(see below for a list of theme changes in recent Geeklog versions)

Creating a Theme for Geeklog

Creating a theme for Geeklog is easy and quite fast. If you can manipulate HTML files then you can create a theme! There's no need to learn PHP.

Creating a theme

First, copy an existing theme that is most similar to what you want to implement (if one exists). If what you will do is radically different (and we hope so!) then copying any one will do. Copy the existing theme to the name you want your theme to have (please, no spaces in the theme name):

cp -R /path/to/geeklog/public_html/layout/professional /path/to/geeklog/public_html/layout/My_Theme_Name_No_Spaces

Change into your new theme directory:

cd /path/to/geeklog/public_html/layout/My_Theme_Name_No_Spaces

Now edit the templates to suit your needs. Keep in mind that templates, generally are partial HTML files. The directory you just created holds ALL templates Geeklog needs but you will only need to modify a small few to make a huge impact on the look.

In particular these are the templates you will undoubtedly want to change:

How themes work

When rendering a theme, Geeklog starts with header.thtml which builds the site's header and then goes on to include the left column of blocks (look for the variable {left_blocks} and the leftblocks.thtml file). The middle part of a site consists of the stories which are built using the storytext.thtml and storybodytext.thtml (for normal stories) and featuredstorytext.thtml and featuredstorybodytext.thtml (for featured stories) template files. The footer.thtml file then builds the right column of blocks (variable {right_blocks}, file right_blocks.thtml) and the site's footer. Blocks themselves consist of the blockheader.thtml and blockfooter.thtml files.

The above only describes how Geeklog's main page and stories are rendered. More templates exist for the various editors and lists you will see in Geeklog, as well as for the calendar and almost every other part of Geeklog.

There is currently no complete list available that explains which template file is used for which part of Geeklog. However, in most cases the use should be obvious when you have a look at the file and directory names in your theme's layout directory. If you're unsure which template file is used to render a certain part of Geeklog, have a look at the URL. You will notice the name of a PHP file there, e.g. the users.php file when you view a user's profile. Open that file and search for '.thtml'. For the profile you will find these lines (in function userprofile()):

$user_templates = new Template ($_CONF['path_layout'] . 'users');
$user_templates->set_file (array ('profile'=>'profile.thtml', 'row'=>'commentrow.thtml', 'strow'=>'storyrow.thtml'));

You don't need to understand PHP code to see that this uses the template files profile.thtml, commentrow.thtml, and storyrow.thtml. The first line also indicates that these are taken from the users directory within the theme's layout directory.

An incomplete list of variables that can be used in templates files is also included.

Testing a theme and further information

After you have edited your themes, you are now ready to test it out. Simply go to http://mygeeklogsite/usersettings.php?mode=preferences - in the theme drop-down select your newly created theme (note the name of your theme is the same name as the directory for your theme).

Finally, you may want to update the logo and other images in your theme's images directory.

For the template system we are using PHPLib's template class ( Read their documentation and, optionally, look at /path/to/geeklog/system/classes/template.class.php to see how it is implemented. Even with this knowledge it may not be clear which templates are used in conjunction with one another (i.e. storytext.thtml and storybodytext.thtml together make up the complete format of a single story). If you have questions join our mailing list at or check us out in IRC at in #geeklog.

Tips and tricks

Themes and WYSIWYG editors: The template files used by Geeklog are not complete HTML files - they contain only parts of the HTML that Geeklog puts together to build a proper HTML document. This, however, seems to confuse some WYSIWYG HTML editors and some of them tend to add the HTML which they think is missing from the file, thus making it unusable for Geeklog.
We suggest you use a simple text editor to edit your themes.

XHTML: Geeklog will create XHTML-compliant tags when asked to do so. You can also create themes that are both HTML and XHTML compliant. Please see the article Themes and XHTML entry on the Geeklog Wiki for more information.

PHP in themes: You can use PHP in the header of a theme, i.e. in the header.thtml file. If you want to use custom PHP functions, you can put them in the file functions.php within your themes directory.

Different look for left and right blocks: You can give the blocks on the left and right a different look. See this story on the Geeklog homepage for details.

