Master Pages in SharePoint:-

Master pages are reusable page templates which use a combination of ASP.NET controls and HTML markup. Once a user creates a new Publishing page, that page’s look and feel derives from a master page; the content to be displayed the content’s layout comes from the page layout; and the content itself comes from the Publishing page instance which is created by the author. Thus, master pages, page layouts, and page instances create a hierarchical page model which separates the presentation from the content. Master pages and page layouts are kept in a dedicated document library called the Master Page gallery.

Each site collection has a single Master Page gallery for its entire site collection which can be accessed from the top-level site’s Site Settings page.

A master page can be created from scratch or copied from an existing page and then edited. Initially it would be most convenient to copy and edit an existing master page. You will normally use a visual design tool, such as SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio , to edit and create master pages (note that you can download a free version of Visual Studio – Visual Web Developer from page file names must end with the file  extension .master.

There are currently nine master pages in the Master Page gallery. Since the Master Page gallery is a document library, you may check out or upload a master page  in the same manner you woulda Word document or any other file.

When  a master page is opened, you see text that   is actually a  of HTML and ASP.NET , and importantly contains a series of ASP.NET placeholders. These placeholders are used to display the elements which will be displayed on every page which inherits from the master page, these elements will typically be page features such as navigation, search, or the footer. The content from the page layout is populated in the PlaceHolderMain. The code looks like this:

<asp:ContentPlaceHolder id=”PlaceHolderMain” runat=”server” />

Master pages normally link to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files, which defines the styles used to control the look and feel of the page. The CSS files which are  used with master pages are stored in the Style library at the top-level site of a site collection. Master Pages are a an ASP.NET technology and so for a detailed tutorial of how master pages work and how to use them please see Master Pages – A Beginners Guide

To easily change the look of a page it is a simple process to  change the master page associated with a site. Of the nine master pages included in  MOSS 2007, all   except BlueVertical.master and BlackVertical.master will work for internal SharePoint sites, these two master pages should only be used with Internet-facing sites.

To change the master page associated with a site, do the following:

1.Navigate to the Site Settings page for the relevant site.
2.Select Master Page   in the Look and Feel section,  and the Site Master Page Settings page will appear.
3.Under Site Master Page, select the master page to be used for all the Publishing pages in the site.
4.Under  System Master Page , select the master page to be used for all the forms and view pages in the site.
5.For the  Alternate CSS URL, select whether the site should use the default or custom CSS settings.
6.Click OK and the process is complete, and master pages are applied to the site.
If you use different master pages for Publishing and System pages, you can maintain one look for the Publishing pages while keeping  the classic SharePoint look for default SharePoint pages  like document libraries.

WSS supports using  themes for changing the appearance of a  site. Themes will change the fonts and color scheme used by a site without affecting the site’s layout. Follow the below steps to change the theme of a site:

1.Navigate to the Site Settings page for the site you wish to change the theme for.
2.Select  Site Theme  in the Look and Feel section, and The Site Theme page will appear.
3.Select the required  theme from the theme listing.
4.SharePoint will then display a preview of the selected theme.
5.Click   Apply,  and that  site’s fonts and colors  are updated.
Themes do not have an inheritance hierarchy like master pages do. As a consequence, you will  have to set the theme for every site in a site collection if you wish them all to have the same theme.
What is difference between WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007:-

SharePoint is one of the buzzwords that are used almost in every office. When a newbie enters in the world of the SharePoint technologies, one of the first questions  is: “What is the difference between the available distributions?” Generally there are two main distributions: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS). This article compares the WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007 and outlines the differences between them.

The long story short: WSS comes as a free download if you have Windows Server 2003 or 2008. MOSS is build on top of WSS and must be purchased separately. Depending on the version (Standard, Enterprise, etc.) the license can be a significant financial investment. For details about difference licensing scenarios, you should contact your local Microsoft representative, because the licensing can vary if your server serves internet users or only intranet requests.

Bellow I will summarize some of the most important features of both distributions.

Features of WSS: WSS is a collaboration platform, primary used for sharing and managing information and documents via a web site. The following are the most essential features:

*Site provisioning – WSS acts as a site provisioning engine that simplifies the process of creating new web sites.
*Document management – WSS provides support for document checkout before editing, the ability to view revisions to documents and restore to previous versions.
*Web Parts Infrastructure – web parts are special controls which can be added to certain areas of a web page (Web Part Zones). These controls enable end users to modify the content, appearance, and behavior of Web pages directly from a browser.
*Integration with Word, Excel, Access, Outlook –  users can directly open a document from the server, without the need to download it first.
*Wikis, Blogs – wikis are supported as a site template, which allows you to create new pages quickly and easily, provides automatic linking and WYSIWYG editor. Blogs are supported as a site template as well, which provides features for article posting, reader comments and RSS feeds.
*Email integration  – document libraries, discussion boards, calendars, and announcements can be configured to send emails upon new postings.
*Limited search support – WSS is is limited to showing results from the site and all of its subsites.
*Basic workflows support – you can create workflows, but you will need external tools like Visual Studio to do so. WSS is just a container that executes your workflow.
*Mobile devices support – the information is rendered using simplified text format.
*Server Farm – if you need high scalability, you can install WSS in a server farm mode which means that several machines will run the stateless presentation layer and all of them will be connected to the same SQL Server database.

Features of MOSS: MOSS installs on top of the WSS and extends the provided features. The major additions are :

*My Site personal site – each user has a site where the user can control the public and private content. It provides other users with the ability to learn about the user and the user’s areas of expertise, current projects, and colleague relationships. ‘My site’ acts as a central location  to view and manage all of a user’s documents, tasks, links, calendar, etc.
*Extended workflow support – some existing workflow templates come with MOSS. If you want, you can create your own with tools like SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio.
*Site Directory – MOSS automatically creates a site map and presents it in an easy-to-use format.
*Business intelligence – MOSS provides support for business intelligence dashboards, Key Performance Indicators (KPI), Business Data Catalog (BDC), etc. BDC integrates external data into MOSS.
*Search – MOSS overcomes the limitation of WSS to search only within the current site and its subsites. You may search over file shares, web sites, etc.
*Enterprise Content Management – approval workflow allows web content to be sent for approval prior to publishing. Content deployment to production sites can be scheduled by setting up jobs.
*Audience targeting – the content inside lists, libraries, web parts, etc can be targeted to appear only to users who are members of a particular group or audience. The audiences can be identified via SharePoint groups, Distribution lists and Security groups.
*Excel Services – allows you to publish excel files so the user can view them in web page without the need of Microsoft Office Excel installed on his machine. You can control what part of the excel file to be visible and which part can be editable.
*InfoPath Forms – allows you to design forms in Microsoft Office InfoPath and distribute them via MOSS. Users will fill the form in the web browser without downloading the form.

The MOSS is distributed in several editions: Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Search, Office SharePoint Server 2007 Standard and Office SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise. Logically not all of the features above are present in each version. More information about different MOSS versions can be found in the SharePoint Products Comparison.xls.