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Building an Internet Portal (for Free!) with DotNetNuke : Page 6

Save hours of valuable development time building corporate or departmental Web portals with DotNetNuke—a free, ASP.NET-based, open source, extendable, content management portal based on the IBuySpy Solution Kit.


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Host Options
The menu option called Host contains all of the host options for your portal.

Host Settings
You use the Host Settings tab to set host-level settings. These differ from the Admin settings because DNN applies these options across all the portals on your site. Host settings include the host title, host URL, payment processor, hosting fee, host space allotment, and SMTP mail server to name a few.

Portals
To list all of the portals being hosted you'll use the Portals tab. You'll also use the Portals tab to maintain existing portals or optionally add a new one.

DNN supports two types of portals: parent portals and child portals. Parent portals have a distinct and unique URL such as www.takenote.com. Child portals are sub-portals under a primary hosting provider account. www.takenote.com/MySubPortal is an example of how you would access child portals on the Web server. You can switch child portals to parent portals simply by changing the Portal Alias value.

Module Definitions
The Portals tab lists all of the default and custom modules currently available for use when you're adding new content. You'll also use the Portals tab to upload new modules for use on your sites.

File Manager
Use the File Manager tab to upload files to the host site.

Vendors
Like the same option of the Admin menu, you use the Vendors tab to maintain the Service Directory for the site. DNN uses the vendor information with the Banners module to add banners host-wide to all portals being hosted.

SQL
Use the SQL tab to execute SQL commands against the SQL Server your site is connecting to.

Extending DNN with Custom Modules
Up to this point you have created your own tabs and added pre-defined modules. What if you need to capture and store specific information like employee timecard information or reporting an accident or mishap on a factory floor? In this scenario, the pre-defined modules will not be of any help—you'll need to build your own custom module.

Time and space limit me from going into the planning, designing, and coding of a custom module in DNN 1.x. This is also one of the areas that will change the most in DNN 2.0. Fear not, though, because coding a custom module is a subject for one of my next articles. In the mean time, I've compiled a list of Web sites that will get you started (see Table 2).

Table 2: DNN Module Creation Resources.

URL

Description



Creating DotNetNuke MultiPage Modules

www.wwwcoder.com/main/parentid/224/site/2050/68/default.aspx

Private Assembly Tutorial

www.niquest.com

Creating DNN Modules in C#

www.dotnetnuke.dk


One of the best resources to help you understand how to build your own custom modules is to check out how the pre-built modules work. You will find them in the DesktopModules folder when you load the DotNetNuke project in VS.NET.

Big Changes Coming in V2.0
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Shaun Walker and the DNN Core Team are currently hard at work on DNN 2.0. If all goes according to plan, you should be able to download DNN 2.0 (www.dotnetnuke.com) by the time you read this article. Look for a follow-up article from me very soon exploring all the new features of DNN 2.0.

You're probably wondering what's new in DNN 2.0. While the list below only represents a subset of the new features, it will touch on the highlights.

Skins. Depending on who you're talking to, skinning tends to mean different things to different people. At one end, skinning provides a static layout but allows you to change the colors and styles with the ability to override images as well. At the more extreme end, skinning allows you to customize every aspect of the user interface without changing the actual content.

DNN 2.0 will provide a free-form skinning solution that will provide full control over the user interface. Additionally, DNN 2.0 will support skinning at the host, portal, and tab levels. You will also be able to skin your module containers. You can read more about skinning in a 40-page whitepaper on the DotNetNuke site.

Data Access Layer. DNN 2.0 will introduce a new database access layer that will allow DNN to run with any data store; currently DNN supports only SQL Server. Microsoft Access and SQL Server data providers will ship with DNN 2.0, and a third party will provide a MySQL data provider.

Business Logic Layer. DNN 2.0 will introduce a new business logic layer that uses custom business objects. You can read more about the new Data Access Layer and Business Logic Layer in a 50-page whitepaper on the DotNetNuke site.

Modules. DNN 2.0 will let you use an unlimited number of user controls per module. Conversely, DNN 1.x only supports the DesktopSrc and EditSrc controls in each module. Module security has also been improved, providing each user control with its own security access specification.

DNN 2.0 will implement a cleaner, clutter-free, module title user interface. It reduces the number of icons by providing a single link that displays a popup menu containing all of the actions for the module.

Style Sheets. DNN 2.0 will add support for multiple external style sheet specifications.

That should give you plenty to get started with for now. Obviously I couldn't cover every feature of the portal, but I hope I covered enough to make you feel comfortable enough to jump in and start creating DNN portals of your own. Keep reading CoDe Magazine because I plan to offer a future article that will revolve around DNN.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Shaun Walker and the DNN Core Team for their hard work and dedication to delivering a fine piece of software. I'm excited about the upcoming release of DNN 2.0!



Jim Duffy is founder and president of TakeNote Technologies, an award-winning training and software development company. He has a BS degree in Computer and Information Systems and over 19 years of programming and training experience. He is an energetic trainer, skilled developer, and has been published in leading developer-oriented publications. Jim, a Microsoft MVP award recipient, is a popular speaker at regional user groups and developer conferences. He is also a co-host of Computers 2K4, a call-in radio show on WRBZ (AM 850), 850 The Buzz, in Raleigh, NC. Jim is also the author of TakeNote's popular VFP database auditing product, FoxAudit. In addition to his duties with TakeNote, Jim is also the VP of Sales & Marketing for Red Matrix Technologies, a SQL Server tools vendor who's SQLAudit product adds complete audit trail support for SQL Server databases. Additional information about Jim, TakeNote Technologies, and Red Matrix Technologies can be found at www.takenote.com.
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