The SharePoint 2010 minimal.master page should not be confused with a page of the same name published by the SharePoint community to act as a starting point for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 branding efforts. SharePoint 2010 has out of the box it’s own master page called minimal.master which will most likely become an important part of your SharePoint 2010 branding exercise. Before I speak about the minimal.master I want to briefly cover how I got to the point of even caring about that file.
Over the past month I have been working on a project to prepare for a SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 upgrade. This upgrade will require a new set of branded master pages so that the users will be able to take advantage of the new SharePoint 2010 ribbon UI. Overall the process for creating a new SharePoint 2010 master page is not difficult, but it can be time consuming. For one of my master pages I took advantage of a great SharePoint 2010 starter master page created by Randy Drisgill. This proved to be a great time saver. Randy even included a starter page for SharePoint 2010 Foundation and for the SharePoint 2010 Meeting Workspaces. Yes, just like in SharePoint 2007 you can not use just one single master page for every site in SharePoint 2010.
I created a new search site. This one displayed with the out of the box SharePoint 2010 branding and functioned properly. So why would that site work fine, but the other one wouldn’t, even after resetting the master page back to v4.master. Time to do some more digging. I used the very handy SharePoint Manager 2010 utility to compare the settings of the working search site to the broken one. What I discovered is that the custom master page URL setting for the search site that was working pointed to minimal.master and the one that was broken was pointing to v4.master. Ah Ha!
I need to create another branded master page based on the SharePoint 2010 minimal.master in order for my search sites to display properly. Another lesson learned about SharePoint 2010.
One last thing to note… Remember that SharePoint 2010 is BETA. This means that any customizations or branding may need to be tweaked a bit for RTM.