Customizing Look and Feel of UAG

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(For more resources on Microsoft Forefront UAG, see here.)

Honey, I wouldn’t change a thing!

We’ll save the flattery for our spouses, and start by examining some key areas of interest what you might want and be able to change on a UAG implementation. Typically, the end user interface is comprised of the following:

  • The Endpoint Components Installation page
  • The Endpoint Detection page
  • The Login page
  • The Portal Frame
  • The Portal page
  • The Credentials Management page
  • The Error pages

There is also a Web Monitor, but it is typically only used by the administrator, so we won’t delve into that. The UAG management console itself and the SSL-VPN/SSTP client-component user interface are also visual, but they are compiled code, so there’s not much that can be done there.

The elements of these pages that you might want to adjust are the graphics, layout, and text strings. Altering a piece of HTML or editing a GIF in Photoshop to make it look different may sound trivial, but there’s actually more to it than that, and the supportability of your changes should definitely be questioned on every count. You wouldn’t want your changes to disappear upon the next update to UAG, would you? Nor would you look the page to suddenly become all crooked because someone decided that he wants the RDP icon to have an animation from the Smurfs.

The UI pages

Anyone familiar with UAG will know of its folder structure and the many files that make up the code and logic that is applied throughout. For those less acquainted however, we’ll start with the two most important folders you need to know—InternalSite and PortalHomePage. InternalSite contains pages that are displayed to the user as part of the login and logout process, as well as various error pages. PortalHomePage contains the files that are a part of the portal itself, shown to the user after logging in.

The portal layout comes in three different flavors, depending on the client that is accessing it. The most common one is the Regular portal, which happens to be the more polished version of the three, shown to all computers. The second is the Premium portal, which is a scaled-down version designed for phones that have advanced graphic capabilities, such as Windows Mobile phones. The third is the Limited portal, which is a text-based version of the portal, shown to phones that have limited or no graphic capabilities, such as the Nokia S60 and N95 handsets.

Regardless of the type, the majority of devices connecting to UAG will present a user-agent string in their request and it is this string that determines the type of layout that UAG will use to render its pages and content. UAG takes advantage of this, by allowing the administrator to choose between the various formats that are made available, on a per application basis. The results are pretty cool and being able to cater for most known platforms and form factors, provides users with the best possible experience. The following screenshot illustrates an application that is enabled for the Premium portal, and how the portal and login pages would look on both a premium device and on a limited device:

Customizing the login and admin pages

The login and admin pages themselves are simple ASP pages, which contain a lot of code, as well as some text and visual elements. The main files in InternalSite that may be of interest to you are the following:

  • Login.asp
  • LogoffMsg.asp
  • InstallAndDetect.asp
  • Validate.asp
  • PostValidate.asp
  • InternalError.asp

In addition, UAG keeps another version of some of the preceding files for ADFS, OTP, and OWA under similarly named folders. This means that if you have enabled the OWA theme on your portal, and you wish to customize it, you should work with the files under the /InternalSite/OWA folder. Of course, there are many other files that partake in the flow of each process, but the fact is there is little need to touch either the above or the others, as most of the appearance is controlled by a CSS template and text strings stored elsewhere. Certain requirements may even involve making significant changes to the layout of the pages, and leave you with no other option but to edit core ASP files themselves, but be careful as this introduces risk and is not technically supported. It’s likely that these pages change with future updates to UAG, and that may cause a conflict with the older code that is in your files. The result of mixing old and new code is unpredictable, to say the least.

The general appearance of the various admin pages is controlled by the file /InternalSite/CSS/template.css. This file contains about 80 different style elements including some of the 50 or so images displayed in the portal pages, such as the gradient background, the footer, and command buttons to name a few. The images themselves are stored in /InternalSite/Images. Both these folders have an OWA folder, which contains the CSS and images for the OWA theme.

When editing the CSS, most of the style names will make sense, but if you are not sure, then why not copy the relevant ASP file and the CSS to your computer, so you can take a closer look with a visual editor, to better understand the structure. If you are doing this be careful not to make any changes that may alter the code in a damaging way, as this is easily done and can waste a lot of valuable time.

A very useful piece of advice for checking tweaked code is to consider the use of Internet Explorer’s integrated developer tool. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s a simple press of F12 on the keyboard and you’ll find everything you need to get debugging. IE 9 and higher versions even pack a nifty trace module that allows you to perform low-level inspection on client-server interaction, without the need for additional third-party tools.

We don’t intend to devote this book to CSS, but one useful CSS element to be familiar with is the display: none; element, which can be used to hide any element it’s put in. For example, if you add this to the .button element, it will hide the Login button completely. A common task is altering the part of the page where you see the Application and Network Access Portal text displayed. The text string itself can be edited using the master language files, which we will discuss shortly. The background of that part of the page, however, is built with the files headertopl.gif, headertopm.gif, and headertopr.gif. The original page design is classic HTML—it places headertopl on the left, headertopr on the right, and repeats headertopm in between to fill the space. If you need to change it, you could simply design a similar layout and put the replacement image files in /InternalSite/Images/CustomUpdate. Alternatively, you might choose to customize the logo only by copying the /InternalSite/Samples/logo.inc file into the /InternalSite/Inc/CustomUpdate folder, as this is where the HTML code that pertains to that area is located.

Another thing that’s worth noting is that if you create a custom CSS file, it takes effect immediately, and there’s no need to do an activation. Well at least for the purposes of testing anyway. The same applies for image file changes too but as a general rule you should always remember to activate when finished, as any new configurations or files will need to be pushed into the TMG storage. Arrays are no exception to this rule either and you should know that custom files are only propagated to array members during an activation, so in this scenario, you do need to activate after each change. During development, you may copy the custom files to each member node manually to save time between activations, or better still, simply stop NLB on all array members so that all client traffic is directed to the one you are working on.

An equally important point is that when you test changes to the code, the browser’s cache or IIS itself may still retain files from the previous test or config, so if changes you’ve made do not appear first time around, then start by clearing your browser’s cache and even reset IIS, before assuming you messed up the code.

Customizing the portal

As we said earlier, the pages that make up a portal and its various flavors are under the PortalHomePage folder. These are all ASP.NET files (.ASPX), and the scope for making any alterations here is very limited. However, the appearance is mostly controlled via the file /InternalSite/PortalHomePage/Standard.Master, which contains many visual parameters that you can change. For example, the DIV with ID content has a section pertaining to the side bar application list. You might customize the midTopSideBarCell width setting to make the bar wider or thinner. You can even hide it completely by adding style=”display: none;” to the contentLeftSideBarCell table cell. As always, make sure you copy the master file to CustomUpdate, and not touch the original file, and as with the CSS files, any changes you make take effect immediately.

Additional things that you can do with the portal are removing or adding buttons to the portal toolbar. For example, you might add a button to point to a help page that describes your applications, or a procedure to contact your internal technical support in case of a problem with the site.

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