Friday, April 13, 2007

XPe tip #20: XPe Tools package

I keep mentioning XPe Tools package from www.xpefiles.com in newsgroup.
So, what is it? It is a set of tools I created for XPe developers to help exploring components and configurations, upgrading to newer version of SP, fighting with component dependencies and so on and so forth.
Actually, the initial purpose I created the first component in the package (XPProEmulation) was to get familar with undocumented CMI interfaces that XPe toolkit uses. Some day I'll write a few notes and hopefull articles here in the blog about CMI and what can be done using it.

The tools are implemented as components themselves (I thought it would be much more useful to get your hands on the tools by not leaving TD environment). More or less TD plug-ins, although TD lacks the real plug-in interface.

When you import the XPeTools.SLD, you will get a few components added to the database and they will appear under "Software : Test & Development" category in the Component Browser in TD. No repository is provided or required.
The new components you are going to see are XPe Tools (macro), Configuration Explorer, Dependency Explorer, Derive Explorer, XPPro Emulation and Smart Upgrade. Every component from the package has a link to an encrypted CMI script and DHTML page representing that component functionality.

You may include all the components into your Configuration, the image won't grow in size since no files added, by resolving dependencies of the macro component "XPe Tools". Please use XPeTools Package that includes all the components mentioned above to operate (delete/add/etc.) on the package components at once.

You will get more details on what components do and how they are implemented if you look at the Readme.txt file provided within the same zip as the SLD file. Also, all the components have links on their Settings pages ("more info") to show you more information about the current component and functionality.

I will briefly describe here what components are and what they do:

XPeTools - macro component that brings in all other components from the package. Some useful global options and flags added. Boot.INI extra switches.

Configuration Explorer - this component allows you to navigate through Configuration components to see their dependencies and components that depend on them. It also allows you to save configurations in plain text files (useful for further project comparisions).

Dependency Explorer - allows you to navigate through XPe database components to see their dependencies. Variaty of component filter options is available.

Derive Explorer - allows you to navigate through XPe database to see derived components. (got to get this worikng on FP2007)

XPPro Emulation - allows you to add group filtered components from XPe database to your Configuration. Inclusion and Exclusion Group Filters are suported. Due to some bugs of SP2 FP2007 (me reported to Microsoft) the exclusion filter is now required in order to get rid of Hardware components from the final Software-only XPProEmulation project.

Smart Upgrade - allows you to upgrade components in the Configuration preserving their extended properties. Smart Upgrade component will allow XPe developers smoothly "port"their SLX projects to SP2 and later preserving the configuration component settings during the upgrade (the settings of the "User Interface Core" component, for instance). This component should work for SP1-->SPx ports as well as for RTM-->SPx.


One quick comment about one option of the DependencyExplorer and other components - Minimum Visibility. This option is very helpful in the filtering feature of the tools. But I mainly use it to lower the visibility below 100 as the TD doesn't really allow that (well, it does but it requires a reg hack that I will post some day).
And please don't hesitate to lower the option value down to 0. Then you will be able to see even Legacy components left in the database from previous version of the product (and still distributed by Microsoft). you should not bother to add those components to your configuration(s) but it is a great knowledge you can gain if you explore those components as well.

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