SharePoint Theme Settings page and Enhanced Theming

If you create a site using the Blank template and go to Settings > Site Theme you get a simple page that lets you set your site theme.

If you create a site using the Team Site template and go to Settings > Site Theme, you get a more advanced page.

Both these experiences are supported by the one page (/_layouts/themeweb.aspx). So what gives? Continue reading “SharePoint Theme Settings page and Enhanced Theming”

SharePoint Theme Settings page and Enhanced Theming

SharePoint 2010 Theme colours

Themes in SharePoint 2010 are so much better than 2007 – and so much easier to generate! You can either create them with a .thmx file from PowerPoint, or just set them up through the user interface.

One problem, though, is what areas of the page are controlled by these colours? Well, I’d been going to set up an experiment to find out, but fortunately Erik Swenson had already taken the time to map this out. So, rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll just use that – it’s well worth a read.

SharePoint 2010 Theme colours

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!) Continue reading “Themes in SharePoint 2010”

Themes in SharePoint 2010

Automatically add themes to the SPThemes.xml file

I’m not sure I’ll use themes again over the AlternateCssUrl again in a hurry, but I did decide to take a look at the 10 example themes Microsoft Released in March. I’ll blog about how they look – sometime! (The short answer – some good, some bad, some awful!)

Anyway, I was interested that the themes could all be activated as features. This rather kept with my feeling on how branding should be deployed.

However, some of the themes (though not all) were suddenly available in the ‘Site Themes’ page of my SharePoint system. I knew from experience that this isn’t something that ‘just happens’ – previously, I’ve done it by hand.

EDIT: See the comments – they describe an possible pit fall, but both have articles about how to do the same thing… Continue reading “Automatically add themes to the SPThemes.xml file”

Automatically add themes to the SPThemes.xml file

Where to put CSS when branding?

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m unlikely to use Themes in SharePoint again in a hurry. Why?

  • Themes allow you to provide a bunch of CSS styles. So does the AlternateCssURL.
  • Themes have to be applied site-by-site (unless you do some programming, or extend STSADM). Alternate CSS or Master Pages can be changed for a site and subsites, for a Publishing site anyway (although with some limitations).
  • Alternate CSS can be provisioned from a single URL – so benefiting from browser caching just like images.
  • The Alternate CSS can style the DatePicker. Themes can’t.
  • The Alternate CSS can style Application Pages, just like Themes (but unlike Master Pages).
  • No problems with ‘Style Merging’ when the Theme is provisioned.
  • Style can be updated in one location.
  • Themes can be changed through the UI for any site. Only Publishing sites have a user interface for changing the Alternate CSS.

Yes, many of the same distinctions between Master Pages and Themes still exist, and the same sort of analysis and choice of approach should be done. However, it means that we can kind of ignore Master Pages, and just focus on Alternate CSS vs Themes – and it seems to me that apart from the last point above, the Alternate CSS approach seems to equal or better than Themes.

Regarding the last point, well, to apply my theme I’d set the Alternate CSS in a Feature Receiver. This is okay, though, as I’d probably be writing one anyway to apply the correct master page to different types of site.

So, the answer I’ve come to now – I’d use the _layouts directory – create a sub-directory for your brand, and put your CSS and images in there.

Where to put CSS when branding?

Applying Themes

Themes have a couple of big advantages over Master Pages:

  • Any type of site will let you change the theme.
  • They style the Site Admin pages too.

…but there are some pain points too:

It’s certainly worth considering how your theme will be applied up front – although you could using the Alternate CSS url to ‘apply’ your theme. Personally, I think I like the idea of using a Feature.

Applying Themes

Programmatically apply a Default Theme in SharePoint

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve written a brand that is a combination of Theme and Master Page, and is designed to be activated by a feature receiver. When the feature is deactivated, it should restore the previous Master Page and Theme – but it wasn’t doing this for the default theme. Weird.

Well, here’s another good tip from Madalina you have to apply a theme of none, not Default.


That’s the second tip of hers I’ve found on Google and used in the last 2 weeks. Maybe I should start watching that blog. Anyway, I guess that ‘none’ makes sense when you look in 12/TEMPLATES/LAYOUTS/1033/SPTHEMES.xml – the default theme has a TemplateID of ‘none’.

‘Course my next problem for my feature receiver is that Meeting Workspaces use master pages (MWSDefault.master) that are significantly different to other pages – thanks guys, that’s helpful…

Programmatically apply a Default Theme in SharePoint

Pimp my SharePoint Part II – Beyond Just Colours

Previously I’ve written about branding in SharePoint and the technologies involved. However, there is more to branding than just the technologies used and the colours you want, which was what that post focussed on. Really, it’s more a question of style and content than just colour and pictures. This makes it all a good deal more complicated though, which emphasises the need for proper management of the work and for it to be treated as a proper project.

To recap on the technologies used in MOSS branding, briefly:

  • Master Pages – can change everything
  • Themes – can change the colour of elements and the background images.
  • Web Parts – can change the layouts of pages and some of the appearance.
  • Combination thereof.

The two main technologies discussed in branding are Master Pages and Themes, and a good description is:

[Themes are] Akin to painting a house new colors and changing the pictures on the walls. [Master Pages are] Akin to remodelling the whole house
Heather Solomon

Well, recent experience of branding and some interesting slides by Heather Solomon have driven home some other points. Note that these apply to MOSS but not WSS (which only has ‘basic’ pages). The ultra high level view of what I’ve learnt is:

  • Just saying ‘X days to do branding’ is not a good idea.
  • Branding encompasses more than I’d previously really thought about, both in a business and technology senses.
  • It’s more of a ‘Pick and Mix’ affair than ‘small, medium or large’
  • Specification and scope is vitally important.
  • Therefore, branding should be treated as a proper project in its own right, with requirements, specification, design and testing phases.

Continue reading “Pimp my SharePoint Part II – Beyond Just Colours”

Pimp my SharePoint Part II – Beyond Just Colours