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Site navigation overview (SharePoint Server 2010)

Published: May 12, 2010

Site navigation provides the primary interface for site users to move around on the sites and pages on your site. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 includes a set of customizable and extensible navigation features that help orient users of your site so they can move around on its sites and pages. This article describes the navigation controls that are available in SharePoint Server 2010. It does not explain how to add navigation controls to Web pages, how to configure navigation controls, or how to create custom navigation controls.

In this article:

Navigation controls overview

Navigation controls can be displayed on master pages, page layouts, and—by using Web Part zones—directly in a page's content.

SharePoint Server 2010 bases its navigation model on the hierarchical structure of the site collection. By using the navigation features, you can link to the following:

  • Sites below the current site

  • A site's peer sites

  • Sites higher in the site structure

  • Web pages in a site

Additionally, you can create links to arbitrary locations, such as to an external Web site.

Navigation links in SharePoint Server 2010 are security-sensitive. If a site user does not have permissions to a SharePoint Server 2010 site or page that is linked from the site navigation, the user cannot see the link. Other content which has had links manually added to the navigation are still visible to users. Also, pages, sites, and links that are manually added to navigation can be configured to be available only to members of a particular audience. Users who are not members of that audience cannot see links to sites and pages that are targeted to that audience.

SharePoint Server 2010 navigation is based on the ASP.NET features in the .NET Framework version 3.5, which you can use to customize the following:

  • The site map provider.

  • The data source, which anchors and filters the structure that is provided by the site map provider.

  • The menus, which control the visual appearance of the navigation elements and how deep a hierarchy to display.

Navigation controls on master pages

A master page defines the outer frame of the Web pages in a site. Master pages contain the elements that you want all pages in your site to share, such as branding information; common commands, such as Search; and navigation elements that you want to be available throughout the site. This includes top link bar navigation, and Quick Launch navigation.

Master pages also provide the menu style of the navigation controls. You can configure master-page menu style by using Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 or Microsoft Visual Studio 2010.

Top link bar navigation

The top link bar is a navigation menu which typically links to the sites that are one level below the current site in a site hierarchy. It is common for the top link bar to appear at the top of each page in a site. By default, all sites that are one level below the current site are added to the top link bar, and each site has its own unique top link bar for navigation. Site administrators can customize the navigation for a specific site by removing a site from the top link bar. They can also configure the top link bar so that only the home page link is shown and no other sites in the site hierarchy are displayed.

Site administrators can choose to inherit the top link bar from the parent site. This approach allows users to switch from one site to another from anywhere within the site collection, by allowing the top link bar to stay the same in all the sites in the site collection. For example, an Internet site that is used to market an organization's products could have a site for each line of its products. By displaying each product's site in the top link bar of each site, site designers can make it possible for users to easily switch from one site to another without having to return to the site home page.

Other top link bar configuration features include the following:

  • Linking to the Web pages of all the top-level sites.

  • Linking to specified external sites.

  • Linking to specified sites or pages that are anywhere in the site.

  • Organizing links under headings.

  • Manually sorting the items on the top link bar.

  • Restricting the maximum number of items to show at the global navigation level.

All top link bar features, such as linking to external, can be defined uniquely for each site.

By using SharePoint Designer 2010 or Visual Studio 2010, you can additionally customize the appearance and functionality of the top link bar. For example, you can do the following:

  • Customize the cascading style sheets to change the appearance of the top link bar.

  • Modify the data source, for example to decrease the number of sites that are displayed in the top link bar.

  • Modify the menu style of the navigation. For example, you can select submenus or specify how many levels of the site hierarchy to display in the navigation.

Quick Launch navigation

The Quick Launch navigation typically highlights the important content in the current site, such as lists and libraries. It is common for Quick Launch navigation to appear on the left of each page in a site.

Quick Launch navigation configuration features include the following:

  • Linking to sites that are on the same level of the site hierarchy as the current site.

  • Linking to specific external sites or to pages in the current site.

  • Organizing links under headings.

  • Manually sorting the items in the Quick Launch navigation.

  • Restricting the maximum number of items to show at the Quick Launch navigation level.

Just as you customize the top link bar, you can also customize the appearance and functionality of Quick Launch navigation by using SharePoint Designer 2010 or Visual Studio 2010.

Breadcrumb navigation

Breadcrumb navigation displays a dynamically generated set of links at the top of Web pages, to show users their current position in the site hierarchy. By using SharePoint Designer 2010 or Visual Studio 2010, you can configure the breadcrumb navigation control. For example, you can specify a custom navigation provider, and you can remove breadcrumb navigation from a page layout.

Tree view navigation

Tree view navigation displays site content, such as lists, libraries, and sites that are below the current site, in a hierarchical structure. It is common for tree view navigation to appear on the left of each page in a site.

By default, tree view navigation is turned off. Site administrators can add tree view navigation to a site by using the Tree View page. To enable tree view, in Site Actions click Site Settings, in the Look and Feel area, click Tree view, and then select the Enable Tree View check box.

