Creating a Custom Widget Designer using Sitefinity and Sitefinity Thunder Part 1

Creating a Custom Widget Designer using Sitefinity and Sitefinity Thunder Part 1

April 17, 2014 0 Comments
Creating a Custom Widget Designer using Sitefinity

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This blog posts intends to cover the newest way to create custom Designers for your widgets. This post is meant to be an addendum to Josh Morales’ excellent blog post entitled Selecting Sitefinity 4 Content Inside Widget Designers, which was posted on October of 2011. Since that time Sitefinity Thunder has added features that will make building your designers much easier and a less time consuming affair. In addition, some of the anatomy that composes the Designer and its supporting files have changed since Josh’s post and are no longer valid in later editions of Sitefinity.

Rather than completely recounting Josh’s post word for word I’m going to instead focus on showing you how you do essentially the same thing he outlined, but using the newest means available to Sitefinity.

In this post we will create a custom widget with 4 controls used by our Widget and its supporting Designer:

  • A Hyperlink control on the Widget, which is fed by a Page Selector control on the Designer
  • An Image control on the Widget, which is fed by an Image Selector control on the Designer
  • A Repeater control on the Widget, which is fed by a Tag Selector on the Designer
  • A Repeater control on the Widget, which is fed by a Category Selector on the Designer

Please note that Thunder has an automated way of adding some dialogs, like the Page and Image Selectors, automatically to the Designer files, rather than adding them manually. Since this is the case we will be adding the Page and Image Selector dialogs first part of this post and then subsequently adding the Category and Tag Selector dialogs manually in the second part.


  • Visual Studio and the Sitefinity Thunder plugin
  • At least one Sitefinity page created in your project
  • At least one image uploaded into a Sitefinity Album Library
  • At least one Category created in your Categories Taxonomy
  • At least one Tag created in your Tags Taxonomy

While I don’t think this tutorial is overly complex it does touch on a number of components that might be too advanced for someone who is new to Sitefinity development. If you are new, then I might suggest familiarizing yourself with Thunder and creating custom widgets first. If you do find yourself lost or confused you can always refer to code, which has been uploaded to a Github repository and ready for your download.

Once we have completed the project we will have a custom widget and its associated designer that will look similar to the following:

Full Designer 

Figure 1- Designer

Full Widget

Figure 2- Page with custom widget


Building the Widget with the Page and Image Controls

Use Thunder to create a new custom widget, but WITHOUT a designer.

Right click on the folder where you want the new widget to reside within your project. I named and located my folder: “~\Custom\CustomDesignerExample” and the widget: “CustomWidget.cs”. You can rename your folder and widget to whatever you’d like, just make sure to keep the names consistent if you re-use any of the provided code.

Add New Item

Thunder Create Widet

Make sure to leave “Create a designer” unchecked in the next wizard section. Check “Register the widget in a toolbox section” and then select a desired place in the “Toolbox section” dropdown. Click OK and your widget will be created and registered with your Sitefinity project.

Thunder register widget

Add the following Asp.Net controls and their supporting properties and methods to your custom widget’s UI and code-behind files.

UI Controls:

<%@ Control Language="C#" %>
<style type="text/css">
    .mylinks {
        padding: 0 5px;
        text-transform: uppercase;
        font-size: 12px;
        color: #00b4c9;
<h1>Sitefinity Designer Fields</h1>
        <strong>Page:  </strong> <asp:HyperLink ID="PageLink" runat="server" CssClass="mylinks" />
        <strong>Image Thumbnail:</strong>
        <br /><br />
        <asp:Image ID="Thumbnail" runat="server"/>

Code-behind Using Statements

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Web.UI.WebControls;
using Telerik.Sitefinity.Modules.Libraries;
using Telerik.Sitefinity.Modules.Pages;
using Telerik.Sitefinity.Taxonomies;
using Telerik.Sitefinity.Web.UI;

Code-behind Properties:

/// <summary>
/// guid from designer for our selected page
/// </summary>
public Guid SelectedPageID { get; set; }
/// <summary>
/// guid from designer for our selected image
/// </summary>
public Guid SelectedImageID { get; set; }
/// <summary>
/// source url for our image
/// </summary>
public string SelectedImagePath { get; set; }

Code-behind Control References:

