Change SharePoint Online root site collection to use the new “Communication Site Template”

My tenant just got the new Communication site template. Thank you @SharePoint
As I’ve built numerous Intranet sites both with SharePoint On-premises and SharePoint Online, I want to see if I can use the new template on the root team site.

Because the root SPO site is a team site, it turn out no matter what I did I cannot get rid of the left NAV bar, even though I’ve got all the new webparts and layouts.

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Tried with PowerShell, still no luck..

New-SPOSite -Title “Comsite2PowerShell” -Template SITEPAGEPUBLISHING#0 -Url “https://jimmydev.sharepoint.com/sites/Comsite2PowerShell” -Owner jimmy@hangconsult.com -StorageQuota 1000

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Until Microsoft release a means to change this, my work around is as follows, remember that this works best for new customer or customer with an empty root SPO site, existing customer need to plan a migration of content.

First, create a new site using the Communication Template

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Navigate to the “Save site as a template” page, this page is hidden from the menu so use the following URL

https://tenant.sharepoint.com/sites/comsite/_layouts/15/savetmpl.aspx

Give the new template a name | click OK

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When completed click “Solution gallery”

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Click on the name of the template to download it, save it to a location on your computer, you’ll need it later

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In SharePoint Admin | delete your root site collection | then create a new one | for template for “Custom | Select template later”

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After the site has been created, start a new browser tab and navigate to the new site.
It will now ask you to choose a template | click solution gallery |

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Now choose to upload your “template.wsp” file you downloaded earlier | then Activate the Solution

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Navigate back to the root site | now choose the “Custom” tab | you should see your template | choose the template | then OK

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Wait for it

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Choose your SharePoint Security Groups | OK

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That’s it enjoy your Root site with the brand new communication template, It’s quite beautiful!

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40 thoughts on “Change SharePoint Online root site collection to use the new “Communication Site Template”

  1. Have you had any feedback from Microsoft, or other developers, on this? I’ve come across quite a few people who wished that the root site collection could be converted to a Communication Site, but no one suggested the solution you describe here. Have you encountered any issues since publishing this?

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    1. Hi, haven’t heard anything from MS yet, as far as I can see, haven’t encountered any problems yet. It’s a standard site collection with a template, so i presume it should be fine, unless MS does something weird in the backend.

      cheers

      Like

  2. Hi, I’m having Access Denied when trying to access URL “Save Site as Template” and i create the site and I have full control. Any ideas?

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  3. Do you have any idea how to get a statement from the Office team or someone else at Microsoft about this? I already posted a query about this to the Communication Sites AMA without getting a response. I’ll try on Thursday when I go to the Seattle area Office 365 Meetup at the Microsoft campus, but the presenters this time are not ones who would have any responsibility for this.

    I’d decided since my last posting to go ahead and make a Communication site the root site, so this is frustrating. Of course, I can create a Communication site and treat it as the central site, but then I’ve got this other site, the default root with the best URL, that isn’t doing anything. In fact, I’ll have to ask the sys admin to redirect away from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Joseph, i totally agree with you, that’s why I’ve created this post, totally waste to have the root URL do nothing, and in the back it’s just a customized site template, the only difference is that now Microsoft is doing the customization and not some random SP developer.

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  4. Just saw this page and this would have been perfect for my new sharepoint site however now i just get access denied. So frustrating. Any chance you can host the template somewhere for us to download?

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  5. I spoke briefly with Mark Kashman (Microsoft Product Manager) at a Seattle Office 365 meetup Thursday, and he suggested simply creating a modern page in the default root site collection to get the Communication Site functionality. I’ve since confirmed that this is indeed possible; the page is a modern page with all the same features, including sections, News, Events, Hero, etc as are available for a Communication Site page.

    I’m curious to know if you think this would meet the use case requirements.

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    1. On my tenant when I do this I only get the simple modern page, not the new one with the Communication Site features like Sections, News, Events, Hero, etc.

      Any idea why this is happening?

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  6. The major difference I’m aware of is the that navigation is on the left side (not the top as with Communication sites). And given reliance on left-side navigation a page-spanning banner/hero would not make sense. The hero web part is available, but it does not displace the navigation. In effect, there is a two-column format for the page with a very narrow left column reserved for navigation. Is this what you mean when you say that “we don’t get the full page width layout”? I’m not sure that I consider this important for an intranet or central hub home page. Can you tell me why you do?