Polls: To use multi-colored bars in the graphical display of poll results, you can use the {answer_counter} and {answer_odd} variables in the pollbooth/pollvotes_bar.thtml template file. {answer_counter} will be replaced with a running number for each answer, hence bar{answer_counter}.gif would result in bar1.gif, bar2.gif, etc. Giving each of those GIFs a different color would give you a different color for each answer.
{answer_odd} will alternate between 0 and 1 for every answer, hence bar{answer_odd}.gif will result in bar0.gif for the first, third, fifth, etc. answer and bar1.gif for the second, fourth, etc. answer.

Left blocks in the right column: $_CONF['left_blocks_in_footer'] is a rather curious option. It makes the {left_blocks} variable available in the site's footer (i.e. footer.thtml) while at the same time disabling it in the header (header.thtml).
The idea is that this can be used for two-column layouts (one column for the blocks and one column for the content) but when you want to have the blocks on the right side. Simply moving all blocks to the right will not work as expected, as you'd end up with no blocks at all on those pages that normally only display the left blocks (e.g. article.php or the admin pages). Setting $_CONF['left_blocks_in_footer'] = 1 will fix this, so that the blocks, while internally still treated as left blocks, will actually be displayed on the right.
The theme's header.thtml, footer.thtml, and leftblocks.thtml will probably need some adjustments. The 'left_blocks_in_footer' option is therefore not available in the main configuration but should instead be set in the theme's functions.php file. That way, you can even leave your users a choice between, for example, a "normal" theme and one with the blocks on the right.

Error Message: Since Geeklog 1.4.1 it is possible to control what HTML is displayed to non-root users in the event of an error occurring (a crash bug). To do so, you need to change the function CUSTOM_handleError in lib-custom.php to output any HTML you like.

Adding a "permalink" to stories: Many websites offer a so-called permalink, i.e. a link to a permanent URL for the story. In Geeklog's default Professional theme, the article's headline already provides the same functionality - it links to a permanent URL for the story (pointing to article.php). However, since this is not very obvious and since visitors often expect to find a "permalink" somewhere on the page, here's how to add one yourself:

  1. Find a place in the story template files. The "story-footer" section in storytext.thtml may be a good place since it already contains quite a few story-related links.
  2. Once you've found a place to put the permalink entry, enter this piece of code:
    <a href="{article_url}">{lang_permalink}<a>
    This will add a link to the article (article_url) using the word "Permalink" from the current language file (lang_permalink).
  3. Try it out. Be aware that at this point, your permalink entry only shows up for non-featured articles. You may want to tweak the appearance a bit (using CSS) or move the link around.
  4. Add the same piece of code to the featuredstorytext.thtml and archivestorytext.thtml templates so that the link also appears for featured and archived stories.

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.8.0

(to be grouped and sorted)

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.7.1

Admin templates

Other changes

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.7.0

Admin templates

Other changes

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.6.1

Cosmetic changes

These changes are mostly cosmetic and won't affect the functionality of a theme if not applied:

Changes to plugin templates

Note that plugin template files are kept in a directory plugins/pluginnname/templates and not in the layout directory.

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.6.0


The templates for the search form and search results have been changed and new template files have been added for the new display modes of the search results. We suggest to replace the entire search subdirectory in your theme with a copy of the directory from the Professional theme as it ships with Geeklog.


The commentform.thtml and commentform_advanced.thtml template files were changed to include a security token and a {notification} variable (for the new option to be notified of followup comments).


Permissions Editor

The various instances of the Permissions Editor (where you can set the Read / Edit permissions for Owner, Group, Members, Anonymous) were using slightly different template variable names. From now on, the following names are defined everywhere:

Template files using the alternative names will continue to work, but new files should use the above names from now on.

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.5.2

Note: Themes made for Geeklog 1.5.0 or 1.5.1 should work just fine with Geeklog 1.5.2. In this release, we only fixed a few problems in the themes (detailed below) that also affected 1.5.0 and 1.5.1. The other changes listed here are optional.


These changes are actual bugs in the template files that also exist in Geeklog 1.5.0 and 1.5.1. We recommend making these changes to all custom themes.

Other changes

These changes are optional. They fix cosmetic issues or issues that only affect some setups.

