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Variations overview (SharePoint Server 2010)

 

Applies to: SharePoint Server 2010

Topic Last Modified: 2012-04-09

The variations feature in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 makes content available to specific audiences on different sites by copying content from a source variation site to each target variation site. When users visit the root site, they are redirected to the appropriate variation site, based on the language setting of their Web browser. If necessary, the content can be customized on the target variation site. For example, content on a target variation site can be translated into other languages before it is published. Variations can be used only on SharePoint Server 2010 sites that are created with one of the Publishing site templates, or on sites for which the SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure feature has been enabled.

noteNote
Although variations can be used for multilingual solutions, the variations feature does not translate pages. To use variations for creating multilingual content, you can use workflows to route content for translation by another team or third-party vendor after the content is copied to target sites. For more information about workflows, see Plan workflows (SharePoint Server 2010).

This article provides an overview of the variations feature. It describes the elements of the variations feature, provides an overview of site and page creation for variation sites, lists some of the limitations of variations, and describes scenarios for using variations in SharePoint Server 2010. This article does not describe the tasks that are involved in planning a solution that uses variations. For information about planning to use variations in your solution, see Plan variations (SharePoint Server 2010). This article also does not describe how to create variation labels and hierarchies. For information about creating a variations site, see Create a variations site.

In this article:

Many organizations have a global reach. However, even in domestic markets, organizations must reach a diverse customer base that might speak many different languages or that might need to have specific information that is based on regional differences, on various mobile devices, or on corporate branding. These types of organizations need Web sites that deliver tailored content to suit different cultures, different markets, and different geographic regions. Producing and maintaining variations of a site can be difficult and time-consuming. By using variations as part of a SharePoint Server 2010 solution, site architects and site administrators can simplify the process of producing and maintaining these sites. The variations feature automates the creation of sites and pages, which eliminates having to manually create a site and all associated pages for each instance of a needed variation.

You can use variations to create different versions of similar content for users in many scenarios. The following table describes possible scenarios in which you might use variations.

 

Scenario Description

Multiple languages

You can use variations to create sites and content for specific languages. In this scenario, the majority of the content is authored in the language of the source variation site and copied to some or all of the target variation sites for translation into different languages. For example, the content might be authored in English and be copied to target variations sites for translation into German, French and Spanish.

Multiple devices

You can customize the logic of the VariationRoot.aspx page to direct users to pages that are designed to work with different types of devices. For example, you might have target variation sites with pages designed for display on devices that have different screen sizes or screen resolutions.

Multiple locations or brands

You can use variations to create content for specific locations or brands. For example, a rental car company might have target variation sites for all the cities in which they have branch offices. Most of the company information is the same across branches, so variations are used for those pages, while other content, such as special offers or promotions, is created on the target variation sites for which it is needed.

The variations feature consists of the following elements:

  • Variation root site   The variation root site provides the URL for all source and target variation sites and contains the landing page that redirects users to the correct variation site. This is not the same as the root site of a site collection, although you can specify the root site of a site collection to also be the root site of the variations hierarchy.

  • Variation labels   A variation label is an identifier that names a new variation site. Variations of a site are defined by creating variation labels, one for each planned variation.

    noteNote
    SharePoint Server 2010 supports up to 50 variation labels.
  • Variation sites   The variation sites are the sites that are created based on the defined variation labels. There are two types of variation sites:

    • Source variation site   The source variation site is the site where shared content is authored and published, and it is the site from which copies of the shared content are sent to the target variation sites. There can be only one source variation site in a single site collection. After a source variation site has been selected, it cannot be changed.

    • Target variation sites   The target variation sites receive most of their content from the source variation site. Although new content can be created on a target variation site, that content is not shared with other sites and is unique to the site on which it was created.

  • Variations hierarchy   The variations hierarchy is the entire set of sites in all variation labels.

