branding office 365

5 Ways of Branding Office 365 without Modifying the Master Page

We’ve been schooled on customizing our Office 365 sites too much and I’ve seen it clarified a couple of times recently that you should avoid modifying your Master Page. So what can you do? Here are 5 ways you can build brand and look and feel without modifying the master page.

We’re going to start with position that you shouldn’t modify the master page. I know the recommendation that frustrates many, but over the last 3 years I’ve learned to appreciate this guidance in Office 365. For SharePoint on premises, I take this a very different way for Intranets, Portals, and CMS. There are a lot of resources for developers and designers at the Office 365 Patterns and Practices site on

“Use SharePoint as an out-of-box application whenever possible – We designed the new SharePoint UI to be clean, simple and fast and work great out-of-box. We encourage you not to modify it which could add complexity, performance and upgradeability and to focus your energy on working with users and groups to understand how to use SharePoint to improve productivity and collaboration and identifying and promoting best practices in your organization.”

Starting from 1 easiest to 5 hardest (requires dev skills)

1) Office 365 (Personal and Tenant Wide) Themes – You should start here.

Office 365 themes

Believe me when I say that the themes are a good attempt, but don’t go far enough? You can see here we are on the new Office 365 compliance center part of Despite the fact I’ve chosen nice robot theme, the blue left nav is persistent despite the choice, and the green banner doesn’t seem to want to fit either theme. This page should be excused since it’s admin UI, but I have seen big UI/UX inconsistencies simply navigating from mail (responsive collapsible frame like mobile messaging) to SharePoint (pinch and zoom or limited mobile UI) to Delve (responsive and card based). There are a few battles for consistency. The announcement of the updated document libraries brings consistency across documents from OneDrive for Business to SharePoint 2016 to Office 365 document libraries. This is a good start.

That being said I do recommend investing in corporate Office 365 themes. This will nearly guarantee a branded experience. For some reason I still inconsistently see my custom theme being applied, but am anxious for Microsoft to address bugs preventing my corporate experience from flowing across my apps and add-ins.

Customize the Office 365 theme for your organization

After you’ve created your theme

  • Custom logo optionally clickable: Select the image and upload your own JPG, PNG, or GIF with a resolution of 200 x 50 pixels, no larger than 10 KB. This appears in the top navigation bar on every page.
  • Top Nav Background image: Your own JPG, PNG, or GIF, no larger than 15 KB. The background image appears in the top navigation bar on every page.
  • Prevent users from overriding theme: Option to enforce theming at the user level so that everyone in the organization sees the theme you create. The exception to this is a high contrast theme used for accessibility purposes.
  • Accent color: Select a color to use for the app launcher icon, mouse over color, and other accents.
  • Nav bar background color: Select a color to use for the background of the navigation bar. Appears at the top on every page.
  • Text and icons: Color to use for the text and icons in the top navigation bar.
  • App menu icon: Color to use for the app launcher icon

You’ll see your new theme on the Office 365 admin center right away and after a short delay, you’ll see it throughout Office 365 including Outlook and SharePoint pages. You can remove your custom icon or custom colors at any time. Just return to the theme page and choose Remove custom theming or Remove custom colors.

IMPORTANT: In addition to customizing your theme, you can add custom tiles to the My Apps page and then add them to the app launcher or add them to the navigation bar.

Office 365 Branding goes beyond SharePoint

When considering any a custom UI for SharePoint, always consider other services such as One Drive, User Profiles, and Delve. Any CSS, JS, or master-page customization applied to SharePoint as these will not automatically propagate across these other workloads. The only shared tool at this point is the top suite bar. Fortunately, this for the most part is customized by using Office 365 themes. Themes are limited, but this is where you should start. Outlook does have some personal theming, but shouldn’t need much branding anyway. For email you could use add-ins, and recommend company signatures for consistency.

2) Office 365 site options: SharePoint Site Look and Feel branding “Change the Look”

Another good place to start with changing the look of your site while clearly staying way within boundaries is with the Look and Feel section of site settings.

