Windows SharePoint Services Default Master Pages

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Windows SharePoint Services pages that end users can customize—list view pages, list form pages, and Web Part Pages—are content pages that contain the content to display. When a user requests a content page, it is merged with a master page to produce output that combines the layout of the master page with the content from the content page.

All content pages share the same page structure—the global breadcrumb, site title area, top navigation, page title area, and left navigation bar. In Windows SharePoint Services, this shared page structure is moved into a master page called default.master, which is used by all content pages, including the following:

  • default.aspx

  • AllItems.aspx, DispForm.aspx, NewForm.aspx, and EditForm.aspx: for all lists

  • Upload.aspx and Webfldr.aspx: for all document libraries

  • Any new content pages that are created in this site

At installation, default.master is located at <%System Drive%>Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\12\TEMPLATE\GLOBAL. As long as this master page is not customized, its page definition is cached on the front-end Web server and shared across sites. If the master page definition inside of default.master is subsequently edited for a particular Windows SharePoint Services site, an edited copy of the master page file is then stored in the content database.

The standard set of content pages all use the default master page and are initially located in the file system, in the same directory area as the rest of the template pages. For example, in the case of a SharePoint team site, default.aspx is stored at <%SystemDrive%>\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\12\TEMPLATE\SiteTemplates\STS, while form pages such editform.aspx are stored in their respective <%SystemDrive%>\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\12\TEMPLATE\Features folder. After a content page is customized, it is stored in the content database.

Content Placeholders Defined in default.master

In addition to static text and controls that appear on all pages, a master page also includes one or more System.Web.UI.WebControls.ContentPlaceHolder controls, which define regions where replaceable content can appear. In turn, the replaceable content is defined in content pages.

The Windows SharePoint Services default master page contains several ContentPlaceHolder controls to enable easy customization to an individual content page. By default, Windows SharePoint Services content pages use the content placeholders described in the following table. When creating custom master pages, developers must use the same set of content placeholders, or a superset of these placeholders; otherwise, their pages may fail to render.

The following table describes the content placeholders contained in the Windows SharePoint Services default master page and what each of the placeholders represents on the page.

Name of Content Placeholder



Additional content that needs to be within the <head> tag of the page, for example, references to script in style sheets


Additional body styles in the page header


Border element for the main page body


Right margin of the main page body


Shows a date picker for navigating in a calendar when a calendar is visible on the page


The "form digest" security control


The global navigation breadcrumb


Top navigation menu for the page


Bottom of the left navigation area


Left navigation area


Border element on the left navigation bar


Data source for the left navigation menu


Top of the left navigation area 


Page's main content


A place to show page-level commands, for example, WIKI commands such as Edit Page, History, and Incoming Links


The width of the left navigation area


Description of the page contents


Page icon in the upper left area of the page


The page <Title> that is shown in the browser’s title bar


Search box area


Site name


Additional styles in the page header


Shows shadows for the title area


Main content breadcrumb area


Page title shown immediately below the breadcrumb


Left border of the title area


Right margin of the title area


Top navigation area


Extra content that needs to be at the bottom of the page


Empty by default in Windows SharePoint Services.  Can be used for additional page editing controls.


The page editing controls when the page is in Edit Page mode (after clicking Site Actions, then Edit Page)

See Also


How to: Customize the Display of Quick Launch


Customizing Master Pages in Windows SharePoint Services