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Web & App Development

The base Zen theme is designed to be easily extended by its sub-themes. You shouldn't modify any of the CSS or PHP files in the zen/ folder; but instead you should create a sub-theme of zen which is located in a folder outside of the root zen/ folder. The examples below assume zen and your sub-theme will be installed in sites/all/themes/, but any valid theme directory is acceptable (read the sites/default/default.settings.php for more info.)

IMPORTANT NOTE: In Drupal 7, the theme system caches which template files and which theme functions should be called. This means that if you add a new theme, preprocess or process function to your template.php file or add a new template (.tpl.php) file to your sub-theme, you will need to rebuild the "theme registry." See

Drupal 7 also stores a cache of the data in .info files. If you modify any lines in your sub-theme's .info file, you MUST refresh Drupal 7's cache by simply visiting the Appearance page at admin/appearance.

  1. Setup the location for your new sub-theme.

    Copy the STARTERKIT folder out of the zen/ folder and rename it to be your new sub-theme. IMPORTANT: The name of your sub-theme must start with an alphabetic character and can only contain lowercase letters, numbers and underscores.

    For example, copy the sites/all/themes/zen/STARTERKIT folder and rename it as sites/all/themes/foo.

    Why? Each theme should reside in its own folder. To make it easier to upgrade Zen, sub-themes should reside in a folder separate from the base theme.

  2. Setup the basic information for your sub-theme.

    In your new sub-theme folder, rename the file to include the name of your new sub-theme and remove the ".txt" extension. Then edit the .info file by editing the name and description field.

    For example, rename the foo/ file to foo/ Edit the file and change "name = Zen Sub-theme Starter Kit" to "name = Foo" and "description = Read..." to "description = A Zen sub-theme".

    Why? The .info file describes the basic things about your theme: its name, description, features, template regions, CSS files, and JavaScript files. See the Drupal 7 Theme Guide for more info

    Then, visit your site's Appearance page at admin/appearance to refresh Drupal 7's cache of .info file data.

  3. Choose your preferred page layout method or grid system.

    By default your new sub-theme is using a responsive layout. If you want a fixed-width layout for your theme, delete the unneeded responsive-sidebars and responsive-sidebars-rtl css/sass files and edit your sub-theme's .info file and replace the reference to responsive-sidebars.css with fixed-width.css.

    For example, edit foo/ and change this line:
    stylesheets[all][]   = css/layouts/responsive-sidebars.css
    stylesheets[all][]   = css/layouts/fixed-width.css

    Why? The "stylesheets" lines in your .info file describe the media type and path to the CSS file you want to include. The format for these lines is: stylesheets[MEDIA][] = path/to/file.css

    Alternatively, if you are more familiar with a different CSS layout method, such as GridSetApp or, etc., you can replace the "css/layouts/responsive-sidebars.css" line in your .info file with a line pointing at your choice of layout CSS file.

    Then, visit your site's Appearance page at admin/appearance to refresh Drupal 7's cache of .info file data.

  4. Edit your sub-theme to use the proper function names.

    Edit the template.php and theme-settings.php files in your sub-theme's folder; replace ALL occurrences of "STARTERKIT" with the name of your sub-theme.

    For example, edit foo/template.php and foo/theme-settings.php and replace every occurrence of "STARTERKIT" with "foo".

    It is recommended to use a text editing application with search and "replace all" functionality.

  5. Set your website's default theme.

    Log in as an administrator on your Drupal site, go to the Appearance page at admin/appearance and click the "Enable and set default" link next to your new sub-theme.

    Optional steps:

  6. Modify the markup in Zen core's template files.

    If you decide you want to modify any of the .tpl.php template files in the zen folder, copy them to your sub-theme's folder before making any changes. And then rebuild the theme registry.

    For example, copy zen/templates/page.tpl.php to foo/templates/page.tpl.php.

  7. Modify the markup in Drupal's search form.

    Copy the search-block-form.tpl.php template file from the modules/search/ folder and place it in your sub-theme's template folder. And then rebuild the theme registry.

    You can find a full list of Drupal templates that you can override in the templates/README.txt file or

    Why? In Drupal 7 theming, if you want to modify a template included by a module, you should copy the template file from the module's directory to your sub-theme's template directory and then rebuild the theme registry. See the Drupal 7 Theme Guide for more info.

  8. Further extend your sub-theme.

    Discover further ways to extend your sub-theme by reading Zen's documentation and Drupal 7's Theme Guide.

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