/// <summary>
/// Reference to the HyperLink control that shows the page url.
/// </summary>
protected virtual HyperLink PageLink
        return this.Container.GetControl<HyperLink>("PageLink", true);
/// <summary>
/// Reference to the Image control that shows the image thumbnail.
/// </summary>
protected virtual Image Thumbnail
        return this.Container.GetControl<Image>("Thumbnail", true);

Code-behind - Add 2 method calls to the existing InitializeControls method:

/// <summary>
/// Initializes the controls.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="container"></param>
/// <remarks>
/// Initialize your controls in this method. Do not override CreateChildControls method.
/// </remarks>
protected override void InitializeControls(GenericContainer container)

Code-behind Methods:

/// <summary>
/// Sets the url and title for your page link control
/// </summary>
public void GetPageLinkInfo()
    var mgr = PageManager.GetManager();
    var pageNode = mgr.GetPageNode(SelectedPageID);
    PageLink.NavigateUrl = ResolveUrl(pageNode.GetFullUrl());
    PageLink.Text = pageNode.Title;
    PageLink.Target = "_blank";
/// <summary>
/// Sets the selected image's thumbnail to your thumbnail control
/// </summary>
private void GetImageThumbnail()
    LibrariesManager libraryManager = LibrariesManager.GetManager();
    var selectedImage = libraryManager.GetImage(SelectedImageID);
    Thumbnail.ImageUrl = selectedImage.ThumbnailUrl;
    Thumbnail.AlternateText = selectedImage.AlternativeText;

Now recompile your project in Visual Studio. If everything compiled without error, then congratulations! You now have a very simple custom widget that has been registered in the backend of you project and can be “drag and dropped” on to your pages and templates.


Building the Designer

Using Thunder right click on the folder where you added your custom widget and add a new item.

Add New Item

Now select “Designer for Existing Widget”. I called my Designer “CustomWidgetDesigner.cs”, but you can name it whatever you’d like, just be sure to keep the name consistent in case you use the provided code samples.

Thunder Create Designer

In the next screen you will select the custom widget that you created previously. Mine was called CustomWidget, so that is what will show up in the “Select a control for which to make a designer” dialog.

Thunder - Select Control for Designer

If you don’t see your control listed, then you probably didn’t recompile your project after creating your custom Widget. Cancel out of the wizard, recompile and repeat the above steps. Make sure you have no errors when you recompile. You can also verify that your Widget was registered by looking in the designated Sitefinity Drag and Drop Toolbox section you added your Widget to by opening one of your Sitefinity Pages for edit.

Widget - Drag and Drop

If you were able to select your Widget in the above dialog, then you will proceed to the “Add properties to the designer” screen. Here is where you will add your Page and Image selectors GUIDS that you added to your custom Widget code-behind.

Thunder - Add properties blank

Click on the Field dropdown and select the Image or Page property GUIDs.

Thunder - Add properties File Dropdown

Now update your “Label” as desired. Click the “Interface for entering data” dropdown and select the appropriate control interface type.

Thunder - Add properties - Image Sel 1

Click “Add” and repeat for the Page Selector.

Thunder - Add properties - Image Sel 2

Thunder - Add properties - All Props

Make sure you have all of your desired Designer controls added before proceeding. When finished, click next and complete the wizard. Your Designer is now completed and ready to be used.

Your new folder should have the following contents:

Custom Widget and Designer Project Code

Your file names may be different, but you should have the same amount and types of files.

Open up your corresponding CustomWidget.cs file and take a look at the decorator above the class declaration. This is where the designer is associated with your widget:

public class CustomWidget : SimpleView

If you find that you have issues with your Designer and want to start over, then remove this decorator and delete your Designer files. Thunder will now recognize that your control doesn’t have a Designer associated with it and you can now go through the wizard again.

If all is good, then recompile your project. If there are no errors, then run your Sitefinity project in your browser of choice. When your site has loaded, login to the backend, create a page, drag and drop your new custom Widget on to it and then click your Widget’s “Edit” button. You’ll be given the following Designer dialog to select your Image and Page:

Designer - Image and Page Selectors

This completes the Image and Page dialog section of the Designer. Please proceed to Part II to see the exciting finale of Creating Custom Designers…

Please proceed to Creating a Custom Widget using Sitefinity and Sitefinity Thunder Part 2

Sample Code

Please go to my Github Repository to download the sample project.

Read Part 2

David Cowart

View all posts from David Cowart on the Progress blog. Connect with us about all things application development and deployment, data integration and digital business.

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