Category Archives: SharePoint in Education

How to stop using custom master pages when branding SharePoint



With the rise of Office 365 and SharePoint online, the ancient practice of using a custom master page to brand a SharePoint site is coming to an end. SharePoint online has many incremental changes, bug fixes and improvements to the Seattle master page meaning that if you have taken a copy of this Master Page to apply your branding, you could be missing out on the constant evolution of SharePoint online.

Custom Master Pages can still be used but Microsoft recommend against this now. The good news is that we can make exactly the same branding changes without having to use a custom master page.

I will briefly mention that you can create themes for SharePoint very quickly using Microsoft’s free tool which can be downloaded from here. Great for quick colour palettes and background images but not great if you want a responsive or more custom design.

Custom master pages (for branding purposes) tended to have a small number of adjustments such as:

  • Custom HTML (maybe for a menu container)
  • Links to CSS files (for responsive styling and branding)
  • Links to JavaScript files (for use of jQuery and additional libraries)

Link to custom CSS file

A link to a custom CSS file is recommended for advanced branding changes. This won’t affect any improvements to the default Seattle master page however you may need to update the CSS from time to time to reflect any interface changes. The alternative CSS link can be set via the GUI on a publishing site or by CSOM on any site.

As a designer, you will be aware that you can’t do everything in CSS such as placeholders for menus or other interactive content or run JavaScript.

Inject JavaScript

JavaScript and HTML plays a big role in most branding exercises. It could be DOM manipulation, a responsive menu, sliding effects or responsive background slideshows and JavaScript tends to be a requirement on most projects. Luckily there is some more good news, JavaScript can be added to a site without editing the Master Page by adding custom actions.

You should already be storing JavaScript in external files (in the Style Library) rather than embedding on the master page. So the only change is to inject these JavaScript files rather than reference them on the MasterPage. This can be done via CSOM (I use the PowerShell method).

#Run all of your lines to load the context of the site collection
$context.Load($site)

#add custom js injection action
$customJSAction = $site.UsercustomJSActions.Add();
$customJSAction.Location = “ScriptLink”;
#reference to JS file
$customJSAction.ScriptSrc = “~SiteCollection/Style Library/JS Display Templates/test.js”;
#load it last
$customJSAction.Sequence = 1000;
#make the changes
$customJSAction.Update();
$context.ExecuteQuery();

You can use the same objects to remove all the custom actions and list them. You can find out more information and the C# examples here.

Conclusion

Although this is a different way of thinking about branding, in the long run, it’s cleaner and more reusable than custom master pages. Your customers will have a better experience in Office 365 but even CSS and DOM manipulation may need updating as SharePoint evolves.

Some really useful examples and more detailed explanations can be found on Vesa Juvonen’s Ignite talk. In Vesa’s example he uses Visual Studio and Apps to deploy the CSS and JS.

In the video at the top of the post, I quickly go through the process of setting alternative CSS and JavaScript custom actions.

Using the SharePoint recycle bin

I’m often asked about restoring deleted documents, where the recycle bins are and how long they are kept there for. Hope this post will be of use to some of you.

SharePoint’s powerful document management features provide the end user and administrator ways of recovering deleted items. Items can be deleted accidentally (sometimes without the end user even knowing). Luckily we can go into SharePoint and recover the document before it is lost forever.

Two stage recovery

When a document is first deleted, it goes into the end user recycle bin on the site. The user deleting the item has several days (93 days by default in SharePoint Online) to recover the item themselves.

After that period (or if the item is deleted from the site recycle bin) it then goes into the second-stage recycle bin. The second-stage recycle bin is only accessible by the site collection administrator. There is then another 93 days to recover the item before it is deleted forever! Items in the second-stage recycle bin don’t count towards your site collection quota but items will automatically be deleted if you exceed 200% of your site collection quota (which is unlikely if you make sure your site collection has 1TB of storage).

I’ve created the video below to explain the recovery process from both recycle bins. A great way to find those missing documents which were accidentally deleted by the end user.



More information can be found here on the Microsoft website.

Setting up Azure Connect (DirSync) for Office 365

I’ve made a quick video guide on how to set-up Azure Connect (DirSync) to sync with Office 365. It’s done using a simple demo environment and I suspect that you may find complications and other errors when trying this out in a production live environment. Hopefully this is of use to you (even if it just makes it seem less scary!). I will try to get chance to write up this blog post in more detail rather than just the video at some point in the future.



Using PowerShell to find last DirSync

When troubleshooting DirSync issues with Office 365, it is sometimes difficult to know if the DirSync successfully applied to Office 365.

There is a quick way to check this and it provides the data for when the update last took place. First you will need to make sure that you have installed the Azure AD Module for PowerShell, you can download from here.

When this has installed, run Connect-MsolService to connect to the Office 365 tenancy, this should be a global administrator account.

Azure Connect PowerShell

Then run Get-MsolCompanyInformation to get the tenancy information which includes the last dirsync time and last password sync



How to embed a Twitter widget on a SharePoint page

Many schools and businesses are using twitter as a social communication platform to send out news and information to users. How to embed twitter feeds on SharePoint intranets and public sites has been a popular question recently so thought I would share with you how it is done. I’ve also created a video guide on YouTube to talk through the process.

First login to your twitter account in a browser on a desktop computer (it doesn’t have to be the same account as the one that you want to display in your widget).

Click on your profile picture in the top right of the screen and select “Settings” from the drop down menu.

Twitter

Select “Widgets” from the left side menu.

Twitter

Create a new widget.

Twitter

Choose your design and configuration. More options are available via the customisation documentation link on the page. Click “Create Widget” to generate the code.

Twitter

Copy and paste the code into a Script Editor web part. The Script Editor web part can be found under the “Media and Content” category.

Twitter

I go through the process in more detail in the video below. Hope you find it useful. For SharePoint support and consultancy please contact me at Cloud Design Box.