Themes in SharePoint 2010

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!

Themes in SharePoint 2010

9 thoughts on “Themes in SharePoint 2010

  1. I have SharePoint Foundation 2010 and created a theme and applied it to my sites and subsites. All was looking great until I viewed it from home. As an anonymous user all that I get is the default theme on the site. As soon as a user signs in the theme is applied. The theme never shows up for an anonymous user. Any idea why this is happening and how to correct it?

  2. Nope. I’ve not used SP2010 much to know.

    What I suspect, though, is that that when you uploaded your theme, it’s being stored somewhere in the Virtual File System that is not open to anonymous access. But I’m not sure where that would be, or how one would access it.

  3. I created a feature that changes the alternatecssurl field.

    looks great but some templates override my css, even with !important tag.

    – night and day master (nightandday.css)
    – personalization template (mysite.css, portal.css)

    I really need to make this deliverable and working on default templates, so how can I make my css the big boss?


  4. Jason says:

    I am having the same problem with a public-facing Sharepoint 2010 Foundation site. It isn’t allowing themes to render for anonymous users. I even created a new web application and allowed anon users to view the whole site and still no luck on the themes.
    Some are saying this is a known bug with 2010 Foundation, but I need to get this worked-around or solved on the quick fast if anyone has any way to do it.
    I think it is going to be something like creating a custom master page or core CSS file but not really that technical when it comes to CSS or web coding in general 🙂

  5. Great Article.

    For the folks that are asking about the anonymous user issue :

    if you apply a theme to a SharePoint Foundation 2010 site, anonymous users who browse the site will see only the default theme. To make the selected theme appear for all users, you must add a link in the master page to the generated CSS file.

  6. Mark Humpage says:

    To have themes work in anonymous access for SharePoint 2010 Foundation – you will need to do the following.

    View the page in a non-anonymous access SharePoint site, you will see the themes applied correctly. Right click the page and view source. Scan for “corev4” and you will find the css link that SharePoint renders in the final html output.
    You will need to copy this link and put it into your master page – I put mine below the tag.

    There are other css links in the same location that I have not played with.

    I’m not clainming this as a cure all for the problem – but it’s a start!

  7. Mark Humpage says:

    If you are wondering why there is no tag name oin my previous comment…
    The tag removed by the comment editor was:
    SharePoint:SPHelpPageComponent 😉

    1. Thanks Mark, that’s good to know. I’ve not tried Anonymous 2010 themes yet.

      Would specifying the CSS as the ‘Alternate CSS Url’ for the site also work? Just it might save editing the master page…

  8. Hello,

    Firstly I would like to congratulate you on the well-written blog!

    We have now moved to SP2010 and have a couple of questions on colour schemes, themes etc.

    1. Can we have different colour schemes for these different sites in a portal?

    2. Can we have different shades of colours within the different sites?

    Thank you,

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