So, followers of this blog will know that I seem to get quite a lot of branding tasks, and that I don’t much like themes, preferring to use either the AlternateCssUrl and Features instead. Features are great – you can deploy the CSS/image files you need, set master pages (and handle Meeting Workspaces), themes, AlternateCssUrls. They can also add HTTP Modules for branding Application Pages.
Themes, on the other hand, are fiddly to install automatically, don’t work on the DatePicker, and are individual to each site once applied. To pick up changes to a global theme, you’d have to apply a different theme and then reapply the desired theme – for every site.
Well, that was with SharePoint 2007. SharePoint 2010 is a bit different, as I got to find out on a Combined Knowledge course in January (and this is the first time I’ve managed to write about it!)
Themes in SharePoint 2010 are, well, really quite neat. The branding itself is made up of images and CSS – no surprise there. However, you can ‘annotate’ your CSS so that particular colours can be replaced by your theme. The colour schemes themeselves are defined in PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint. I was suspicious, but works pretty well. (You can also use SharePoint Designer too – see below). There are the built in ones:
But more likely, you’ll be defining your own 12 colours:
You can save this theme as a ‘.thmx’ which you can then upload to SharePoint, and use! No changing XML files or anything!
However, the problem in 2007 of doing just a global replace of CSS colours was that a lot of the branding for SharePoint is done through images – all of the menus, the little gradients on toolbars, the background of the pages – there are a lot of images, and regenerating these took time. Well, in SharePoint 2010 your can annotate images used in your CSS to be regenerated using the colours of your theme. That’s right, instead of having to manually create those images, you can get SharePoint to do it for you. It’ll even do just areas of the image. For example, if your site had a single which showed one of those stock pictures of ‘happy people looking at a PC’ and a company logo, you might want to re-color the people, but not the logo bit. SharePoint 2010 can do that. Wow! I think this will allow the sort of ‘basic’ branding that a lot of organisations want internally.
Edit: actually, the SharePoint Designer blog has a good example. I can’t say that I blame them for being stoked – this is really neat! Well, provided the core styles have been designed properly, with themes in mind.
I don’t think this will replace branding via features – it still can’t make changes to the layout of your pages, beyond what can be achieved with CSS – but it does address a number of the pain points with 2007 Themes. Certainly, it’s something I can see being useful for those customers wanting SharePoint to “just not look SharePointy” without having to go to the pain of development.
Though they will have to choose decent colors!