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Introduction to Creating Custom Skins in Thesis 2.1 – Part 2 – Themes, Child Themes, Thesis Skins

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Now that you know the basic skills necessary to create a custom skin in Thesis 2.1, it’s necessary to gain an understanding of the relationship between Themes, Child Themes and Thesis 2 skins.

Typical WordPress Themes

Now, a typical WordPress theme primarily consists of a combination of template files and CSS style sheets with potentially some additional custom functions. The theme is complete in itself, it doesn’t require any additional help to make it fully functional . And a good example of that is the latest 2013 theme that’s in WordPress 3.6 This is a typical WordPress theme that consists of template files, CSS styles and an additional function file and it is entirely complete.

WordPress Child Themes

Child themes by contrast are at a minimum a CSS Style Sheet. It may also include its own template files and it may also include an additional functions file but it doesn’t need to. A child theme can consist only of a CSS Style Sheet.

The child theme in WordPress is not complete and it requires the parent theme in order to be fully functional and so if you’ve been around for awhile you’ve seen my class in creating the child theme in Thesis 1.8 where Thesis 1.8 is the theme and we created that BlueMasters child theme. That child theme was dependent upon Thesis being installed and would not function, would not work, would not even install if Thesis was not installed.

If you have any experience with Genesis, you know that the Genesis theme primarily uses child themes to accomplish its various styles. So, every Genesis child theme at a minimum consists of a CSS Style Sheet but then the typical ones that you buy on StudioPress also have at least one template file that usually have a home template file and they usually have a functions.php file. So that’s the typical WordPress world but Thesis is not at all typical of WordPress.

I want to direct your attention to one thing before we move on to the Thesis and that is on the seminar page, I’ve got a bunch of links to resources that we’re using in the class and one of those is this Yoast’s description of typical WordPress template structure.

This is I think an excellent description of what goes into a typical WordPress theme and how all of those parts work together. Once you read through this, you will realize how much simpler it is to work in Thesis than it is to work in straight WordPress but nevertheless, this will give you a more complete understanding of how all of these WordPress parts work together. It’s an excellent article.

Thesis Theme 2

Thesis has no template files whatsoever. It stores template definitions in the database so all of those things you set up that we call templates, we call them templates in a more of a generic sense. In the WordPress sense of a template, it’s a file that sits on your server, is a physical file that you could download, open up, change, re-upload, that’s the typical system. Thesis 2 has no template files like that, all template definitions are essentially data that are stored in the database.

Thesis 2 also has two CSS files and that’s because Thesis 2 does not exist without a skin. The theme itself has no CSS files but there is a style sheet that exists inside of the skin. Now, if you go looking around at Thesis, you will see that in the Thesis core files there is a style.css file and the reason is because WordPress absolutely requires that file to exist but it doesn’t have anything in it and it isn’t used.

It exists because WordPress requires it but it gets de-queued in the process of setting up Thesis and it never gets attached to the site in practice. However, there is a style sheet inside the skin. Now, Thesis alone is not complete, it requires a skin to be fully functional. This is the way in which the Thesis theme is different than a typical WordPress theme because it is not complete in itself, it does require a skin.

Thesis 2 Skins

Then you have the Thesis 2 skins and Thesis 2 skins also have no template files. So there’s no single.php, no home.php, no head.php, none of those files that you often see people refer to; none of those files exist in a Thesis 2 skin. It may have function files, it has a CSS Style Sheet that is generated on the fly by Thesis and resides inside the skin. So it doesn’t have a CSS Style Sheet that you edit directly, the style sheet is generated every time you save your CSS from all of the information that you’ve entered into your Skin Editor so it does create the file but it is a dynamically generated file.

Thesis 2 skins are very similar to WordPress child themes in that they provide essentially new styling, they’re different from child themes in that Thesis is actually dependent upon them existing. So there’s some similarities, sort of an analogy between child themes and skins but it’s only a conceptual analogy in the ordinary structure of a skin. It is entirely different than the ordinary structure of a child theme.

Minimum Needed for a Complete Skin

So, what is the minimum necessary for you to have a complete skin? Well, in order for you to have a complete skin, you need to have definitions for the minimum templates and you need to have definitions for the minimum styles.

By minimum templates, what we’re talking about is a Home template, the Page template, the Single template and the Archive template. If you only construct those 4 templates, that’s all you actually need in order to have a complete skin and everything else that may be generated by WordPress will do so based on one of those 4 skins. Now, there are other templates you can add but these are the minimum.

Minimum Styles Needed for a Complete Skin

Now, in terms of the minimum styles that you need, you need structural styles, right? Page width, column width and stuff like that. You need text styles because there’s lots of text that wants some kind of styling. You need menu styles, you need comment styles and you need comment form styles.

We’re not actually going to do comment styles or comment form styles today but I want to show you a process for creating styles that will allow you to follow through on those. We do, after all, only have 3 hours.

Anyway, those are essentially the 5 different types of styles that you need to create as a minimum for having a complete skin and we’re going to do some of that minimum today. We’re not going to do all of them but we are going to do some of them.

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