Themes FAQ

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Note: You are currently viewing documentation for Moodle 2.4. Up-to-date documentation for the latest stable version is available here: Themes FAQ.

Where can I find more Moodle themes?

As well as standard themes, which you will find in your Moodle installation, there are a number of FREE add-on themes available for download from Moodle plugins directory - Category:Themes. Don't forget to choose the correct version of a theme for the version of Moodle you are currently using.

How do I install a new theme?

  1. Unzip the .zip file to an empty local directory.
  2. Upload folder to your web server to the /moodle/theme/[Theme Name]. (Replace [Theme Name] with the name of the theme you have downloaded.) Ensure the new theme folder and its contents are readable by the webserver. Change Read and Write permissions (CHMOD) for the files and folder to 755 - Owner read/write/execute, Group read/execute, Everyone read/execute. Incorrect permissions may prevent display of the newly installed theme.
  3. Choose your new theme from within Moodle via Administration > Appearance > Themes > Theme selector.

How do I install a new theme when using cPanel?

  1. Upload your new theme .zip file to your web server via cPanel.
  2. Then using cPanel install the new theme to your Moodle theme's folder. The new theme will be installed into its own folder at /moodle/theme/[mytheme] (where [mytheme] is the name of your new theme.
  3. Ensure the new theme folder and its contents are readable by the webserver. If necessary change Read and Write permissions (CHMOD) for the files and folder to 755 - Owner read/write/execute, Group read/execute, Everyone read/execute. Incorrect permissions may prevent display of the newly installed theme.
  4. Choose your new theme from within Moodle via Administration > Appearance > Themes > Theme selector

Why is the new theme I uploaded not showing up in Theme Selector?

You probably forgot to do something correctly. Here are steps to create a "new" theme from an existing theme called "standard". Bold show places you must change for the theme to appear.

  1. Copy folder theme/standard and call it theme/new
  2. In theme/new/lang/en folder,
    1. Renamed theme_standard.php to theme_new.php
  3. Opened theme/new/lang/en/theme_new.php, recommend you change 2 lines to read something like:
    1. $string['pluginname'] = 'New';
    2. $string['chooseredme'] = 'New theme is a modified version of the Standard theme and is being changed by Martin D in 2013';
    3. Saved the file
  4. In theme/new/config.php
    1. Change $THEME->NAME = 'new';
  5. In theme/new/version.php
    1. Change $plugin->component = 'theme_new'; // Full name of the plugin (used for diagnostics).
  6. Go to Settings > Site Administration >Appearance > Themes > Theme settings > Theme designer mode (Checked)
  7. Go to Settings > Site Administration >Notifications
    1. From here you should get Notification of a Plugin Check telling you that your New theme is ready to be installed. If the theme has been changed correctly then your theme will be installed and you will get a Success notification at which point you will be able to select your theme from the theme selector.
    2. NB: If for some reason errors are detected then you will need to fix them before continuing.
  8. Go to Settings > Site Administration >Appearance > Themes > Theme selector
    1. Select your Default theme by clicking Change theme
Tip: There could be a number of problems with the theme you uploaded, but one major problem reported in the Themes Forum all point to the way in which the theme is uploaded on certain servers. Using the cPanel method, as described in the FAQ How do I install a new theme when using cPanel? will, in most cases, cure the problem.

How do I control what themes show up where?

You can control which themes show up in which contexts by a series of settings in Settings>Site Administration>Appearance>Themes>Theme settings

How can I restrict the available themes to users and in courses?

In Settings>Site Administration>Appearance>Themes>Theme settings, add the themes you want them to use in the Theme list. These will then restrict the theme choice lists in pull down menus the contexts (Course, Category, User) where you allow them.

What is the hierarchy of contexts for themes to override each other?

There are five contexts in which themes appear and can be set: courses, category, session, user, and site (or Default, i.e. the site wide default theme). That is the level of priority of appearance they have as well.

Hierarchy of themes

  • Course trumps Category (and below)
  • Category trumps Session (and below)
  • Session trumps User (and below)
  • User trumps Default
  • Default (site)

Note on Session Themes

  • It is important to note that Session level themes (those set with the URL parameter theme=theme_name), override the Site level theme ONLY for the user's current logged in session. When the user logs out, they will then see the Default site theme, not the Session theme.
  • You only have to set the theme once via the URL parameter and it will persist until the user logs out.

Note on Guest Access

Courses with Guest access turned on will show a course level theme or category theme as usual. There is no user level theme for Guest since it has no profile or account in the usual sense.

You can use a Session level theme for Guest which will persist not only during the "session" but between sessions, too, in the same browser (i.e. same cookie). This is different than the experience of Authenticated users, who get the default site on log out even if they had a session theme.

This will be an issue if your theme changes and a Guest returns from the same browser with the previous theme set. Since the restrictions in the 'theme list' do not apply to Session level URLs, Guest would get the old theme as long as it still exists on the site by that short name instead of the new site theme. (Tip: using a non-existent theme name in the URL will force the site default to appear, e.g. '?theme=.' will reset it since you can't name a theme '.')

Note on Devices and Themes

See the following issue discovered with device level themes http://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-35148 overriding category and course level themes.

How do I create a custom theme?

See the developer documentation Theme development.

Can I assign a specific theme to a course?

Yes. In the course settings, use the "Force theme" dropdown box.


