SharePoint Application Pages Vs Site Pages

Well we keep hearing about Site Pages and Application Pages and different deployment models for our controls and custom pages, but what are the key differences between them and what we should use and when? So lets start by understanding Site and Application Pages first:
Application Pages:
  1. These are the normal .aspx pages deployed within SharePoint. Most common of them are the admin pages found in _layouts folder.
  2. These are deployed either at the farm level or at application level. If they are deployed within _layouts folder or global SharePoint Virtual Directory, then they can be used by any SharePoint application (available at farm level), otherwise they can be deployed at application level only by creating a virtual directory.
  3. These are typical ASP.Net aspx pages and can utilize all of the functionalities available within ASP.Net including code-behind, code-beside, inline coding etc.
  4. These are compiled by .Net runtime like normal pages.
  5. If you deploy your custom ASPX pages within _layouts folder or within SharePoint application using a virtual directory, you will not be able to use SharePoint master pages and have to deploy your master page within the virtual directory or _layouts folder.
  6. Application Pages cannot use contents as this concept is associated with SharePoint Page Layouts not with ASP.Net.
  7. Since application pages are compiled once, they are much faster
  8. Normally application pages are not web part pages, hence can only contain server controls or user controls and cannot be personalized by users.
  9. Easiest way to deploy your existing ASP.Net web site within SharePoint is to deploy its pages as Application Pages within SharePoint. In this way you can convert any ASP.Net web solution as SharePoint application with minimal efforts.
  10. SharePoint specific features like Information Management Policies, Workflows, auditing, security roles can only be defined against site pages not against application pages.
  11. Application pages can be globalized using Resource files only. 

Site Pages

  1. Site Pages is a concept where complete or partial page is stored within content database and then actual page is parsed at runtime and delivered to end-users.
  2. Pages stored in Pages libraries or document libraries or at root level within SharePoint (Wiki pages) are Site Pages
  3. You must be thinking why we should use such pages? There are many reasons for this. One of the biggest catch of the SharePoint is the page layouts, where you can modify page once for a specific content type and then you can create multiple pages using the same page layout with different contents. In this case, contents are stored within database for better manageability of data with all the advantages of a data driven system like searching, indexing, compression, etc and page layouts are stored on file system and final page is created by merging both of them and then the outcome is pared by SharePoint not compiled.
  4. Site Pages can contain web parts as well as contents placeholders, and all of them are stored per page-instance level within database and then retrieved at run time, parsed and rendered.
  5. Another advantage is they are at user-level not at web-application or farm level and can be customized per site level.
  6. Since their definition is retrieved from database, they can utilize master pages stored within SharePoint masterpages library and merged with them at run time for rendering.
  7. They are slower as compared to Application pages as they are parsed everytime they are accessed.
  8. SharePoint specific features like Information Management Policies, Workflows, auditing, security roles can only be defined against site pages not against application pages.
  9. Since they are rendered not compiled hence it is not easy to add any inline code, code behind or code beside. Best way of adding code to these pages is through web-parts, server controls in master pages, user controls stored in “Control Templates” folder or through smart parts. If you want to add any inline code to master page, first you need to add following configuration within web.config:<PageParserPaths>
            <PageParserPath VirtualPath=”/_catalogs/masterpage/*” CompilationMode=”Always” AllowServerSideScript=”true” IncludeSubFolders=”true” />
  10. To add code behind to SharePoint master pages or page layouts, refer to this MSDN article
  11. Since Site pages are content pages, hence all SharePoint specific features like Information Management Policies, Workflows, auditing, security roles can only be defined against site pages.
  12. Variations can only be applied against Site pages for creating multilingual sites.
  13. “SPVirtualPathProvider” is the virtual path provider responsible for handling all site pages requests. It handles both ghosted and unghosted pages requests as shown below:



Author: Akif

I am a techie who likes to explore new technologies and work on new ideas. My core technologies are SharePoint, MS CRM, Commerce Server and WRMS. So feel free to ask anything about them

14 thoughts on “SharePoint Application Pages Vs Site Pages”

  1. I agree with the most of the points made. However Application Pages point 5 is not entirely correct. It is possible to reference some master pages stored in the gallery.

    Here is an example of how to reference custom site master page from an application page (MSDN).

  2. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide
    credit and sources back to your blog? My blog is in the very same area of
    interest as yours and my visitors would genuinely benefit from some of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this alright with you. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s