SharePoint custom site definitions... again...

There were a lot of comments on my post: SharePoint custom site definitions... I’m lost…, where I described the problems I have with the following statement in a new knowledge base article by Microsoft:

"Microsoft does not support modifying a custom site definition or a custom area definition after you create a new site or a new portal area by using that site definition or area definition. Additionally, Microsoft does not support modifying the .xml files or the .aspx files in the custom site definition or in the custom area definition after you deploy the custom site definition or the custom area definition."

I also asked John Jansen from Microsoft for a comment, and through his connections within Microsoft he came back with the following reaction:

"The statement that appears to be making the most waves on Serge's blog -- "You modify a custom site definition or a custom area definition after you deploy the custom site definition or the custom area definition" -- was already in place in the SDK (http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/spptsdk/html/tsovGuidelinesCustomTemplatesSV01018815.asp?frame=true) before this KB article was published; this KB article was, more or less, a reminder and summary of the "rules" that had already been defined in various places throughout the SDK."

I don’t know since when this is in the documentation. I started with the documentation when SharePoint was still beta, and the documentation was really sparse, a lot changed since then. Every new release it gets better and better, and bigger and bigger… so I must have missed this one while upgrading to ther new documentation when a new version came out. The documentation does contain the following sentence:

“Changing a site definition after it has already been deployed can break existing sites and is not supported. If you find that you must modify a site definition after it has already been deployed, keep in mind that adding features can cause fewer problems than changing or deleting them. Changing features often results in loss of data and deleting them often results in broken views.”

So we are having a problem, and we need a solution to it… An interesting post by Cornelius van Dyk describes such a solution (http://www.dtdn.com/blog/2005/05/microsoft-support-scenarios-for-custom24.htm). Lets hope he is willing to provide more information on his tools….

For more information on issues with changing site definitions after instantiating a site based on the site definition, see also: http://weblogs.asp.net/bsimser/archive/2005/05/17/407237.aspx

I would like to thank everyone for their responses, good to know what we can do and should not do.

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