developers but content authors have taken a major hit.


Developers have been keen to adopt SPA technology and CMS vendors have quickly responded with support for Headless CMS (also known as Content as a Service [CaaS]) support.

This shift has been highly promoted by CMS vendors because it has a number of advantages with respect to content management. Returning content as JSON or other presentation-less formats makes content more reusable within and across delivery channels. More importantly, by removing the consuming application from the CMS, the approach seems to solve one of the major challenges in the CMS space: development. It’s no secret that most developers have little interest in working within the toolsets and constraints of a CMS. Developers want control over their tools, frameworks, and process. CMS platforms are notoriously framework laden and don’t integrate well with DevOps tools and process.

The headless approach completely and neatly decouples development and content production workflows. On the surface, the headless approach appears to be a perfect evolutionary step for CMS. New delivery channels and integration opportunities show up all the time. In a customer experience driven market, anything that aids development and reduces time to market is seen as a winner.

However, the reality is that decoupling the CMS from the consuming application does not solve long-standing challenges such as refreshing content in lower environments — in fact, it complicates them. Worse, complete decoupling creates new problems. While software development and content production workflows are best divorced, their products: the code and content are not. There is a time/version specific relationship between the data model, the content and the code at any given moment. To illustrate the point: it’s often not possible to “point” an older version of an application at a newer version of the content and vice versa. It’s extremely difficult to troubleshoot or perform legal and regulatory audits without this capability. Yet, with the clear benefits of better products, a cleaner deployment architecture and faster, easier development in mind, the remaining issues are either unrecognized or a compromise many developers are willing to take. For developers, the SPA and headless approach have largely been a win.

The ironic and unfortunate “dirty little secret” in the CMS space of late is that the biggest losers of the headless CMS movement have been the content authors, CMS’s main stakeholder.

Today’s headless CMS options have the following drawbacks for authors:

  • There is no preview. Authors are used to in-context editing and preview. With headless, they are back to working in forms with no preview and are left to hope and a cumbersome process to ensure that the content will present properly.
  • There is no personalization. Marketers want to be able to target and personalize their messaging to the audience. Most headless CMS platforms don’t give them the capability to describe and execute targeting rules much less test and preview the various scenarios.
  • DevOps are still not supported: Despite investments in new technology, tools and process content authors see zero improvements in DevOps activities related to feature releases. Content freezes and outages are still commonplace during feature deployments with headless CMS.

It doesn’t have to be that way! With the right CMS architecture and platform content authors, developers and DevOps can work together on SPA based sites and applications at speed with the tools and processes they are accustomed to (like in-context editing) without stepping on each other’s toes.

A Better Approach to SPAs, CMS and DevOps

Crafter CMS is an open source CMS platform that takes a completely different approach to headless CMS, SPA development and DevOps. Crafter CMS has a very different architecture from traditional CMS platforms that are monolithic and rely on SQL databases and JCR repositories.

Crafter’s architecture is modular, flexible, and completely elastic with a repository and deployment design that is shared-nothing and based on Git. This architecture enables Crafter CMS the flexibility to support content authors, developers and DevOps to collaborate together to build and release new experiences with minimal friction while using the tools and workflows that work best for them.

Crafter CMS is an API first CMS that is:

  • UI agnostic and can support development and editing and preview for any UI framework
  • Capable of supporting rich, personalized headless CMS content
  • Git-based to support your development frameworks, tools, and process in a way that separates development and content production workflows without needing to separate the deployable (code and content) artifacts.

Conclusion

SPA applications combined with decoupled, headless CMS offer significant advantages in terms of end-user experience, development, and deployment. However, it’s clear that headless is not a silver bullet. Completely divorcing the CMS and the consuming application or site creates significant challenges for DevOps, support and other departments. More importantly, the SPA/headless pairing has left authors out in the cold by taking away the process and tools they have become accustomed to over the past decade.

These shortcomings can be addressed with a new breed of CMS architecture. What’s needed is a flexible headless CMS that support proper authoring tools and process regardless of front-end technology. Moreover, we need a CMS that embraces and integrates development tools and process rather than shunning them. That’s exactly what we’ve set out to do with Crafter CMS. Stay tuned for our next blogs in this series where we’ll dive deeper into these concerns and their solutions.

What has your experience been working with SPAs and your CMS?

Introducing Crafter CMS Javascript SDK

Crafter CMS is a headless CMS that provides all of it’s services and capabilities to consumers via RESTful APIs. This enables developers to easily build content support (externalized management of content, strings, media, etc) into any application written in any programming language.

Crafter CMS also supports language-specific (e.g. Java, Groovy, Javascript, .Net, etc) and framework-specific (Angular, React, Vue, etc) bindings. These bindings make the programming model not just simple but native to the language or framework. Using RESTful APIs is easy but native bindings further reduce programming time and complexity by simplifying and reducing the code required to get the job done.

In this blog, we will focus on the language-specific bindings for Javascript, the Crafter CMS Javascript SDK. These bindings can be used in any client side (e.g. a browser-based application) or server-side (e.g. Node.js) applications.

