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All Posts From : September 2013

Useful Umbraco Packages - Part 1

There are literally hundreds of packages that are available now on the Umbraco Package Library. For a beginner it can be quite hard to work out which packages still work, which ones are useful and what to use them for. I tend to find that there are a handful of packages that make it onto nearly every website that I build. In this series of posts, I'm going to look at some of my go to Umbraco packages in a bit of detail to show you why they're useful and what you can use it for.

Umbraco Contour

This is one of the commercial packages that you can buy from the HQ. At the time of writing it costs 99 Euros plus VAT, which is a bargain in my opinion. This awesome package allows you to quickly and easily build forms in your browser. You can also assign simple workflow items, like sending confirmation emails and submitting records to web services (such as a CRM for example). If you are using newer versions of Umbraco with Razor, you also get the ability to fully control the markup for the forms. There's also a decent API, so you can create your own custom form field types and worflows. Contour is such a powerful little tool that I just cost it into all my Umbraco projects these days! You can find out more about Contour here.

DocType Mixins

This is another really useful little gem. Out of the box with Umbraco, you can create DocTypes that inherit from a "parent" DocType. The Mixins package allows you to create special "Mixin" DocTypes that can be assigned to multiple DocTypes. If you've ever working with Rails, you'll be familiar with the concept. I find it much less restrictive than the inherited model, as you cn easily tweak the Mixin properties in individual DocTypes without affecting the others that use the same Mixin. One thing I use this for a lot is for things like SEO and Social meta data tabs that I need to include on the majority of DocTypes. It's also handy for things like sidebar tabs. You can find out more about DocType Mixins here. If you're more of a code first kind of guy or gal, you can also check out uSiteBuilder, which lets you do the same thing, but using classes in your Visual Studio project.

Config Tree

This is a handy package that allows you to edit all of the Umbraco config files from within the developers section of the back office (including the web.config file). This is very handy if you need to make quick changes. If you have everything under source control, you probably won't use it, but for any other situation, it's very handy to be able to edit the files without having to use FTP or remote desktop. You can download Config Tree here.

Robots.txt Editor

If you do a lot of SEO work, you may need to edit the robots.txt file occasionally. This handy packaage allows you to do that right in thedevelopers section of the back office, without resorting to FTP/remore desktop. You won't use it loads, but when you do, it's very handy indeed. Grab it here.

FamFamFam Icons

The default content tree icons are OK, but lets face it, they're a bit dull aren't they? Also, it's kind of hard to distinguish different page types by looking at them. So what can you do? You can download some extra icons and use those instead of the default ones. When you install this package, it adds a TON of icons for you to use. Got a news section? Why not use a newspaper icon for it, so that it's super obvious? Got a contact form? Use an envelope! You get the idea. You can download the icon package here. If the FamFamFam icons don't float your boat, you can also try the Fugue icons set too.

That's it for today, stay tuned for part 2 in the not too distant future!