Supercharge your (Resource) Efficiency with Macros

This is part 4 of 4 in a series on how to improve the way we usually work with resource (resx) files.

I generally like to – and do – use resource files for all string constants that are shown to end-users, however I do feel that it is needlessly cumbersome, therefore these posts:

  1. A Good Way to Handle Multi Language Resource Files
  2. Verify that your Resource Labels Exists
  3. Find/Remove Obsolete Resource Labels
  4. Supercharge your (Resource) Efficiency with Macros (this one)

Generally these issues are generic to .NET and not specific to SharePoint, though that is where I’m spending my time writing this.

What is it again?

This is a macro to increase developer productivity. It is a topic that lies very close to my hearth and a healthy fraction of my posts are about automation and productivity. Every developer should really know the macro features especially the record/play shortcuts.

Working with resources (in SharePoint) is actually quite tedious – we write “$Resources:” a thousand times and occasionally cannot be bored and skip the chore.

This is simple a Visual Studio macro to improve that workflow, usage is:

1. You highlight a string

2. Press a shortcut (of your choice)

3. Write a name for the resource key to create(optionally use an existing if one exists with same value)

4. And you’re done.

It will then add the resource key to your existing resx file, it will type in “$Resources:….” as needed. If it’s an aspx/ascx file it will also throw in some “<%=” and “%>” tags.

(It works very well for xml files too.)

The Gory Detail

This is a VB macro script that took an inordinate amount of time to write mainly because the Visual Studio Macro object model (DTE) is one of the most hideous, awkward, APIs I’ve ever worked with. If there is one place the VS team could improve it would be here – the macro IDE is also tedious to work with.

I’m very certain that there are ways to make the code perform better (speed is fine) and look better (is it important?) – let me know your nuggets in the comments it’s always good to learn something new.

What you need to know is:

  1. It looks for a resx file with the same name as the target name of your project, i.e. the dll/wsp name
    • It only works on the culture independent resx file
    • It even adds a comment in the resource file as to where a key was first used J
  2. It works only for text editor windows
    • I have not found a way to make the selection work in the designer windows, specifically the feature designer would have been nice. This is annoying.

      The workaround is to simply choose to open the .feature file in the “XML (text) editor” (choose “Open with” in the file open dialog)

  3. You may need to customize the replacement pattern for cs and as?x files as it calls a simple utility method “ResourceLookup.SPGetLocalizedString” to translate the “$Resources:…” key (see code below)
  4. It handles quotes in/around the selection

At the moment it is only tested with VS2010 – I’m certain that changes need to be made for VS2013. In due time…

The resource lookup method I’m using is:

        public static string SPGetLocalizedString(string key)
            if (!key.StartsWith("$Resources:"))
                return key;
            var split = key.TrimEnd(';').Remove(0, "$Resources:".Length).Split(',');

            if (split.Length != 2 || string.IsNullOrEmpty(split[1]))
                return key;

            return SPUtility.GetLocalizedString(key, split[0], (uint)System.Globalization.CultureInfo.CurrentUICulture.LCID);

Download and Installation

It is simple:

  1. Download the Macro project here
  2. Dump it somewhere on your disk – the usual location is in “Documents\Visual Studio 2010\Projects\VSMacros80”
  3. Choose “Tools / Macros / Load Macro Project” and pick the DGMacros.vsmacros file
  4. Bind a keyboard shortcut for the text editor to the macro. Just write “dgm” in the search box and pick the “ReplaceStringWithResource” macro

  5. Have a try and perhaps a look at point 3 of the gory details above 😉

A Good Way to Handle Multi Language Resource Files

If you are working with SharePoint you should also be using ressource (resx) files in your projects.

The problem is that SharePoint is quite annoying in the way it handles fallback to the default language resx when there is no culture specific version.

For instance in a Danish site it will look for MySolution.da-DK.resx and fallback to MySolution.resx if it isn’t o found.


The Problem

However SharePoint will spam your ULS log with messages like:

04/20/2012 13:56:37.25     w3wp.exe (0x3758)     0x344C    SharePoint Foundation     General     b9y9    High     Failed to read resource file "C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\14\Resources\MySolution.da-DK.resx" from feature id "(null)".    5b6991c9-5b39-4c95-b895-ed282bc00034 
04/20/2012 13:56:37.25     w3wp.exe (0x3758)     0x344C    SharePoint Foundation     General     8e26    Medium     Failed to open the language resource keyfile MySolution.    5b6991c9-5b39-4c95-b895-ed282bc00034 
04/20/2012 13:56:37.25     w3wp.exe (0x3758)     0x2C94    SharePoint Foundation     General     b9y3    High     Failed to open the file 'C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\14\Resources\MySolution.da-DK.resx'.    492a45e8-e416-4321-a83a-12f56c0341c1 
04/20/2012 13:56:37.25     w3wp.exe (0x3758)     0x2C94    SharePoint Foundation     General     b9y4    High     #20015: "" kan ikke åbnes: Filen eller mappen findes ikke.    492a45e8-e416-4321-a83a-12f56c0341c1 
04/20/2012 13:56:37.25     w3wp.exe (0x3758)     0x2C94    SharePoint Foundation     General     b9y4    High     (#2: "" kan ikke åbnes: Filen eller mappen findes ikke.)    492a45e8-e416-4321-a83a-12f56c0341c1 

And to make matters worse they are actually marked with “high” importance. In my mind this is a very normal way to code (for non-SharePoint projects) and should certainly not be marked with high importance. For now I am forced to look for the “unexpected” importance instead when troubleshooting.

The Simple Fix

There are a number of ways to correct this, I chose:

  1. Delete the duplicate localized version (MySolution.da-DK.resx) from source control
  2. Add a prebuild event to copy MySolution.resx to MySolution.da-DK.resx
    1. Write something like ‘copy /Y “$(ProjectDir)Resources\$(TargetName).resx” “$(ProjectDir)Resources\$(TargetName).da-DK.resx” ‘ (change to suit your needs and ensure quotes are not html mangled)
  3. Make sure to include MySolution.da-DK.resx in the project and mark it with “Build Action: Content”, “Copy to Output Directory: Do not copy”.
  4. Choose to exclude MySolution.da-DK.resx from Source Control in Visual Studio (File / Source Control / Exclude …)

    (otherwise Visual Studio will likely face write protected files)

All in all it should look somewhat like this:

Resx handling in the project

Other Ways

Other possible solutions would be to symbolic soft/hard link to the file (mklink.exe), however care should be taken as TFS really don’t like symbolic links.

The trick with exclusion from source control would likely work too, however a file copy just seemed like a simpler solution…

Another creative way would be to mess around with the packaging options it’s likely possible.