The High-level Architecture

Before we get into the specifics of the Javascript SDK let’s quickly review the architecture. Below is a diagram that illustrates how the SDK works in your Javascript application with Crafter Engine and other Crafter CMS components to deliver managed content to your application.

You can learn more about the overall architecture of Crafter CMS here. In the diagram above we illustrate the following:

  • Authors work in Crafter Studio (a web-based application) to create and manage content. Crafter Studio provides authors with the tools they need to make updates, perform workflows and publish. Approved updates can be published to Crafter Engine(s) for content delivery at any time via the UI without any technical assistance.
  • Crafter Engine exposes content, navigation, and structures via RESTful services that are available over HTTP(s). Content and data are returned to the caller as JSON.
  • The caller in this architecture is Crafter CMS’s Javascript bindings library which is making requests on behalf of the application.
  • The Crafter CMS Javascript SDK provides the application code with Javascript based interfaces and classes to interact with. There’s no need for the application code to concern itself with REST, JSON and other lower level concepts.

Pre-requisites for Using the Library

  • NPM / Yarn installed
    • The SDK releases are published to Node Package Manager (NPM.) Example: https://www.npmjs.com/package/@craftercms/content
    • NPM will help you easily download the proper dependencies. You can all so use NPM or Yarn to build and execute your application.
    • In our example, I will use Yarn to manage my package.json file and to assist me in building my application.
  • Access to a running Crafter Engine instance and site.
    • You may need to configure the site due to CORS (Cross-Origin Resource Sharing constraints within browsers) to allow requests from your application if the app and Crafter Engine are running from different base domains. We’ll explain this further later.

Building a Simple Javascript Application

The point of our application in this blog is to demonstrate how to include and use Crafter CMS’s Javascript SDK in an application and to use it to retrieve content from a running Crafter Engine instance.  We’re going to keep the application extremely bare bones in order to illustrate that this library is independent of any specific frameworks or platforms such as Node.js, React, Angular6, Vue etc.

For those looking to get right into the meat of the integration, use of the SDK starts at Step 4.

Step 1: Create a basic structure and build for the app

The first thing we want to do is to create a directory for our application source. I will call my directory simple-js. Inside that directory add a file called package.json with the following content:

{
 "name": "simple-js",
 "version": "1.0.0",
 "description": "Simple JS app that will use Crafter CMS Javascript SDK",
 "main": "index.js",
 "author": "Russ",
 "license": "MIT",
 "dependencies": {
 "@craftercms/classes": "^1.0.0",
 "@craftercms/content": "^1.0.0",
 "@craftercms/models": "^1.0.0",
 "@craftercms/search": "^1.0.0",
 "@craftercms/utils": "^1.0.0"
 },
 "scripts": {
 "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1",
 "build": "webpack"
 },
 "devDependencies": {
 "webpack": "^4.17.1",
 "webpack-cli": "^3.1.0"
 }
}

 

This file describes our application, how to build it and what is needed to build it. In the content above we can see:

  • The application metadata.
  • The application dependencies we are requiring are the various Crafter CMS Javascript SDK dependencies ( “@craftercms/content”: “^1.0.0”, “@craftercms/search”: “^1.0.0”, etc.)
  • The application build/dev dependencies that help us compile the application for distribution ( “webpack”: “^4.17.1”, “webpack-cli”: “^3.1.0”.)

Step 2: Perform an initial build

Run yarn in your application directory. This will download all of your dependencies.

Step 3: Create an application Javascript

Note that in our package.json we’ve listed index.js listed as the main for the application. Let’s create the src directory and create an index.js in the src directory.

I’ll use the Unix touch command to create the index.js. This creates an empty file.

Once the file is in place you can run a yarn build command.  This will create a dist folder with a compiled main.js. The main.js file contains a minified, concatenated set of your dependencies and your script.js code (which is currently empty.)

Step 4: Create an application HTML

Now that our application is building, let’s create a page we can load in a browser and add some basic logic.

In your simple-js directory add a file called index.html with the following content:

 <!doctype html>
 <html>
   <head>
     <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1">
     <title>Getting Started</title>
   </head>
   <body>
     <script src="./dist/main.js"></script>
   </body>
 </html>

As you can see, all this HTML does is declare the head and body of our page and call the main.js script file.

To make our application a little more interesting, let’s add some basic logic to our script.js file. Add the following code the src/script.js file:

function component() {
  var element = document.createElement('div');
  element.innerHTML = "Hello World";
  document.body.appendChild(element);
}
component();

Now rebuild your application using the yarn build command and open the index.html file in your browser to see your application running.

Step 4: Calling Crafter CMS API’s with our application

Now that we have a very basic, working application it’s time to use the Crafter CMS Javascript SDK.

