Important Update (2nd September 2011) – Microsoft have announced that this is NOT SUPPORTED. Please see the following post: Update – Publishing Features “not supported” on Office 365 Public Websites
This is something that has bugged me for a LONG time .. I cannot possibly understand why SharePoint Online (with one of the most powerful Web Content Management Systems) was so thoroughly limited by cutting back to a really basic template editor. I can only think of 2 reasons:
- Microsoft assumes the average user won’t know how to use SharePoint, so wanted to provide a simpler user interface. This is fair enough, and if this IS the reason there should be no reason why I can’t go “behind the scenes” and setup the site any way I like (at my own risk .. as it were).
- Microsoft is trying to protect revenue from “SharePoint 2010 Server Internet Facing Sites” licenses. These are VERY expensive and a lot of companies will happily get rid of their on-premise install to put in a £80 a year Office 365 E1 plan to host their website.
Now .. if it is case (1) then we should be good to go. If it is case (2) then they probably have terms and conditions specifically stopping someone from doing this… so first off lets get the disclaimer out of the way 🙂
Disclaimer Update (26th July 2011) – I have received confirmation from Microsoft via the Office 365 community site that this IS ALLOWED (https://community.office365.com/en-us/f/153/p/8015/34893.aspx#34893). Having said that if you decide to do this in your own environment then proceed at your own risk! If something goes wrong it is NOT my fault .. you have been warned!
Ok .. now that is dealt with lets get on with it!
The first thing I want to note is that this is only possible using an Enterprise Plan. If you are using the Small Business version of Office 365 (such as Plan P1) then you won’t be able to do this for 2 major reasons:
1) SharePoint Designer blocks access to “All Files” so you can’t make some of the changes we need to do.
2) You don’t have access to Site Collection Features, so you can’t activate the Publishing Infrastructure Feature!
So I setup my own trial Enterprise Plan (with a 30 day expiry .. hence why I haven’t bothered posting the URL) and created the standard “Public Website” site collection… then what?
STEP 1 – SharePoint Designer – Rename the Public Website Folders
This is the first fundamental step. If you don’t do this then STEP 2 will throw errors at you (because folders using “Pages” for example, already exists!).
Open your site in SharePoint Designer 2010 (free download) and click on “All Files” (should be the bottom link in the left-hand navigation panel).
This will show you the URL paths being used by each of the lists and libraries. You cannot delete these (as the delete option is prohibited) but you can rename them!
RENAME each of the following libraries (I have prefixed mine with OLD).
- Images (the root folder)
- SiteImages (the library)
None of these will be required once you have activated the publishing features.
Next, go to “Lists and Libraries” (second link from top left hand side). This will show you the NAME of the same lists and libraries.
RENAME each of the following libraries (again, I have prefixed mine with OLD).
- Web Pages
Your site is now primed for the publishing features to be activated (if you navigate to your website URL now, you would be taken to the blank “default.aspx” page).
STEP 2 – Activate Publishing Features
Navigate to your website and append “/_layouts/settings.aspx” onto the end
You will need to activate 2 features in this order:
- Site Collection Features – SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure
- Site Features – SharePoint Server Publishing
So you now have “publishing” functions available!
STEP 3 – Create default Page
This is really optional, and anyone familiar with SharePoint should be happy from this point onwards.
- New Page is now available from Site Actions. This will create a new Publishing Page
- Using the Master Page options in Site Settings change the Site Master Page (I have used NightandDay.master in the screenshot below). You can of course create and deploy your own custom master pages using either SharePoint Designer or Sandbox Solutions.
- Advanced Navigation options are now available from Site Settings.
- The Pages library supports Content Approval, Publishing workflows and scheduling!
And that is it .. all done 🙂
STEP 4 – CLEANUP?
The only problem with this is we now have a bunch of old libraries hanging around which we can’t get rid of.
I’m sure there is a neat way using a Sandbox Solution or client object model to delete those forcibly, and setup all of this, but for now I’m putting up with a bunch of old libraries prefixed with “OLD” (which don’t contain anything).
The other thing in the mean time is finding out if Microsoft are actually willing to let us do this? I really hope they are .. it does expose the awesome power of SharePoint to the masses .. but will it mean they sacrifice some of the on-premise installs?? fingers and toes remain crossed.
Note – I have started a forum thread asking this specific question. We shall see !!