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Lesson 1 – Part 5 – Prepare Our Thesis Site for Customization

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Welcome back to the 5th and final part of Lesson 1 of the Customize Thesis Like a Pro tutorial series. In this final part of the lesson, we are going to prepare our Thesis theme website for customization.

Dashboard Warning Message

And so here I am at the website. I’m going to go to wp-content, themes, thesis_18. In order to do that, I need to go look at the site itself first. I’ll come on over here and go to and then go to wp-admin. I was already logged in so we’ll go ahead and go to Thesis. And you can see we’ve got this error message here: “Attention: In order to take advantage of all the controls that the Thesis theme offers, you need to change the name of your custom-sample folder to custom.” We can see this again, also, if we go over to Custom File Editor. Again, you don’t see any custom files. There’s nothing for you to edit in the Custom File Editor and it still has this warning label.

Rename the custom-sample Folder

So the way we prepare our website for customization is by fixing this. Go back to FileZilla and we’ll connect back up to our site. wp-content, Themes, thesis_18. And you can see we have this thing named custom-sample. What we’re going to do is to right click on this file and say, “Rename” and we are going to rename it to custom. And now we have changed the name of custom on our remote website. And notice it does not change on our local directory.

So let’s go take a look at this and let’s refresh this now that we’ve made that change. And now you can see inside the Thesis Custom File Editor it’s got a whole bunch of stuff that you can do. We can select custom.css or custom_functions.php and when you select Edit, you can see that you’ve got these other files available to you. And if we go back to just the dashboard, that warning label has now gone away.

Make a Copy of Thesis on Our Local Machine

Now that we succeeded in doing that, let’s make a copy of Thesis on our local machine. We aren’t going to change custom-sample here to custom. What we’re going to do is leave custom sample alone and that way if you ever need a clean copy of custom.css or custom_functions.php, we can get it out of custom-sample.

Download Custom Folder

I’m going to right click on custom and select download. And now all of it has been copied over here. If we open up custom, you can see that in our local machine, we have the same thing as we have on our remote website – including images and rotator and our files – everything is transferred over the same.

Okay so that wraps up Part 5,  Prepare our Website for Customization, of the Customize Thesis Like a Pro tutorial series.

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21 Comments… add one
21 comments… add one
  • Juliette Fong June 3, 2011, 7:30 am

    i assume this video has not been edited yet, it dosen’t bother me, but maybe you would want to know.

    • Rick Anderson June 3, 2011, 9:18 am

      Actually, the video is there – perhaps try looking at it in another browser?

  • Basil Gilger July 9, 2011, 10:48 am


    I’ve been spending so much time going through these tutorials that I’ve neglected to thank you for all your effort and the excellent results.



    • Rick Anderson July 9, 2011, 11:07 am

      John, I’m delighted that you’ve found them useful.

  • devon artis September 13, 2011, 6:22 am

    Very good tutorials…

  • Jared September 28, 2011, 7:34 am

    Yes Rick. Extremely useful …your ideas!

    Regarding Part 4:

    a) is twenty ten automatically within thesis? Or was it something you added?

    b) when you download from site to your library copy, does it remove it from your site? Or does it make a copy?

    c) can a person make their duplicate copy anytime? Even after the site has been built? Or only in the beginning? Because, I’ve got sites done before I found you.

    • Rick Anderson September 29, 2011, 6:42 am

      Jared – I’m glad you’re finding this useful.

      Twenty ten is a default WordPress theme that is installed when WordPress is installed. It doesn’t come with Thesis, it comes with WordPress. The latest default WordPress theme is twenty eleven
      Both downloading and uploading involve making a copy of the files and placing them either on your computer or on your server. The action also generally overwrites files of the same name in the same location.
      Copying is copying. You can always copy. In fact that’s what the backup process is – creating a copy of your site, or portions of your site.

  • Ivan Ruiz August 22, 2012, 8:56 pm

    Finally! Someone that speaks my language explaining this things. Thank you, great work!

  • Alex Vasilev December 5, 2012, 11:30 am

    So, would you recommend not including ‘un-editable’ files within our mirror file structure? (wp-admin, wp-includes, various plugin updates/files)

    • Rick Anderson December 5, 2012, 11:32 am

      There is no reason to download the uneditable files. You really only need to download your customization files.

      • Alex Vasilev December 5, 2012, 11:40 am

        Thanks, Rick. Additionally, you suggest that the folders within our mirror file system should have exact same name as website file structure. So, for example, would you recommend naming the main ‘Documents’ folder public_html? (rather than ‘Websites’)

  • kunle biglawal December 14, 2012, 2:51 am

    Thanks for the wonderful video.
    I am having little problem with my DEFAULT REMOTE DIRECTORY while synchronizing with FileZilla.
    I have a main website at
    i created a subdomain with name “workshop3”
    could not figure out my DEFAULT REMOTE directory.

    • Rick Anderson December 14, 2012, 8:15 am

      So your default local directory for the subdomain is probably /public_html/workshop3

  • kunle biglawal January 4, 2013, 5:11 am

    Thanks Rick, I got everything perfectly now. i watched the video several times until i understood it. Bravo!

  • Judith Holloway July 19, 2013, 3:12 pm

    This has been brilliant! I’ve now really (underlined) got what root directory and sub directories mean! I’ve got a sub directory with a new site behind it (on Thesis)and it’s all making sense!
    I haven’t done any of this stuff before so it’s a real eye opener.
    I’ve been following along with all of lesson 1 tutorials and got things moving.
    Tomorrow I’ll start on the next batch of lessons.
    Great job Rick! 🙂

    • Rick Anderson July 20, 2013, 7:01 am

      Judith, I’m pleased that you find it helpful. Please note that these videos are for Thesis 1.8.5 and not for Thesis 2. The file structure of Thesis 2 is considerably different. You can find information about that in the “Thesis 2.1 for Web Design Professionals” series.

  • Judith July 21, 2013, 3:42 am

    Hi Rick
    Thanks for your comment. I’m working on Thesis 1.8.5 – so all is good! And thanks for the heads up as well.

  • David Newell July 24, 2013, 6:09 am

    Hi Rick, Should the FTP portion be omitted if we use Thesis 2.1?
    I’m so thankful I found your site as when I downloaded and installed 2.1 I couldn’t believe my eyes!! And as usual the tutes at Thesis ???? I was going to revert to 1.8.5 !

    • Rick Anderson July 24, 2013, 3:19 pm

      David, I’m glad you are getting benefit from the site. You definitely need to be able to use FTP. Not so much because of Thesis but in order to trouble shoot and solve problems.

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