Crafter Engine Instance

In order to use the Crafter CMS APIs, you will need a running Crafter Engine instance with a project set up that you have access to. It’s easy to get started. Here are some helpful links on getting things set up:

CORS: Cross-Site Scripting rules

If you are following this blog step-by-step you are likely running Crafer Engine on localhost and you are loading your HTML file from local disk (e.g. file:///Users/rdanner/code/simple-js/index.html.)

From a browser’s perspective, “http://localhost/…” and “file:///…” are different host domains.  A browser, by default, will stop you from making AJAX calls from code loaded in one domain to a different domain unless the receiving domain gives the browser an OK with the proper HTTP headers. This browser behavior is a protection against CORS (Cross-Origin Requests / Cross Site Scripting) type attacks.

In Crafter CMS, you can set up the proper headers for the receiving server (Crafter Engine) to support this example by taking the following steps:

  1. In Crafter Studio, for your site/project, go to Site Config (found in the Sidebar)
  2. Select the Configuration tool. In the drop-down select the Engine Site Configuration option.
  3.  Add the following configuration and click the Save at the bottom of the screen.
    <site>
     <!-- CORS Properties -->
     <cors>
       <enable>true</enable>
       <accessControlMaxAge>3600</accessControlMaxAge>
       <accessControlAllowOrigin>*</accessControlAllowOrigin>
       <accessControlAllowMethods>GET\, POST\, PUT</accessControlAllowMethods>
       <accessControlAllowHeaders>Content-Type</accessControlAllowHeaders>
       <accessControlAllowCredentials>true</accessControlAllowCredentials>
     </cors>
    </site>

Import the APIs into your application javascript

Add the following code at the very top of your index.js script file. Here we are declaring the classes we will use and indicating where they are imported from (the SDK.)

import { ContentStoreService, NavigationService, UrlTransformationService } from '@craftercms/content';
import { crafterConf } from '@craftercms/classes';

Configure the SDK for your Crafter Engine endpoint base URL (server name, port etc)

Now that you have declared the Crafter CMS SDK services you want to use you are almost ready to start retrieving content. Before we can, we need to make sure the SDK APIs know where Crafter Engine “endpoint” / server is and what site to pull the content from. To do that we have two options:

  • We can create a configuration object and pass it with each call
  • Or we can explicitly supply the endpoint configuration with each call

Since we’re going to use the same endpoint and site, we’ll set up a configuration object and pass it when we call the APIs. To configure the endpoint we add the following code to our script after the import statements:

crafterConf.configure({
 site: 'editorial'
});

The configuration above states that our API calls will reference the site in Crafter Engine that has the “editorial” ID. By default, the configuration assumes that Crafter Engine is running locally on port 8080. To change this, add the following:

baseUrl: “YOUR_PROTOCOL//YOUR_DOMAIN:YOUR_PORT ”

crafterConf.configure({
 site: 'editorial',
 baseUrl: "https://mydotcomsite"
});

If you want the system to assume that the app and the API endpoints are on the same server you can set base URL to an empty string (“”)

Call a Crafter CMS API and get content

Make the code changes:

Now that the library is imported and configured, we’re ready to use it. Let’s add the code to our example to make a request for content and put it on the screen for the user. Below is the entire index.js script for our application with changes:

import { ContentStoreService, NavigationService, UrlTransformationService } from '@craftercms/content';
import { crafterConf } from '@craftercms/classes';

crafterConf.configure({
 site: 'editorial'
})


function component() {

   ContentStoreService.getItem("/site/website/index.xml", crafterConf.getConfig()).subscribe((respItem) => {
      var element = document.createElement('div');
      element.innerHTML = respItem.descriptorDom.page['hero_title'];
      document.body.appendChild(element);
    })
}

component();

What we’ve done is replace the code in the component function that was hardcoded to write “Hello World” on the screen for the user with the code that calls Crafter CMS for content and write the retrieved content on the screen instead.

Let’s take a closer look at the API call; ContentStoreService.getItem

  • The first parameter is the path of the content item we want to return.  The example uses the home page of the editorial site.
  • The second parameter is our configuration object which supplies the site and endpoint base URL configuration.
  • Lastly, you will note the subscribe operation.The SDK makes asynchronous calls to the Crafter Engine component of Crafter CMS. Subscribe allows you to supply the code you want to execute when the call returns. In our example, this is where we create an element, get our content value (hero_title) from the returned response and then update the application with the content.

Compile the code

Once you have updated your code, rebuild the application.

Test the application

After you compile, if you refresh your application you should see content from your Crafter CMS project show up in the updated app!

Congrats! Your application’s content is now externalized and managed in the CMS.

Step 5: Update your content using the CMS

Now that our code is complete our content authors can update the content at any time via the CMS and we don’t need to rebuild or redeploy the application. Let’s use Crafter Studio to update the content for our app. You can find detailed how-to help here: Creating and working with your First Crafter Site

In Crafter Studio, find the content you want to edit

In our case, the content we’re consuming is the hero title. Let’s make an edit to that content:
In your site’s content preview, turn on the editing pencils and click the pencil for the Hero Title (as shown above.)