  • Variation pages   Variation pages are the publishing pages that are stored in the Pages library of the source variation site and the target variation sites. These pages and any dependent resources such as images and documents are the only content that is copied from the source variation site to the target variation sites.

    importantImportant
    We recommend that you do not add nonpublishing pages to the Pages library of a site that uses variations. If you do, the Variations Create Hierarchies Job Definition timer job might fail.

The variations feature creates sites and copies content from a source variation site to one or more target variation sites. By default, the variations feature copies only publishing pages from the Pages library of the source variation site. The variations feature does not copy other site content, such as lists or other document libraries, unlike the content deployment feature, which copies all content, including lists and other document libraries, from one site to another. If the Resources option is configured to copy resources to target variation sites, then linked resources such as images and documents will be copied. Another important distinction between the variations and content deployment is that when the variations feature is used, copied content on target variation sites can be changed, unlike the content deployment feature, for which changing copied content is discouraged.

By default, when users visit the root site, they are redirected to the appropriate variation site, based on the language setting of their Web browser. For example, if a user's default browser language is French, SharePoint Server 2010 redirects that user to the French variation site. You can customize this behavior by replacing the default redirection page, VariationRoot.aspx, with a different page. This new page can implement logic that identifies the user's preferred language, the user's device, or another basis for varying sites. For information about customizing variation sites redirection, see How to: Customize the Variation Root Landing Logic.

A variation label is an identifier that names a variation site. You select one variation label as the source, which represents the source variation site. The remaining variation labels are the target labels, representing the target variation sites to which content is copied. You create variation sites from variation labels by using the Create Hierarchy command on the Variation Labels page.

Only one set of variation labels, the variation hierarchy, can be defined for a site collection. The corresponding variation sites can be created anywhere within the site collection hierarchy. The source variation site and the target variation sites are always created as subsites of the variation root site. Users who visit the variation root site are redirected to the appropriate variation site.

The following illustration provides an example of a variation site hierarchy, and shows how publishing content from the Pages library is copied to target variation sites.

Planning site variations

Three variation labels, “EN”, “FR”, and “DE” are created on the root site http://contoso.com. When the variations hierarchy is created, the corresponding variation sites, labeled "EN", "FR", and "DE", are created one level below the variation root site. Because site "http://contoso.com/EN" is specified as the source variation site, pages that are authored and published on site “http://contoso.com/EN” are copied to the target variation sites, "http://contoso.com/FR" and "http://contoso.com/DE".

When you create a variation label, you select a locale for it to use. The locale setting only assists with browser redirection, it does not affect the language of the user interface. If language packs have been installed on the front-end Web server, you can also select a language for the variation site. The language setting in SharePoint Server 2010 determines the language of the user interface on the variation site. If no language packs have been installed, the option to select a language is not available, and the variation site uses the default language of the SharePoint Server 2010 installation on the server, regardless of the locale that is selected for the variation label. For example, if SharePoint Server 2010 was installed by using the English version, and no language packs were installed, when a new variation label is created for the Japanese locale, the user interface for the new variation target site is in English, not Japanese. If you use variations for creating multilingual sites, and you want the user interface of a target variation site to be displayed using a specific language, you should install the language pack for each language before you create the variation sites. If a language pack is not available when a target variation site is created, the target variation site can still be created, and users can change the secondary language for a site by using the multilingual user interface. For information about the multilingual user interface, see Multilingual user interface overview (SharePoint Server 2010). For information about installing language packs, see Deploy language packs (SharePoint Server 2010).

Although you can specify any site within a site collection as the variation root site, variation settings are configured on the Site Collection Administration page of the top-level site within the site collection. The Variations Settings page is where you select the variation root site. After the variation root site has been selected and a variations hierarchy has been created, the root site cannot be changed.

In addition to specifying the root site, the Variations Settings page contains the following options:

  • Automatic Creation   Determines whether sites and pages on the source variation site are created automatically on the target variation sites. By default, this option is enabled. If you disable this option, sites and pages that are created on the source variation site must be manually created on the target variation sites.

  • Recreate Deleted Target Page   Determines whether a page should be re-created on a target variation site if the page was deleted from the target variation site, and the page on the source variation site has been republished. By default, this option is enabled. If you disable this option, deleted pages are not re-created on target variation sites.

