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How to Package a TWiki Skin

TWiki skin packages are named <name>Skin. An ExampleSkin package contains:

  • the data/TWiki/ExampleSkin.txt topic, with documentation, examples and installing instructions
    • use the form below to create the skin topic
    • create a 600x130 pixel screenshot and a full screen shot to the skin topic, then update the href and img src to reflect the names (needed by the TWikiSkinBrowser)
  • the pub/TWiki/ExampleSkin/ directory containing all ExampleSkin attachments:
    • .gif, .jpg, .css, .js, etc.
  • all needed templates, data files, etc... named:
    • templates/view.example.tmpl
    • templates/preview.example.tmpl
    • templates/edit.example.tmpl
    • ...
Create the skin topic:
  • Skin topic wizard:
Skin name: - use a WikiName ending in Skin, such as FooBarSkin
Description: - short one line description

  • ALERT! Do not save the topic yet, but copy the content to the clipboard.
  • Paste the content to your own skin topic in the TWiki web of your own TWiki installation.

Package the skin:

  • Read the details in TWiki.TWikiSkins and ReadmeFirst.
  • In your own TWiki installation, create a ExampleSkin.zip file containing all skin files:
    • data/TWiki/ExampleSkin.txt
    • pub/TWiki/ExampleSkin/*
    • templates/*.example.*
  • If you want to use SVN for your skin, see PluginsInSubversion.
  • TIP With the build script it is possible to package and upload the skin with one command.
Upload the skin to twiki.org repository:
  • Assuming skin ExampleSkin,
    • Create the ExampleSkin topic in this Plugins web on twiki.org (with content of your skin topic)
    • Attach ExampleSkin.zip package to this topic
  • TIP With the build script it is possible to package and upload the skin with one command.
Skin installation:
  • Download the skin to your TWiki server
  • Unzip the <name>Skin.zip file in your twiki installation directory.
  • (If you like it) set the SKIN preferences setting to <name> in your Main.TWikiPreferences or WebPreferences.
  • Check the <name>Skin topic to see if the installation is successful.
Related: SkinPackages, TWikiSkinBrowser, TWikiSkins, NewSkinTemplate, SkinDeveloperFAQ

-- Contributors: AndreaSterbini, PeterThoeny - 2011-04-19


I am new to Twiki and so need more direction than this. After spending several hours I still have not suceeded in installing FlexibleSkin-2.1.

  • What is my installation directory?
  • After the download and unzip do I FTP the FlexibleSkin-2.1 folder to pub/TWiki/FlexibleSkin-2.1?
  • Do I remove the 2.1 so it is just FlexibleSkin?
  • How specifically do I check the <name>Skin topic to see if the installation is successful? If I type FlexibleSkin into the Go Box it takes me to the FlexibleSkin topic. Does that mean I have installed the skin and just don't know it?
-- GaryMilczarek - 07 Jun 2003

Seeing your note here Gary, I thought surely there is a PluginInstallationHowTo somewhere but to my surprise didn't find one. That's a bit a documentation that is badly needed since so much of TWiki's power is found in the plugins. In the mean time, I'll try to answer your questions as best as I can.

The installation directory is simply the top level of the your TWiki directory that contains the data, template, lib, and pub directories. If you have shell access for your site, you can upload the zip archive to this location and then unzip it there. If the plugin archive if properly set up, it should place all the plugin components into their proper places. This assumes:

  • That you have the "standard" twiki directory structure inwhich your data and template directories are in the same directory as your lib and pub directories. Many of us with hosted sites are not set up this way.
  • That the plugin author did not assume there is a Plugin web as there here on TWiki.org but which is not the case on many (or most) TWiki installations. See PluginsWebOrTWikiWebForPluginPackages for more discussion on this.
Based on these complications, I have found it easier to un-zip the plugin archive locally and then ftp all the components into their rightful places on my TWiki site directory. When you unzip the plugin archive and look at it's contents, it should more or less mirror the directory structure of the TWiki directory (with the above caveats) so it should be pretty easy to see where everything goes.

