Hey I'm Lee. My blog was put up to house my strange thoughts, ramblings, nuggets of information I can refer back to and document my learning curves on new dev stuff and fitness regimes.

All thoughts and comments on here are my own, and in no way reflect my employer - I also take no responsibility for spelling, grammar, terminology, accuracy of facts etc... So read at your own risk!

A Complete Newbie's Guide To Umbraco CMS

This post really is a beginners guide to Umbraco, I decided to put it together because when I first started messing around with Umbraco I had more than a few issues trying to get it installed due to not being able to find the right answers about a year or so ago (Or was it I was just being impatient) - And I'll hold  my hands up, I threw my toys out the pram and just gave up… Now I REALLY kick myself and WISH I had carried on.

There has also been some great movements in pushing Umbraco to the next level and making it easier than ever to use. Now I'm no professional or avid blogger, so don't expect miracles… this is sort of a guide/my own learning journey over the past 4 months all thrown together in one post.  My only aim for this post is to try and give anyone looking to get into Umbraco and real life example and reference from someone doing the same thing.

So What Is Umbraco?

Well here is what's written on the CodePlex Site..

"For the first time on the Microsoft platform a free user and developer friendly cms (Content Management System) that makes it quick and easy to create websites - or a breeze to build complex web applications. Umbraco got award-winning integration capabilities and supports your ASP.NET User and Custom Controls out of the box. It's a developers dream and your users will love it too. Used by more than 57.000 active websites including Heinz.com, Peugeot.com, NAIAS.com and Microsoft's documentinteropinitiative.org website you can be sure that the technology is proven, stable and scales."

And here is what Umbraco say themselves..

"Who would believe that there would be an open source CMS based on Microsoft's ASP.NET? A CMS that can support any modern browser and that even allows editing with Microsoft Word. One where designers can create accessible and valid xhtml with their mark-up left intact. Where developers can integrate any .net based control right out of the box. If someone tells you "won't happen", then they have never used umbraco..."

But even more convincing is a great video by the creators themselves :)

http://umbraco.org/documentation/videos/getting-started/what-is-umbraco [more]

Right I'm Convinced! How, what, where, who…

I'll break it down and hopefully if you follow the below, you'll be up and running in no time and be a very impressive Umbraco developer :)

Some Important Bookmarks Before We Start

Please take the time to bookmark these pages, they WILL help you down the line.

  1. Our.Umbraco Forum - http://our.umbraco.org/forum
    A great active community where you can post questions and get answers within a few minutes from Umbraco users in the know .
  2. Umbraco Wiki - http://our.umbraco.org/wiki
    The wiki is relatively knew, as it was added with the new our.umbraco site.  But its getting bigger by the day and has some AMAZING nuggets of information in it.
  3. Umbraco Projects - http://our.umbraco.org/projects
    For me personally, this is my most favourite part of the new our.umbraco site as the projects section is becoming HUGE.  Some fantastic FREE add-ons you can use, including the forum project, eCommerce, Twitter and many more.
  4. Stack Overflow - http://stackoverflow.com
    This is not specifically about Umbraco, but anyone who hasn't found StackOverFlow yet then you need to get signed up - You can get answers to any ASP.NET, XSLT & General programming questions (Including Umbraco problems) within minutes!
  5. Umbraco.TV - http://umbraco.tv
    Just brilliant for anyone wanting to learn about Umbraco, from the front end user to the developer - I reference it all the time.
  6. Nibble.be - http://www.nibble.be
    This is the site of Tim Geyssens, who now actually works for Umbraco.  This site is just RAMMED full of fantastic tutorials, mainly more advanced stuff but I would bet my shoes you will find yourself referencing this site throughout your Umbraco adventures (I have multiple times).

other must have bookmarks

These bookmarks are ones you will use when you are a bit more confident, and start playing around with more complex sites (Give it a few weeks and you'll be using these)

  1. Setting Up Membership With Umbraco
  2. Setting Up Member Profiles
  3. Working With Members API
  4. Email Newsletters (See I told you Tims blog would be popping up all the time)
  5. eCommerce / Selling Online With Umbraco
    - Google Checkout For Umbraco - http://www.orcare.com/products/google-checkout-package-for-umbraco.aspx
  6. Forums & Umbraco
    YetAnotherForum & Umbraco - http://dawoe.blogspot.com/2009/02/intergrate-yet-another-forum-193rc2.html
    uForum - http://our.umbraco.org/projects/uforum-basics (This is the forum our.umbraco is built on!)
  7. Umbraco Debugging Made Easy
  8. Extension less URL's


Stop All The Links, Just Show Me The Money! How Do I Install Umbraco On My Computer/Server

From my personal experience and from what I used to read on the old forum, this is where Umbraco used to have problems.  People would always struggle with permission settings on their server/computer and blame the software.  But recently Microsoft released an absolutely fantastic tool, called Web Platform Installer this will do all the hard work for you with permissions and adding the correct/latest files to your setup.

