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SharePoint Quick Start FAQ - Part 4

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13 Mar 2012CPOL15 min read
SharePoint Quick Start FAQ - Part 4

Table of contents

In case you are new to SharePoint, please start with the below video Learn Sharepoint in 8 hours: -

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This is my fourth series of SharePoint Quick Start FAQ. In this series, the theme is WebPart, WebPart and WebPart.

What are WebParts and in what ways do they vary in the SharePoint environment?

It helps to build reusable components which can be customized and personalized according to the business user. We can either make our own WebPart or reuse existing ones from SharePoint.

Following WebParts are available with WSS:

  • DataView Web Part: Displays data with rich design support through the Microsoft SharePoint Designer.
  • ListView Web Part: Helps us display list content for any list in the SharePoint site.
  • Image Web Part: Helps us display image files.
  • Content Editor Web Part: Use this to display static HTML content using a WYSIWYG editor or link to a text file.
  • Members Web Part: Helps us display members of the site.
  • PageViewer Web Part: Displays web pages in an iFrame.

WebPart is nothing but a simple class which inherits from System.Web.UI.WebControls.WebParts. In other words you can say WebPart is kind of a WebControl which can be deployed in a WebPartZoneControl.

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The WebPart manager control is like a controller which maintains instances of WebParts. It adds WebParts to the WebPartZone when the ASP.NET pages get initialized.

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Now let’s try to see how ‘WebParts’ work in a SharePoint environment. WebPartManager uses the SPWebPartManager. WebPartZone interacts with WebPartManager which in-turn stores a serialized instance of the WebPart in the content database. In other words, the code is stored in the content database for customization.

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The big difference is that the ‘WebPart’ code is stored in a content database. So some of the differences as compared to normal ASP.NET is that, the code is deployed in a content database and is parsed using ‘Safe Mode Parser’.

What are the different life cycle events that WebPart goes through?

A ‘WebPart’ control goes through various events and has a typical life cycle.

  • OnInit: This is the initialization event and is the first event to occur.
  • OnLoad: The load event.
  • CreateChildControls: When child controls are added to a composite control, this event is fired.
  • EnsureChildControls: This event makes sure that CreateChildControls fires.
  • OnPreRender: This fires just before the render event.
  • Page.PreRenderComplete: When all controls have executed, the OnPreRender event fires.
  • Render: Render the full control.
  • RenderContents: Renders the contents of the control only.

What’s the difference between WebParts in WSS 2.0 and 3.0?

First let’s talk about a bit of history. ‘WebParts’ was born when WSS 2.0 was first introduced. In the ASP.NET 2.0 framework, a new version of ‘WebPart’ was built which could run without WSS. WSS 3.0 uses the ASP.NET 2.0 ‘WebPart’ framework.

Here are some quick points:

  • If you are doing new development using WSS 3.0, you should use the ASP.NET 2.0 ‘WebPart’ framework.
  • If you want backward compatibility, you an use the Microsoft.SharePoint.WebPartPages.WebPart class.

So the decision will be more based on what level of backward compatibility you are looking for.

The table here shows the new WebPart classes as compared to the SharePoint backward compatible class:

ASP.NET Web Parts classes SharePoint Backward Compatibility classes
WebBrowsableAttribute BrowsableAttribute
WebDisplayName FriendlyName
WebDescription Description
Personalizable WebPartStorage
PersonalizationScope Storage
EditorPart ToolPart
EditorPartCollection ToolPart[]
CreateEditorParts() GetToolParts()
RenderContents() RenderWebPart()
SetPersonalizationDirty() SaveProperties

Can you explain the six steps we need to create a WebPart in SharePoint?

Now that we have understood the basics of WebPart, let's deploy a WebPart practically. There are three steps to deploy WebParts:

Step 1: Create the Webpart

The first step is to create the WebPart. Below is the code snippet of a WebPart. We need to reference WebParts, the custom webpart class should inherit from the WebPart class, and finally we need to override the CreateChildControls method with our custom implementation.

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Step 2: Copy the compiled DLL to the virtual directory in the Bin folder

The second step is to copy the compiled DLL to the virtual directory of the SharePoint site.

You can get the virtual directory from IIS from the home directory tab in IIS. For instance, the current website is hosted on the SharePoint 80 virtual site which is actually located at ‘C: \Inetpub\wwwroot\wss\VirtualDirectories\80’.

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So now let’s browse to the ‘C: \Inetpub\wwwroot\wss\VirtualDirectories\80\bin’ directory and copy the DLL in the bin folder.

Step 3: Make the entry of the WebPart in the web.config file

Now that we have copied the DLL to the ‘bin’ folder, we need to make a ‘SafeControl’ entry in the ‘Web.Config’ file of the virtual directory.

Let’s browse to ‘C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\wss\VirtualDirectories\80’, open the web.config file, and add the class library name in the ‘SafeControls’ section of the web.config file. The code snippet below shows this in a visual manner.

