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ALERT! NOTE: This is a DistributionDocument. Please help maintain high quality documentation: This is a wiki, please fix the documentation if you find errors or incomplete content. Put questions and suggestions concerning the documentation of this topic in the comments section below. Use the Support web for problems you are having using TWiki.

TWiki Skins

A skin overlays regular templates to provide specific look and feel to TWiki screens.


TWiki uses TWikiTemplates files as the basis of all the screens it uses to interact with users. Each screen has an associated template file that contains the basic layout of the screen. This is then filled in by the code to generate what you see in the browser.

TWiki ships with a default set of template files that give a very basic, CSS-themable, look-and-feel. TWiki also includes support for skins that can be selected to give different, more sophisticated, look and feel. A default TWiki installation will usually start up with the PatternSkin already selected. Skins may also be defined by third parties and loaded into a TWiki installation to give more options. To see how TWiki looks when no skin is selected, view the current page with a non-existing skin.

TWiki topic content is not affected by the choice of skin, however a skin can be defined to use a CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) which can provide a radically different appearance to the text layout.

Relevant links on TWiki.org:

See other types of extensions: TWikiAddOns, TWikiContribs, TWikiPlugins

Changing the default TWiki skin

TWiki ships with the TopMenuSkin activated by default. You can set a skin for the whole site, a single web, a single topic, or for each user individually. This is done by setting the SKIN preferences setting to the name of a skin. If the skin you select doesn't exist, then TWiki will pick up the default templates. For example, to make the SKIN setting work across all topics and webs, put it in TWikiPreferences.

Skins can cascade using a skin path explained below. One skin can be based on another one, and extensions can introduce additional screen elements. For example, the TagMePlugin adds tag elements to the TopMenuSkin, and the TopMenuSkin is based on the PatternSkin, resulting in this skin path:

   * Set SKIN = tagme, topmenu, pattern

Defining Skins

You may want to define your own skin, for example to comply with corporate web guidelines, or because you have a aesthetic vision that you want to share. There are a couple of places you can start doing this.

The TWikiTemplates files used for skins are located in the twiki/templates directory and are named according to the skin: <scriptname>.<skin>.tmpl. Skin files may also be defined in TWiki topics - see TWikiTemplates for details.

To start creating a new skin, copy the default TWikiTemplates (like view.tmpl), or copy an existing skin to use as a base for your own skin. You should only need to copy the files you intend to customize, as TWiki can be configured to fall back to another skin if a template is not defined in your skin. Name the files as described above (for example view.myskin.tmpl).

If you use PatternSkin as your starting point, and you want to modify the layout, colors or even the templates to suit your own needs, have a look first at the topics PatternSkinCustomization and PatternSkinCssCookbook.

For your own TWiki skin we encourage you to show a small TWiki logo at the bottom of your skin:

<a href="http://twiki.org/"><img src="%PUBURL%/%SYSTEMWEB%/TWikiLogos/T-badge-88x31.gif" alt="This site is powered by the TWiki Enterprise Collaboration Platform" width="88" height="31" title="This site is powered by the TWiki Enterprise Collaboration Platform" border="0" /></a> Renders as:
This site is powered by the TWiki Enterprise Collaboration Platform

TIP Note: TWiki.org has no marketing budget, e.g. we rely on TWiki users to spread the word of TWiki. You can support the open source project by adding logos that point back to TWiki.org, and by mentioning TWiki in social media.

The standard TWiki skins show the logo in the %WEBCOPYRIGHT% variable.

ALERT! Note: Two skin names have reserved meanings; text skin, and skin names starting with rss have hard-coded meanings.

The following template files are used for TWiki screens, and are referenced in the TWiki core code. If a skin doesn't define its own version of a template file, then TWiki will fall back to the next skin in the skin path, or finally, to the default version of the template file.

(Certain template files are expected to provide certain TMPL:DEFs - these are listed in sub-bullets)

