2.4.2. Managing items in development

Since Definition Items and some Content Items in Sitecore are created and managed in the development environment and, given the Common Closure Principle (“what changes together should live together”), we need not only to make it obvious which items in Sitecore belong to which modules, but also to manage and version the items alongside the code in these modules. Associating items with modules

Now, for connecting items with modules in Sitecore, we use a basic convention-based approach, where Definition Items are placed in folders according to which the layers and module they belong to. This applies to the items that belong to the typical configuration areas in Sitecore such as:

  • /sitecore/templates/[Project|Feature|Foundation]/[Module]
  • /sitecore/system/Settings/[Project|Feature|Foundation]/[Module]
  • /sitecore/layout/renderings/[Project|Feature|Foundation]/[Module]
  • /sitecore/layout/layouts/[Project|Feature|Foundation]/[Module]
  • /sitecore/layout/placeholder settings/[Project|Feature|Foundation]/[Module]
  • /sitecore/layout/models/[Project|Feature|Foundation]/[Module]

Habitat Example


Figure: Rendering items in the Feature/Accounts module


Figure: Template items in the Feature/Accounts module Versioning items in modules

Managing the Definition Items along with the business logic that uses them poses a technical challenge, as the items are physically stored in the Sitecore SQL databases while the business logic in code files are stored on disk. For this challenge, the Sitecore concept of serialization comes in handy.

Serialization allows items in the databases (typically in the Master and Core database) to be written to disk in a text-based format and subsequently restored into a database.

The Helix conventions define that serialized items should be versioned as part of the owning module, next to the code and project files. Place the serialized items on disk in a subfolder beneath the module:


Sitecore supports serialization through the developer toolbar in the Content Editor, but this mechanism will by default serialize items to a single location on disk – and it therefore not directly compliant with the Helix modular architecture. Serialization is also supported through the package generation tools.

Both these approaches are very manual in nature, and can be inefficient to use with the Helix methodology. It is therefore recommended to look into the third party tools available for item serialization, for example Team Development for Sitecore or Unicorn.

Habitat Example

The default repository for the Habitat example site uses Unicorn for serialization. The Foundation/Serialization module imports the required NuGet packages and configures the module for the other modules in the implementation. Each module then subsequently configures Unicorn to serialize the relevant items into the /serialization subfolder for the module. Please refer to the Unicorn documentation for more information on using Unicorn.


Figure: Serialized items for the Feature/Navigation module

The following shows the Unicorn configuration for the Feature/Navigation module of Habitat

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
        <configuration name="Feature.Navigation" description="Feature Navigation" dependencies="Foundation.Serialization,Foundation.Indexing" patch:after="configuration[@name='Foundation.Serialization']">
        <targetDataStore physicalRootPath="$(sourceFolder)\feature\navigation\serialization" type="Rainbow.Storage.SerializationFileSystemDataStore, Rainbow" useDataCache="false" singleInstance="true" />
        <predicate type="Unicorn.Predicates.SerializationPresetPredicate, Unicorn" singleInstance="true">
            <include name="Feature.Navigation.Templates" database="master" path="/sitecore/templates/Feature/Navigation" />
            <include name="Feature.Navigation.Renderings" database="master" path="/sitecore/layout/renderings/Feature/Navigation" />
        <roleDataStore type="Unicorn.Roles.Data.ReverseHierarchyRoleDataStore, Unicorn.Roles" physicalRootPath="$(sourceFolder)\feature\navigation\roles" singleInstance="true"/>
        <rolePredicate type="Unicorn.Roles.RolePredicates.ConfigurationRolePredicate, Unicorn.Roles" singleInstance="true">
            <include domain="modules" pattern="^Feature Navigation .*$" />

Habitat Example

Hedgehog Development, the company behind Team Development for Sitecore (TDS), maintains a separate branch for TDS and Habitat. Please refer to this branch, TDS documentation and support for more information on using Helix and Habitat with TDS. https://github.com/HedgehogDevelopment/Habitat/tree/TDS.


Figure: The Feature/Navigation module using Team Development for Sitecore