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Step 4: Add it to the WebPart gallery

Now that we have added the WebPart in the ‘web.config’ file, it is time to make it available in the web part gallery. Click on Site settings -> click Webparts -> click New button, you should see the figure shown below.

You can also see the WebPart which you recently added is the gallery. To make it available, click the check box and click Populate Gallery.

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You should now see your WebPart (for this context, it is SimpleLabelWebPart) in the WebPart gallery.

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Step 5: Add the WebPart to site pages

Now that our WebPart is available in the gallery, it’s time to add this WebPart to a SharePoint page. Go to the page where you want to add this WebPart, click on the site action menu, and click Edit page as shown in the below figure.

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On the page, you should see an ‘Add a WebPart’ button. Click on it and it will populate with the existing Web Parts. Browse to your web part and click Add.

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Once done, your WebPart is now added to the site page. You can edit the default WebPart properties by clicking on ‘Modify Shared WebPart’. For simplicity's sake, we have changed the title.

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Step 6: View the WebPart

You can see the changed title display when viewing the page normally. With a few lines of code, you can see how we have achieved a huge customization.

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How can we implement customization and personalization in WebParts?

Personalization and customization is all about improving individual user experience as per personal choices. Every human is different and everybody wants that the world moves as per their choice. The same holds true for websites. For instance, your website can have features like weather forecast, business news, and sports news. As an admin, you have the capability to change the look and feel of the website which gets displayed to all users. Some individual users would like to only see news and not weather forecast. So the website should provide some kind of functionality where the users can go and personalize their choices so that the website behaves according to their choices.

The capability where the admin can change the look and feel is called customization. This change is reflected for every viewer who comes to the site. The capability that individual users can either choose to view the news with weather forecast or not is called personalization.

Just cutting it short, when changes made to a site are shared by all users, it’s called customization. When we make changes to some feature which is only seen by individual users, it is termed as personalization.

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Let’s try to understand personalization and customization in SharePoint using a small sample. Let’s make a label whose text / data can be personalized by every user, but the font size can only be customized by the admin. The font size customization activity is only limited to the admin and cannot be personalized by the end user.

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Let’s create the label WebPart which we discussed. We will create a webpart whose label data can be personalized and the font size can only be customized by the admin.

The first thing we need to do is create a class for the webpart. Below is the code snippet of the webpart class. We have created two private properties for font size and label data.

public class SimpleLabelCustomization : WebPart
    private int _intFontSize;
    private string _strLblData = "";

The second thing we need to do is define the personalization scope for both of these properties.

We want the label data changes to be personalized by the user. So we need to attribute personalizable to personalizationscope.user. In order to display the description and display name, we have specified WebDisplayName and WebDescription.

WebDisplayName("Personalize your Label data"),
WebDescription("This label is a personalized webpart")]
public string LabelData
    get { return _strLblData; }
    set {_strLblData = value; }

We want font size changes to be viewed by all users so we need to attribute the personalizable value to personalizationscope.Shared.

WebDisplayName("Customize font size for every one"),
WebDescription("This label is a customized webpart")]
public int FontSizeValue
    get{ return _intFontSize; }
    set{_intFontSize = value; }

Below is the complete code snippet with explanation.

Image 16

So now that we are done with our webpart, we need to deploy it. You can see the previous section to understand how to deploy a webpart.

Now let’s see the fun of personalization. To personalize the page, you need to click on the top right hand corner and then click Personalize page. Now if you edit the webpart, you will see only the label data can be changed.

This is because we have set label data as a user based personalization and font size as a shared personalization.

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To customize the webpart, we need to click on Site Action and click Edit Page. You can now see both the properties. The Site Actions menu can be restricted to administrators to have better control on customization and personalization.

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To see the actual action, create two different logins and change data with each user logged in. You will see that depending on what username you have logged in, you will see the label data as per user personalization.

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How can we create a custom editor for a WebPart?

There are situations where you want to use your own custom WebPart editor rather than use the default WebPart editor.

Note: In case you do not know how to deploy a WebPart, we advice you to read the answer for the question “Can you explain the six steps we need to create a WebPart in SharePoint?

To make your own custom web part editor is a four step procedure.

Step 1: The first the thing is to create the WebPart. We need to make a slight change, i.e., ‘WebBrowsable (false)” so that it does not use the default ‘WebPart’ editor. Below is the code snippet for the same font size ‘WebPart’ which has ‘WebBrowsable’ value as false.

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Step 2: The other thing which we need to do in the WebPart is override the ‘CreateEditorParts’ method and add our custom WebPart editor. We will be seeing in the next step how we can create the web part editor. For this example, we have created ‘SimpleWebPartEditor’.

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Step 3: In order to create your custom web part editor, the first step we need to do is inherit from the EditorPart class. Currently we have created a custom web part editor class called SimpleLabelWebPart. In this custom class, we have created two labels and two text boxes. The two textboxes will take the font size and label value while the labels will display the description for those text boxes. In other words, we have defined our UI which takes inputs which can customize our web part.

