Sitecore: Using a Dedicated Custom Include Folder for Actual Custom Configuration Files

In this article, we will look at creating our own custom include folder in Sitecore to avoid the ugliness of the folder/file structure that comes with a Sitecore installation and all of its modules.

Include folder contents from default installation of Sitecore with Sitecore XC 9.3

Previously, I covered Managing Commerce Configuration to Align with Helix Principles, however this approach was overly complex and not really developer friendly. Since then I have concluded that the simpler approach would be leave the "custom" folder for the Sitecore integrations and create a dedicated custom folder outside of the "custom" for solution specific custom configurations.

Added benefits to this approach include:

  • When performing an upgrade, a new or updated configuration will not override your custom configurations based on load order.
  • You won't need to revisit the Layers.config file as potentially required with my previously documented approach.
  • For local development, you can comfortablely delete the dedicated custom folder and redeploy, avoiding any stale custom configurations from your current build.

Configuring Layers.config

As the order of the layer nodes in the Layers.confg defines the order in which they load at runtime, all that is required for this approach is to add the new custom folder to Layers.config after the "Custom" layer and ensure your custom solution configuration files are placed in the App_Config/Custom_Include folder within the projects.

...
<layer name="Custom" includeFolder="/App_Config/Include/">
  <loadOrder>
   <add path="Foundation" type="Folder" />
   <add path="Feature" type="Folder" />
   <add path="Project" type="Folder" />
  </loadOrder>
</layer>
<layer name="Custom_Include" includeFolder="/App_Config/Custom_Include/">
  <loadOrder>
    <add path="Foundation" type="Folder" />
    <add path="Feature" type="Folder" />
    <add path="Project" type="Folder" />
  </loadOrder>
</layer>
...

Add the custom folder after the "Custom" layer entry and include the "Foundation", "Feature", and "Project" folders to manage configuration files using Helix principles.

Custom Include folder contents segregated from the Include folder of the default installation of Sitecore with Sitecore XC 9.3

Summary

No longer will you need to fight for configuration priority over the platform's standard configuration files or soil your solution with 'zzz' prefixed patch files.

Managing Commerce Configuration to Align with Helix Principles

In this article, we will review a sample configuration of the layers.config file to better manage your solution's configuration files when working with Sitecore Experience Commerce 9 (XC9).

Deprecated Article: See Sitecore: Using a Dedicated Custom Include Folder for Actual Custom Configuration Files for a more streamline approach to this problem.

If you take a look at an XC9 website's /App_Config/Include folder, you would have noticed that there's still some chaos happening with folder and file prefixes of 'Y' and 'Z' to assign priority order to the patch configuration files. On top of this, you may have even previous worked on projects where there have been crazy levels of prefixing 'z', 'zz', 'zzzzz', etc. to folders and files (I know I have seen some crazy levels of this), leading to developers pulling their hair out trying to locate the file's origin. As chaotic as this is, we will look at how we can bring back order for our solution.

Configuring layers.config

Our intention is to ensure that our solution's patch config files are always in a position to override the platform's patch files, while adhering to the Helix layers principle.

With the following approach, the only additional consideration introduced is to review the platform's custom config folders and files during any future upgrades to update the layers.config file to ensure the intended load order remains in tact.

Note: The following way is just one of many that can be implemented to achieve the same outcome. There is no one right way, so if you manage your solution's configuration files differently there is no need to align to this.

  1. Backup the layers.config. Always important when you plan on modifying any files that are not part of your project solution (as infrequent as this should be).
  2. Copy the layers.config file out of the App_Config folder into a core project in the same location. This is because the layers.config file itself cannot be patched and we would want this file version controlled so that the file can be deployed to all environments, and modified (if required) by our colleagues.
  3. The layers.config file is then updated to specify the load order for all current folders. While this step is a bit of a pain, as any omissions will mean that any folder/files unspecified will be applied after the loadOrder , it allows us to ensure that all of our solution configuration files will be applied last, having the highest level of priority.
    <layer name="Custom" includeFolder="/App_Config/Include/">
      <loadOrder>
        <add path="Cognifide.PowerShell.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.Carts.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.Catalogs.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.Customers.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.GiftCards.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.Globalization.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.Inventory.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.LoyaltyPrograms.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.Orders.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.Payments.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.Prices.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.Shipping.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Sitecore.Commerce.WishLists.config" type="File" />
        <add path="z.Cognifide.PowerShell.config" type="File" />
        <add path="ContentTesting" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Examples" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Feature" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Foundation" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Foundation.Overrides" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Project" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Y.Commerce.Engine" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Z.Commerce.Engine" type="Folder" />
        <add path="z.Feature.Overrides" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Z.Foundation" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Z.Foundation.Overrides" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Z.LayoutService" type="Folder" />
      </loadOrder>
    </layer>
  4. We then create three folders, following the Helix principles for our project solution. I just chose to use 'Helix' as a prefix to drill the point in.
    1. Helix.Feature
    2. Helix.Foundation
    3. Helix.Project
  5. Add the new folders to the <loadOrder>.
    <layer name="Custom" includeFolder="/App_Config/Include/">
      <loadOrder>
        ...
        <add path="Z.LayoutService" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Helix.Foundation" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Helix.Feature" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Helix.Project" type="Folder" />
      </loadOrder>
    </layer>
  6. As you are developing your solution you may find that you need to set the load order for the individual configuration files within a certain layer. In this case, you can list out the file order required. In the sample below, we have Feature A, Feature B, and Feature C. Feature A has a configuration conflict with Feature B and needs higher priority. Feature C has no conflicts. We only need to specify the config for Feature A after the folder to ensure the correct patch order.
  7. <layer name="Custom" includeFolder="/App_Config/Include/">
      <loadOrder>
        ...
        <add path="Helix.Feature" type="Folder" />
        <add path="Helix.Feature/Feature.A.config" type="File" />
        <add path="Helix.Project" type="Folder" />
      </loadOrder>
    </layer>
  8. Deploy your solution.

Summary

While you could continue down the path of having project with 'z', 'zz', 'zzzzz', etc. prefixes, by taking the initial steps to isolate and manage your solution's patch files under managed folder and file load order, we bring the chaos back to order with meaningfully named patch files that can be found exactly where you expect them to be located.