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.5.1

Note: Themes made for Geeklog 1.5.0 are mostly compatible with Geeklog 1.5.1. We only made one mandatory change (for the Configuration admin panel) - all the other changes listed below are optional or adjustments for special setups (e.g. multi-language sites, right-to-left languages). See details below.

Important change: Configuration

The JavaScript code used for the Configuration admin panel used a generic name which caused conflicts with other JavaScript code. You should update the file admin/config/config_element.thtml to make sure your theme works with Geeklog 1.5.1.

Multilingual blocks

The multi-language support for blocks introduced in Geeklog 1.5.1 relies on disabled blocks being swapped in dynamically. If you are using Geeklog's multi-language support, you may need to modify the piece of PHP code in your theme's functions.php so that it picks the correct templates for these multilingual blocks:

$lang = COM_getLanguageId();
if (empty($lang)) {
    $result = DB_query("SELECT onleft,name FROM {$_TABLES['blocks']} WHERE is_enabled = 1");
} else {
    $result = DB_query("SELECT onleft,name FROM {$_TABLES['blocks']}");

Prior to Geeklog 1.5.1, you will probably only find the first SQL request in your functions.php file.

Other changes

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.5.0

XHTML support

Geeklog now supports XHTML compliant themes. These themes should define the following constant in their functions.php file:

define('XHTML', ' /');

This will ensure that Geeklog switches to XHTML internally. If you want your theme be working both as an HTML and an XHTML theme, you should use the {xhtml} variable wherever XHTML requires a self-closing tag, e.g. <br /> would be written as <br{xhtml}>. If you don't plan to use the theme for HTML, feel free to hard-code your theme for XHTML only.

Note: If you're using XHTML, it is your responsibility to ensure that your site's content (stories, comments, etc.) is XHTML compliant. Geeklog does not convert your content to XHTML.

"Contribute" - User submitted stories

Geeklog 1.5.0 supports the ability for users to specify story intro text and body text seperately rather than just the intro text. This can be turned on and off by changing the templates. The files:

Contain table rows containing the bodytext inputs. Simply removing these inputs returns behaviour to the original.

Admin Menu, User Menu & Topic List

All the above mentioned items are now lists, using ul and li tags (and a new CSS class, blocklist, to hide the list bullets). Two new template files have been added to create these blocks:

Please note that the {blockid} variable that was present in pre-release versions of Geeklog 1.5.0 has since been removed.

Security Changes

Many forms, particularly in the admin section of the site need a new hidden form field in order for saving the form/processing the action to work. Add:

<input type="hidden" name="{gltoken_name}" value="{gltoken}"{xhtml}>

To the following templates:

Some plugin specific templates have also been changed, you may also need to check:

Removed Files

The following template files have been removed and are no longer needed:

System Message

The previously hard-coded CSS for the System Messages has been moved to the stylesheet (new CSS class sysmessage).

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.4.1

The css in 1.4.1 has been changed to a wider extent. More and more layout components are beeing moved to the stylesheet so more change in looks can be achieved with less change in the files. There is a reduction of tables and DIV, and a stronger focus on semantics and consistency. Please also notice that the styles.css includes additional documentation on the use of classes now.

As usual, any missing new theme files can simply be copied over from the default theme (Professional) that ships with Geeklog.


From now on, all headlines in blocks & stories are made with header-tags. The biggest title in a story is always h1, in a block always h2.

Story layout

The blocks for stories have no more tables, and the classes have been renamed for consistency. There is a box now around the story called class "story" or "story-featured". The components inside that box are story-icons, story-information, story-body and story-footer. The title is a h1-tag. For featured stories, only the outer box has a different class, the rest has to be cascaded for changes.


The blocks changed in the same way as the stories. There are no more tables, only one div-tag as a frame around called block-box, block-box-left or block-box-right. The title is a h2-tag and the help icon for the block is a span with a class called block-helpicon. Sub-titles in blocks have the h3-tag (such such as in the What's new or Older Stories block). The changes affect (next to styles.css) the follwing files:

Admin templates

Many of the admin template files have had minor changes to tweak appearance or functionality. If you didn't modify the admin templates in your theme, the easiest way to upgrade your theme's admin templates is to simply replace the entire 'admin' directory with the one from Geeklog's Professional theme.

Other theme changes

Professional theme

The following changes are specific to the Professional theme. There is probably no need to port them over to other themes.