Note that the author has a preview of the content. This is something very different and ultimately much better than what you see with other Headless CMS systems.

With Crafter, it’s always possible to provide the user with a preview of the content they are editing regardless of the front end framework. Preview capability is key because it makes editing content easier for authors.

Make a content change and save

After you click the pencil for the Hero text make the change and then click the Save and Close button at the bottom of the form. You will see your update in the CMS right away.

Refresh the example application

Wow! Those changes in the CMS look great (if I do say so myself :D!) Now it’s time to see the changes in our application. Simple, just refresh your application in the browser. No code updates required!

It’s really just that simple! A few lines of code allows us to create applications with content, configuration and other strings that we can update at any time without needing to update or redeploy our application code.

What about workflow and publishing?

Good question! Most of the time you want a review and approval process before content updates to applications are made public. We call this process workflow and publishing. Crafter CMS has workflow and publishing capabilities right out of the box.

To keep our example as simple as possible I kept the architecture simple and we pointed our application directly to Crafter Studio and the preview server on localhost, port 80.

In the configuration above, the API will see updates immediately. The architecture in the High-Level Architecture section above shows a typical production topology in which updates go through approval workflow and publishing. Once the content is approved and published it is then available to the application.

Getting to know the SDK API

In our example application, we consumed a single service method from the SDK. Now that we know how to use the SDK let’s take a look at the various services and service methods the SDK provides:

Service Description
Content Service
(@craftercms/content)
This package contains services for retrieving content and navigation using APIs offered by Crafter CMS.

  • Get a content object and its associated content attributes
  • Get a tree of content objects (children, trees etc)
  • Get dynamic navigation and breadcrumb structures
  • Execute URL transformations

API Specification and examples:
https://www.npmjs.com/package/@craftercms/content

Search Service
(@craftercms/search)
This package contains tools for integrating your application with Crafter Search.

  • Create Crafter Search query objects
  • Execute Crafter Search queries

API Specification and examples:
https://www.npmjs.com/package/@craftercms/search

 Conclusion

Crafter CMS’s Javascript SDK gives front end and full stack developers who work in Javascript and Javascript related technology a native programming API to work with that makes building content-rich applications much easier to do.

When we stop an think about it, almost every application has content in it. If that content is easy to update and updating the content can be done by non-technical users at any time without a build or deployment everybody wins:

  • The content in the application is richer and much fresher
  • Developers spend time developing rather than making non-code related updates
  • Removing non-feature related deployment distractions gives us more time and makes our teams more agile.
  • Our business users can make their changes at any time which makes the business more agile.

Headless CMS capabilities provide non-technical users with the ability to update, workflow and publish an application’s content at any time without the involvement of developers and IT.

Crafter CMS’s headless capabilities go beyond traditional headless CMS systems by providing authors with an in-context preview for content editing and giving developers the freedom to use whatever front-end technology they want.

 

Content Management Meets DevOps (Part 1 of 2) How a Git-based CMS Improves Content Authoring and Publishing

Traditional CMS platforms based on SQL and JCR repositories have begun to show major signs of weakness in keeping up with today’s demands for a high rate of innovation and rapid scalable deployment on modern elastic architectures. This is nowhere more evident than the move towards headless CMS. Many CMS platforms today push headless, or what some call Content as a Service (CaaS), as the one-stop-shop solution to the struggles most CMS platforms have in providing support for scalability, multi-channel, and development integration. It’s not. Headless capability is important but it has its own limitations.

Crafter CMS, an open source Git-based dynamic CMS tackles all of these challenges head-on with a set of technologies and that incorporate lightweight development, integration with developer tools and process, and elastic scalability for content delivery that provides the ability to serve any front-end technology via API or markup with fully dynamic content.

In this two-part series, we’ll explain the basic mechanics that support content authoring, publishing and developer workflow and demonstrate how these mechanics combined with Crafter’s architecture and developer stack set a new standard for what a CMS can provide in today’s competitive digital marketplace.

Content Management and Deployment Mechanics

In this section we’ll explore the mechanics of how (non-technical) content authors work with the CMS and how their changes, once reviewed and approved, are deployed from their authoring tools to a live content delivery system.

Crafter CMS is decoupled, composed of several microservices where content authoring and content delivery services are separated into their own distinct, subsystems. This model has many advantages related to security, scalability and delivery flexibility. In a decoupled architecture, content is published from authoring to delivery as shown in the diagram below. The delivery system may be any number of independent digital channels – enterprise website, mobile app, social, augmented reality, digital kiosk or signage, e-commerce front end, microsite, etc.

Crafter CMS supports authoring via Crafter Studio that sits on top of a headless Git-based repository and publishing system. Content authors don’t need to know anything about Git. They simply work with Crafter Studio, a web-based application. Crafter Studio provides beautiful content entry forms, in-context editing with multi-channel preview, drag-and-drop layout, component placement, image cropping, and more. While content authors are performing their work, Crafter is managing all of the Git mechanics, managing locking, creating a time-machine like, Git-based version history and audit trail for them behind the scenes, all accessible to them via the Studio UI.

