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Subsites feature in Plone

Project description


This subsite product add to Plone some minimalistic subsite feature.

Before installing

This product try to perform the task adding minimal code to Plone but also need that part of the work will be done by other software, in that case Apache.

So, if you are looking for a complete and self-contained subsite product for Plone, let try other products (like Lineage) before this.

What is a subsite ?

In this document a subsite is a section of your Plone site that:

  • need (commonly) a different theme applied

  • the visitor surf the subsite accessing something like, or

  • the visitor can be not aware that he’s visiting a subsection of a bigger site

  • site contributors (commonly) access the site through a domain

  • site contributors (can) see a different Plone theme

  • site contributors (commonly) see the whole site, not only the subsite (as far as they use the back-end URL)

Note that this approach is not limited to a single subsite, but you can have more than once. All subsites are edited using a back-end URL, then visited using some front-end URLs

Note also that you can continue having front-end contributors, but they are limited to the subsite when move in and out of folders, using TinyMCE, and so on. Again, they could not know that are inside Plone subsite.

You really need a subsite?

If you dont’ need a Plone site where…

  • you can create an internal link to a content inside another subsite

  • you can create a collection that take contents from more that a subsite

  • when you use the site search, you want to find also documents outside the subsite

…probably you don’t need a subsite but simply need a Zope instance with multiple Plone site inside it!

But if one of the behavior above are true, keep reading.

Subsite sometimes is only matter of theme

If the concept of subsite inside your organization don’t require “isolation” (of navigation, of breadcrumb, portal tabs, TinyMCE use, …) probably you only need the Apache + Plone magic described there, not this (or other) subsite product.

Create a subsite Plone theme

As already noted, this product will do pretty much anything without Apache in front of Plone, and you’ll need to customize your Apache rewrite rules.

All is based on some behavior already inside Plone, like the power to apply a Plone theme adding an HTTP header that Plone will handle in a special way.

Also you will play no more with the Plone “Default theme” option under the “Theme settings” site setup section, or simply you will use this option only for the back-end theme.

A full example available

We also provide a full Plone subsite example theme, that use all that follow.

The theme’s interface

You need to create (or customize) the Plone theme that you want to apply to the subsite. Please note that even if you don’t plan to see a different theme for the front-end, you still need to create an empty theme.

Commonly this theme must be installed in your Plone site, but it must not register himself as Plone default theme (so don’t use the default_skin=xxx attribute in your skins.xml Generic Setup file).

The only important part of the theme is the interface declaration. Commonly Plone themes have a file like plone_theme.mysite/plone_theme/mysite/browser/

The file looks like this:

from plone.theme.interfaces import IDefaultPloneLayer

class IThemeSpecific(IDefaultPloneLayer):
    """Marker interface that defines a Zope 3 browser layer.

You need to change the interface as follow:

from redturtle.subsites.frontend.browser import IFrontendLayer

class IThemeSpecific(IFrontendLayer):
    """Marker interface that defines a Zope 3 browser layer.

See also

Other theme’s components

After previous step you can continue adding element (JavaScript files, CSS, images, templates) normally. If you don’t need that the new theme doesn’t looks like the default site theme, you theme is already finished.

Logo viewlet

The logo viewlet provided with the product is customized, to take always the default logo from the subsite URL.

If you need to customize the logo viewlet in your theme, please think about extend the redturtle.subsites ones:

from Products.Five.browser.pagetemplatefile import ViewPageTemplateFile
from redturtle.subsites.frontend.viewlets.logo import LogoViewlet as BaseLogoViewlet

class LogoViewlet(BaseLogoViewlet):
     # do something here

See also

Remember: you need to perform this task only if you need to customize the logo viewlet.

Mark a Plone Folder as a Subsite

The first and only Plone task for obtain a subsite is to choose a Folder that must be the subsite.

Go to the folder through ZMI and apply a new additional marker interface. From the “Interfaces” tab find the redturtle.subsites.backend.interfaces.ISubsiteRoot from the “Available Marker Interfaces” section and add it.

You can remove the marker from this same page.

Apply the theme (AKA get a Subsite)

We will show now what to add to your Apache configuration and transform all this in the subsite environment we need.


Starting from redturtle.subsites 2.1 whay our need is simple a RequestHeader additional configuration.

Note that this only works if the request_varname of portal_skins tool will be changed from plone_skin to HTTP_PLONE_SKIN. You can do this manually from ZMI (REQUEST variable name field) or through Generic Setup (see ).

You need to write something like this:

RequestHeader append plone_skin "The name of the Theme"

Different domain (or subdomain) how-to

When your subsite domain is something like (or the configuration is quite simple. You will provide to your Apache a file with something like this inside:

<VirtualHost host:80>
    ServerAdmin ...


    RewriteEngine On

    RequestHeader append plone_skin "The name of the Theme"

    RewriteRule ^/(.*) \
    "{SERVER_NAME}:80/Plone/VirtualHostRoot/subsite/$1" [L,P]
    ProxyPassReverse /



Subsite inside a subpath how-to

If you already have a Plone site at, and visiting you need a subsite, the configuration is complex because you need to handle both in the same .conf file:

<VirtualHost host:80>
    ServerAdmin ...


    RewriteEngine On

    SetEnvIf Request_URI "^/subsite(.*)" SUBSITE
    RequestHeader append plone_skin "The name of the Theme" env=SUBSITE

    RewriteRule ^/(.*) \
    "{SERVER_NAME}:80/Plone/VirtualHostRoot/$1" [L,P]
    ProxyPassReverse /



Additional products

If you like also to manage portal tab of your subsites in a different way that isn’t the standard Plone behavior, take a look at collective.navroottabs. With this you will be able also to customize different portal tabs for your subsites.


Tested on Plone 4.3.


As we removed p4a.subtyper, the subsite marker can only be given through ZMI access. This will probably change in the future.


Developed with the support of Rete Civica Mo-Net - Comune di Modena; Rete Civica Mo-Net supports the PloneGov initiative.

Comune di Modena - logo


This product was developed by RedTurtle Technology team.

RedTurtle Technology Site


2.1.0 (2014-10-10)

  • Removed old deprecated code [keul]

  • Added skinswitcher, now handle skin switch in Plone and not Apache. This will fix issue with Plone 4.1.5 and up [keul]

  • Added MANIFEST file [keul]

2.0.0 (2011-07-29)

  • First public release

  • Plone 4 (maybe also 3.3 but not 3.2 or lower for sure) compatibility [keul]

  • z3c.autoincude support [keul]

  • Bye bye p4a.subtyper [keul]

  • Changed logo viewlet: Plone 3.3 and above already refer to INavigationRoot [keul]

  • Removed the getNavigationRoot patch, as ticket #8787 has been closed [keul]

  • Now also JavaScript registry refer to subsite root, this fix JavaScript errors in the frontend [keul]

1.0.3 (2009-01-28)

  • The traversal adapter was raising a lot of conflict error because all of the requests were trying to apply the INavigationRoot on the subsite [keul]

1.0.2 (2008-12-11)

1.0.1 (2008-12-05)

  • Added support to browser layer CSS [amleczko]

1.0.0 (2008-11-18)

  • Initial release

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