Analyzing New Site Theming Options for SharePoint Online

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As promised by Microsoft at the SharePoint Virtual Summit and announced by Mark Kashman in this post published in the Microsoft Tech Community, new site theming options for SharePoint Online (SPO) are starting to be rolled out to First Release Office 365 tenants. While this feature looks promising, it only provides quick “cosmetic” changes to the look and feel of modern team sites and it’s not available in classic SPO. Specifically, we will be able to apply those quick cosmetic changes on the following SPO site types:

  •  Modern SPO Sites linked to Office 365 Groups. As you know, we can create modern SPO Sites from OWA, SPO landing page, Microsoft Teams, Planner, PowerShell or by using SPO / Office 365 APIs.
  • SPO Communication sites.



Let’s see how to this feature works in a new fresh Communication Site:

  • From the SPO landing page let’s create a new SPO Communication site choosing one of the available templates. Note that I have chosen the “Showcase” template.

Figure 1.- Creating the Communcation Site.


  • Once the site is ready, click on Settings –> Change the look so you can access to the new theming options:

Figure 2.- Accessing the “Change the look” setting.


  • Then, a Change the look panel with the 6 themes available (Blue, Orange, Red, Purple, Green, Gray) will be displayed. You can select any of these themes and change the look & feel of your site on the fly without applying the theme. You will note that when you apply one of the existing looks, you are changing the color used in modern WebParts placed in the page, site logo, and page fonts….and that’s precisely why I say this feature only provide a quick way to apply cosmetic changes to modern SPO site: it only changes colors on the site.


Figure 3.- Changing the look on the fly in the Communication site.


  • As expected, the new look will be applied to any existing page in the site and to any new page created in the site.

Figure 4.- New look used in a new fresh page.


  • You might start wondering at this point: what about SPO system pages such as Site Settings, Site Contents and others? Fortunately, the new look will be applied to this pages too and to modern document libraries and lists.


Figure 5.- Site settings page look changed in the site.

  • What about “classic” lists I can have in my Communication site / Modern Team site? Well, you will see that the look applied is partially there…as an example, you can see bellow how a calendar list looks like:

Figure 6.- Calendar list in the Communication Site.

  • Finally, if you recall in the “Change the look” panel, there is a shortcut the “classic themes available for SPO that allows you to change not only the colors used in site fonts, but also the site layout or the picture used in the background.



New site theming options for SharePoint Online provide a quick way to change the look of a modern SPO site what means those options are not available in classic SPO sites where you can only use the legacy themes mechanism. Changing the look means only to use another color palette on the site, and not changing site layout or other look & feel elements such as site location navigation. Finally, it’s not currently possible to add custom color palettes to those new site theming options so we are limited to the 6 available color palettes.

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