  • Update Target Page Web Parts   Determines whether changes made to Web Parts on pages on a source variation site are also made on pages on target variation sites. By default, this option is enabled.

  • Notification   Sends e-mail to the contact of the welcome page of a target variation site when a new page or site is created or to the contact person of the specified page when a page is updated with revisions from the source variation site. By default, this option is enabled.

  • Resources   Specifies whether to use the same resources on the source variation site when pages are copied to target variation sites or to copy them to the target variation sites. Resources are limited to files that are stored in a document library that can be referenced by a publishing page, such as images and documents. By default, this option is set to reference existing resources.

For information about specifying variations settings, see Turn on variations settings so you can create variations of your site.

The variations feature uses timer jobs to perform tasks such as creating and propagating sites and pages. A timer job runs inside OWSTIMER, a Windows service for SharePoint Server 2010. Each timer job has its own default schedule for when the job runs. You can change the frequency with which each job runs on the Job Definitions page on the Central Administration Web site. The variations feature uses the following timer jobs:

  • Variations Create Hierarchies Job Definition   Creates a complete variations hierarchy by creating all variation sites and pages from the source variation site, based on the variation labels. By default, this timer job runs once a day

  • Variations Create Page Job Definition   Creates pages on the target variation sites when the Automatic Creation option has been disabled and a user manually creates a new page. By default, this timer job runs hourly.

  • Variations Create Site Job Definition   Creates variation sites when the Automatic Creation option has been disabled and a user manually creates a new variation site. By default, this timer job runs every 5 minutes.

  • Variations Propagate Page Job Definition   Creates and updates pages on target variation sites after a page on the source variation site has been approved or after it has been manually submitted by a user. By default, this timer job runs hourly.

  • Variations Propagate Site Job Definition   Creates variation sites when the Automatic Creation option is enabled. By default, this timer job runs every 5 minutes.

For information about timer jobs, see View timer job status (SharePoint Server 2010).

Source variation and target variation sites are always created one level below the variation root site. Each variation site is created by using the same site template that is used to create the variation root site. However, each variation site can use a separate theme and a different master page. For information about themes, see Themes overview (SharePoint Server 2010).

When the variations hierarchy is first created, only sites that are based on the list of defined variation labels are created. If the variation root site has sites below it in a hierarchical site structure, and you want those sites to be included in the hierarchical site structure of each variation site, you must manually create the hierarchical structure of those sites below the source variation site after you have created the variation hierarchy. By default, the next time the Variations Create Hierarchies Job Definition timer job runs, the sites are copied only to any new target variation sites that are created at that time. For information about how sites below the source variation site are created on existing target variation sites, see Understanding site and page creation.

After the variations hierarchy is first created, whenever a new label is added to the variations hierarchy and the Create Hierarchies button is clicked, a new target variation site is created for each new label. By default, if the source variation site has content in the Pages library, or if it contains sites below it in the site hierarchy, those pages and sites are created on all new target variation sites only.

By default, any sites that are created below the source variation site and any pages that are published on the source variation site or on any sites below it in the site hierarchy are automatically copied to the target variation sites. If Automatic Creation has been disabled, sites and pages must be created manually on the chosen target variation sites.

This section describes the ways in which sites and pages are created on target variation sites.

The first time the Variations Create Hierarchies Job Definition timer job runs and creates the variations hierarchy from the list of variation labels, only the source variation and target variation sites are created. After the source variation site has been created, you can create sites below it in the site hierarchy, and those sites are then created on the existing target variation sites the next time the Variations Propagate Site Job Definition timer job runs. If Automatic Creation is disabled, use the Site Content and Structure page on the source variation site to manually create, on a single target variation site, any site in the site hierarchy that is below the source variation site. The new site is created on the specified target variation site when the next Variations Create Site Job Definition timer job runs. You can do this any time that Automatic Creation is disabled.

noteNote
When source variation and target variation sites are created, they are created using the default site definition provided by the template selected when the source label was created. No custom site configurations or settings are copied to the new sites. If you want the source variation and target variation sites to have custom site configurations or settings, such as navigation customizations, you must make those changes on each site after creating the variations hierarchy.

