Notes from Heather Solomon at SASUG


The San Antonio SharePoint Users Group (SASUG) hosted Heather Solomon at this month’s meeting. If you haven’t seen Heather in person, she’s a SharePoint branding expert and excellent speaker. There are some excellent resources on her website, as well.

I’m posting highlights from my sparse notes. SASUG attendees, please add comments with your notes, to fill in the holes.

Quick Launch

On customizing the Quick Launch in 2003, Heather had a few tips:

  • Modifying Onet.xml is the only way to do it
  • Modifications apply to every quick launch on every site
  • Make a back up of Onet.xml because updates from Microsoft may overwrite your changes

In SharePoint 2007, modifications applied to the quick launch do not require changes to the installed server files. Details:

  • Changes apply at the site level through the Site Settings menu.
  • In WSSS v3, look for the Quick Launch link under Look and Feel. 
  • In MOSS with Publishing enabled, the Site Setting link is named Navigation.

Branding Application Pages

On branding application pages, Heather had some great tips as well:

  • An application page is any page where the address contains /_layouts/
    • Application pages include Upload, View All Site Content, List Settings and Alerts
  • The master page is called application.master and only one copy exists on the server
    • Changes to the application.master will affect all sites and it should be backed up
  • Application pages are not the same as System Pages
    • System Pages have a seperate master page in Site Setting from Site Pages
    • Most pages are Site Pages, but one example of a System Page is the All Items view of a Contacts list
    • An easy way to see the difference is to select a different master page for System Pages through the Site Settings, Look and Feel, Master Page form.

Master Pages

Heather used the whiteboard to outline an example of branding using three different Page Layouts with one Master Page. Minus the visuals, here are some points she made:

  • Page layouts are a feature of Micrsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and not available in Windows SharePoint Services v3
  • The publishing feature must be enabled on the Site Collection and the Site level to use Page Layouts
  • Page Layouts allow SharePoint to achieve the often requested "make it look like anything but SharePoint"
  • Page Layouts are most useful on public sites with anonymous who don’t need to go into the application pages
  • Heather recommends Stramit SharePoint 2007 Master Picker (Codeplex) for changing the Master Page from Site Settings in WSS


Heather presented Themes as a suggested alternative to branding with Master Pages when dealing with Intranets. Because intranet users will often make use of Application Pages, more consistent branding can be achieved through the use of Themes. Some points of interest:

  • Choosing a Theme for a site applies the styles across Application Pages, Site Pages and System Pages
  • When a Theme is chosen, the Cascading Style Sheet page is copied from a location on the server into the _Themes folder you can see from SharePoint Designer
  • Modifying one of the Out of the Box Themes is a good way to get started with Customized Themes
    • Be careful not to have your modified .css file overwritten when a new themes is choosen from Site Settings
  • You want to make your edits to the .css file with the funny name like Lich1011-65001.css
  • Theme Changer from the CodePlex project Features is very useful when applying Themes consistently across many sites

As you can see, a lot of Heather’s tips registered with me. I talked to many others who were happy among the 30 or so last night. I was sorry to miss Heather’s presenations at the SharePoint Conference in Seattle, but this night more than made up for it.

As one last note, Heather promised continued updates to her CSS Reference Chart for SharePoint 2007. Many people, including me, will benefit from this excellent free service she provides. I reference it often when working with CSS in web parts, data views, master pages, you name it.

Thanks, Heather for coming to San Antonio and for all you do for the SharePoint Community. Also, thanks to Travis Lingenfelder and David Broussard for organizing the event and to Louise Craig for reaching out to Heather for us.

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