IIS Admin Pack: Configuration Editor

Today I will be talking about one of the features included in the new IIS Admin Pack called Configuration Editor.

Configuration Editor is an IIS Manager feature that will let you managed any configuration section available in your configuration system. Configuration Editor exposes several features from configuration that are not exposed anywhere else in IIS Manager, including:

  1. Schema Driven - Config Editor is entirely driven by the configuration schema (found in \windows\system32\inetsrv\config\schema\), this means that if you extend the configuration system creating your sections, they will be available for managing inside config editor, no need to build additional UI for them.
  2. Additional Information - Config Editor exposes more information such as the deepest place where the section is being used, or where a particular element in a collection is coming from (where is it inherited from?), etc.
  3. Script Generation - Allows you to make changes and it generates the code to automate those tasks, generating Managed Code (using Microsoft.Web.Administration), JavaScript (using AHADMIN) or Command Line (using AppCmd).
  4. Searching - Allows you to quickly perform scoped searches of the configuration system for all the sections and where they are being used, becoming a great way to get a bigger picture of the server as well as to prevent configuration locking violations and many other uses.
  5. Locking - Allows you to do advanced locking such as locking specific attributes so that they cannot be used in deeper locations, lock individual items in a collection or lock the entire section, etc.

Please give us feedback on things you would like to see or change at the IIS Forums: http://forums.iis.net/1149.aspx

OK, but rather than keep with more and more text, I will just show you a video on how it looks and all its features (for those of you who like text, there is a transcript below).


So I have here Windows Vista SP 1 with the IIS Admin Pack installed, in my machine I have very few applications installed but should be good to show some of the features on config editor. When entering Config Editor, first thing you will notice is that at the top you have a drop-down list that shows all the sections currently schematized and ready to be used in your system.

Since this is sorted alphabetically, the first section that gets selected is AppSettings, for I can very easily switch between ASP.NET configuration sections, such as system.web/authentication, or the IIS configuration sections such as system.webServer/defaultDocument or the system.applicationHost/sites that contains all the sites configuration for IIS.

As you can see the user interface displays the configuration elements and properties of the section that is selected, providing you an easy way to see every single configuration property available in the system.

At the top you'll get a label specifying the deepest path where this section is being used relevant to your scope, so in this case its telling us that its been set in ApplicationHost.config. After that, all the elements and properties are shown in a Property Grid, that displaye elements as a collapsible set of properties. One of the interesting things is that we provide validation for the properties for example, when entering string characters in a numeric property type an error message will be displayed giving you the details of the expected types. Additionaly other benefits such as type editors, so that when editing a property of type boolean, you get the True/False drop-down, or when a property that is of type enumeration such as the LogFormat inside the SiteDefaults, you will get a drop-down list with only the list of options that are allowed for that enumeration. Same way, when editing a property of type flags such as the logExtFileFlags that contains the fields to include in the log file, you will get a multi-select drop-down list where you can select and de-select the different options. Also, you will notice that additional information is displayed as you select the different properties, giving you details of their data type as well as additional validations for those that have some, for example, the truncateSize property has specified that only a certain range is considered valid, if I type a value that is not within that range it will show this message giving me details of the problem.

Making Changes

Now, lets move to a simpler section so that we can show other features of the Configuration Editor. For example here in default documents, if I want to disable it I just change it to False and click Apply. As you would expect all the changes are applied and to see what changes this actually made in my system I'm going to show a Diff of the configuration that I have backed up and indeed the only change that happened in my configuration system is that it changed from true to false.

Collection Editor

As you will notice there is a collection in this section, all the collections are shown in an advanced collection editor that will let you see all the information of the items on it, including the ability to add, remove and clear the collection, as well as lock individual items on it. It additionally shows where each of the individual items is coming from making it easier to understand the distributed configuration.

Another thing you will notice is that this collection editor shows some visual cues to help you deal with data, for example this little key here tells you that this property is the unique key of the collection item.

