Underscores.me — The Best Way To Get Started With The _s Theme

Back in February we introduced you to _s, or Underscores, the WordPress starter theme we use at Automattic to build the majority of our themes (and even when we’re not building themes from it we’re referring to it). It’s come a long way since then with a steady stream of refinements. But one thing about it has always been … less than refined. To fork _s you’d have to do a, well, OK, kind of annoying search and replace routine that could easily trip people up if they did it wrong. Thanks to the efforts of Hugo Baeta and Konstantin Kovshenin that isn’t the case anymore. And they’ve done away with that problem with incredible style. Themers, check out Underscores.me:

You can now download your own version of _s with your own custom theme name — the search and replace is all done for you. All you have to do is theme. Plus, you can see all the beautiful people who have contributed to your favorite WordPress starter theme. Look at them all! Community theme development, FTW.

So, what are you waiting for? Get over to Underscores.me and start developing that awesome theme. We can’t wait to see it.

Getting Started With the _s Theme

There are some simple instructions in the theme readme.txt on how to get started with our new starter theme, _s, but, to be honest, I’m not exactly the most reliable readme reader myself so here are those instructions with a bit more explanation. 🙂

The first thing you want to do is copy the _s directory and change the name to something else. Like, say, megatherium.

Then you’ll need to do a three-step find and replace with your favorite text editor on the _s name in all the templates.

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A 1000-Hour Head Start: Introducing The _s Theme

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 #branding to #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.

Continue reading “A 1000-Hour Head Start: Introducing The _s Theme”