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    1. Hi Joseph, it’s petty much up too You, I’m a consultant and normally when I build Intranet sites, clients want the whole page width of the landing page for content, and Navigation on Top.

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      1. I can see that clients would prefer top navigation and full page width; I would too. But I gather from other comments here that MS is not permitting root site replacement with a Communication Site (too bad!). For my agency, using a modern page won’t be a deal-breaker, but I’ll be watching to see if MS relents.

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    1. Too bad, I hope MS will give us the ability to create use “modern” site templates as root, if not give us the ability to choose the full page width column layout in teamsites.

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  7. I don’t know if this is still the case, but 1-2 years ago, I heard that using the “Save site as template” was not appropriate anymore because it freezes the definition of the site. Improvements made by Office 365 over time are not applied on sites deployed this way. This is why new provisioning models such as PnP deploys all the artefacts through the API. Since Communication sites are clearly in its infancy, it seems risky to me to freeze its feature set so early!

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    1. Hi Francis, not sure about what you are referring too here, as I understand a site definition and a site template is two different thing, a site definition is something created using custom code, that’s why it’s “unsafe” while site template use standard stuff supported by Microsoft. Well unless microsoft removes the base template SITEPAGEPUBLISHING#0 from O365, if this happens then all #comsites in O365 will go down..that will be pretty bad.

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  8. Hey,

    I received the same Access Denied error following the above tutorial but I got this to work by creating a site using PowerShell.

    “New-SPOSite -Title “your title””

    I then got asked for the url/owner/storage quota. Hit Return.

    Once created, I then uploaded the template from Jimmy (above) and uploaded that to the solutions gallery. Activated the solution then went back to new site homepage and then selected the new coms template and voila!

    Like

      1. Hi Daniel,

        Yes we did, we deleted the root site collection then remove-spodeletedsite in powershell which removes it from the recycle bin. We did this so that we can use the name we wanted.

        Then follow instructions above – create site collection using powershell – give it url/owner/storage quota etc.

        Should work, any more problems let me know.

        Like

  9. Hi Jim, Are you available for short term paid gig to implement this change on our new sharepoint online tenant? Please email at addressed attached to this post if you are available.

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    1. Hi Mark, happy to know that you’re considering my professional services, but Microsoft is actively blocking us,m from using this workaround in new tenants, I’ll recommend you to wait til after #MSIgnite later this month, hopefully we’ll get some news regarding this.

      Like

  10. For people getting the Access Denied op the Save site as template link: enable custom script on self-service created sites. This resolves the Access Denied on the SaveTemplate link.

    You can do this in admin center, but if you don’t want to wait 24 hours, do it with PowerShell.

    https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Allow-or-prevent-custom-script-1F2C515F-5D7E-448A-9FD7-835DA935584F?ui=en-US&rs=en-001&ad=US

    Execute this PowerShell command: Set-SPOsite -DenyAddAndCustomizePages 0

    Be aware that changing this setting has implications on your whole environment. But you can temporally allow custom scripts, save your site as template, an switch setting back.

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  11. Hi Jimmy, great post and initial workaround!

    I am building a SP intranet for a BU of 80 people and I planned to use the communication site template as a ‘landingspage’ as a quick fix, as it serves our needs and to avoid from writing code (I am a newbie to SP and don’t write code, they made me responsible for this project because I’m young and ‘good with technology’)

    Reading in the comments, I understand that it does not work anymore. In your last comment you state ‘pefully we might don’t need to apply this hack anymore’. Do you have any updates on that? Are you referring to the ‘hub site’, and when can we be expecting this?

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    1. Hi Koen, “Hub sites” is the right direction yes, but I’m not sure if we can replace the root SC with a hub site yet. The roadmap info says it’s Q1-Q2 2018. I’m trying another fix, maybe it works, if yes I’ll update the post…. 😉

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  12. great work around! but the only down site since it’s a template all the features will be locked and if MSFT publishes new features to communication sites then it wont be available.

    But still great work around and hope MSFT see’s this blog. I am looking the way to create communication sites from the templates for a new site collection from a long time.

    Like

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