If the Publishing Site template was selected when the source variation site was created, pages on the source variation site or on any site below it in the site hierarchy must be published before they are eligible to be copied to target variation sites. If the Publishing Site with Workflow template was selected, pages must be approved for publication by using the publishing workflow before they are eligible to be copied to target variation sites. By default, after a new page has been published or approved for publication, if it uses workflows, it is copied to all target variation sites when the next Variations Propagate Page Job Definition timer job runs. If the page was published previously and has been modified and republished on the source variation site, it is copied to all target variation sites when the next Variations Propagate Page Job Definition timer job runs.

If the Resources setting is configured to enable copying resources, dependent resources, such as images, are copied to the target variation site. If versioning is enabled for the library on the target variation site where the resource is copied, and a copy of the resource already exists, the new version is appended to the existing resource, and the version history is updated. If versioning is not enabled for the library on the target variation site where the resource is copied, and a copy of the resource already exists, the new version overwrites the existing resource.

The first time a page on a source variation site is copied to a target variation site, the page title and content is copied to the target variation site. The next time the page is copied to the target variation site, only the page content is copied. The page title is not updated on target variation sites after the page is copied.

noteNote
On target variation sites, a page that is copied from the source variation site is always assigned a minor version number. If the page is new to the target site, it is assigned version 0.1. If the page already exists on the target variation site, the copied page is assigned the next available minor version number. For example, if a target variation site has version 2.1 of a page and a new variation of that page is copied to the target site, the page becomes version 2.2. Pages and additional resources, such as images that are approved for publishing on the source variation site, are copied to the target variation site with their Approval status set to Draft, and they must be approved before they can be viewed by readers of the site.

If Automatic Creation has been disabled, a user must create the page for a specific variation label by using the Create command in the Variations group on the Publish tab of the page on the source variation site. The new page is copied to a single target variation site when the next Variations Create Page Job Definition timer job runs. If the page was published previously and has been modified and republished on the source variation site, it is copied only to the specified target variation site when the next Variations Propagate Page Job Definition timer job runs. For information about how to disable Automatic Creation for variation pages, see Manage automatic propagation of variation pages. For more information about propagating variation pages, see Variations: Propagate Pages on Your Terms.

By default, when a page that has been copied from the source variation site is deleted from a target variation site, that page is re-created on the target variation site the next time it is published on the source variation site and the next time the Variations Propagate Page Job Definition timer job runs. If Recreate Deleted Target Page has been disabled, deleted pages are not re-created on the target variations sites.

For information about creating variation source pages and working with content on variation target pages, see Work with content updates on variations pages.

The following list contains information about the limitations of the variations feature in SharePoint Server 2010:

  • Variations feature is a single-tier hierarchy.

    The source and target variation sites exist at the same level within the site hierarchy, one level down from the variations root site. Although source and target variation sites can contain other sites, they cannot contain other target variation sites. For example, if you have a source variation site in English, and a target variation site in French, which has a French-Canadian site below it, the variations feature will only copy content from the English source variation site to the French target variation site. The variations feature cannot also copy content from the French target variations site to the French-Canadian site below it.

  • Variations feature does not copy everything from the source site.

    By default, the variations feature only copies publishing pages that are stored in the Pages library of the source variation site. Any additional resources, such as images that are used in those pages, are not copied but instead are referenced from the source variation site. You can choose to have those resources copied to the target variation sites by changing the Resources option on the Variation Settings page. Other site content, such as lists or libraries, is not copied at all and must be copied manually to any target variation site where those items are needed.

  • Content copying is unidirectional.

    The variations feature copies content from a source variation site to one or more target variation sites. You cannot use the variations feature to copy content from a target variation site back to a source variation site. Also, target variation sites cannot copy content to other target variation sites.

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