Deploying an ASP.NET Web Application with SQL CE 4 & Entity Framework without installation

Update – 12/15/2011

As of Visual Studio 2010 SP1, there’s an easier way to do everything below.

In the Solution Explorer, right click the project and select ‘Add Deployable Dependencies…’, select the dependencies you want to include, and click OK.

Visual Studio 2010 - Add Deployable Dependencies

This will generate the folder _bin_deployableAssemblies with the proper DLLs. Now when you build your solution, the DLLs in _bin_deployableAssemblies are copied to the bin folder.

See Scott Hanselman’s post for a more thorough explanation.

Original Post

I have built an ASP.NET project using SQL CE 4.0 and Entity Framework 4.1. When the time came to deploy the web application to our managed environment, I ran into some issues due to some missing references.

Do to the nature of our hosted environment, installing the EntityFramework and SQLCE4 libraries was not an option but I have worked out all of the required steps to get the web application working in the deployed environment.

Referenced Libraries

The following libraries should be referenced in your project.

EntityFramework
System.Data.SqlServerCE
System.Data.SqlServerCE.Entity
System.Web.Providers

Make sure to set the Copy Local property to true.

Manual Copy

The following files should be copied as part of your build script process. These files are placed on your file system when you install the SQL CE 4 package.

sqlceca40.dll
sqlcecompact40.dll
sqlceer40EN.dll
sqlceme40.dll
sqlceoledb40.dll
sqlceqp40.dll

Web.config

On my development box, the machine.config has been modified (when I installed SQL CE 4) to include the SQL CE 4 provider. To use the provider without explicitly installing it on the server, we need to manually add the provider in the Web.config

  <system.data>
    <DbProviderFactories>
      <remove invariant="System.Data.SqlServerCe.4.0" />
      <add name="Microsoft SQL Server Compact Data Provider 4.0" invariant="System.Data.SqlServerCe.4.0" description=".NET Framework Data Provider for Microsoft SQL Server Compact" type="System.Data.SqlServerCe.SqlCeProviderFactory, System.Data.SqlServerCe, Version=4.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=89845dcd8080cc91" />
    </DbProviderFactories>
  </system.data>

Login/Register page design

Getty Login

I recently went to the Getty Villa website to get some tickets and came across their login/registration screen. Sadly, their page looks like the type of examples used in hyperbole-filled academic books on how NOT to design the login page. The notes defined here can be applied to most any user interface design.

Consistency of Design

There are three options associated with this part of the user interface: Log In, New User (registration), and Forgot Password. These three ‘associated’ features each have a different visual design. I’m not saying they should all look the same, but the differences in size, bolding, placement, and inconsistency of spaces made for a confusing UI.

The right edge of the ‘Log In’ and ‘Forgot Password?’ buttons should be flush. Personally, I would have placed the ‘New User?’ (what’s with the question mark?) above the log in box. This would allow the UI to explicity differentiate between new and existing users.