Creating a Theme

There is some documentation about creating themes for Nikola, but maybe a tutorial is also a useful way to explain it. So, here it is. I’ll explain how to create a theme (almost) from scratch. All themes in Nikola must inherit from the base theme. In this case, we will inherit from bootstrap so we get good support for slides and galleries.

I will try to create a theme that looks like Vinicius Massuchetto’s Monospace Theme.

Starting The Theme

First we will create a testing site:

$ nikola init --demo monospace-site
A new site with some sample data has been created at monospace-site.
See README.txt in that folder for more information.

$ cd monospace-site/

Our theme will inherit from the bootstrap theme, which is full-featured but boring.

$ mkdir themes
$ mkdir themes/monospace
$ echo bootstrap > themes/monospace/parent

The next step is to make the testing site use this new theme, by editing conf.py and changing the THEME option:

# Name of the theme to use. Themes are located in themes/theme_name
THEME = 'monospace'

Now we can already build and test the site:

$ nikola build && nikola serve
http://ralsina.me/galleries/monospace-tut/monospace-1.png

This is the default “bootstrap” theme.

Of course, the page layout is completely different from what we want. To fix that, we need to get into templates.

Templates: Page Layout

The general page layout for the theme is done by the base.tmpl template, which is done using Mako. This is bootstrap’s base.tmpl, it’s not very big:

## -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
<%namespace name="base" file="base_helper.tmpl" import="*" />
<%namespace name="bootstrap" file="bootstrap_helper.tmpl" import="*" />
${set_locale(lang)}
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html% if comment_system == 'facebook': xmlns:fb="http://ogp.me/ns/fb#" %endif lang="${lang}">
<head>
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
    ${bootstrap.html_head()}
    <%block name="extra_head">
    </%block>
    ${extra_head_data}
</head>
<body>
<!-- Menubar -->
<div class="navbar navbar-fixed-top" id="navbar">
    <div class="navbar-inner">
        <div class="container">

        <!-- .btn-navbar is used as the toggle for collapsed navbar content -->
        <a class="btn btn-navbar" data-toggle="collapse" data-target=".nav-collapse">
            <span class="icon-bar"></span>
            <span class="icon-bar"></span>
            <span class="icon-bar"></span>
        </a>

            <a class="brand" href="${abs_link('/')}">
            ${blog_title}
            </a>
            <!-- Everything you want hidden at 940px or less, place within here -->
            <div class="nav-collapse collapse">
                <ul class="nav">
                    ${bootstrap.html_navigation_links()}
                </ul>
                %if search_form:
                    ${search_form}
                %endif
                <ul class="nav pull-right">
                <%block name="belowtitle">
                %if len(translations) > 1:
                    <li>${base.html_translations()}</li>
                %endif
                </%block>
                % if show_sourcelink:
                    <li><%block name="sourcelink"></%block></li>
                %endif
                </ul>
            </div>
        </div>
    </div>
</div>
<!-- End of Menubar -->
<div class="container-fluid" id="container-fluid">
    <!--Body content-->
    <div class="row-fluid">
    <div class="span2"></div>
    <div class="span8">
    <%block name="content"></%block>
    </div>
    </div>
    <!--End of body content-->
</div>
<div class="footerbox">
    ${content_footer}
</div>
${bootstrap.late_load_js()}
${base.html_social()}
    <script>jQuery("a.image-reference").colorbox({rel:"gal",maxWidth:"100%",maxHeight:"100%",scalePhotos:true});
    $(window).on('hashchange', function(){
        if (location.hash && $(location.hash)[0]) {
            $('body').animate({scrollTop: $(location.hash).offset().top - $('#navbar').outerHeight(true)*1.2 }, 1);
        }
    });
    $(document).ready(function(){$(window).trigger('hashchange')});
    </script>
<%block name="extra_js"></%block>
${body_end}
</body>

It’s basically a HTML document with some placeholders to be replaced with actual content, configuration options, and some helper functions. For example, the html_head helper can be used to add CSS or JS files in all document’s head tags.