  • addform - used to select a new form for a topic
  • attachagain - used when refreshing an existing attachment
  • attachnew - used when attaching a new file to a topic
  • attachtables - defines the format of attachments at the bottom of the standard topic view
    • ATTACH:files:footer, ATTACH:files:header, ATTACH:files:row, ATTACH:versions:footer, ATTACH:versions:header, ATTACH:versions:row
  • changeform - used to change the form in a topic
  • changes - used by the changes script
  • edit - used for the edit screen
  • form
  • formtables - used to defined the format of forms
    • FORM:display:footer, FORM:display:header, FORM:display:row
  • login - used for loggin in when using the TemplateLoginManager
  • moveattachment - used when moving an attachment
  • oopsaccessdenied - used to format Access Denied messages
    • no_such_topic, no_such_web, only_group, topic_access
  • oopsattention - used to format Attention messages
    • already_exists, bad_email, bad_ver_code, bad_wikiname, base_web_missing, confirm, created_web, delete_err, invalid_web_color, invalid_web_name, in_a_group, mandatory_field, merge_notice, missing_action, missing_fields, move_err, missing_action, no_form_def, no_users_to_reset, notwikiuser, oversized_upload, password_changed, password_mismatch, problem_adding, remove_user_done, rename_err, rename_not_wikiword, rename_topic_exists, rename_web_err, rename_web_exists, rename_web_prerequisites, reset_bad, reset_ok, save_error, send_mail_error, thanks, topic_exists, unrecognized_action, upload_name_changed, web_creation_error, web_exists, web_missing, wrong_password, zero_size_upload
  • oopschangelanguage - used to prompt for a new language when internationalisation is enabled
  • oopsgeneric - a basic dialog for user information; provides "ok" button only
  • oopslanguagechanged - used to confirm a new language when internationalisation is enabled
  • oopsleaseconflict - used to format lease Conflict messages
    • lease_active, lease_old
  • preview - used for previewing edited topics before saving
  • rdiff - used for viewing topic differences
  • registernotify - used by the user registration system
  • registernotifyadmin - used by the user registration system
  • rename - used when renaming a topic
  • renameconfirm - used when renaming a topic
  • renamedelete - used when renaming a topic
  • renameweb - used when renaming a web
  • renamewebconfirm - used when renaming a web
  • renamewebdelete - used when renaming a web
  • searchbookview - used to format inline search results in book view
  • searchformat - used to format inline search results
  • search - used by the search CGI script
  • settings
  • view - used by the view CGI script
  • viewprint - used to create the printable view

twiki.tmpl is a master template conventionally used by other templates, but not used directly by code.

ALERT! Note: Make sure templates do not end with a newline. Any newline will expand to an empty <p /> in the generated html. It will produce invalid html, and may break the page layout.

Partial customization, or adding in new features to an existing skin

You can use recursion in the TMPL:INCLUDE chain (e.g. twiki.pattern.tmpl contains %TMPL:INCLUDE{"twiki"}%, the templating system will include the next twiki.SKIN in the skin path (which is explained below). For example, to create a customization of pattern skin, where you only want to remove the edit & WYSIWYG buttons from view page, you create only a view.yourlocal.tmpl:

and then set SKIN=yourlocal,pattern.

Variables in Skins

You can use template variables, TWikiVariables, and other predefined variables to compose your skins. Some commonly used variables in skins:

Variable: Expanded to:
%WEBLOGONAME% Filename of web logo
%WEBLOGOIMG% Image URL of web logo
%WEBLOGOURL% Link of web logo
%WEBLOGOALT% Alt text of web logo
%WIKILOGOURL% Link of page logo
%WIKILOGOIMG% Image URL of page logo
%WIKILOGOALT% Alt text of page logo
%WEBBGCOLOR% Web-specific background color, defined in the WebPreferences
%WIKITOOLNAME% The name of your TWiki site
%SCRIPTURL% The script URL of TWiki
%SCRIPTURLPATH% The script URL path
%SCRIPTSUFFIX% The script suffix, ex: .pl, .cgi
%WEB% The name of the current web.
%TOPIC% The name of the current topic.
%WEBTOPICLIST% Common links of current web, defined in the WebPreferences. It includes a Jump box
%TEXT% The topic text, e.g. the content that can be edited
%META{"form"}% TWikiForm, if any
%META{"attachments"}% FileAttachment table
%META{"parent"}% The topic parent
%EDITTOPIC% Edit link
%REVTITLE% The revision title, if any, ex: (r1.6)
%REVINFO% Revision info, ex: r1.6 - 24 Dec 2002 - 08:12 GMT - TWikiGuest
%WEBCOPYRIGHT% Copyright notice, defined in the WebPreferences
%BROADCASTMESSAGE% Broadcast message at the beginning of your view template, can be used to alert users of scheduled downtimes; can be set in TWikiPreferences

The Jump Box and Navigation Box

The default skins include a Jump Box, to jump to a topic.

The box also understands URLs, e.g. you can type http://www.google.com/ to jump to an external web site. The feature is handy if you build a skin that has a select box of frequently used links, like Intranet home, employee database, sales database and such. A little JavaScript gets into action on the onchange method of the select tag to fill the selected URL into the "Go" box field, then submits the form.

