Custom Master Pages for Meeting Workspaces

Irritatingly, in SharePoint Meeting Workspaces have a different master page to most sites (mwsdefault.master and default.master respectively). The differences are actually quite minor – the Meeting has a ‘Custom Tool Pane’ control, so you can add new pages, and a tab bar:

In the code, the pages are very similar, which makes it all the more irritating that they’re not simply the same. As far as I can see, there is no need for this – at least, nothing that can’t be dealt with by content placeholders – which is what they’re using to get rid of the left navigation. Anyway, I digress – the real question is can we customise them, and provide consistent branding on them? Continue reading “Custom Master Pages for Meeting Workspaces”

Custom Master Pages for Meeting Workspaces

So can you put Web Part Zones in Master Pages, or what?

A customer wants to put a web part zone below the quick nav in their SharePoint site – not an unusual request. Naturally, I cracked open SharePoint Designer, and tried adding a web part zone – and this is what I got:

I tried to understand why this would be the case, but quite simple, couldn’t. Naturally, I then referred to the documentation (!) on MSDN. It had mentioned this at the bottom of the page.

You cannot add Web Parts in zones to a master page. You can add static Web Parts (parts outside of a zone) to a master page, but you cannot add dynamic Web Parts to master pages.

Okay, that seems clear enough – I get why you could add static web parts to a master page, but not dynamic – but what about the web part zones themselves?

You can add zones to master pages and later add Web Parts to the zone in the browser, but the Web Parts are associated with the content page.

Yup, that seems fair enough. I get that in theory. So why in practice does SharePoint Designer say I can’t?

I began looking around to see if others had tried this – and found interesting contradictions. Mirjam says you can’t – but does point out that you can override the standard quick nav in your page layout, and put a web part zone into that. Microsoft SharePoint Step by Step seems to say the same thing. Yet ASP.NET would support this just fine, and as noted the MSDN docs say it should work.

Okay, one thing left to do – actually try it. SharePoint Designer won’t let me add the web part zone by ‘drag and drop’, but I can code one by hand:

And it renders in SharePoint Designer:

But when you try and use the page:

Well, I ain’t going to argue with a parser error – it looks like you really can’t do this, despite the MSDN docs.

So can you put Web Part Zones in Master Pages, or what?

PlaceholderLeftActions – what is it?

I’ve been doing some branding for the last week or so, and today was the turn of the left nav menu. I’ve gotta admit, I don’t like doing this – it’s complex, fiddly, and leaves me with what I call “SharePoint Branding Tourettes”.

While going through the code for the left side of the page, I came across the PlaceHolderLeftActions placeholder. By default, it’s empty.

It was a bit of a puzzle to me though – it sits just underneath the normal left navigation area of the page, and I couldn’t think of anything that puts content down there. Just to check though, I took a look in IE Explorer:

I’ve highlighted where the content goes, and you can see from the IE dev bar, there is a hidden link there (to the List Settings page, if you’re interested).

Hmm. So some stuff uses it. I tried different lists in case they all used hidden content – and fairly rapidly came across another – Wiki pages:

I guess the real annoyance here is that it is so hard to see what pages in SharePoint use what placeholders. It’s not like you can just search over the file system, even. I guess it’s a matter for experience.

Anybody else know what the PlaceHolderLeftActions is used for? I might try and build up a library.

PlaceholderLeftActions – what is it?

Pages in SharePoint IV – Publishing Pages

Publishing pages are specific to MOSS, as they require the publishing features! They’re not in WSS3! A good example of a publishing page is the default.aspx of a Collaboration site – that’s right, although the default page has the same name as for a team site, it is quite different:

Looks pretty much the same though, eh? That’s because it uses the same master page, but we’ll come to that in a bit.

These pages are are stored in a ‘Pages’ library (you can see this highlighted in the URL). They aren’t really like documents though; they’re much more like list items. Basically, these pages are collections of metadata columns. Different pages have different content types, such as the ‘Press Releases’ page type of the Publishing Portal site template. The other pages types that come out of the box are the ‘Article’ and ‘Welcome’ page types of a collaboration site.

These content types have different columns of data. For example, you might have a type of page for ‘Vacancies’, and that might have columns for position, salary, etc.. You might also have a type of page for ‘Products’ which might have columns for part number, cost, stock, etc..