 

Figure 1: Crafter CMS microservices applied to decoupled architecture

Crafter’s publish mechanism deploys content from the Authoring system to the Delivery system. Content logically flows from the authoring environment to the delivery environment. The mechanism for this, given the underlying Git repo, is a “pull” type interaction. Meaning the actual network conversation is initiated from the delivery infrastructure to the authoring infrastructure, as shown in Figure 2.

Each delivery node has a Deployer agent that coordinates deployment activities on the node for each site that is being delivered on that node.

  • Delivery nodes can initiate deployment pulls either on a scheduled interval (a “duty cycle”), on-demand via an API call, or both.
  • The Deployer performs a number of activities beyond receiving and updating content on the delivery node. A list of post-commit processors is run. These can be used to execute updates on search indexes, clear caches and perform other such operations.
  • The Delivery node maintains a clone of the Authoring Git-based repository.
  • The Crafter Deployer takes care of managing the synchronization of the delivery node’s clone authoring repository from the authoring environment.
  • Git-mechanics ensure content sync is 100% accurate.

Figure 2: Crafter’s Dynamic CMS Publishing via Git

Technically speaking, Authoring does not require knowledge of the Delivery nodes. This makes the architecture more elastic, globally scalable and even enables Crafter to support disconnected and intermittent content delivery.

  • Elastically add new nodes or revive dormant nodes and they will sync to the latest without any additional wiring.
  • Create region-based depots to avoid transferring data more than once over long distances for global deployments.
  • Airplanes, cruise ships, drilling/mining locations and other remote disconnected deployments can operate with their latest pull of content, and sync up with Authoring when connectivity is available.

Figure 3: Elastic Delivery

In Crafter CMS, only approved content is published to the delivery environment. Crafter manages this by using 2 repositories for each project. One called a “Sandbox” which contains work-in-progress and the other called “Published” which represents approved, published work and complete content history.

  • Authors use the Crafter Studio UI to review and approve content via workflow.
  • Crafter Studio takes care of moving approved work between Sandbox and Published repositories.
  • Delivery nodes monitor the published repository for updates.


Figure 4: Authors work in Sandbox. Delivery nodes pull from Published.

Benefits

Crafter’s Git-based publishing model provides your authoring team with a highly reliable, highly accurate publishing mechanism that is elastically scalable, globally distributable and supports multi-channel.  Crafter CMS’s architecture enables your team to reliably deliver your dynamic content on any channel, wherever and whenever it is needed.

Further, As we’ll see in Part 2, this architecture enables content authors to work side-by-side with DevOps, while they continually introduce new features and functionality without any disruption to the authors. We call this seamless collaboration between devops and authors DevContentOps.

How do I set up this workflow?

The underlying Git repositories and related workflow for Authoring require no setup at all. When you create a project in Crafter Studio it automatically creates the local “Sandbox” and “Published” repositories. When you add a new “Delivery” node a simple command line script is run on that node that configures the node’s deployer to replicate and process content from the “Published” repository from authoring.

  • Instructions for creating a site via Crafter Studio can be found here.
  • Instructions for initializing a delivery node can be found here.

Conclusion

Content authors are non-technical users who need powerful but easy-to-use tools to help create, maintain and manage their digital experiences. Crafter Studio provides these users with a web-based application that makes it easy for content authors to achieve their goals. Under the hood, Crafter Studio leverages a powerful Git-based repository and deployment engine that provides authors with next-generation versioning and auditing mechanics as well as robust, elastic and distributed deployment.

Today’s digital marketplace is constantly evolving. Companies are always iterating on existing functionality with improvements and deeper integration or introducing new functionality and channels for their audiences. For today’s most innovative and competitive organizations, ongoing development and the move to DevOps is a fact of life. The companies that have the greatest success are those that have the right technology and processes through which they are able to achieve a high, sustainable continuous rate of constant, iterative development, integration and delivery, i.e., Continuous Integration and Delivery (CI/CD).

In the second half of this blog series, we will take a deep dive into how Crafter CMS seamlessly integrates with your CI/CD processes to enable your entire team of developers and content authors to innovate collaboratively without interfering with each other’s workstream.

 

Working with Crafter Studio’s API

Crafter CMS is a decoupled CMS composed multiple microservices where content authoring and content delivery capabilities and services are separated into their own distinct, subsystems.

Organizations often want to interact with the content authoring and management system via APIs. In this article, we’ll show the basics of interacting with this API by example:

  • Authenticate
  • Get a list of projects under management
  • Write content to a project

To keep things really basic, we’ll use CURL, a ubiquitous Linux command tool as our client.