Add a site title, pick a logo, add simple base colors. I would avoid doing too much here or your site will look like it came from FrontPage 98. The out of the box theming engine of composed looks are actually quite ugly in my opinion, but the ability to customize these is in the SharePoint UI and very easy to do. Site themes and composed looks are well covered on the web. The “Change the look option” site theme has skins and additional colors. Changing the navigation is simple and this also is benign and expected. If you want to explore more of what’s available right in the SharePoint UI visit Ben’s Sharegate blog on using the Color palate tool.

3) Provisioning template in PnP Partner Pack for responsive UI for Office 365 SharePoint Online

Alternative CSS is much more lightweight, but still will require testing and maintenance. Join the Office Dev PnP community where you can share code and best practices. First, use alternative CSS instead of adding references to files on your master pages. You can test in our browser by changing the browser size, but ultimately need to test. A good practice is having a couple of tenants… one in early adopter with a handful of test users and the other in the normal adoption rate.

4) Office UI Fabric

Office UI Fabric is a responsive, mobile-first, front-end framework for developers, designed to make it simple to quickly create web experiences using the Office Design Language. The framework is used internally on products within Office 365—such as our suite branding,,, Delve and the Video Portal. With Office UI Fabric you can apply simple CSS styles to make your web applications look and feel like the rest of Office. The styling takes into account typography, color, icons, animations, responsive grid layouts and localization.


GitHub Office UI Fabric

5) Use JavaScript Injection to embed custom scripts and/or third-party libraries into your sites

“You can use the Office 365 JavaScript UI controls to add an Office 365-style navigation bar to your app and also let users access data about people in Azure Active Directory (AAD). These JavaScript UI controls do not require server-side code, and can be integrated into a single-page application (SPA) with just a few lines of code.”

The Office 365 JavaScript UI controls are supported by the following web browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 10+
  • Chrome 43+
  • Firefox 39+

    Consider r
    emote provisioning pattern for ‘deploying’ components to your SharePoint sites (fields, content types, lists, pages or files)

Any Exceptions?

Did I mention changing the master page? In on premises SharePoint that’s been the practice, for Office 365 as a best practice and for long term supportability… No you should avoid it. It will break inheritance and force you to maintain it through updates. Still feel like you need to do it? There are exceptions, but with Javascript injection there are more flexible ways of changing what you need to.

Should you never ever customize the master page? I do think there are exceptions. Those that are building a CMS, publishing based Intranet are a good example of that. You can control the total look and feel of a site with the master page and publishing features.

Is that enough? Just because Microsoft says don’t customize or don’t really change the master page, won’t stop you from doing it if you want to. So, if you are making master page changes, it’s up to you to stay up to date with the ongoing product updates applied to SharePoint Online. Luckily, you can preview new changes within your tenant by going to the SharePoint Online admin center and enabling preview features. In addition you can create a dev tenant and put it on the early adopter to opt into quicker updates. This is great for a dev or test environment to first experience what may happen first so you can plan to deal with it. You can have as many site collections on either tenant to support QA and UAT. The preview features is also nice so you can slowly ease into the changes and be notified in the UI of changes and flip back if needed.

What about my sites or delve profiles? There are some options. Sonja covers the history and options of Office 365 branding of my sites.

Personally I expect the Delve background photo to be customizable in the near future. I hope to see more company branding options out of the box here as well.

Have other resources and Ideas?  Share them in the comments!

UPDATE: The new Modern Team sites and Communication sites in Office 365 are now responsive by default and the new Hub Sites have been announced to include Themes and look and feel that are inherited across the child based sites associated. This means design will be more fluid and easy to do in the future.  In addition SharePoint 2019 appears set to include much of this modern design work in Office 365.  More info to come!!

SharePoint 2013 Mobile App Device Support Matrix

In preparing for my Mobile Enterprise Strategy Session in London, I put together two different mobile app support matrices.  People want to see what works on what platform.  None of this I’m calling Official.  This is my experience and from my own testing.  There may be bugs and you need to should also verify this yourself if you have any questions.  If you disagree with anything please add in the comments so I can either update or you can make others aware.

