Project Online: Why can’t I save my site as a template?

This can also apply for Project Server 2013, as well as Project Online – but due to some fixes made in the Online environment this is something we are hearing more about just recently.  If you want to use a custom site template for an Enterprise Project Type in Project Online then saving an existing site is the place to start – but several of our customers have been surprised to find the “Save site as template” option is not there when they review Site Settings, Site Actions:

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Sometimes they may just look at another PWA site collection and find the option is present.  But the customers aren’t aware of any changes they have made that might account for the difference.  The answer relies on the Publishing Features for SharePoint – and some history and a fixed bug…  If you navigate to Site collection features, which is found in the Site Collection Administration section at the top level site settings (a handy link on the other site settings pages will take you to the top level site settings) then you will see the feature – SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure.

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By default in older PWA sites you will find this Active.  In newer PWA sites it will not be Active by default.  This feature was required as part of our Business Intelligence Center provisioning, but as we moved away from using that type of library a while back (see http://blogs.technet.com/b/projectsupport/archive/2014/12/22/project-online-where-did-my-reports-go.aspx) we no longer need that feature so we do not activate it by default.  If you are not using publishing for anything else in your PWA site collection then you can Deactivate this feature in your older PWA sites.  It does give you a scary message – so you will want to check with your SharePoint administrator to be sure you are not using it – but a good indicator will be if at the site level (Manage Site Features) you see that SharePoint Server Publishing is NOT Active.

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And here is the scary message – You are about to deactivate the SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure feature.  If you deactivate this feature, any user data or customizations associated with this feature might be lost. In addition, any active features and apps that depend on this feature might fail to function.

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I’m not using any publishing features so I can safely deactivate – and then when I view my other sites in this site collection I now have the option to save my site as a template.

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This could also affect Project Server 2013 – but generally you will not see it unless you have turned on the site level publishing feature.  It ‘should’ be a problem – but due to a SharePoint bug the site collection feature being enabled is not stopping the ‘save site as a template’ action – and this same bug being fixed in the online environments is why we are only recently seeing this as an issue.  For the Knowledgebase article explaining why SharePoint Publishing feature does not support the “Save Site as Template” option see http://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2492356.  If you do need to create a template from a publishing site then you should use a site definition template and a feature XML.  I haven’t tried this to see if would work for Project though.