You can find the full Crafter Studio API for Crafter CMS version 3.0 here
http://docs.craftercms.org/en/3.0/developers/projects/studio/api/index.html

Step 1: Authenticate

We’ll use the authenticate API
http://docs.craftercms.org/en/3.0/developers/projects/studio/api/security/login.html

curl -d '{"username":"admin","password":"admin"}' --cookie "XSRF-TOKEN=A_VALUE" --header "X-XSRF-TOKEN:A_VALUE" --header "Content-Type: application/json" -v -X POST http://localhost:8080/studio/api/1/services/api/1/security/login.json

The first thing you’ll note is that we’re going to perform a POST, passing the username and password as a JSON object.  In a production environment, you will want to use HTTPS.

The next thing you will notice, we are passing a cookie “XSRF-TOKEN” and a header “X-XSRF-TOKEN”.  The value passed for these are arbitrary.  They must match and they must be passed in all future PUT and POST API calls.  These are used to protect against certain cross-browser scripting attacks.  If you are using Studio APIs as part of a web client you want to make sure these values randomly generated.

When you issue the curl command you will get back a response:
 * Trying ::1...
 * Trying 127.0.0.1...
 * Connected to localhost (127.0.0.1) port 8080 (#0)
 > POST /studio/api/1/services/api/1/security/login.json HTTP/1.1
 > Host: localhost:8080
 > User-Agent: curl/7.43.0
 > Accept: */*
 > Cookie: XSRF-TOKEN=A_VALUE
 > X-XSRF-TOKEN:A_VALUE
 > Content-Type: application/json
 > Content-Length: 39
 >
 * upload completely sent off: 39 out of 39 bytes
 < HTTP/1.1 200
 < Cache-Control: no-cache, no-store, max-age=0, must-revalidate
 < Pragma: no-cache
 < Expires: 0
 < Set-Cookie: JSESSIONID=2E114725C82F3EE44ADC04B578A3BE8F; Path=/studio; HttpOnly
 < Content-Type: application/json;charset=UTF-8
 < Content-Language: en-US
 < Transfer-Encoding: chunked
 < Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2018 21:32:48 GMT
 <
 * Connection #0 to host localhost left intact
 {"username":"admin","first_name":"admin","last_name":"admin","email":"evaladmin@example.com"}

Note the response returned is a successful 200 status code and the response contains JSON with details for the authenticated user.

Also found as part of the request is the JSESSION cookie.  You will need this value for all future requests.

Step 2: Get a list of sites the user is authorized to work with

http://docs.craftercms.org/en/3.0/developers/projects/studio/api/site/get-sites-per-user.html

curl --cookie "XSRF-TOKEN=A_VALUE;JSESSIONID=2E114725C82F3EE44ADC04B578A3BE8F" -H "X-XSRF-TOKEN:A_VALUE"  -X GET http://localhost:8080/studio/api/1/services/api/1/site/get-per-user.json?username=admin
Note the CURL command contains your session ID and XSRF tokens.
When you issue the CURL you will get a response that contains sites your user has access to:
{"sites":[{"id":9,"siteId":"ar","name":"ar","description":"","status":null,"liveUrl":null,"lastCommitId":"951004363449cc83209f307b1e9f110dab37fed7","publishingEnabled":1,"publishingStatusMessage":"idle|Idle","lastVerifiedGitlogCommitId":null},{"id":5,"siteId":"diiot","name":"diiot","description":"","status":null,"liveUrl":null,"lastCommitId":"92d543eaa164b1ebfbdd6ce538ae028d4d6421b7","publishingEnabled":0,"publishingStatusMessage":"idle|Idle","lastVerifiedGitlogCommitId":"92d543eaa164b1ebfbdd6ce538ae028d4d6421b7"},{"id":10,"siteId":"editorialcom","name":"editorialcom","description":"","status":null,"liveUrl":null,"lastCommitId":"503d922f226e8ab821073e23ef5a229f907212a0","publishingEnabled":1,"publishingStatusMessage":"","lastVerifiedGitlogCommitId":"503d922f226e8ab821073e23ef5a229f907212a0"},{"id":3,"siteId":"flow","name":"flow","description":"","status":null,"liveUrl":null,"lastCommitId":"21923775c3a1fc778a364d47884b9ee2bb4928a5","publishingEnabled":1,"publishingStatusMessage":"idle|Idle","lastVerifiedGitlogCommitId":"21923775c3a1fc778a364d47884b9ee2bb4928a5"},{"id":8,"siteId":"vr","name":"vr","description":"","status":null,"liveUrl":null,"lastCommitId":"c67fd9dd25d1aa59ff13e3fda2a4387be50dfc69","publishingEnabled":1,"publishingStatusMessage":"idle|Idle","lastVerifiedGitlogCommitId":null}],"total":6}

The response above contains a number of projects.  In the next call I want to write a content object to one of the projects (editorial.com.) To do this I need the site ID.  I get this from the response above: editorialcom