If you want the full slides you can download them here: SharePoint 2013 Mobile Enterprise Strategy. Despite the fact that it says only says SharePoint on some of these images.  This applies to SharePoint 2013 On Premises, Office Online, OneDrive, and Office 365.  I’m sure MS would like to know what you use that is missing from apps they are targeting for your device.

Enjoy!  Feel free to download this infographic “SharePoint 2013 Mobile App Platform Supportability Matrix”  or share it on your own blog!

SharePoint 2013 Mobile App Support Matrix

I love seeing all these boxes.  Reminds me of a conversation with Noah Sparks in 2013.  We asked… Will Microsoft ever check all the boxes?  They checked all those… so I had to add more!


Here’s the extended Office 365 and SharePoint mobile platform and OS support matrix.


SharePoint Mobile Extended Support Matrix

Download this image as a file: SharePoint 2013 Mobile OS and App Platform supportability Matrix

Microsoft doesn’t officially support Linux, and I’ve never seen anything officially called out about Kindles, but I do know there is an Ubuntu community that uses Office Online and OneDrive.


Download: Office 365 Mobile OS Platform Support Matrix

Office 365 Mobile OS Platform Support Matrix

Product Announcement: Content Panda – New Free resource to integrated SharePoint and Office 365 training

My friends at Content Panda have put together an amazing resource for your SharePoint 2013 or Office 365 environment.  They’ve done some really clever things and they’re giving away a perpetual free version.  There are paid options so you can add your own content and do additional branding and premium content, but there’s a lot of expert content in the free that’s already available and integrated.  If you want the panda to be a clippy or the wizard, you could do it.  So if you don’t love pandas, don’t let that stop you.

Let me start with more of what Content Panda is and why I think it’s a pretty cool idea.

“52% of organization users are introduced to SharePoint/Office365 with no training…” quote from “The Road to Awesome SharePoint Adoption in your Organization”

I bet the 52% surveyed organizations includes administrator and developer training.  In my experience the total percentage of users that are trained or have access to training inside the organization is less than 10%.  Seriously it’s sad how much SharePoint gets pushed at employees and they’re told to go figure it out or search google or youtube.  I’ve been there.

What is is?
Content panda is Inline, In-Context Help for SharePoint.  The help content is articles, videos, blogs, and rich content to help your users better understand how to be effective with using SharePoint.  The ultimate goal is to help train your users on the technology and increase adoption by increasing user satisfaction.   Content Panda embeds the most relevant videos for you to play along as you solve problems or get that little reminder of how to complete a task.  Users no longer spend hours on YouTube searching for the “right” video.(You don’t need to track down the Office/SharePoint question mark that often isn’t contextual or that helpful.)

What does it do?

Delivers the most relevant and curated help content available in the world exactly when and where you need it .  With Content Panda you now have your own personal search engine inside of Office 365 connected directly to Microsoft Bing web services.  We have hand-curated the most optimal keyword search terms so you never have to leave the software to find an answer to your questions.

Did you say Free?

The free version of Content Panda is available for anyone using Microsoft Office 365 – SharePoint Online or SharePoint 2013. Content Panda is an easy app to install and is activated with one click. It is immediately helpful and opens the door to thousands of the right answers you need on-demand, real time on a daily basis.  You will start to want some panda in every software program you use.

Figure 1: Content Panda in action…

Turned On

Once enabled any menu item now has more information and context.  Simply clicking on the plus will provide answers on what the feature does.  It’s a SP 2013 App, so it meets all your 2013 customization goals as well.

Find more about the new Content Panda SharePoint and Office 365 app at  They give free demos and would be happy to chat with you.  Heather Newman and Simeon Cathy are both super nice and happy to chat with you about your training and adoption strategies.

SharePoint Search Tips and Tricks Infographic for Power Users

When I started diving into search, I found there is A LOT of useful things to know about how to leverage that little search box.  While the typical user only uses 1.2 words and rarely if ever uses boolean search queries, there are a number of things including a powerful new Keyword Query Language that have been added to beef up that little search box.  I’ve been doing a number of search sessions and have started gathering that knowledge into a series of Infographics.  This is the first.

