Sunday 31 August 2014

Display CSOM objects in PowerShell

Microsoft strategy for SharePoint 2013 and their offer for Hosted SharePoint as a service SharePoint Online is to bring the power of the full trust code on the client side. Since we are unable to deploy full trust code in SharePoint Online via the good old solution packages, Microsoft came up with the App model in SharePoint 2013 in order to make the customisation of SharePoint less dependent on the full trust code that is executed on the server. The underlying supporting technologies that are allowing SharePoint Apps and clients to interact with the SharePoint platform "remotely" are client-side object model (CSOM), JavaScript object model (JSOM) and REST. With this technologies you don't need to be on the SharePoint server to read properties or execute methods on SharePoint objects like Webs,Sites,Lists,Users and so on. You can work with this objects from your browser, from a compiled application,  or in my case from the PowerShell of my Windows 8.1 workstation for example.
As SharePoint Administrator I had a few interaction with SharePoint Online and I was disappointed by the limited functionality and control I had with the few commands that the native SharePoint Online Management Shell has. The answer for me to automate some repetitive tasks or to get clear view on the objects, in order to create some reports for example, was to utilize some client-side technology.
So, as Administrator the JavaScript object model is not my primary interest, I can invoke REST requests from PowerShell, but the most similar to the server-side code(that I am used to) is the client-side object model or CSOM.
In this post I am not going to do an in depth guide on how to write PowerShell scripts with CSOM, but I am going to show you a significant difference between CSOM and the server-side code in PowerShell, that can demotivate you to dig further into CSOM if you are new to it. Also I am going to show you how to correct this in certain extension and make CSOM less "abstract" when you work with it in PowerShell.
For the demonstration I am going to use on-premises installation of SharePoint 2013 and the sample function below that can list all webs(the subwebs) under the root web.

Function Get-SPClientSiteSubWebs{
    $clientContext = New-Object Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.ClientContext($SiteUrl)

    $rootWeb = $clientContext.Web

    $webs = $rootWeb.Webs

    Write-Output $webs

I will be running the function from client VM that is joined in the domain of my test SharePoint 2013 environment. So in order to use CSOM from computer that is not a SharePoint server you will need the Client Assemblies. You can find the DLLs in every SharePoint 2013 server in the folder "C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\Web Server Extensions\15\ISAPI", they all start with Microsoft.SharePoint.Client*.dll. Or you can download and install the SharePoint 2013 Client Components SDK, this way you will have the dlls in \15\ISAPI folder, also I think most of them will be registered in GAC. After you get the client DLLs you will need them loaded into the PowerShell session where you will run your scripts, now I already have done this and lets see what will be the result from my sample function. I will need to give a site collection as parameter and since we are running the function against on-premise SharePoint with sitecollection hosted in Web Application that is using Windows Integrated authentication we do not need additional credentials or change the authentication mode for the client context, this however will not be the case if we write functions for SharePoint Online or if we are using different from Windows authentication in on-premises. So it seems that we are ready to test.


format-default : The collection has not been initialized. It has not been requested or the request has not been executed. It may need to be explicitly requested.

We are receiving no useful result and a couple of red lines, which almost everytime means fail in powershell.
But when I pipe the command to Measure-Object the number of object is different than 0, and here is one of the big differences with CSOM.
Lets see how the function works. First we are getting the Client context from the URL we have passed. Then we are getting the Root Web which is the property Web, then we should get all the subwebs of the root web by getting the property Webs. But in CSOM you need to use the generic method Load() and then to call ExecuteQuery(). We cannot get objects from other objects on the fly as it is with the client-side code. Apparently our functions is working fine, but the Web objects are returned with only part of their properties and for the rest we need to load them with Load() and ExecuteQuery(). You can see this by piping to Select-Object and select Title and Url properties.

So our function is working fine, but first time we ran it the PowerShell failed to display the webs. This is because PowerShell used the default type display template to display Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Web Type including some properties that are not loaded. For example SiteUsers, if we want to see the users we will need to load them. If we try to get this property from one of the webs we are going to receive below error:

An error occurred while enumerating through a collection: The collection has not been initialized. It has not been requested or the request has not been executed. It may need to be explicitly requested..

The PowerShell is using the default template because there are no display templates for Microsoft.SharePoint.Client types.
PowerShell display templates are XML files with extension .ps1xml. The display templates for the different types can be configured as list or table. Some of the files are stored in "C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0" directory. If you open one of this files you are going to see warning that this file should not be edited but we have reference to the cmdlet Update-FormatData.
With this command we can load additional display templates for the Types that we want.
I have created such .ps1xml with templates for the most popular client objects. I can load it with below command.

Update-FormatData -AppendPath "C:\SPO\SPClient.Format.ps1xml"

Now when we have loaded our custom display templates lets see what will be the output from our function.

I think it is looking better now. You can download the template file below. You can change it and expand to suit your needs. The display templates will be loaded only for the current session. If you close your PowerShell. Next time when you or another user try to use CSOM you will need to load the templates again.

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