Caution When Packaging Themes for SharePoint Products and Technologies

Last month, I wrote up a post about how to package themes in a WSS 3.0 Solution Package (WSP file) for deployment on a SharePoint farm. After playing with this package a bit there was on problem that I encountered that was pretty obvious but I failed to take into consideration. The problem was that the SPTHEMES.XML and the OOB_SPTHEMES.XMLfiles that were packaged were deleted when I retracted and deleted the solution. Afterwards, I began to experience strange behavior with themes in my SharePoint environment.

Why did this happen?

A few months ago, I explained how WSS deploys and retracts solution packages. In that explanation, I explored how the WSS run-time checks the solution manifest of the solution package (WSP file) and removes any files, features, and other solution components from the file system and content databases. This includes both the SPTHEMES.XML and OOB_SPTHEMES.XML files that were specified in the solution manifest of the theme package. Take a look at the bold-ed lines in the manifest excerpt below:

<?xml version=1.0encoding=utf-8 ?>
<Solution xmlns=
<TemplateFile Location=LAYOUTS/1033/SPTHEMES.XML/>
<TemplateFile Location=LAYOUTS/1033/OOB_SPTHEMES.XML/>
<TemplateFile Location=THEMES/MYNEWTHEME/mossExtension.css/>
<TemplateFile Location=THEMES/MYNEWTHEME/theme.css/>
<!–Additional images and icons (gif, jpg, png files)
can be added here using <TemplateFile> elements –>

So when I retracted my theme solution, both the SPTHEMES.XML and OOB_SPTHEMES.XMLfiles were deleted from the file system and the original SPTHEMES.XML was not restored. Luckly, I had a copy of the themes WSP file from which I extracted the OOB_SPTHEMES.XML file and manually copied back to the 12/LAYOUTS/1033 directory. This resolved the odd theme behavior that my environment was experiencing.

Lesson learned?

If you are going to modify files in the SharePoint HIVE in an unsupported manner (such as was the case with the theme package), make sure you have a back up of the original file system files. Like we did with the OOB_SPTHEMES.XML file and make a note on additional steps, aside from solution retraction and deletion, that need to be taken to restore the file system to it’s original state. This means don’t just test the deployment, but also the retraction process before using this type of solution in a production environment.

Leave a Reply