You can download my PowerPoint deck on the topic of Power User Search in SharePoint, but I’ve tried to consolidate the BEST Of POWER QUERIES in this single little Infographic.  Feel free to Share this Infographic and even use it in your blogs.  I acknowledge that much of it is buried in TechNet Articles, SharePoint Search Help pages, but this dandy little one pager can be laminated and used in your search brown bags.  The Last Modified Search by date was something I had to reverse engineer by URL unencoding and piecing it back together.  I’ve been working on getting this info in a single page for over a month.  I hope you LOVE It!

I am working on a series of Infographics on the topic of Enterprise Search… stay tuned to this blog!



Search Tips and Tricks Infographic

Office 365 Delve

Microsoft Announces Delve Availability – Delve Hits the Shelves

Well, Delve is making its way out to customers today via Office 365.  I’m excited to see what this will do to boost adoption, search, and discovery.  The idea of push technology and artificial intelligence trying to understand what is most important to you is HOT technology these days.  I recently posted on an article about the trends that are happening in this space titled “Artificial Intelligence is Resurrecting Enterprise Search.”  Both the advancements in Cortana as your personal virtual assistant with Windows 8.1 mobile, and Delve as your assistant in the cloud bringing you what’s new, what’s relevant and what’s happening.  The extensibility of bringing more than just Office 365 data is the vision.  As the world of anticipating what you need to be productive enterprise search really has got a boost in the arm.  This isn’t just about your home life.  With reminders, travel, and juggling appointments and getting access to news and relevant information in context of your day this is no longer about consumer data and it’s quickly becoming not only about your work, but a blend of work and life in a harmonious balance with privacy, security and contextual relevance.

Don’t see Delve yet? It will come if you are licensed for it.  It simply starts showing up on the bar like the picture below.

Recommended Reading:

A Milestone for Office Delve – Julia White, Office Blog

Artificial Intelligence is Resurrecting Enterprise Search – Joel Oleson, CMSWire

Microsoft starts rollout out Delve its Flipboard for Office 365 – Mary Jo Foley, ZDNet


Delve this morning popping up in Office 365…


Delve Start Screen Office 365

Move over SharePoint

10 Ways SharePoint is Taking the Backseat, Office 365 and Yammer are Driving

There were more than a few hints at #SPC14 that SharePoint as a brand is being asked to make room for the 1st string soloists Office 365 and Yammer.  You’ll notice that I made the call back in October to change my blog from SharePoint to Collab, so as to embrace this new change as much as it hurts.  Let me pull back the Microsoft curtain a little to help you see what I see.  I’m not the only one who’s yelling “Paradigm Shift” and “Time to Circle the Wagons” (Is interest in SharePoint dropping) but most of this conversation thus far has been on more obscure blogs and tweets.  Now I think it’s time to start talking about this in the open.  I invite other readers to share their perspective.  I think it’s great to have this in the open.  As Ben put it… Is the SharePoint Brand Disappearing?

Cat Driving Yammer and Office365

1.  The SharePoint Conference keynote was all about Office 365 and Yammer with lots of cool announcements around Office Graph, Oslo (Code name), SP1 integration to SharePoint online, and a bunch more.  You can read my post about the various announcements:  Next version of SharePoint in 2015 and other things I learned at SharePoint Conference #SPC14 and SharePoint Conference Enterprise Social Announcement Wrap-Up

2. There were a couple of other reinforcements in the keynote which reinforced “Cloud First!” and Not all features (you see here) are going into Office 365 will make it to SharePoint on Premise. (Like Groups?)  You really need to understand the new world of incremental releases to understand there’s really no such thing as “Non Launch Year.” The things that were announced were innovative and life changing and you should sit up and pay attention to what *really* happened at #SPC14.  This post is a hint.