So lets actually add a new one, for that I just need to click Add and fill the values, in this case, lets add Home.aspx as a new default document. After doing that, I can close dialog and click Apply. And lets take a look at what happened to my configuration. As you can see the new item was added. So as you can see its really easy to see and change configuration in collections.

Script Generation

Now, one of the interesting things that it also has is those changes that I just did, its great but sometimes I don’t want to apply them immediately but instead automate them so that I can apply them at a later time. For example, lets just change the attribute Enabled back to true, and rather than just applying the change as we did before, I want to generate the script cause probably I'm creating a provisioning script for my site and I want to include this as part of it, so just by clicking Generate Script I get this dialog that gives you the code for Managed Code using Microsoft.Web.Administration in C#, and as you can see its quite easy to read. It also gives you JavaScript code that uses a COM library that our configuration system ships called Microsoft.ApplicationHost, and just as the managed code version it just sets the value. It also gives you command line for it, so you don’t need to build code or scripts, you can just run the command line and to prove that, lets actually just run this command line. First lets show the diff again so that we see that its set to false. Now lets run the command line AppCmd which lives in Inetsrv directory. Now lets show the difference again, and as you can see it actually sets the value as expected. As you can see this will help you write scripts or code to manipulate IIS and ASP.NET settings without requiring additional knowledge.


Another interesting feature is locking, for example if I want to make sure that my default documents are always enabled and no one else can override them, I can go here and select the enabled attribute and click lock attribute which will prevent it from being changed in any other web.config file.

Search Configuration

Now, another interesting feature which is probably one of the most powerful features is the ability to search configuration so that you can see a high-level overview of the configuration system and all the web.config files on it. Just click Search Configuration. This shows me this dialog that shows me the root web.config that includes all the section that are being set on it, it also shows me applicationHost.config that includes again all the sections being used on it, as well as a location tag for a particular application that includes also some sections for it. you will notice that I also have a couple of applications that include web.config's in their folders, and sub-folders. where we can see how for example in this web.config it includes some

one of the neat features is that you can actually click any of this nodes and it will immediately display the content of the section as well as where its coming from. For example if I click the web.config my entire web.config is displayed, if I click a specific section it only displays the content of the section. I can even click the locationPath that I'm interested and only get that particular one.

Additionally you can easily search who is changing the authorization settings from asp.net and as easy as that you can see all the places in your server where the authorization settings are being set and quickly identify all the settings that are being used in your server. This feature is extremely useful because now, you can easily search for example default Document and make sure nobody is changing it and make sure no one else is violating the locking we just did.

It also allows you to see the files in a flat view where it gives you all the different paths and files where each of them is coming from. You get the exact functionality, its just a different visual representation of the config.


Another interesting thing is that if you want to build your own sections and extend our configuration system, you can go to the schema folder and write your own configuration section, declare it using our schema notation, here I'm just defining a section named mySection, that includes an attribute called enabled of type bool and an attribute called message of type string and an attribute password of type string that should be encrypted.. Now, I just need to edit applicationHost.config to define the section so that config system knows we are going to consume it . Just by doing that, now I can go back to config editor and refresh the window, and my section is now available in the drop down, and as you would expect it displays all of the properties I defined, and I can just go ahead and set them, and I get all the locking functionality, I get all the script generation, I get all the UI validation.

And if I apply, you will see that as expected the changes are done, the password attribute is encrypted, etc.

So as you can see configuration editor is an extremely powerful feature that will be really useful for successfully managing the web.config's in your system.

Comments (3)
  1. MichaelD! says:

    This is a very nice start, Carlos!

    I’d be very interested to see if you can specify form designers for the different properties within the property grid.

    Also, I would like to suggest the possibility of creating a utility (or building support for) autogenerating schemas based off a provided assembly.

    That way, we don’t have to manually provide the schema, the utility simply reads the assembly, finds all the objects that inherit from ConfigurationSection and create all the necessary properties/attributes (including any component/designer-specific attributes if specified).

    It’s all about the design support now. 🙂  I would strongly encourage deep support for this!

  2. URL rewrite module fully utilizes extensibility of IIS 7.0 configuration system. The rewrite rules are

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