Sitecore 7 – An Insider’s Look into New Features and Functionality

  • Corey Caplette
  • April 11, 2013

From the moment Sitecore 6 was released in 2008, developers and others in the Sitecore community have been hearing the distant rumors of Sitecore 7. There’s been a lot of speculation over these five years about what new improvements might be in store with the next major release, and last year’s Sitecore Symposium provided tantalizing glimpses into the future of the popular CMS.

Now that we are in the final months leading up to the public release of Sitecore 7, that speculation can finally be put to rest.  Our Sitecore MVPs were given the chance to download a technical preview of the software and have spent the past couple of weeks familiarizing themselves with the new features and diving deep into the code base.

Without a doubt the theme of Sitecore 7 is scalability - this release lays the foundation for the product to easily handle millions of content items.  Although the lion’s share of improvements found in Sitecore 7 are “under the hood,” there are benefits in store for the end user as well.  Many of these benefits are related to the enhancing of Sitecore’s internal search. Read on to get a glimpse at what you can expect to discover in Sitecore’s new version, and learn what impact these search upgrades will have in terms of the user experience for authors and administrators.

Improved Search Interface

Most notable is the introduction of a new search presentation built directly into Sitecore.  This gives authors and administrators powerful new tools to search for content items from many different places within the Sitecore user interface.  One of the most notable places to access the new search interface is through the new search tab located next to the Content tab on any Sitecore Item.

When a user selects this tab they are launched into the search interface.  In the below example I am searching the media library for “phone”, and Sitecore returns to me a number of device images.

Content Faceting

A big improvement to search in Sitecore 7 is the addition of search facets.  The facets are shown in the right hand side of the image above.  Facets are a powerful search filtering tool that allows you to quickly drill down to the results that best match specific criteria.  Facets become critical when you have large amounts of data to search through.  In the example above, if I am only interested in the “extra large” “jpeg” images of phones, I can quickly select those criteria to narrow down my list to the 10 matching results.

Flexible Search Results

Search results can be presented in several different views including list, grid and image based results.  This will be particularly useful when searching for media library items.

Sitecore search results - Media View

Sitecore search results - Grid View

This much improved search interface is incorporated throughout Sitecore.  It is accessible from both the page editor and any content item in the content editor, on the home node of the Media Library, as well as in the Insert Link and Insert Media dialog boxes.

Quick Actions

Applying an action to a large number of items at once is a long sought-after feature for many experienced Sitecore editors.

The new search interface in Sitecore 7 allows commonly performed editorial actions and commands to be run on all results returned by a search query.  This bulk editing capability can be used to perform actions such as adding tags, publishing content, setting workflow state, or apply campaign goals that are defined within Sitecore’s Digital Marketing System (DMS).  These quick actions are a great addition and will definitely allow for quicker and more efficient management of content.

Simpler Organization

The improved search capabilities in Sitecore 7 have enabled new ways to organize content.  While content items are still presented in the familiar tree structure, Sitecore 7 introduces the idea of an “Item Bucket” used to store large amounts of unstructured content.  Any folder can be converted into a “Bucket,” at which point you can create any number of items in that bucket without being concerned about the underlying structure. 

Simpler Organization Buckets help to deal with two common content tree scenarios that are less than ideal.  The first is when you have a folder that contains hundreds or thousands of items.  It is very difficult to locate specific content in these folders, and they would also suffer from noticeable performance problems.  The other common scenario is when very deep Sitecore trees are used to organize content.  This often takes the form of multiple levels of alphabetical folders, or date based folders.  Both of these approaches can be put aside in favor of Item Buckets.

Items contained in a Bucket are surfaced through the new search interface, and every Bucket folder will default to a search screen when visited.  This search is very robust and may surface items by name, template type, field content, or other item metadata.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that the Sitecore 7 release is about increased scalability. The foundation has been set to allow the CMS to handle tens of millions of items as easily as it handles tens of thousands of items.  While most of these changes are under the hood, Sitecore 7 has updates in store for the CMS authors and administrators as well, the majority of which tie back to the improved search engine and interfaces.  Making proper use of these search tools, Sitecore users should find it easier to locate, edit, and organize their content.

For those of you who were hoping for user facing additions to the CMS, we speculate that they will be found in the 7.1 release.  At last years Sitecore Symposium we learned that the product team focuses on developer features and user facing features in alternating releases, so we expect that 7.1 will contain many user facing improvements and new features.

If you are already a Sitecore customer and are considering an upgrade, you should talk to an experienced Sitecore Partner like Velir about your solution and whether an upgrade makes sense for your needs and budget.  Organizations with smaller content indexes may not be able to take full advantage of many of the new features, although in many cases the benefits could still make an upgrade worthwhile.

Check out Dan Solovay’s blog for a deeper look at the technology behind Sitecore 7, and look for more posts from us as we get closer to a final build.