3. The previous plan to have annual cadence and quicker releases for on premises SharePoint has been updated.  The next release of SharePoint will be in 2015.  No other significant announcements related to that product were mentioned at the conference… Well, there was one… The SharePoint Social features will not be enhanced.  Personally I interpret that as specifically related to the SharePoint newsfeed. They don’t plan to invest in putting yammer like features in SharePoint.  They’re done.  Seems that mention of Social SharePoint often relates directly to the newsfeed despite the fact that blogs, wikis, and so forth use to be part of the “social” features of SharePoint, but the Office team (SharePoint?) is gathering feedback for improving the CMS features of SharePoint 2015 and in Office 365.

4. Any and all barriers to the cloud are attempting to be removed.  You’ll notice the Self service provisioning features, and the unlimited size per tenant were both excuses that the cloud wasn’t ready for scale.  Now those excuses are gone.

5, Microsoft field has little to no incentive to sell SharePoint on premises.  Most if not 100% of the SharePoint sales specialists have been moved to other technologies with emphasis on CRM, Office 365, and Yammer.

6. The Ask the Experts at #SPC14 had T-shirts for SharePoint, Yammer, and Office 365.  Equal footing at a SharePoint conference, but when you dig into the sessions you’d realize all the new cool stuff was all about Office 365 and Yammer.  That’s not just because we are in a non launch year.  It’s because it’s going to be cloud first, and all the cool stuff will go to Office 365 first, and SharePoint on premises can take a back seat.

7. The new yammer itpronetwork for SharePoint is all about Office 365… Have you noticed that yet?  I think it’s high time to talk about the consulting and IT roles in Office 365.  So far there’s a lot less need for IT with all of this efficiency.  Just sayin’!  I think this paradigm shift will result in new and different jobs… definitely some retooling for developers, but they will continue to be needed for business solutions and integration work, and tons more, but the server customizations have got to go… or at least they need to be minimized and kept in a small box at home (in the smallish on premises datacenter) that shouldn’t get touched as often as it has.  I could and should do a post about what this means career wise for folks, because it is a new economy and all this emphasis on Social, Mobile, Cloud, and Big Data many consulting firms will need to find a new niche.

8. SharePoint Vendors are scared they see the emphasis on Cloud and they are trying to retool as well – in this new world of Office 365, so far we haven’t seen any killer apps and big money projects.  Tell me if I’m wrong.  I’d love to hear about the coolest app that’s making bank.  The Office and SharePoint Store or Marketplace have been around for a couple of years now.  There’s definitely significant deployment in Office 365 and even enough upgrades on SharePoint 2013 that there should be some buzz around killer apps.  Not yet.  I agree the mobile space is the exception.  There are some interesting things happening there.

9. Why haven’t we rebranded the community yet?  There have been some attempts at trying to do Office 365 camps and SharePoint Saturdays.  There’s some big muscle behind the Office 365 event in Europe, but it’s taking a lot more effort to get out the same crowd.  Office 365 is too big of an umbrella, and thus far the Lync person, Exchange/Mail person, and SharePoint peep have been different people.  They have very little in common.  Even in the *real* Office 365 deployment, there should be very little need for help on the Lync and Exchange side after the migration and (client) deployments are complete.  I bet we could learn a few things from the Exchange experts out there.  That sure has been a shrinking community.  I feel for them.  Very interested to hear the details from their Exchange Conference.  They haven’t seen any real love for quite a while.  Cloud cloud cloud.  Don’t agree?  Take me to task!  What is the paradigm shift creating for the Mail folks?  I spoke at a Office 365 Saturday in Redmond.  Weirdest crowd in my session on SharePoint online.  I had very little in common with the people in the room, and their questions were all about migration and customizations.  Lots of complaining.

10. Right after the event, I saw a few tweets that resonated with my own thoughts… Did I just attend the last Microsoft SharePoint Conference???

Don’t stop believing.  As a community we will figure things out and react to what we’ve got.  What we’ve been given isn’t bad.  I’m super excited… just trying to help turn the train or boat or whatever you want to call this thing we’re on.  I don’t want to leave anyone behind and I can already see people who are betting on Cobalt in 1999!