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.4.0

As usual, any missing new theme files can simply be copied over from the default theme (Professional) that ships with Geeklog.

Admin templates

Geeklog 1.4.0 comes with revamped Admin sections which required a lot of theme changes. We therefore suggest that you simply replace the entire admin directory of your theme with the admin directory from Geeklog's default theme (Professional) as it ships with Geeklog 1.4.0 and apply any modfications you may have made to your Admin templates again afterwards.

Note: The new icons for "Command and Control" (moderation.php) in the Professional theme use a white background. For themes with a dark (or other non-white) background, you can download these icons as PNGs with alpha transparency (note that Internet Explorer can not display images with alpha transparency unless you include a JavaScript "hack" into your theme, so you may want to convert those icons to normal transparency or simply set the background to that of your theme).

Advanced editor

To use the included advanced editor (FCKeditor) you will need the following new template files:

You also have to add {advanced_editor} to the <head> section of your theme's header.thtml file.

Other changes

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.3.11

There are no mandatory theme changes in Geeklog 1.3.11, so themes made for Geeklog 1.3.10 will work just fine without any modifications.

A few minor additions / new options have been introduced:

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.3.10

General note: To upgrade your custom theme for use with Geeklog 1.3.10, you can simply copy over any new template files from the Geeklog default theme.

The biggest change in Geeklog 1.3.10 is that we now ship it with only one default theme (the Professional theme, kindly provided by Victor B. Gonzalez) and that the previously included themes are now available as a separate download.

Admin templates

Most themes don't change the template files in the theme's admin directory, so you can often save yourself a bit of work by simply replacing the entire admin directory with the one from the Geeklog 1.3.10 distribution.

Other templates

Optional changes

The following is a list of optional changes (mostly new variables that are now available). This information is mostly of interest for those who want to develop their own themes.

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.3.9

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.3.8

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.3.8 were mostly aimed at moving as much of the hard-coded HTML into template files as possible. Other changes were made to give theme authors better control over the layout and a small portion of changes were done to incorporate new Geeklog features.

New template files

This is a list of the new files. You can safely copy these over from one of the standard themes that ship with Geeklog (most of these files contain HTML that was previously hard-coded into Geeklog).


Note: preferences and admin/database are new directores.

Changed / updated template files

These files have changed since Geeklog 1.3.7, i.e. they may contain new variables, table columns, etc. If you haven't changed these files in your existing theme, it is probably best to simply copy them over from one of the themes that ship with Geeklog (with the exception of style.css and header.thtml, see below).

style.css (see below)
header.thtml (see below)

In style.css, four classes have been added that are used in the new search code of Geeklog 1.3.8. Instead of copying over the entire file, you will probably only want to copy over the code for those four classes: searchAuth, searchDate, searchHits, highlight.

If the header.thtml of your theme is using the {menu_elements} variable, then you do not need to make any changes to it. If it is not using that variable, then you will need to make one change to it. In that case, search your header.thtml for the link to the story submission form, i.e. something like

<a href="{site_url}/submit.php?type=story">

and change it to read

<a href="{site_url}/submit.php?type=story{current_topic}">

Removed template files

If you have a file named commentheader.thtml in your theme directory, you can safely remove it. It isn't used at all.

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.3.7

Please note that all the following changes are optional. Themes made for Geeklog 1.3.6 will work just fine with Geeklog 1.3.7 - no changes are necessary.

New features and improvements

Other changes

Theme changes in Geeklog 1.3.6

There have been a lot of changes in the themes for 1.3.6 to get rid of the last pieces of hard-coded english texts so as to make localisation easier. Most of these changes have been made in the Admin editors (admin directory) and the calendar (calendar directory). If you created your own theme for an earlier version of Geeklog, we recommend that you copy over these two directories from one of the themes that come with Geeklog (choose one that is similar to your own theme or which it was originally based on). It seems like most Geeklog themes didn't change these files anyway, so this shouldn't be too much of a hassle ...

Other changes

CSS changes

Note: Theme authors are encouraged to specify a character set in the header.thtml of their themes like this:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset={charset}">

Geeklog will replace the {charset} variable with the proper character set based on the currently used language file. Also make sure that you put the above line before the <title> tag in the <head> section of your header.thtml file.