The CodePlex Corner: Seadragon Viewer Web Part

The link to the Project is

The CodePlex project that I want to look at for this column is something that was originally created by Microsoft Live Labs. It goes by the name of Seadragon and is a facility that allows a user to perform a “Deep Zoom” on an image. Don’t worry if that is an unfamiliar term, we’ll explore the concept shortly. Whilst Seadragon was initially a Silverlight project, a separate work stream produced a web based version known as Seadragon Ajax. Ultimately the team disbanded and the project fell into abandon. This year a SharePoint Seadragon Viewer web part emerged, which has been developed by Nikolas Charlebois-Laprade.

A short explanation of Deep Zooming is that it is a technology designed to allow efficient viewing and transmission of images. It consequently works very well with high resolution images. This is achieved this by breaking up an image into several smaller pieces. Essentially a pyramid of smaller and lower resolution images is created from the original item. The starting image is lowest in the pyramid. When zooming in for sections, you’ll be zooming into one of the tiles from these tile sets, moving between sets as required.

Believe it or not, it’s something that you’ve probably seen before. If you’re not convinced, take a look at the architecture design pages for SharePoint 2013. See that zooming ability? That’s what the Seadragon Viewer does. It makes large and typically unwieldy images much easier to interact with.

When we look at how this works within SharePoint, making the web part work can be broken down into two specific areas: –

  1. Pre-SharePoint work section: the creation of images and their properties with the Deep Zoom Composer
  2. SharePoint Configuration: The installation of the web part and how to use Deep Zoom images with the web part

It’s outside the scope of this review article to explain all of this in great detail but I am writing a tutorial on this, which I’ll post shortly.

Link to product review

There are currently no product reviews on SharePoint Reviews for Seadragon Ajax. I may add one eventually but as this is only a basic web part and not a fully-fledged solution I think it would be unfair to add one so soon. I’d file this under Content Management à Content Organisation

“End User – Developer” scale

On first glance this is just a standard web part deployment and installation. There is however, a fair amount of work to be done to prepare images for Deep Zooming. For that reason, I’m rating this squarely between the administrator / developer spokes.

Potential pitfalls / problems

This is a web part that makes you work a little to get the most out of it. As Seadragon and Deep Zooming were never developed with SharePoint in mind, getting the two married together can be an awkward process. I can see two potential pitfalls: –

  1. Learning to use the Deep Zoom Image Composer
  2. Setting up the XML and file structure within a Document Library

Using the Deep Zoom Composer

: This was originally created as part of the Microsoft Expression Suite but was offered for free rather than being part of the (at the time) paid offering. Installing it is straight forward enough and exporting the image is a three step process. You’ll just have to remember to output the files as Seadragon Ajax.

Linking it all to the web part

: The web part works by communicating with the XML file that is output from the Deep Zoom Viewer. This will involve renaming the output XML file and the image directory so that they have the same name. Not a technically challenging step but an easy one to overlook.

This is a project that I liked reviewing and it’s one that I’ll definitely get some use out of in various SharePoint projects. Seadragon is a technology that, when bolted in SharePoint is surprisingly industry agnostic. It’ll have a use anywhere that a high resolution image can serve a purpose. Being able to surface this within SharePoint sites seamlessly

The links below are my reference list: –

  1. CodePlex Seadragon Viewer Web Part
  2. Nik’s Blog Entry on the SeaDragon WebPart
  3. Expression Gallery SeaDragon Ajax
  4. SharePoint 2013 Architecture diagrams
  5. Deep Zoom Silverlight Developer Info
  6. MSDN Blog: Deep Zoom Primer (Jamie Rodriquez)
  7. Download link to the Deep Zoom Composer

Introducing the CodePlex Corner for SharePoint


Welcome to the first of what I hope will part of a regular series of articles under the (not very creative) moniker of “The CodePlex Corner.” I´ve had the idea of a frequent column focuses on the community Open Source SharePoint options for a while. Originally I posted this article on in July 2012 but for a few reasons I never got around to developing the series any further. Since the original article was written and published, a new version of SharePoint has been released; new MVPS have been nominated and of course, new CodePlex projects have been started and launched.