Step 3: Write content to the Editorial com Project

http://docs.craftercms.org/en/3.0/developers/projects/studio/api/content/write-content.html

curl -d "<page><content-type>/page/category-landing</content-type><display-template>/templates/web/pages/category-landing.ftl</display-template><merge-strategy>inherit-levels</merge-strategy><file-name>index.xml</file-name><folder-name>test3</folder-name><internal-name>test3</internal-name><disabled >false</disabled></page>" --cookie "XSRF-TOKEN=A_VALUE;JSESSIONID=2E114725C82F3EE44ADC04B578A3BE8F" -H "X-XSRF-TOKEN:A_VALUE"  -X POST "http://localhost:8080/studio/api/1/services/api/1/content/write-content.json?site=editorialcom&phase=onSave&path=/site/website/test3/index.xml&fileName=index.xml&user=admin&contentType=/page/category-landing&unlock=true"

In the call above note:

  • We are passing in content as the POST body.  The content is in XML format.  In Crafter content objects are stored as simple XML documents.
  • We are passing the Session ID and the XSRF tokens
  • We are passing a number of parameters that tell Crafter CMS where and how to store the content in the repository

Conclusion

In this article we covered the basic mechanics of connecting to and interacting with Crafter Studio, the authoring services of Crafter CMS.  We’ve avoided the nitty gritty details of each API call in favor of the macro mechanics.  You now have the basic skills and capability to interact with any Crafter Studio API found here: http://docs.craftercms.org/en/3.0/developers/projects/studio/api/index.html.  Get out there and integrate!

 

Content Inheritance Basics in Crafter CMS

Crafter CMS supports content inheritance out of the box and supports it via a pluggable mechanism that allows developers to augment or override what’s out of the box.  In this article, we’ll dig into the basics of this functionality.

What is Content Inheritance

Content inheritance is the ability of the CMS to centrally manage content values.  Updating this content in one place automatically updates the value everywhere else.  This goes far beyond simple “shared components” in the sense that, as far as the system is concerned, the inherited values, in fact, belong to the content in question.  In general, with inherited content you may:

  • Centrally define default values
  • Override previously inherited values (from some other level of the graph)
  • Delete or mute previously inherited values (from some other level of the graph)

Content inheritance is useful for a wide range of use cases including translation support, microsite management and common values (hotel count, employee count, CEO name, etc) that you want to use throughout the content but want to manage centrally.

Content Inheritance Basics

Content objects in Crafter CMS are essentially structured markup, XML by default, and house data authored via Crafter Studio by content authors. Content objects are typically structured as a tree which naturally suits the notion of inheriting from a parent (not to say that the inheritance mechanics are limited to that topology). Inheritance works as follows:

Assume we have two objects, one called Parent and one called Child and they’re set up as follows:

Parent: Below you’ll see a typical level descriptor which will be the parent of another object. You’ll note the level descriptor defines multiple elements that are common to everything at this level in the hierarchy and below it. This level descriptor defines a primary CSS file main.css, a common header component default-header.xml and a common footer component default-footer.xml.

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    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <component>
            <content-type>/component/level-descriptor</content-type>
            <display-template/>
            <merge-strategy>inherit-levels</merge-strategy>
            <objectGroupId>4123</objectGroupId>
            <objectId>41d1c0c5-bfc9-8fe8-2461-dc57a82b6cab</objectId>
            <file-name>crafter-level-descriptor.level.xml</file-name>
            <folder-name/>
            <cssGroup>
                    <item>
                            <key>/static-assets/css/main.css</key>
                            <value>/static-assets/css/main.css</value>
                            <fileType_s>css</fileType_s>
                    </item>
            </cssGroup>
            <jsGroup/>
            <createdDate>2/7/2016 19:40:03</createdDate>
            <lastModifiedDate>10/8/2016 19:58:30</lastModifiedDate>
            <defaultHeader>
                    <item>
                            <key>/site/components/components/header/default-header.xml</key>
                            <value>Default Header</value>
                            <include>/site/components/components/header/default-header.xml</include>
                            <disableFlattening>false</disableFlattening>
                    </item>
            </defaultHeader>
            <defaultFooter>
                    <item>
                            <key>/site/components/components/footer/default-footer.xml</key>
                            <value>Default Footer</value>
                            <include>/site/components/components/footer/default-footer.xml</include>
                            <disableFlattening>false</disableFlattening>
                    </item>
            </defaultFooter>
            <lastModifiedDate_dt>10/8/2016 19:58:30</lastModifiedDate_dt>
    </component>

Child: Below is the XML file of a page residing under the above level descriptor and is setup to inherit from it. You’ll note the definition of the merge-strategy as inherit-levels, this invokes the level-based inheritance mechanics that require Crafter CMS to look at current and higher levels for files named crafter-level-descriptor.level.xml (this is configurable). You’ll also note that this page doesn’t specify the CSS file/group of files to include, nor will it need to specify the header nor footer components.