Okay, so I’ve said that these pages are more like collections of metadata – how does this become a web page that you can see and read? Well, each page type has one or more page layouts. Lets have a look at one in SharePoint Designer:

These are kind of like master pages – they define the layout of our metadata columns in an aspx page. In the one shown above there are only 2 metadata columns, which I’ve highlighted – Page Image and Page Content.

Okay, but what about the master page stuff? Well, out page layout the content controls to go into our master page. Confused? It is confusing, so here is a diagram to show this:

Here you can see the page metadata being put into the page layout, which in turn puts content into the master page, which finally generates the output that gets sent to the user.

One advantage of this approach is that you can change between different page layouts for a given publishing page type – for example, you might have ‘Product page with image on left’ and ‘Product page with image on right’ layouts. Changing the page layout does not require editing any of the content.

| Intro | Master Pages | Normal Pages | Publishing Pages | Application Pages | Forms Pages |

Pages in SharePoint IV – Publishing Pages

Pages in SharePoint II – Master Pages

Master Pages are actually an ASP.NET 2.0 technology. They allow you to create a page with a number of ‘placeholders’ (there are a lot of these). Below is a view of the default.master page for a team site.

You can see that the master page already has controls for navigation, search, site actions, etc. built in. I’ve also selected one of the placeholders – PlaceHolderTitleBreadcrumb. These placeholders give locations on the page for other .aspx pages to put content into. For example, the default.aspx page for a Team site puts content into the PlaceHolderMain and PlaceHolderTitleBreadcrumb placeholders, amongst others – we’ll look at this below. Now, the observant of you will notice that the PlaceHolderTitleBreadcrumb placeholder shown above already has content – the breadcrumb to the page’s location. A placeholder can define default content, but the page that then uses the master page can override it, and put it’s own content in. For example, in our master page the PlaceholderMain has no content, but this will almost always be overridden.

Master pages normally exist in a Master Page gallery, which is hidden from normal users. You might have many master pages, though you normally only use 1 on each site. By changing the master page you’re using you can make major changes to the layout, look and format of your site.

| Intro | Master Pages | Normal Pages | Publishing Pages | Application Pages | Forms Pages |

Pages in SharePoint II – Master Pages

Setting the Master Page of a Team Site with a Feature

Team sites don’t have the Publishing features of MOSS enabled by default, and for WSS systems, well, you don’t have them to enable. Consequently, if you deploy a master page as a feature, you’ll have a bit of fun setting it as the master page.

You can do this though SharePoint Designer, but it’s possible you don’t want your Site owners to have SharePoint Designer, or maybe you just don’t want the hassle of the second step when you provide the master page for a site. Instead, it is possible to set the Master Page through code, and to fire this using a Feature Receiver. This features shows just that – setting the master page through code. Note that to install it, you might well need to make some changes to install.bat. Continue reading “Setting the Master Page of a Team Site with a Feature”

Setting the Master Page of a Team Site with a Feature

Relative URLs in SharePoint Sites using $SPUrl

So, I was really stuck with a Master Page that I’ve been building as a demo. This master page was for use on a site without the publishing features, such as a Team Site.

I wanted to provide a separate CSS file and an image for with this example. However, I hit a snag – how to get relative URLs to the CSS file and image that I was putting into the site?

For Publishing sites, this isn’t normally a problem – you put things such as the master page or images or CSS near the root, and then reference them from the root of the site collection. But from the subsite I was using, this proved hard.

Well, in the end I turned up this post from Ben Robb about using $SPUrl. It turns out that this works nicely for images, and for links to other content, such as CSS files:
<link id="css1" runat="server" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="<% $SPUrl:~site/_catalogs/styles/mystyles.css%>" />
<img id="img1" src="<% $SPUrl:~site/images/badger.png%>" />

Unfortunately, it relies on the Microsoft.SharePoint.Publishing namespace, which means that this solution isn’t WSS friendly; certainly I couldn’t get it working. Or rather, maybe it isn’t – perhaps the Microsoft.SharePoint.Publishing namespace is available in WSS3, even if the publishing features themselves aren’t. Does anybody know about that?

Relative URLs in SharePoint Sites using $SPUrl