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Step 4: Two activities take place in general, one is when we the user gives customization values which customizes the web part and the other when we need to synchronize the customization values with the web part.

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The web part customization values are stored in a content database according to the user logged in. So when customization data is provided for a web part through our custom web part editor, we need to override the ApplyChanges method and push the customization data to the web part object. In other words, the data is pushed from the web part editor to the content database on a per user basis.

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Now comes the second aspect where we need to synch the web part data from the content database with the web part itself. For this, we need to override the syncchanges method and push the data from the web part object into the web part editor user interface.

Now if you edit your web part, you can see how the custom editor looks like.

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What are List and Content Types in SharePoint?

SharePoint is all about data and collaboration of data between different types of users. When we talk about data, it varies from user to user and different types of meta-data. For instance, below we have four kinds of users: project manager, accountant, security personnel, and HR.

Image 26

All these four users have different kinds of data formats. For instance, the accountant needs to save data with different data types and fields like voucher number (20 character string), voucher date (MM/DD/YYYY), debit (Boolean true), credit (Boolean false), and amount (double). The security needs in-time, out-time, items carried, and biometrics data.

In order to bring a flexible collaborative data model which can be further extended, SharePoint brought in something called List and Content Types. Data is visualized in terms of List data as shown below. With this approach, you can add more fields and content type on a needed basis.

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The best part about organizing data in the list is the amount of flexibility and extensibility we can bring in. Some of the flexibility a list type of approach brings in are given below:

Different views of the list

For instance, an employee list can be viewed employee wise or date wise.

Image 28

Create content from external list storage

You can take Excel and instruct SharePoint to create a list of that type.

Which are the various readymade list types that SharePoint provides currently?

There are approximately thirteen different readymade list types, below mentioned are some of the most used ones.

Document library

Used for collaborating on documents with support for versioning, check-in and check-out, and workflow. Includes support for deep integration with Microsoft Office.

Form library

Used to store XML documents and forms for use with Microsoft Office InfoPath.

Wiki page library

Used for collaborative web pages based on wiki pages, which are dynamically generated and collaboratively edited web pages.

Picture library

A specialized document library enhanced for use with pictures. Includes support for slideshows, thumbnails, and simple editing through Microsoft Office Picture Manager.


Used for simple sharing of timely news with support for expiration.


A list for tracking people and contact information, with support for integration into Microsoft Office Outlook and other WSS-compatible contacts applications.


A simple list for threaded discussions with support for approval and managing discussion threads.


A list for managing hyperlinks.


A list for tracking upcoming events and deadlines. Includes support for integration and synchronization with Office Outlook.


A list of activity-based items that can integrate with workflow.

Project tasks

An enhanced tasks list with support for Gantt chart rendering and integration with Microsoft Office Project.

Issue tracking

A list for tracking issues and resolution, with support for prioritization.

Custom list

An empty list definition for extending with custom columns, or created using Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheets.

Source code

At the top of this article is attached the source code which shows simple web parts, custom web parts, and a custom web part editor. Please feel free to modify it and understand the concepts.

Previous SharePoint QuickStart FAQ

  • Quick Start FAQ Part 1: 11 basic FAQ questions, a must for every newcomer. It's the basic Quick Start FAQ tutorial which talks about what is SharePoint, WSS, MOSS, Site/Site collection, Virtual Path provider, and then ends with explaining Site Pages and Application Pages, SharePoint Quick Start FAQ - Part 1.
  • Quick Start FAQ Part 2: This is the second part in the series which explains the readymade functionalities, custom pages, deploying/activating/deactivating features, SharePoint Quick Start FAQ - Part 2.
  • Quick Start FAQ Part 3: This is the third part of the series in which we have explained page templates, page instances, WSS model, understand safe mode processing, and deploying custom controls, SharePoint Quick Start FAQ - Part 3.
  • Quick Start FAQ Part 5: This is the fifth series of the SharePoint Quick Start FAQ. In this series, the theme mainly concentrates on custom columns, content types, and document list library. I am sure once your read this article, your thinking of how SharePoint organizes document centralization will change, SharePoint Quick Start FAQ - Part 5.
  • Quick Start FAQ Part 6: This is the sixth series of SharePoint Quick Start FAQ. In this series, the theme mainly concentrate on SharePoint workflows. The SharePoint workflow sits on top of the Windows workflow and adds content centric workflow features. So we will first start with some basics on Windows workflows and then move towards SharePoint work flows. Finally we will see how we can create workflows using SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio 2005 and 2008, SharePoint Quick Start FAQ - Part 6.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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GeneralDevoted to your Article Pin
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GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
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GeneralExcellent demonstration Pin
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GeneralNice one Pin
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QuestionHow to initialize custom properties for Web Parts? Pin
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GeneralGood article but surprised by ratings.... Pin
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