Is it possible to customise language strings per theme?

Not by default, as when strings are customised, they are customised for the whole site. However, it is possible to make a new language pack based on your main language and apply that pack to the course which has that theme. See this forum post for more information: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=220671

How can I get the links in my custom menu to open in new windows?

It is possible to create your own fly out menu via the custom menu block in Settings>Site administration>Appearance>Themes>Theme settings. Copy the examples given below the box. If you want the links to open in a new window, use the following code:

Moodle|http://www.moodle.org" target="_blank"

See also https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-35420

Where shall I put my custom CSS code?

Note that the standard themes Afterburner, Arialist, Formal White, Fusion, Nonzero, Overlay, Sky High and Splash all offer the possibility to add custom CSS in their page settings via Settings>Appearance>Themes>.

Failing this, instead of modifying the theme's CSS files you better put your own code in a separate CSS file and make your theme aware of that file by modifying its config.php file (be sure add your own CSS file as the last one in the list so that you will override all prior settings). See this posting for detailed instructions.

See also the instructions on creating your own theme mentioned above.

Will I lose my courses, language files, logo, etc. if I switch my theme?

Switching themes only changes the appearance of your site, not the content within it. The logo is a part of the theme and will be lost when you switch.

Follow these instructions to add a logo to a theme.

If you upgrade your Moodle site and tweaked an existing standard theme, you will lose your changes. Thus it is a good idea to create a custom theme which will not be changed when you upgrade.

I can't access theme files on the server. Can I still add a logo to a theme?

Yes. You have two choices:

    • Either upload your logo to another place publicly available online and then copy the image's URL to paste into the logo field of the theme page you are editing (such as Afterburner)
    • Or add the main menu block to your front page; upload the logo via Main menu>Add a resource. Get its URL and paste it into the logo field of the theme page you are editing. You can safely then hide or delete the main menu block; the logo will still be there. (NOTE - your logo will appear in Navigation>Site pages as well. To prevent this, go to Settings>Site administration>Appearance>Navigation and untick the box "Show front page activities in the navigation")

Are there tools which help me creating and editing themes?

Clear Cache Button

This useful Firefox add-on let's you add a button to your tool bar for easily clearing your cache while working on your theme: https://addons.mozilla.org/de/firefox/addon/1801

Please note that the following tools are only for development. They only change the way you see your Moodle site, not the Moodle site itself. Any changes you make using these tools will not be visible to anyone else who uses your site. For this you will have to make those changes permanent by changing your theme's CSS files for example.

Firebug

The single most useful tool is the Firebug add-on for the Firefox web browser. Firebug integrates with Firefox to put a wealth of development tools at your fingertips while you browse. You can edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page... And there are additional add-ons for making Firebug an even more powerful tool.

Firebug enhancements

You can enhance Firebug even further. See Firebug for more information.

Web Developer Toolbar

Another great tool for any web developer is the Web developer extension, another Firefox add-on. One very useful feature is the option to disable your browser's cache while working on your theme. That way you are sure you're always presented with your latest modifications and not with an older, cached version.

Now also available for Google's Chrome browser: "The Web Developer Toolbar Comes to Chrome"

Stylish

Modifications made with Firebug are lost when refreshing your page. If you want your CSS changes to be a bit more permanent, for example to try them with different pages of your Moodle installation, you can use another Firefox plugin: Stylish. That way you can change your site's CSS with a simple mouse click without having to change Moodle code.

See Stylish for detailed instructions and examples.

Stylish-Custom

This is an custom additions to the Stylish extension which brings back features from 0.5.9 and adds new features.

How do I check for cross-browser compatibility?

There are some tools (standalone and online) which can show you how your site looks in different browsers. See this forum discussion for details. See the new device detection settings in Theme settings which will allow you to create a theme for those "special" browsers.

How are the device types used in Moodle 2.4 ?

If "Enabled device detection" has been turned on, Moodle 2.4 will automatically use the theme which has been set for the device in the Theme selector settings page. It is also possible to add additional types to the Theme selector page by using the "device detection regular expressions" fields.

Site administrators can find these enable device detection settings in Site administration > Appearance >Themes > Theme settings .

Concrete examples for modifying Moodle themes

The following examples were taken from the former Theme Scrapbook:
"The Moodle Theme Scrapbook is a collection of small how-to descriptions. You theme designers and Moodle users working with themes add your knowledge here to help new Moodle users with tips and tricks for their theme work.
Feel free to add to this list! Don't know how? Read our Guidelines for contributors."

Changing things

Colors

Logo and icons

Layout

Adding things

Hiding things

Moving things

Miscellaneous

How can I see theme changes when using the Windows Complete Installer package

In the Windows Complete Installer package, the eAccelerator in the XAMPP install can cause some issues with changes to your theme's CSS and HTML files from showing.

Open the php.ini file inside of the server\php folder from your install in notepad and search for "eAccelerator" you should see a line that reads:

extension=eaccelerator.dll

Insert a semi-colon (turns the line into a comment) at the start of this line so it now reads:

;extension=eaccelerator.dll

Restart the Moodle server using the "stop moodle" and then the "start moodle" programs in your server folder. You should now find that all of your changes to your CSS are reflected as soon as you save the file and refresh your browser cache (usually you can refresh your cache by pressing F5). This FAQ from a discussion at Deactivating caching with XAMPP installations

See also