Having recently checked the project count at CodePlex for anything related to our favourite Microsoft Platform, the number of projects across all iterations of SharePoint is pretty impressive. There are a few ways to set the search filters but having settled on just searching for “SharePoint” and selecting stable projects only, a search turned up 2272 items. Many of which I suspect aren´t very well known to the SharePoint Community.


What is CodePlex / Brief history of Open Source Software

To properly understand the aims of communities like CodePlex, a brief detour down history lane is somewhat necessary. Most technology orientated readers coming to will have heard the phrase “Open-Source” before and will very possibly have a few examples at hand from their own experiences. But having exposure to a term or a phrase doesn´t necessarily confer understanding of it. Let´s have a look shall we?

On a basic level, the notion of Open-Source can be perceived as a philosophy that encourages the no-cost redistribution and free access to a product´s design and implementation details. Whilst for people such as you and I, this translates to software source code, it has translated into a few other industries, such as OpenCola (Open Source Cola) and Brewtopia (Open Source Beer).

Specifically for software, this will pertain to having access to the source code under specific licenses (the most famous of which is the GNU General Public License (GPL)) under which further development and distribution are permitted, so long as any future advancement are made available under the same license. Another common feature of Open-Source software is that it is frequently developed in public, collaborative environments such as

As you can probably imagine, the public and free nature of Open-Source software goes against the proprietary licensing model that firms such as Microsoft are built on. Whether you see Open-Source software as a methodology, a design philosophy or cost-saving measure, it is a movement that cannot easily be ignored. Historically some quarters have championed Open Source software as a successful alternative business model to proprietary licensing (Red-hat anyone…?) they´re not as mutually exclusive now as they may have been a few years ago.

It´s on this basis that CodePlex has been born, it´s a Microsoft Project site for Open Source projects, many of which can complement and extend licensed Microsoft Products. It´s important to note though, that even though some Microsoft employees and MVP/MCC level members of the community contribute to CodePlex projects, Microsoft don´t support them in any way.

Structure of the Articles

So, with all that being said, what do I hope to achieve? I´d like to offer to the community with each article an exploration of a specific CodePlex project. Whilst some of the more famous and well published CodePlex hosted projects are well documented and explained, there are many that aren´t. As such, this can lead to confusion as to whether a project is useful, whether they may be allowed to use it or not and so on. Additionally, it can also be difficult to ascertain where on the “End User – Administrator – Developer” scale that a project can sit.

Furthermore, in the time I spend in the Technet forums, it’s very common to see CodePlex projects offered as potential solutions to whatever issue a poster may face. More often than not, many of these solutions aren’t explained, nor are they linked to useful documentation or blog posts. The point of these series of articles isn’t to create literature for other people’s work but to help fill an educational gap

After a quick discussion with Marc Anderson (SharePoint MVP responsible for SPServices) last year ago, I´ve settled on the following format for exploring any CodePlex project.

  1. Introduction to the project
  2. Link to product review (If it has one)
  3. Show where the project sits on the “End User – Developer” scale
  4. Discuss potential pitfalls / problems plus example scenarios in which a project can be used
  5. Conclude and add any relevant links

Categorisation of the articles

In looking to maintain a form of synergy with SharePoint Reviews, I’ll be categorising the solutions discussed in each article into the same categories. These are

  1. Content Management
  2. Administration
  3. Deployment
  4. Business Productivity
  5. Business Solutions
  6. Look & Feel
  7. Social & Mobile
  8. Search & Findability

Conclusion / Comments

In looking to close out, I´d like to open the floor to comments, suggestions and criticisms. I´ve got “play order” of projects that I´d like to get started with but if anyone within the wider community has something in particular they´d like to see, please let me know. If you´ve got a project yourself I can look at, or if you´ve a need for something that might be in CodePlex but haven´t found yet, I’d also like to hear from you.