Metadata navigation

Metadata navigation displays metadata about library and list content in tree view navigation, and makes it possible for users to filter library or list content based on specified fields. Site administrators can configure metadata navigation by using the Metadata Navigation Settings page for a list or library to configure the navigation hierarchies and key filters that are available to users. Metadata navigation is displayed only when a user views the list or library for which metadata navigation has been configured.

Navigation controls on page layouts

A page layout defines a layout for a Web page by providing Microsoft ASP.NET controls in which the contents of pages are displayed. You can add navigation controls to a page layout to support navigation links in Web pages by using SharePoint Designer 2010 or Visual Studio 2010.

When a navigation control is inserted on a page layout, Web pages that use that page layout display the control together with the content of the page. For example, you can define a page layout that includes a Summary Links navigation control so that a set of links to relevant pages and sites always appears when a page is displayed. For more information, see Summary Links.

SharePoint Server 2010 includes the following navigation controls that can be added to page layouts:

  • Summary Links

  • Table of Contents

  • Content Query

Summary Links

You can use the Summary Links control to add a set of links to a page. You can control the appearance, organization, and presentation of the links that you add to a Summary Link control.

You can add a Summary Link control to a page layout in three ways:

  • You can add the control directly to the page layout and configure the links. When you do this, any page that uses the page layout displays the links.

  • You can add the control as a field control on the page layout. When you do this, you can choose to configure the links, and you can also choose to allow authors to modify the links and add new ones.

  • You can add the control as a Web Part to a Web Part zone. When you do this, authors can modify the links, add new ones, and delete the Summary Link control.

For example, in a site in which you publish topics from a technical support knowledge base, you can add a Summary Link control to the page layouts that are used for articles, to provide links to related sites that contain relevant information, and you can give authors the ability to add links to content that is related to a particular page's content.

Table of Contents

You can use the Table of Contents control to add a table of contents of all or part of your site to a page layout so that top link bar and Quick Launch navigation is included in the master pages of the site. When you add a Table of Contents control to a page layout, you specify which part of your site collection the control should display, how the links are presented, and how they are organized.

You can add a Table of Contents control to a page layout in two ways:

  • You can add the control directly to the page layout and configure it. When you do this, any page that uses the page layout displays the table of contents.

  • You can add the control as a Web Part to a Web Part zone. When you do this, authors can modify the scope of the Table of Contents control.

For example, if you are presenting a set of articles in an online news site, you can add a Table of Contents control directly to the layout of the article pages so that users can switch from one article to another from any article page.

Content Query

You can use a Content Query control to link to pages or other items that are displayed based on a query that you design. For example, if you are presenting articles in an online news site, you could add a Content Query control to the Welcome Page layout of your site so that new articles are highlighted on that page. You can build complex queries by using the Content Query control. For example, you can specify which sites in your site collection to query, which lists to use, and what audience to target. You can also filter queries that are based on items in a library or list.

You can add a Content Query control to a page layout in two ways:

  • You can add the control directly to the page layout and configure it. When you do this, any page that uses the page layout displays the results of the query.

  • You can add the control as a Web Part to a Web Part zone. When you do this, authors can modify the query or delete the Content Query control.

Navigation Web Parts

A Web Part is a control that authors can insert into a Web Part zone on a page and configure. The Summary Links, Table of Contents, and Content Query controls each have Web Part counterparts that page authors can insert into Web Part zones on pages. The Web Parts have the same configuration features and the same functionality as their related controls, but they can be configured when the writer inserts them on the page instead of when the site designer inserts them on the layout of the page. To make navigation Web Parts available for page authors to insert on a page, you can include one or more Web Part zones on a page layout, or you can include a Rich Text Editor control on a page, which will allow users to add Web Parts directly to the Rich Text Editor Web part.

The following navigation Web parts are available only for non-Publishing sites:

  • Categories   Displays categories from the Site Directory.

  • Site Aggregator   Displays sites of your choice.

  • Site in Category   Displays sites from the Site Directory within a specific category.

  • Tag Cloud   Displays the most popular subjects being tagged inside your organization.

The following navigation Web parts are available only on Publishing sites:

  • Summary Links   Allows authors to create links that can be grouped and styled.

  • Table of Contents   Displays the navigation hierarchy of your site.

If you make it possible for authors to insert navigation Web Parts on pages, you reduce the control that you have over your site's navigation because authors can then control part of the navigation experience of site users. This might be appropriate in a loosely controlled environment, such as a collaboration site in an organization, where individual authors have to be able to point users to content that is related to the author's work. It is less appropriate in a more tightly controlled environment, such as an Internet presence site, in which the navigation experience is planned and implemented in a consistent, controlled way by the designers and planners of the site.

note Note:

If you want to include Web Part zones on page layouts but prevent authors from inserting navigation Web Parts into these zones, you can change the permissions that are required to use navigation Web Parts in the Web Parts gallery of your site to make those Web Parts unavailable to authors based on their permission level.

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