Have you checked out the Toolbox theme? Up until recently it was the starter theme we used to build free and premium themes on WordPress.com. Toolbox was (and is!) a great theme, but it could be better. Unfortunately, we wound up in a situation with Toolbox where we wanted to make some more drastic improvements to it as a starter theme but got a little stuck. We had people using it as a Parent Theme and that meant that the simplest id or class change could become a problem. Simply changing an id of
#masthead in the template is enough to break most CSS.
And there were other more beneficial but potentially more disruptive changes we thought would be great to add to it. Changes like better starter styles, including a generic framework for adding your own responsive CSS; a script for elegantly handling menus on small screens; and easy-to-rework sample theme options. And whole lot more. The sort of things we found ourselves adding to 80% of the themes we were building. You know, the sort of things that you really need in a starter theme.
So, we forked Toolbox — don’t worry it’s still being updated — and made a better, faster, stronger, starter theme. A developer-only theme that gives us the freedom — us being the WordPress.com Theme Team — to iterate with abandon on the idea of WordPress starter themes. Since that theme underscores the new themes we build we call it the Underscores Theme, or
_s for short.
And it’s pretty darn awesome.
So, what’s so different about _s? Well, most importantly it’s that it will always be more or less in flux. It’ll be looked at again and again, always with an eye to the future of WordPress themes. But it will also always have one foot in the past. In fact that past goes pretty deep. It incorporates code and tough lessons learned from the best WordPress themes: Kubrick, The Sandbox, Thematic, Twenty Ten, Toolbox, Twenty Eleven —and probably more I’ve forgotten about! — and then, any future theme that continues to shoot for the very best in WordPress and web standards, including every version of the yearly default theme. As each new default theme is released, _s will be reviewed and updated. New techniques and best practices will continue to make their way into _s. Likewise with every theme the WordPress.com Theme Team builds using _s. As we come up with new best practices and learn new lessons in our themes, all that code makes its way back to _s.
And we’re pretty excited about making that code available for you.
Free Open Source Software FTW
This is why: The lineage and continual development process of _s gives you what I like to call a a 1000-hour head start. That’s the approximate number of design and development hours you get for free every time you use it in a project. Weeks and weeks of refinement by dozens of WordPress theme experts over several years that you don’t have to do. And because we want you to be able to take advantage of that 1000-hour head start we’re making _s available through GitHub for all your WordPress theme projects. When we make updates to _s, those changes get pulled from the same Automattic theme repository we’re using live on WordPress.com and pushed out to GitHub where you can quickly take advantage of them.
And it’s free.
Here’s what’s currently in _s:
- A just right amount of lean, well-commented, modern, HTML5 templates.
- A helpful 404 template.
- A sample custom header implementation in
inc/custom-header.phpthat can be activated by uncommenting one line in
functions.phpand adding the code snippet found in the comments of
inc/custom-header.phpto your header.php template.
- Custom template tags in
inc/template-tagsthat keep your templates clean and neat and prevent code duplication.
- Some small tweaks in
/inc/extras.phpthat can improve your theming experience. They can be activated by uncommenting one line in
- Keyboard navigation for image attachment templates. The script can be found in
js/keyboard-image-navigation.jsand is enqueued from the image attachment template,
- A script at
js/navigation.jsthat makes your menu a toggled dropdown for small screens (like your phone) ready for CSS artistry. It’s enqueued in
- 5 sample CSS layouts in
/layouts: Two sidebars on the left, two sidebars on the right, a sidebar on either side of your content, and two-column layouts with sidebars on either side.
- Smartly organized starter CSS in
style.cssthat will help you to quickly get your design off the ground.
- The GPL license in
license.txt. Use it to make something cool.
There’s more development on the way but you can start using it right now. We are.
Get the _s Theme
Fork or download _s on GitHub or generate your own custom version at Underscores.me and have fun making awesome new WordPress themes! I know that’s what I’ll be busy trying to do.