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    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <page>
            <content-type>/page/one-col-parallax</content-type>
            <display-template>/templates/web/pages/one-col-parallax.ftl</display-template>
            <merge-strategy>inherit-levels</merge-strategy>
            <objectGroupId>9cef</objectGroupId>
            <objectId>001f0955-6da3-8b7a-4e6b-6b373139d0ba</objectId>
            <file-name>index.xml</file-name>
            <folder-name>child-page</folder-name>
            <internal-name>Child</internal-name>
            <navLabel>CHILD</navLabel>
            <title>Child Page</title>
            <headerOverlap>no-overlap</headerOverlap>
            <placeInNav>true</placeInNav>
            <orderDefault_f>12000</orderDefault_f>
            <description>This is the Child page.</description>
            <disabled>false</disabled>
            <createdDate>7/31/2016 16:52:39</createdDate>
            <lastModifiedDate>8/1/2016 18:55:09</lastModifiedDate>
            <body>
                    <h1>Hello World</h1>
            </body>
    </page>

Crafter CMS will invoke the inheritance mechanics implemented in the merge strategy inherit-levels to merge the page and the level descriptor and the merge strategy will pull in the elements defined in the level descriptor into the child page before handing the new model (XML) to the rendering system. This means that when the page renders, the model will automatically contain the meta-data defined in the parent level descriptor. In our example above, the page will automatically inherit the meta-data fields cssGroupdefaultHeader, and defaultFooter.

When an element is defined by the level descriptor and then subsequently defined by a child, the child’s definition overrides the level descriptor.

This mechanism allows you to define meta-data that flows down the information architecture of the site such that an entire site can have defaults and those defaults can be overwritten by sections individual page. Some examples of real-life use of inheritance:

  • Site logo
  • Global stylesheet and JS includes
  • Global headers and footers
  • Section meta-data (flows to all pages/subsections)

The inherit-levels mechanism allows you to set level descriptors at various levels of the information architecture with lower levels overriding upper levels.

What we discussed thus far is a single inheritance strategy implementation, inherit-levels, the code to which is available here: InheritLevelsMergeStrategy.java. There are more inheritance strategies implemented out of the box with Crafter CMS and you can build your own to suit your needs.

Out of the Box Strategies

Strategy
Description
single-file
No content should be inherited.
inherit-levels
Content from Crafter level descriptors (crafter-level-descriptor.xml)
in the current and upper levels should be inherited.
explicit-parent
The parent descriptor to inherit is specified explicitly in the XML
tag parent-descriptor.
targeted-content
The page will be merged with other pages in a targeted content
hierarchy, including level descriptors. For example,
/en_US/about-us will generate the following merging list:
/en_US/about-us/index.xml,
/en_US/about-us/crafter-level-descriptor.xml,
/en/about-us/index.xml,
/en/about-us/crafter-level-descriptor.xml,
/about-us/index.xml/about-us/crafter-level-descriptor.xml,
/crafter-level-descriptor.xml.

Match Highlighting for Search in Crafter CMS

Highlighting search terms in search results is a common requirement for many websites.  Crafter CMS builds on top of Apache Solr and make implementing rich search and other query-driven experiences super simple.

In this tutorial, we’ll create a simple article search backend that highlights the search terms that were used within the results returned to the user.

Step 0: Prerequisites

If you haven’t gotten Crafter CMS set up and built your first site you can follow this tutorial to get started: Working with Your First Crafter CMS Web site.

Step 1: Build a content model for articles

The next thing we need is content to query against.  The first step in supporting content creation is defining the Content Type.  The Content type is the definition of the structure of a particular type of content.  In our example, we want to define the structure of an Article.

A simple article should have:

  • A Url
  • A title
  • An author name
  • A body

To define this we use Crafter’s Content Type management console:  Below you can see the example model including the fields and their types.

You can learn more about content modeling here Content Modeling in Crafter CMS.

Step 2: Create content

Now that you have your article content type defined you can create articles.  To create an article open the pages folder (we modeled the article as a page with a URL) in the sidebar and right click on the home page:

Step 3: Create a REST script to return highlighted results

Now that you have content you can write a RESTful controller and test it.  Let’s create a simple GET based REST controller.

  1. Open the Sidebar and locate the Scripts folder.
  2. Open the Scripts folder and navigate to “rest” folder.
  3. Right click on it and choose “Create Controler
  4. In the script name dialog, enter “search.get” and click Create.
  5. Enter the following code:
// build a query
def keyword = params.q 
def queryStatement = "content-type:\"/page/article\" " 
 
 if(keyword) {
      queryStatement += " AND $keyword"
 }
 
 def query = searchService.createQuery()
 query.setQuery(queryStatement)
 query.addParam("hl", "true")
 query.addParam("hl.fl", "body_html")
 query.addParam("hl.simple.pre", "<b>")
 query.addParam("hl.simple.post", "</b>")
 
 // execute the query
 def executedQuery = searchService.search(query)

def matches = [:]
matches.found = executedQuery.response.numFound
matches.articles = executedQuery.response.documents
matches.highlights = executedQuery.highlighting

return matches

Step 4: Execute the Script

In a browser, go to http://SERVER:PORT/api/search.json?q=AWORDTHATEXISTSINRESULTS

example: http://localhost:8080/api/search.json?q=bacon