Anatomy of a Plone Theme Product

The directory structure and an explanation of what all these files do.

Assuming that you've created your theme product successfully, you should have a directory structure that looks roughly like this:

plonetheme.mytheme   docs         HISTORY.txt         INSTALL.txt         LICENSE.GPL         LICENSE.txt plonetheme         mytheme                browser                         configure.zcml                  images                       README.txt                      stylesheets                      main.css                    README.txt                           configure.zcml          profiles                 default                     cssregistry.xml                     import_steps.xml                    jsregistry.xml                      metadata.xml                    plonetheme.mytheme_various.txt                      skins.xml                   viewlets.xml           profiles.zcml             skins                plonetheme_mytheme_custom_images                     CONTENT.txt                plonetheme_mytheme_custom_templates                      CONTENT.txt                plonetheme_mytheme_styles                   base.css.dtml                   base_properties.props                   CONTENT.txt                     portlets.css.dtml                   public.css.dtml            skins.zcml            version.txt    plonetheme.mytheme-configure.zcml   plonetheme.mytheme.egg-info      dependency_links.txt        entry_points.txt        namespace_packages.txt      not-zip-safe        paster_plugins.txt      PKG-INFO        requires.txt        SOURCES.txt         top_level.txt  README.txt  setup.cfg    zopeskel.txt

Things may seem a little complicated at this point, but not to worry. Let's take closer look at the main files and directories according to their respective functions.


The docs directory contains installation instructions (INSTALL.txt), license files, and the development log (HISTORY.txt).
The top-level text file contains the one-line description of the product you entered during the interactive session with ZopeSkel. Other README files exist throughout the product.

Python Package

This is a namespace package, which serves to group other packages.
This is the actual name of your theme, usually the name of the client or project you are working on.
Python tests for our package go here. Typically themes don't have much python code, and so don't have much in the way of testing.
The version of our product. This information is also contained in /profiles/default/metadata.xml.

Python Egg

The egg metadata is stored here.
This configuration file contains information used to create egg-info files.
If we wanted setuptools to handle the installation of the package and dependencies we could install via "python install" (for now, we don't).


Register appropriate GenericSetup profiles.
"Default" is the current configuration profile (only one profile is automatically created, but more could be added). Within our configuration profile we have XML files which tell GS how to configure CSS files (cssregistry.xml), Javascript files (jsregistry.xml), skin layers (skins.xml), and viewlets (viewlets.xml). Metadata.xml tracks the product version number and other metadata, import_steps.xml _____ and the presence of plonetheme.mytheme-various.txt tells GS to look to for additional methods.

Zope 3


This is the ZCML slug which must be placed in the etc/package-includes if the theme is installed as a python package (ours won't be).



Register skin layers (images, styles, templates) as filesystem directory views.


Stylesheets, Templates and More

Once you've got your theme product in place, the next step is to modify the pieces that Plone gives us, specifically templates, stylesheets, and viewlets.

Plone templates, specifically the main_template that controls the layout of a Plone site, can be grabbed from the parts/plone/CMFPlone/skins/plone_templates directory. Most of the templates that were contained here in 2.5 have been moved to eggs and are controlled by viewlets. To modify a template from this directory, copy it to your theme product, into your theme's skins/templates folder and make your modifications there.
Plone's default stylesheets can be found in your buildout/parts/plone/CMFPlone/skins/plone_styles directory. It's usually advisable to create a stylesheet specific to your theme product, e.g. "mytheme.css" (where "mytheme" is the name of your theme product), and then take any relevant styles from CMFPlone's stylesheets and customize them in your own theme product, rather than overriding entire CMFPlone stylesheets. The one exception here may be IEFixes.css, which you likely want to keep intact as a single file, since it is called in explicitly from the main_template.
It is a great oversimplification to state that most often you will be overriding viewlets from eggs commonly known as,, and Those viewlets, can be found in your buildout/eggs/ in packages named "[xx]," "[xx]," and "[xx]," where [xx] is a version number. When modified, these viewlets and their related code belong in your theme product's browser/ directory. For more information on how to work with viewlets, read this tutorial.

If modifying page templates, you won't need to restart Zope in order to see your changes take effect. Changes to python, XML or ZCML, however, will require a restart.

Customization for developers An overview of Plone 3 customization by Martin Aspeli.