Here is an example form that has a select box and the Jump Box for illustration purposes. You need to have JavaScript enabled for this to work:

Bare bones header, for demo only

Note: Redirect to a URL only works if it is enabled in configure (Miscellaneous, {AllowRedirectUrl}).

Using Cascading Style Sheets

CSS files are gererally attachments to the skin topic that are included in the the skin templates - in the case of PatternSkin in the template styles.pattern.tmpl.

  • To see how CSS is used in the default TWiki skin, see: PatternSkin
  • If you write a complete new skin, this is the syntax to use in a template file:
<style type='text/css' media='all'>@import url('%PUBURLPATH%/%SYSTEMWEB%/MySkin/mystyle.css');</style>

Attachment Tables

Controlling the look and feel of attachment tables is a little bit more complex than for the rest of a skin. By default, the attachment table is a standard TWiki table, and the look is controlled in the same way as other tables. In a very few cases you may want to change the content of the table as well.

The format of standard attachment tables is defined through the use of special TWiki template macros which by default, are defined in the attachtables.tmpl template using the %TMPL:DEF macro syntax described in TWikiTemplates. These macros are:

Macro Description
ATTACH:files:header Standard title bar
ATTACH:files:row Standard row
ATTACH:files:footer Footer for all screens
ATTACH:files:header:A Title bar for upload screens, with attributes column
ATTACH:files:row:A Row for upload screen
ATTACH:files:footer:A Footer for all screens

The format of tables of file versions in the Upload screen can also be changed, using the macros:

Macro Description
ATTACH:versions:header Header for versions table on upload screen
ATTACH:versions:row Row format for versions table on upload screen
ATTACH:versions:footer Footer for versions table on upload screen

The ATTACH:row macros are expanded for each file in the attachment table, using the following special tags:

Tag Description
%A_URL% viewfile URL that will recover the file
%A_REV% Revision of this file
%A_ICON% A file icon suitable for representing the attachment content
%A_FILE% The name of the file. To get the 'pub' url of the file, use %PUBURL%/%WEB%/%TOPIC%/%A_FILE%
%A_SIZE% The size of the file
%A_DATE% The date the file was uploaded
%A_USER% The user who uploaded it
%A_COMMENT% The comment they put in when uploading it
%A_ATTRS% The attributes of the file as seen on the upload screen e.g "h" for a hidden file

Packaging and Publishing Skins

See TWiki:Plugins/SkinPackagingHowTo and TWiki:Plugins/SkinDeveloperFAQ

Browsing Installed Skins

You can try out all installed skins in the TWikiSkinBrowser.

Activating Skins

TWiki uses a skin search path, which lets you combine skins additively. The skin path is defined using a combination of TWikiVariables and URL parameters.

TWiki works by asking for a template for a particular function - for example, 'view'. The detail of how templates are searched for is described in TWikiTemplates, but in summary, the templates directory is searched for a file called view.skin.tmpl, where skin is the name of the skin e.g. pattern. If no template is found, then the fallback is to use view.tmpl. Each skin on the path is searched for in turn. For example, if you have set the skin path to local,pattern then view.local.tmpl will be searched for first, then view.pattern.tmpl and finally view.tmpl.

The basic skin is defined by a SKIN setting:

  • Set SKIN = catskin, bearskin

You can also add a parameter to the URL, such as ?skin=catskin,bearskin:

Setting SKIN (or the ?skin parameter in the URL) replaces the existing skin path setting, for the current page only. You can also extend the existing skin path as well, using covers.

  • Set COVER = ruskin

This pushes a different skin to the front of the skin search path (so for our example above, that final skin path will be ruskin, catskin, bearskin). There is also an equivalent cover URL parameter. The difference between setting SKIN vs. COVER is that if the chosen template is not found (e.g., for included templates), SKIN will fall back onto the next skin in line, or the default skin, if only one skin was present, while COVER will always fall back onto the current skin.

An example would be invoking the printable mode, which is achieved by applying ?cover=print. The view.print.tmpl simply invokes the viewprint template for the current skin which then can appropriately include all other used templates for the current skin. Where the printable mode be applied by using SKIN, all skins would have the same printable appearance.

The full skin path is built up as follows: SKIN setting (or ?skin if it is set), then COVER setting is added, then ?cover.

Conditional Skin Activation

TWiki skins can be activated conditionally using IfStatements. For example, you might want to use a mobile skin for iPhone and Android user agents, and the default skin otherwise. This example uses the print skin on iPhone and Android:

   * Set SKIN = %IF{
      "'%HTTP{"User-Agent"}%'~'*iPhone*' OR '%HTTP{"User-Agent"}%'~'*Android*'"
      then="print, pattern"
      else="topmenu, pattern"

Hard-Coded Skins

The text skin is reserved for TWiki internal use.

