M-Files provides partners with a Visual Studio 2015/2017/2019 template that can be used to rapidly develop Vault Application Framework Applications using C#.
When installing the template into Visual Studio 2017 and 2019, a popup will be shown stating that the template does not use the 2017 format. This is expected, as the template is backwards compatible with Visual Studio 2015 as well. Simply accept the popup and continue installation.
Downloading the Template
The Vault Application Framework 2.0 template is part of the
M-Files Online Visual Studio template package, which can be downloaded from the M-Files Partner Portal. If you are a partner and do not have access to the M-Files Partner Portal, then please contact your Channel Account Manager. To install the template, simply double-click on the “.vsix” file, which will then guide you through installing the templates into the version of Visual Studio that you have installed.
Building your first application
In this example we will create a basic Vault Application Framework application and install it into the Sample Vault, running on the local machine.
If you do not have M-Files installed on the same machine as Visual Studio, then you must deploy the zip file manually. Debugging can be undertaken on remote applications by following these instructions.
Creating an application from the template
Creating a new Vault Application Framework application can be done from within Visual Studio by clicking
Project, then selecting
M-Files Vault Application 2.0 From the list of Visual C# templates:
If you have the VAF 1.0 template installed then you may notice two “Vault Application Framework” templates; ensure that you choose the 2.0 version.
An overview of the project contents
The default project contains a number of items:
appdef.xmlThe application manifest file, containing information such as the publisher details and the current version number.
install-application.ps1A PowerShell script used to deploy the installation package to the local M-Files server.
VaultApplication.csThe actual Vault Application Framework application.
packages.confThe packages configuration file details the Nuget packages that are required for the Vault Application Framework to run.
The default application
Unlike previous versions of the VAF template, the default application contains a single class named
VaultApplication. This class derives from the correct base class, but declares no additional members.
To customise this default application, check out our samples and libraries or other tutorials.
The PowerShell script
For flexibility, the Vault Application Framework 2.0 template uses a PowerShell script to control the deployment of the vault application to a specific vault on the local server. This script can be altered as required, or emptied in the case of no deployment being required.
Deployment information is now found in the Visual Studio
Output window (
Ctrl-W, O) instead of a pop-up command prompt.
Adjusting the deployment vault
By default, the PowerShell script will attempt to deploy to a vault named
Sample Vault. This can be altered by opening
install-application.ps1 and altering the target vault on line 6. By default, the vault name is set to the following:
$vaultName = "Sample Vault"
To install the application instead into a vault named “My Test Vault”, alter the line to:
$vaultName = "My Test Vault"
The name passed to the installer is the name of the vault on the server, not the name of the vault configured within the M-Files Desktop Settings application.
Building and deploying
To build and deploy the project, either select the
Build menu item within Visual Studio and select
Build Solution, or press F6, or press
Ctrl-Shift-B. Any errors during build or deployment will be shown within the Visual Studio “Output” window:
If you do not have an M-Files server running locally, the
install-application.ps1 file can be emptied. In this case, the compiled
.mfappx file in the
Release folders can be installed manually using the M-Files Admin software.
Deploying to remote M-Files servers
Unfortunately, the PowerShell script cannot directly deploy to remote servers, as the call to InstallCustomApplication requires that the path be a path that the M-Files server can resolve.
It may be possible to alter the PowerShell script to copy the application to a remote system before attempting installation. Doing so is beyond the scope of this article.
Debugging Vault Application Framework applications is relatively straight-forward:
- Place a breakpoint within the code - in this case within the background operation.
Attach to Process
- Select all the
MFAppPlatform.exeprocesses and select
Tips and tricks
If you do not have an M-Files server running on your local machine, then the build event command cannot automatically deploy your code to the vault. In this instance, you must manually copy the
.mfappx file created by the build process to the server, and install it using the M-Files Admin software.
Nuget packages and versions
The Vault Application Framework 2.0 release (2.0.350.18) requires Newtonsoft.Json (JSON.NET) version 10.0.3. If this is upgraded to a later version then your Vault Application Framework application will not correctly load.
Whenever an application is created from the Visual Studio template, the
<guid></guid> element in
appdef.xml is automatically set to be a new Globally Unique IDentifier. This GUID is used to uniquely identify each application, as each M-Files vault can only have one application with each GUID installed.
If you manually create an
appdef.xml file, or copy it from another location, you must ensure that the guid is altered to be unique. There are a number of online tools that can be used to generate GUIDs. Note that the GUID should be entered into the
<guid></guid> element without braces, but with hyphens (e.g.