Monospace is a two-column-with-footer layout, so let’s copy the basics from its HTML and see what happens:

## -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
<%namespace name="base" file="base_helper.tmpl" import="*"/>
<%namespace name="bootstrap" file="bootstrap_helper.tmpl" import="*" />
${set_locale(lang)}
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="${lang}">
<head>
    ${bootstrap.html_head()}
    <%block name="extra_head">
    </%block>
    ${extra_head_data}
</head>
<body class="home blog">
    <div id="wrap" style="width:850px">
        <div id="container" style="width:560px">
            <%block name="content"></%block>
        </div>
        <div id="sidebar">
            <!--Sidebar content-->
            <h1 id="blog-title">
                <a href="${abs_link('/')}" title="${blog_title}">${blog_title}</a>
            </h1>
            <%block name="belowtitle">
            %if len(translations) > 1:
            <small>
                ${(messages("Also available in"))}:&nbsp;
                ${base.html_translations()}
            </small>
            %endif
            </%block>
            <ul class="unstyled">
            <li>${license}
            ${base.html_social()}
            ${bootstrap.html_navigation_links()}
            <li>${search_form}
            </ul>
        </div>
        <div id="footer">
            ${content_footer}
        </div>
    </div>
    ${bootstrap.late_load_js()}
    <script>jQuery("a.image-reference").colorbox({rel:"gal",maxWidth:"100%",maxHeight:"100%",scalePhotos:true});</script>
    <%block name="extra_js"></%block>
    ${body_end}
</body>
http://ralsina.me/galleries/monospace-tut/monospace-2.png

Yikes!

This will get better quickly once we add some CSS

Base CSS

The orphan theme includes just a little styling, specifically rest.css so the reStructuredText output looks reasonable, and code.css for code snippets.

It also includes an empty assets/css/theme.css where you can add your own CSS. For example, this is taken from the original monospace theme, except for the last few selectors:

body { margin:0px; padding:20px 0px; text-align:center; font-family:Monospace; color:#585858; }
.post { margin:0px 0px 30px 0px; padding:0px 0px 30px 0px; border-bottom:1px dotted #C8C8C8; }
.meta { margin:10px; padding:15px; background:#EAEAEA; clear:both; }
#footer { text-align:center; clear:both; margin:30px 0px 0px 0px; padding:30px 0px 0px 0px; border-top:1px dotted #C8C8C8; }
#wrap { margin:0px auto; text-align:left; font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.4; }
#container { float:right; }
#sidebar { overflow:hidden; clear:left; text-align:right; width:250px; height:auto; padding:0px 15px 0px 0px; border-right:1px dotted #C8C8C8; }
#sidebar li { list-style-type:none; }
#sidebar > li { margin:20px 0px; }
#sidebar h1 { border-bottom:1px dotted #C8C8C8; }
#sidebar .description { display:block; width:100%; height:auto; margin:0px 0px 10px 0px; }
h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, h7 { margin:0px; text-transform:uppercase; }
h4, h5, h6 { font-size:14px; }
#blog-title { margin-top: 0; line-height:48px;}
.literal-block {padding: .5em;}
div.sidebar, div.admonition, div.attention, div.caution, div.danger, div.error, div.hint, div.important, div.note, div.tip, div.warning {
    /* Issue 277 */
    border: 1px solid #aaa;
    border-radius: 5px;
    width: 100%;
}
ul.breadcrumb > li:before {
    content: " / ";
}

This will (after we rebuild it) make the site looks different of course, and getting closer to our goal:

http://ralsina.me/galleries/monospace-tut/monospace-3.png

Monospaced allright.