Skin names starting with rss also have a special meaning; if one or more of the skins in the skin path starts with 'rss' then 8-bit characters will be encoded as XML entities in the output, and the content-type header will be forced to text/xml.

Related Topics: TWikiSkinBrowser, AdminDocumentationCategory, DeveloperDocumentationCategory, TWiki:TWiki.TWikiSkinsSupplement

-- Contributors: TWiki:Main.PeterThoeny, TWiki:Main.MikeMannix, TWiki:Main.CrawfordCurrie

Comments & Questions about this Distribution Document Topic

Much of the documentation in the twiki web is specific to the standard skin. Could there be a list of sugested topics that a skin package might want to include its own version of with the skin name appended to the topic name. An obvious example would be TWikiTutorialIllustrated. It might also be useful if there were variables for the location of common skin elements.

e.g. in TWikiTutorial#5_Test_the_page_controls_ where it says:

"Go to the bottom of the page to see what you can do."

the topic could contain

"Go to the [[%TOPICACTIONURL%][%TOPICACTIONPOSITION% of the page]] to see what you can do."

That leaves the problem of where the variables are stored and how they are chaged when you switch skins.

-- SamHasler - 23 Jan 2003

As TWiki becomes more modular this will become more important.

-- GrantBow - 26 Jan 2003

Or, we can do what 90% of new skins do: put all actions on the top, leave current classic skin for old-time experts, and write docs according to new SimplerDefaultTemplates. If 90% of users and enhancements is going in one direction, why to add complexity just to be able to stay on same place? Old users know how to use Twiki. New users will prefer simpler skins, IMHO. Use KISS and LAW: Least Amount of Work.

-- PeterMasiar - 27 Jan 2003

Another idea then. In topics with images of the skin such as TWikiTutorialIllustrated could %ATTACHURL% be changed to %PUBURL%/%INCLUDINGWEB%/%INCLUDINGTOPIC% so that you could create a topic with the same images and just include the the original topic. Provided the text wasn't too skin specific this should work.

Now that I've thought of it I'm wondering if there aren't other applications for this.

-- SamHasler - 27 Jan 2003

Is this a documentation error? The section "Activating Skins" above says you can define the SKIN preference in a user topic. This doesn't seem to work. The TWiki:Plugins/SkinPackagingHowTo topic mentions only TWikiPreferences or WebPreferences.

-- RandallChuck - 23 Jul 2003

Randall, I think it depends on the level of authentication in place and the TWiki configuration. I have the same problem as you here. I have Basic Authentication on my site and TWiki only knows who I am when I am authenticated; i.e. running one of the protected scripts. view isn't listed in the htaccess so %USERNAME% shows TWikiGuest even though I've previously authenticated to edit. UserSkinSettingIgnored has an AnsweredQuestion on the subject and see TWikiUserAuthentication#Partial_Authentication for details on how make the login "persist".

http://twiki.org/ does remember the username, if I go to TWikiVariables it shows GarethEdwards for me now. Of course this means that the other 2000 people sitting behind the same proxy server also have %USERNAME% set to GarethEdwards as well. Ho hum.

-- GarethEdwards - 07 Oct 2003

If you need to batch copy all the files of one skin to another you can use the following shell command: ls pattern | sed 's/\(.*\)\.pattern\.\(.*\)/cp -f "\1.pattern.\2" "\1.newskin.\2"/' | sh

-- AndrewTutolmin - 27 Nov 2007

I've looked everywhere. Where is this variable that needs setting ("Set SKIN = catskin, bearskin")? Is it in the GUI? Or in a file? If so, what file? I've pored over 'em all and cannot find it. Thanks for any help offered!

  • To make the SKIN setting work across all topics and webs, put it in Main.TWikiPreferences. -- ArthurClemens - 28 Jul 2008
-- KristinHall - 28 Jul 2008

Thanks RadoslawKowal for the typo fix!

-- PeterThoeny - 2011-08-12

Thank you ScottFredericksen for helping improve this doc!

-- PeterThoeny - 2013-02-15

The conditional skin activation example given in this doc doesn't work for me. I've tried it in a topic and the result is correctly evaluated and shown but ignored by the internal twiki

-- Jean Marc ANSEL - 2013-12-25

Jean Marc, please as support questions in the Support web. This feature depends on the TWiki/skin version.

-- Peter Thoeny - 2013-12-25

Please use the Support forum if you have questions about TWiki features. This comment section is about the documentation of this topic.
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