Stefan Goßner

Senior Escalation Engineer for SharePoint Products and Technologies

Site Master Page vs. System Master Page

I recently received a question regarding site and system master pages in SharePoint. It seems that the purpose of these two master pages is not clear to everyone so here is a short summary:

By default the following rule applies:

  • Site Master Pages: used by all publishing pages – and only by publishing pages
  • System Master Pages: used by everything else including forms and view pages

You cannot change the default behavior – but you can use SharePoint Designer to change the master page assignment for individual pages if required.

If you open a page in SharePoint Designer you can see a MasterPageFile setting which can be modified:

  • “~masterurl/default.master”: the page will use the system master page
  • “~masterurl/custom.master”: the page will use the site master page