Underscores.Me: A Starting Point For Every WordPress Theme Developer

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems out there, and best of all – yes, it’s free, but that’s not it – it has a massive community around it. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, is actually aware of this simple fact. That is why they just launched Underscores.Me – it’s for the community of their theme developers.

Well, to be more exact, it’s for the community of developers that work on this very particular theme called _s (pronounced underscores). The so-called “starter theme” is actually a fork of Toolbox, previously used as a starter theme to build free and premium themes on WordPress.com.

Starter – Parent

So, as time passed, the Toolbox theme was used and it worked. However, people used it as a parent theme. Now, I won’t get too much into technicalities here, so I’ll put it this way: a starter theme is a theme used for hacking it. It’s used to mold it into something new, better, different, and when the transformation is done, the output is a parent theme which can then be used as your WordPress template.

That being said, it’s only natural that hackers – people who know their code – mess around with starter themes and modify the code inside them, right? Wrong – many bloggers and non-tech people used Toolbox starter theme as their parent theme and went to change CSS classes and some other stuff.

Create your own theme

What they didn’t know is that when you’re working with a starter theme – you don’t change anything! So, Toolbox was misused and developers needed another solution. The _s theme was featured and everything got a new direction.


The Underscores theme featured some additional starter styles, a generic framework to which you could add your own CSS, a script that handles menu on smaller screen and a bunch of more useful stuff like a sample theme options.

Underscores.Me is actually a homepage for the theme’s community:

Hi, I’m a starter theme called _s, or underscores, if you like. I’m a theme meant for hacking so don’t use me as a Parent Theme. Instead try turning me into the next, most awesome, WordPress theme out there. That’s what I’m here for.

If you’re into WordPress theme development, you’ll love Underscores.Me (both the theme and the site) and here are some features of _s:

  • Just the right amount of lean, well-commented, modern, HTML5 templates;
  • A helpful 404 template;
  • A optional sample custom header implementation in inc/custom-header.php;
  • Custom template tags in inc/template-tags that keep your templates clean and neat and prevent code duplication;
  • Sample theme options in /inc/theme-options/;
  • Some small tweaks in /inc/tweaks.php that can improve your theming experience;
  • Keyboard navigation for image attachment templates, in js/keyboard-navigation.js;
  • A script at js/small-menu.js that makes your menu a toggled dropdown on small screens (like your phone), ready for CSS artistry;
  • 5 sample CSS layouts in /layouts: Two sidebars on the left, two sidebars on the right, a sidebar on either side of your content, and two-column layouts with sidebars on either side;
  • Smartly organized starter CSS in style.css that will help you to quickly get your design off the ground;
  • The GPL license in license.txt. Use it to make something cool.

So, download the Underscores theme, create a new one and contribute to the theme developing community as well as to the WordPress users!


Nikola Krajacic

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