SharePoint Site Pages, What Are They?

SharePoint Foundation introduced Site Pages. Site Pages are pages created, edited, and customized by end users.  Site Pages are different to Application Pages, which have been around since WSS 3, live in the SharePoint filesystem (hive), and are responsible for back-end functionality (such as site settings etc.).

Site Pages are either un-customized (ghosted) or customized (un-ghosted). The state of a Site Page will determine where the page content resides – on the file system, in the content database or both, and this can sometimes be the topic of confusion.

Un-customized Site Pages

An un-customized (or ghosted) Site Page is one that resides on the file system. Typically, these files live in the TEMPLATESSiteTemplates folder or some location within the TEMPLATES folder within the SharePoint file system. An un-customized page is sometimes referred to as a Page Template.

An un-customized page also maintains a reference in the site collection content database. This reference points to the location of the page in the file system.

An un-customized Site Page may contain inline code because SharePoint assumes a developer, with console access to the SharePoint server, has vetted any inline code or script.

Customized Site Pages

A customized (un-ghosted) Site Page is one that consists of edits made by end users or designers, using SharePoint Designer, SharePoint API, or via download from the SharePoint UI. The edits reside in the content database for the SharePoint site collection.

Whereas an un-customized page maintains a reference to the template on the filesystem in the content database, a customized page retains both page content (the customized page content) as well as the reference to the original template.

Customized Site Pages may NOT include inline code because edits are not controlled by administrators with access to the server console. SharePoint controls this behavior by running all customized page content through a Page Parser, which strips out any inline code.

Sandbox Solution Site Pages

Sandbox solutions do not allow deployment of files to the SharePoint file system, therefore, any Site Page deployed as a module as part of a Sandbox solution deploy ONLY to the site collection content database. Users may customize these pages also, but there is no reference to a location on the file system in the content database.

Page Parsing

SharePoint parses ASPX (both application and site page) content in one of two modes, depending on the page – direct, or safe-mode. The first time a user requests an Application or Un-customized Site Page, SharePoint parses the page content in direct mode. In direct mode, the page content is parsed and compiled and placed into memory cache for faster subsequent requests for the same page.

Customized Site Pages reside in the content database and undergo a stricter parsing method, called safe-mode parsing. In safe-mode, the page content may not contain any inline server code, user and server controls must be registered as safe in the application web.config, and the page is not compiled. Safe-mode pages do not live in memory cache, so their use is a performance consideration.

Note: It is possible to override the behavior of the safe-mode parser by adding <PageParserPath> elements to the <SafeMode> element in the web.config, which enables you to select certain Site Pages that may contain inline server code. However, this is not recommended because it compromises the security of your site collection by allowing end users to include potentially dangerous code in page content.