Just download & install WPI, fire it up and select Umbraco under the Web Applications tab as shown below and follow the Wizard.


If you still struggle with installing Umbraco with the Web Platform Installer (Even I got this to work, so you shouldn't have a problem), then I would check out this section of the Umbraco Wiki and follow it step by step.


Hurry Up Will You.. I Just Want To Play :(

Soon my young padawan…

So you have Umbraco now on your machine / server with all the right file permissions - Now lets look at setting it up.  First up we have a walk through video from the Umbraco crew themselves



Now personally when you get to step 5 'Install A Foundation?', I would select 'No Foundation Please' as runway can be added at a later stage.  But more importantly I would recommend installing CWS2 with a completely clean install as a starting point which I'll explain in more detail below.

Damn Are You Still Going On! I Just Want To Build Something!!

Almost there… But for me, these are the most important steps that really made the difference.

Now there are a few options here, but I'll walk you through how I went about learning from scratch and now have built a few sites, created my own packages and macros, and even understand XSLT!

  1. Umbraco.TV - http://umbraco.tv
    First thing I did was went to over to the brilliant Umbraco.tv and got a subscription, I cannot stress enough how much help the site builder & developer videos are when you are first learning.  Basically the videos cover 99% of the level 1 training.  So by watching them all you get a great understanding of 'how' to build a site and what things mean.
    > Free Site Builder Video: http://umbraco.tv/documentation/videos/for-site-builders
    > Free Developer Video: http://umbraco.tv/documentation/videos/for-developers/foundation/using-net-user-controls
  2. Install CWS 2 - ( Creative Website Starter v2 by Warren Buckley)
    Once I had a grasp I decided to download and install CWS2, its a fully featured site straight out the box built by an Umbraco MVP!  This was great as now I had an understanding from the videos, I started to delve around Warrens XSLT's & Macro's (If you watched all the videos you'll know what an Umbraco Macro is) and see how things really work under the hood.
  3. Human Face To Face Training
    Now I wanted to become level 1 certified (And successfully did just that) - So I decided to opt for official training.  Umbraco do lots of training course (http://www.umbraco.tv/training) however most of them seem to be in Denmark, and as I am based in the UK I didn't want to wait (Because I'm inpatient and I was excited) or travel to Denmark.  So after some posting I found Doug Robar, based in Cambridge(UK) he is a level 1 trainer and came to our office for two days which was such a great help and made me realise 'I should really read up a little about XSLT'.

    Here is a great little PDF from one of Doug's Presentation's (Although for it to really make sense you need him sitting next to you explaining the slides):
  4. XSLT Basics (Wiki) - http://umbraco.org/documentation/books/xslt-basics
    Now after our time with Doug, he pointed me to this GREAT page on Umbraco.  I would strongly recommend reading all these pages, as not only will you be able to create your own XSLT but be able to edit and understand everyone else's - As you will find, majority of people use XSLT with macros for the free projects you can download.

Obviously you don't have to do these in the order I did or I suppose all of them, but I would highly recommend it as I picked up a lot of good tips and best practices along the way.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a long way from being an Umbraco Jedi but I'm certainly on my way.

Some of My Favourite Projects

If you are this far, you'll know what a package is!  Basically a package is in simple form, an add on for Umbraco.  Some are really simple, some are pretty complex but brilliant - I can't stress enough to take your time and have a good read through the project section, as some of the projects will just save you so much time down the line.


Some of my favourites so far are:

  1. nForum
  2. CWS2
  3. Multiple DataType
  4. XSLT Search
  5. Tweet On Publish
  6. Image Cropper
  7. Image Gen
  8. Blog4Umbraco
  9. Locator (GeoCoding)

And Umbraco Forms will be up here when its released!

Hopes For Umbraco

Well my hopes for Umbraco seem to be happening, there are new free packages added to the project section every week and the wiki seems to grow gradually.  My only areas I would really love to see Umbraco grow are the video tutorials on http://umbraco.tv.

I'm not sure if the chaps @ Umbraco realise it, but umb.tv is what really sets them apart from the other CMS's that are popping up. Not only could it actually become a big revenue generator, but really help in the up take of the CMS.  Employing Tim seems to be a great move forward to this, but as a fellow newbie I'd like to see video's on the following

  • Advanced membership scenarios
  • Using The Dashboard With Usercontrols
  • How Was This Package Made (Step By Step guides on how the best projects were made)
  • Exploring The API More (Looping through media folders, members etc…)
  • How we built the Wiki
  • And so on…

Oh and one last thing I just thought of, I'd REALLY like to see more people allowing access to the full source code for their packages not just the dll - This (especially for me) would be a fantastic learning curve.  A sort of 'Ahhhh so that's how you did it' moment

Looking for help with Umbraco Development?

If you are looking for an Umbraco Developer to help you build you site then don't hesitate to get in contact with us. you can find all our contact details on our main site


Good luck with your Umbraco adventure, I look forward to seeing your projects soon :)

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