One of the major benefits of the Web content management system in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is that it streamlines the process of creating, publishing, and managing Web content on your SharePoint sites. By separating content from presentation, Web content management facilitates the rebranding of an entire site and makes easier the creation of new content.
Master pages and page layouts are two important features of Web content management that help you design your SharePoint site consistently and efficiently.
A master page contains the page design and layout elements that you want to repeat on multiple pages in a site. The Adventure Works Marketing department, for example, uses a master page that defines the elements that make up the common branding of their internal employee site, such as the color scheme, logos, and navigation.
Using master pages for these common elements gives your site a more consistent appearance. It also lets you create and update these elements in one place, rather than changing them on each Web page.
Master pages are stored in the Master Page Gallery, which is a document library that is created when you install Office SharePoint Server 2007.
Every SharePoint site has one master page by default. You can store as many master pages in the Master Page Gallery as you want, but you can select only one master page as the default master page for a site.
While master pages control how a group of pages looks on a SharePoint site, page layouts control individual Web pages and dictate what kind of information can be displayed on them.
You can think of a page layout as a template for content pages. When combined with a master page, a page layout defines the layout and branding of a Web page within a site.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes a set of page layouts for the Welcome Page and Article Page content types. The Welcome Page and Article Page content types are designed to be generally useful and to apply across a wide range of contexts. The types of fields that appear on a Web page are determined by the content type for the page. When creating a Web page, you must associate it with exactly one page layout.
Content for the Web page is stored in fields on the content page. When a Web page is requested, the master page and page layout are combined to form the overall design. Content is then pulled from the content page and is displayed in the final design of your Web page.
You can modify an existing page layout or create a new one. When you create a page layout, you can add field controls by using a Web authoring tool such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007. Page layouts are stored in the Master Page Gallery along with your master pages.
By working with master pages and page layouts, you can more efficiently control and manage your top-level site and ensure consistency in presentation for your site's individual Web pages.