Creating a custom Page Layout in SharePoint 2010 is not too different than creating a custom Page Layout in SharePoint 2007. However, the process of creating a SharePoint Solution Package has changed in Visual Studio 2010. This article will walk you through the steps.

First, open Visual Studio and create a new C# project, using the “Empty SharePoint Project” template, listed under the SharePoint 2010 project templates. For this example, we’ll name our project “MyCustomPageLayout”.

New Project

For this example, we’ll be deploying our solution as a “Sandboxed solution”.

Sandboxed Solution

Click “Finish” to wire up your solution to your particular SharePoint site.

As with SharePoint 2007, we’ll need to provision our Page Layouts to our SharePoint Site Collection Master Page Gallery by using a “Module” element. To do this, right click on the Project and say you want to add a new item. Select “Module” from the list of SharePoint 2010 items.

Add Module

We’ll name the Module “masterpage”. When you create the new module, you’ll see something like this:

New Module

By default, the module contains a sample text file you, so you can see how the Module deploys a file to SharePoint. However, we don’t need it, so we’ll delete Sample.txt. Next, we need to wire up our module to point to the URL of the Master Page Gallery, so we’ll add a “Url” attribute to the Module node. Our Elements.xml file should now contain this XML:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Elements xmlns="">
  <Module Name="masterpage" Url="_catalogs/masterpage">

Next, we’re going to dop our new Page Layout file into the Module. To do thhis, we’ll right-click on the “masterpage” module in the Visual Studio explorer and select “Add new item”. We’re once again presented with the “Add New Item” dialog. If we were to select “Application Page” from the SharePoint 2010 menu, we’d get a code-behind page in addition to our ASPX page, which we don’t want. Since all we want to provision is markup (and not code), we’re going to use a shortcut. Select the “General” node and select “Text File” from the list of items. However, name the file “MyCustomPageLayout.aspx”.

Text File

Add your Page Layout markup into your MyCustomPageLayout.aspx page. You can do it how I do it, which is to create a new Page Layout in SharePoint designer, then copying the code to Visual Studio. However, DO NOT FORGET to remove the attributes in the Page Directive at the top of the page that SharePoint Designer adds, that look like this:

meta:webpartpageexpansion="full" meta:progid="SharePoint.WebPartPage.Document"

If you don’t forget to remove those items from the Page directive, SharePoint will think your pages have been customized, even though they were deployed via a Feature.

Next, we’ll need to update the Module’s Elements.xml file to tell SharePoint what to do with the new Page Layout.

The first thing we’ll need to do is to update the “Url” property of the File element, by removing the “masterpage/” prefix fromt the Url. (Since we already specified in the Module element that we’re deploying the Page Layout to the “masterpages” library, if we left the “masterpages/” part of the Url on the file, SharePoint would try to provision our Page Layout into a library called “masterpages” inside the existing “masterpages” library! We don’t want that!) Your new File element should look like this:

<File Path="masterpage\MyCustomPageLayout.aspx" Url="MyCustomPageLayout.aspx" />

Now we need to specify some properties for the Page Layout. These properties are identical to the kind of properties you would specify for a Page Layout in SharePoint 2007:

  • The Title of the file in SharePoint
    In our case, the file itself has a URL of MyCustomPageLayout.aspx, but we can also give the page a Title that will show up when the Page Layout is being selected by the content author, such as “My Custom Page Layout”.
  • The Content Type
    All Page Layouts must inherit from the “Page Layout” content type (which we add using a Resource file value.)
  • A Publishing Preview Image
    The Publishing Preview Image is the image that shows up when a user picks that Page Layout from the Page Layout picker while they’re creating a new page. In this example, we’ll just point to the Article Page’s preview image.
  • The Publishing Associated Content Type
    This is the Content Type that the Page Layout is representing, such as an “Article Page”, “Welcome Page”, etc. The value is a string representing a Lookup value that’s a combination of the name of the Content Type and its unique identifier.

Our new File node will look like this:

<File Path="masterpage\MyCustomPageLayout.aspx" Url="MyCustomPageLayout.aspx" Type="GhostableInLibrary">
      <Property Name="Title" Value="My Custom Page Layout" />
      <Property Name="ContentType" Value="$Resources:cmscore,contenttype_pagelayout_name;" />
      <Property Name="PublishingPreviewImage" Value="~SiteCollection/_catalogs/masterpage/$Resources:core,Culture;/Preview Images/CustomPageLayout.png, ~SiteCollection/_catalogs/masterpage/$Resources:core,Culture;/Preview Images/CustomPageLayout.png" />
      <Property Name="PublishingAssociatedContentType" Value=";#$Resources:cmscore,contenttype_articlepage_name;;#0x010100C568DB52D9D0A14D9B2FDCC96666E9F2007948130EC3DB064584E219954237AF3900242457EFB8B24247815D688C526CD44D;#" />

That’s it! We’ve built our Module.

Now, we’re going to add a module for the Page Layout preview image. Right click on the project and add an additional Module element. Delete the “Sample.txt” file from it, and add your new preview image. (In our case, we’ll call it CustomPageLayout.png”.) Modify your module file so it looks like this:

<Module Name="Previews Images" Url="_catalogs/masterpage/$Resources:core,Culture;/Preview Images">
  <File Path="Preview Images\CustomPageLayout.png" Url="CustomPageLayout.png" Type="GhostableInLibrary">
      <Property Name="Title" Value="Custom Page Layout Preview Image" />

You might have noticed that a new Feature got created for you when you created a new Module. Let’s rename the Feature itself MyCustomPageLayout in the project tree, like this:
Feature Renamed

We’ll open up our MyCustomPageLayout feature, and give it a helpful name and description. Notice that you can graphically see that your Module is a part of this Feature, and you can even see which Module files will be provisioned when the Feature is activated.
Feature Configuration

The last thing we need to do is to make sure our Solution Package is getting configured correctly, to include our new Feature.

By default, the “Empty SharePoint Project” will create a DLL for you. If we just went ahead and deployed our Solution Package with the settings as-is, we would be deploying a DLL to the GAC. However, since our solution doesn’t have any code in it, it would be a blank DLL. That’s a bit messy, so let’s avoid that. Click on the Project in your Solution Explorer, and look in the Properties Window. Change the “Include Assembly in Package” property to “False”.
Properties Window

Important note: This value is in the Properties Window. I was originally looking for it in the Properties page of the Project (say that three times fast), and I couldn’t find it there.

To deploy our new Solution Package to our Sandboxed Site, we’ll go to the “Build” menu in Visual Studio, and select “Deploy MyCustomPageLayout”.

Deploy Solution

This will assemble the Solution Package, deploy the Solution Package to the Sandbox, then activate the Sandboxed feature.

If we browse to our Master Page Library, we’ll now see our new Page Layout. Note that, unlike SharePoint 2007, our Page Layout will appear checked out by default, if we haven’t modified any of the approval or check-out settings of the out of the Master Page Gallery. We’ll need to check it in and approve it for it to be available to us.