If you compare it to the original, however, you will see that the layout of the posts themselves is different, and that was not described in base.tmpl at all. But if you look, you’ll see that there is a placeholder called content: <%block name="content"></%block>

That’s because base.tmpl defines the base layout. The layout of more specific pages, like “the page that shows a list of posts” is defined in the other templates. Specifically, this is defined in index.tmpl. It turns out bootstrap doesn’ have one of those! That’s because it inherits that template from base:

## -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
<%namespace name="helper" file="index_helper.tmpl"/>
<%namespace name="comments" file="comments_helper.tmpl"/>
<%inherit file="base.tmpl"/>
<%block name="content">
    % for post in posts:
        <div class="postbox post-${post.meta('type')}">
        <h1><a href="${post.permalink()}">${post.title()}</a>
        <small>&nbsp;&nbsp;
            ${messages("Posted")}: <time class="published" datetime="${post.date.isoformat()}">${post.formatted_date(date_format)}</time>
        </small></h1>
        <hr>
        ${post.text(teaser_only=index_teasers)}
        % if not post.meta('nocomments'):
            ${comments.comment_link(post.permalink(), post.base_path)}
        % endif
        </div>
    % endfor
    ${helper.html_pager()}
    ${comments.comment_link_script()}
    ${helper.mathjax_script(posts)}
</%block>

So, let’s tweak that to be closer to the original. We put the post’s metadata in a box, add links for the posts tags, move the date there, etc.

## -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
<%namespace name="helper" file="index_helper.tmpl"/>
<%namespace name="disqus" file="disqus_helper.tmpl"/>
<%inherit file="base.tmpl"/>
<%block name="content">
    % for post in posts:
        <div class="postbox post-${post.meta('type')}">
        <h1><a href="${post.permalink()}">${post.title()}</a></h1>
            <div class="meta" style="background-color: rgb(234, 234, 234); ">
                <span class="authordate">
                    ${messages("Posted")}: ${post.formatted_date(date_format)}
                </span>
                <br>
                <span class="tags">Tags:&nbsp;
                    %if post.tags:
                        %for tag in post.tags:
                            <a class="tag" href="${_link('tag', tag)}"><span>${tag}</span></a>
                        %endfor
                    %endif
                </span>
            </div>
        ${post.text(teaser_only=index_teasers)}
        % if not post.meta('nocomments'):
            ${disqus.html_disqus_link(post.permalink()+"#disqus_thread", post.base_path)}
        % endif
        </div>
    % endfor
    ${helper.html_pager()}
    ${disqus.html_disqus_script()}
</%block>
http://ralsina.me/galleries/monospace-tut/monospace-4.png

Close enough!

Then if we click on the post title, we will see some broken details in the metadata that can be fixed in post.tmpl, and so on.

## -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
<%namespace name="helper" file="post_helper.tmpl"/>
<%namespace name="disqus" file="disqus_helper.tmpl"/>
<%inherit file="base.tmpl"/>
<%block name="extra_head">
${helper.twitter_card_information(post)}
% if post.meta('keywords'):
    <meta name="keywords" content="${post.meta('keywords')|h}"/>
% endif
</%block>
<%block name="content">
    <div class="post">
    ${helper.html_title()}
        <div class="meta" style="background-color: rgb(234, 234, 234); ">
        <span class="authordate">
            ${messages("Posted")}: ${post.formatted_date(date_format)}
            % if not post.meta('password'):
            [<a href="${post.source_link()}" id="sourcelink">${messages("Source")}</a>]
            % endif
        </span>
        <br>
            %if post.tags:
                <span class="tags">${messages("Tags")}:&nbsp;
                %for tag in post.tags:
                    <a class="tag" href="${_link('tag', tag)}"><span>${tag}</span></a>
                %endfor
                </span>
                <br>
            %endif
        <span class="authordate">
            ${helper.html_translations(post)}
        </span>
        </div>
    ${post.text()}
    ${helper.html_pager(post)}
    % if not post.meta('nocomments'):
        ${disqus.html_disqus(post.permalink(absolute=True), post.title(), post.base_path)}
    % endif
    </div>
</%block>
http://ralsina.me/galleries/monospace-tut/monospace-5.png

Details, details.

The demo site exercises most of the features in Nikola, so if you make it look good, your site probably will look good too. This monospace theme is included with nikola, if you want to use it or play with it.