Personally, I’m a yammer fan and I’m ready to do the MC Yammer Dance!  Stop! It’s Yammer time.  Time to drink some yammer Kool Aid.  Watch Adam Pisoni’s presentation(s) and you’ll get the vision of post agile and You’ll feel so much better after you have.  Then you can join the club!  Microsoft has been drinking it, but doesn’t know how to better explain to you why it’s time to go to the cloud and get on board the Office 365 and Yammer train.  All of this being said, SharePoint is “sites” and it’s not going away… it’s just taking a back seat as Office 365 brand grows and yammer transforms the business with enterprise social and beyond.  Still not convinced? Ask someone from Redmond what the coolest team is to be on between Office 365, Yammer and SharePoint…  SharePoint?  There’s still someone working on SharePoint?

Love to hear your thoughts!

5 Reasons OneDrive for Business on (SkyDrive Pro) Office 365 is Better Than Yours

There are many who are debating the move to Office 365, and one of the biggest reasons in your consideration should be SkyDrive Pro for your users.  In my experience SDP is one of the first reasons to use the Microsoft cloud.  It’s going to be less unusual for people to do the My Sites in the cloud and keep the Intranet on premises.  Welcome to the world of cloud and hybrid cloud.

1. Size – Size matters when it comes to storage.  In my last 5 conferences, I’ve polled the audience… Out of 1000 attendees the largest on premises deployment of SkyDrive Pro was 2GB.  I was in the process of building a 5GB quota deployment of SkyDrive to attempt to match what users had with Dropbox when Microsoft announced the support for 25GB SkyDrive Pro in Office 365.  It was at that point, I gave up. I was NOT going to try to compete with that size that would only work with an airline booking system to support data growth that had a TON of storage for flexibility.  In addition to that you can even get up to 100GB SkyDrive Pro if you so desire.  You should also compare your individual max size.  Microsoft is now supporting much much larger files than you.  They support a 2GB individual max file size.  Here’s a good reference on the SharePoint Online limits you can compare yours with my SharePoint 2013 outer limits post where I compare online with the defaults and maximums and recommendations.

2. Mobile Apps work – The SkyDrive Pro app from Microsoft on iOS and Android ONLY works if you have an account with the Office 365 and in fact only exclusively works with SkyDrive Pro in Office365.  (In addition the sharing features mentioned in #3 are exposed in the app.)  That’s also the case with needing an account for Office365 for Android and iOS to get Office Mobile working.  It should work with On Premises data once you’ve authenticated with Office 365, but I know some users who have had a challenge with anything but Office 365 due to firewall, auth, or who knows what.  Since Office 365 is consistent, all of the third party solutions also work much better with Office 365 SkyDrive Pro including Colligo briefcase, mobile, SharePlus, etc…  This means the security, offline, sync, search, yammer integration and social features that you want work the first time.

3.  External Sharing – A feature NOT yet available in the Intranet on premises flavor of SharePoint is sharing.  It’s built right into the Office 365 SkyDrive Pro.  It enables scenarios that aren’t yet available on premises.  The sharing allows you to share a document to an email. They don’t need to be part of the Office 365 network to receive the document.  This is really important if you’re trying to convince your users to stop using dropbox for work documents.

4. Remote Access – While some companies may setup remote access to SharePoint, there are others that may require VPN or require many additional hops to gain access.  Office365 provides a straight forward way to access the documents.  There are single sign on solutions based on what the company has setup.

5. Yammer integration – The new ability to share from SkyDrive Pro directly to Yammer with the Office single sign on is pretty awesome.  The integration is tighter without a LOT of work.  I see the yammer integration as being a good reason to use Office 365 for SkyDrive.


Just because you agree doesn’t mean you have to put it all up there.  There’s some great ways of doing just Yammer and MySites/SkyDrive Pro in Office 365 and integrating that with your on premises deployment, but that’s for another blog.  You can point your my site host at Office 365 and in fact that’s how Microsoft IT (Microsoft’s own internal deployment) is doing it.  They exclusively are using the SDP as the way to better handle individuals sharing files with external folks.