Inconspicuous SharePoint Quirks #1

Mystery of the Unimportable WebPart

So Voltaire said “God protect me from my friends, I will take care of my enemies”. If there was a SharePoint God, I would probably pray to him “Protect me from the inconspicuous quirks, I will blogoogle the rest”.

So I have a wsp with a webparts feature. After deploying a wsp to the dev server, I added a webpart to a page which showed me a charming message “Cannot import webpart”. Call me schizophrenic but a voice inside me told that dont waste time at the logs, they are not going to help. This was working fine in my local vm, but trouble-some in dev server. So what’s wrong? After a miss-adventrous chasing of dead-ends, cul-de-sacs, and no-outlets finally figured a method that works consistently.

  1. First of all, ensure that the elements.xml, SharePointProjectItem.spdata, the .webpart file, feature.xml, package.xml are all correct. Make sure the Group is correct too, or else your users will not find the expected webpart.
  2. If your webpart is extending from Microsoft.SharePoint.WebPartPages.WebPart, you must use the wss/v2 schema, ie the webpart should have a .dwp extension. The newer .webpart extension/v3 schema works only for ASP.Net webparts
  3. After deploying the wsp, check if the web.config has the correct SafeControl entry with correct version of assemblies. Also check the GAC for correct version.
  4. Goto http://server/_catalogs/wp/Forms/AllItems.aspx. This lists all the webparts in Web Part Gallery. See the Modified Time, is it the latest? If not, delete all the webparts. (You can use a simple powershell script for that).
  5. Now deactivate the webpart feature (Disable-SPFeature featureName)
  6. Again activate the webpart feature (Enable-SPFeature featureName)
  7. Check the Web Part Gallery, now all the webparts should be added.
  8. Try adding the webpart again and if it still says “Cannot import webpart”, pray to SPGod.

So why was it working on my local vm? Oh yeah. Turns that there is a bug in Visual Studio 2010 Deploy command which would not Activate the features automatically. So some time ago I had set it to “No-Activation” deployment configuration and I was activating the features via powershell. That powershell activation was taking for adding the webparts correctly to the web part gallery. On the dev server, I was assuming that the install-spsolution automatically refreshes the web part gallery too, but it does not.

It is well blogumented that webparts are not removed from the gallery upon uninstall-spsolution, but now I know it does not update the webparts  either using install-spsolution, yet the feature is blissfully activated. Cunningly symmetrically logical eh?