All of this applies only to "basic" plugins and skins. Some, such as KoalaSkin, are quite a bit more involved to install and configure but they have more extensive instructions. Note that some plugins require CPAN modules and that's a whole other matter. On my hosted site, I have to ask support to install CPAN modules. Regarding FlexibleSkin, it has some special topics that need to be defined but I believe it comes pre-configured with a default setup that should work "right out of the box" as it were.

Regarding how to know if the skin or plugin is installed, that's an interesting question. Pretty much you just have to test it out. You're right that the place to start is to see if the plugin or skin topic is there. If it is, that's a good sign. smile Some plugins have a test right in their topic that will confirm that the plugin (and any supporting modules) are properly installed. To see if skins are properly installed, you pretty much have to "turn them on" for the site by configuring TWikiPreferences or better yet for an individual web by configuring WebPreferences. Both places contain a skin variable that has six spaces, asterisk, space, then "set SKIN = Name-ofskin". After previewing and saving the preference topic, the skin should be in effect.

Hope this is helpful!

-- LynnwoodBrown - 07 Jun 2003

Hi Gary, I've posted your question in FlexibleSkinDev where the flexible skin author and users are more likely to see it and possibly respond directly. Follow up should go there.

Lynnwood: yes I think we need an installation howto. I've personally refrained from starting one because "any day now" the structure might change, depending the outcome of TWikiUnixInstaller and PluginsWebOrTWikiWebForPluginPackages to name the two most recent 'revamp twiki installs' discussions. Of course laziness can not be discounted either. ; -)

-- MattWilkie - 08 Jun 2003

Hi, "use the NewSkinTemplate as a template": when creating a new topic on a standard TWiki install, no such template is proposed. Is there something to install in order to have NewSkinTemplate appear in the list of available topic-creation templates? Or must we copy/paste the twiki.org's NewSkinTemplate's "Raw View" into a new topic in our site? It would be nice to indicate the preferred method in the present topic. Thx!

-- AlephOfosev - 2011-04-19

I just added a wizard to create a skin package, see top of page. Please consider contributing your skin back to the TWiki community.

-- PeterThoeny - 2011-04-19

Very nice! Thank you!

-- AlephOfosev - 2011-04-20

Hi Peter! After having played with the wizard and compared its output with the older NewSkinTemplate, may I submit some points to your attention, to, maybe, correct or enhance it?

  • Impossible to create a skin whose name is not a WikiWord (it was possible before, with the NewSkinTemplate), such as AOSkin;
  • In the generated content, there are still references to "foobar" that, I think, should be replaced by the lowercased name of the skin -- e.g. aoskin -- in the lines "Test if installed" and "Base Name";
  • There are HTML tags around the %<nop>TOC% that may be better wiped out (?);
  • Should the first %<nop>SHORTDESCRIPTION% appear after or before the %<nop>TOC%?

-- AlephOfosev - 2011-05-24

Thanks Aleph for the feedback!

  • Enforcing WikiWord is done by design to ensure automatic linking. Same is the case for Plugins and Contribs.
  • Changing "foobar" to actual name makes sense. It might be possible to do that by forcing expanding CALCs during topic instantiation.
  • HTML around TOC are there by purpose to float the TOC on the right.
  • SHORTDESCRIPTION and TOC are shown next to each other due to the floating div.

-- PeterThoeny - 2011-05-25

There is not a single concise document on how to change something as simple as a skin. I have read and re-read all the docs avail. I have looked at TWikiPreferences, which says NOT to modify - but I did anyway as all the docs on here say to. I specify the skin and NOTHING. I look at WebPreferences and no option to modify the SKIN = variable there.

Why is it so hard to just say: Go here, click here, enter this, save. You expect end users to use this when something as simple as changing a skin is like trying to solve a riddle??! what a joke.

-- TWikiGuest - 2012-11-04

Scott(?), please register with you real name.

On skin activation, it is documented in TWikiSkins. The top of TWiki.TWikiPreferences has a note to not change the settings there and to overload settings in Main.TWikiPreferences. So, in the latter create a real bullet with: Set SKIN = topmenu,pattern (or whatever skin you want to activate site-wide.)

-- PeterThoeny - 2012-11-04

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Topic revision: r14 - 2012-11-04 - PeterThoeny
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