Master Pages in .NET 2.0

One of the big improvements with .NET 2.0 is master pages. A master page is a template that you use to build the structure of your web pages. You use it to do things like branding, top navigation, side navigation, footer, etc. Anything that you want repeated on every page can be placed in a master page.

Before .NET 2.0, we would build things in user controls, and add the user controls to our pages. This worked reasonably well, until you wanted to add a new feature, such as a search box to all your pages. If you didn’t have a suitable user control on your pages, you’d create a new user control, then add that to every page in your web application.

With .NET 2.0 or later, you can add the search box to the master page, and every page using that master page will automagically get the search box. This can save a huge amount of time. I learned this a few weeks ago, when I had to modify project that was created in .NET 1.1.

On master pages, in addition to the branding and navigation elements, you provide one or more content ares. These content areas are where the individual pages are responsible for populating the content. However, the content page does not have to populate every content area, you can pick and choose which content areas to use. For example, if your master page has an area for a sidebar, but your page doesn’t have content for the sidebar, you simply leave that area off your content page. It is an error, however, when your pages implement a content area that is not on the master page.

SharePoint makes extensive use of master pages, so this is a concept I will continue working with and expanding my knowledge.

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