Skins documentation

Foswiki Skins

Skins overlay regular templates to give different looks and feels to Foswiki screens.


Foswiki uses SkinTemplates 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.

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

Topic text is not affected by the choice of skin, though a skin can be defined to use a CSS (Cascading Style Sheet), which can sometimes give a radically different appearance to the text.

See other types of extensions: AddOns, Contribs, Plugins

Installing Skins

  • Use /bin/configure to browse or search the list of extensions available from, and to install the extension.
  • Or, use the tools/extension_installer script to download and install the extension.
  • Or, download an extension package from some other source, and unzip it.
  • Follow any special installation instructions in the Skin topic.

Changing the default skin

Foswiki ships with the PatternSkin activated by default. You can set the skin for the whole site (via Site Preferences), a single web (via its WebPreferences topic) or topic, for each user individually, or even per request - see Activating Skins below for more details.

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.

SkinTemplates are located by looking at a list of possible locations, including topics and files in the templates directory. The lookup process is configurable, and is described in SkinTemplates You can choose to define your skin entirely in topics, entirely in files in templates, or in a mixture of both.

The easiest way to start creating a new skin is to layer it over an existing skin, only overriding those parts of the existing skin that you want to customise. Foswiki can be configured to fall back to another skin if a template is not defined in your skin. A custom skin can be as small as one file!

Most skins, even those that look radically different to the default, use this layering approach, by basing themselves on the default skin templates (those template files with no skin name e.g view.tmpl, edit.tmpl etc). These templates provide a minimal interface that is easy to understand and build on. Another advantage of this approach is that if new features are exposed in the default templates, your skin has a chance to pick them up "for free".

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. These topics also provide practical instructions how to create custom skin template files.

ALERT! Note: Don't call your skin text or rss as these two skin names have reserved meanings, see below at hard-coded meanings.

The following template names are used for Foswiki screens, and are referenced in the Foswiki core code. If a skin doesn't define its own version of a template file, then Foswiki 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, not_a_user, 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
  • 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 search results in book view
  • searchformat - used to format search results
  • search - used to format inline search results if no formatting is specified
  • settings
  • view - used by the view CGI script
  • viewprint - used to create the printable view

foswiki.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 customisation, or adding in new features to an existing skin

You can use recursion in the TMPL:INCLUDE chain. For example, if view.tmpl contains %TMPL:INCLUDE{"foswiki"}%, the templating system will include the next SKIN in the skin path. To create a customisation of the Pattern skin, where you only want to remove the edit & WYSIWYG buttons from the view screen, you create only a view.yourlocal.tmpl:

and then set SKIN=yourlocal,pattern in Site Preferences, a particular web's WebPreferences, or in an individual topic, depending on the desired scope of the skin.

Settings in Skins

You can use template directives, ordinary Macros, and other predefined settings in your skins. Some commonly used macros in skins:

Macro: 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 Foswiki site
%SCRIPTURL% The script URL of Foswiki
%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 Go box
%TEXT% The topic text, e.g. the content that can be edited
%QUERY{""}% DataForm, if any
%QUERY{""}% FileAttachment list
%QUERY{""}% 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 - WikiGuest
%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 Site Preferences

Using Cascading Style Sheets

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

  • General documentation of CSS classes: AppendixCascadingStyleSheets
  • To see how CSS is used in the default Foswiki 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');


Skin parts

The "Go" Box and Navigation Box

The default skins include a "Go" box, also called "Jump" box, to jump to a topic.

The box also understands URLs, e.g. you can type 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 "Go" box for illustration purposes. You need to have JavaScript enabled for this to work:


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

FLASHNOTE Notifications

PatternSkin has a notification message display using the variable FLASHNOTE. For example:

  • Set FLASHNOTE = Skins documentation

See the alert at the top of this topic.

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 Foswiki 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 template directives which by default, are defined in the attachtables.tmpl template using the %TMPL:DEF directive syntax described in SkinTemplates. 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_COUNT% The sequential attachment number (starting with 1)
%A_ATTRS% The attributes of the file as seen on the upload screen e.g "h" for a hidden file

Two additional helper tags are expanded:
Tag Description
%R_STARTROW_N% (where N is the desired number of attachments in a row); true if a new row should be started. Usage:
    "'%R_STARTROW_4%' = '1'"
    then="<div class='row-fluid'>"
%R_ENDROW_N% (where N is the desired number of attachments in a row; true if a row should be closed. Usage:
    "'%R_ENDROW_4%' = '1'"

Packaging and Publishing Skins

See Foswiki:Development/ExtensionDeveloperGuide

For your own skin you are encouraged to show a small 88x31 pixel logo at the bottom of your skin:
<a href="">
     <img src="%PUBURL%/%SYSTEMWEB%/ProjectLogos/foswiki-badge.png"\
          alt="Powered by Foswiki" height="42"\
          title="Powered by Foswiki" />


Powered by Foswiki

Browsing Installed Skins

You can try out all installed skins in the SkinBrowser.

Activating Skins

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

Foswiki works by asking for a template for a particular function - for example, 'view'. The detail of how templates are searched for is described in SkinTemplates, but in summary, the templates directory is searched for a file called, 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 the SKIN preference:

   * Set SKIN = catskin, bearskin

You can override this using the URL parameter skin, such as ?skin=catskin,bearskin:

Setting the ?skin parameter in the URL replaces the existing skin path setting for the current request only.

You can also extend the existing skin path using covers:

   * Set COVER = ruskin

This pushes a different skin to the front of the skin search path, so the final skin path will be ruskin, catskin, bearskin.

There is also a cover URL parameter that can be used to push yet more skin names in front of the COVER preference.

So the final value of the skin path is given by:
  1. value of the cover URL parameter
  2. value of the COVER preference
  3. value of the skin URL parameter, if it is non-null
  4. value of the SKIN preference, if the skin URL parameter is not given

For example, if we have

   * Set SKIN = muscle,bone
   * Set COVER = epidermis

and a URL with the parameter ?cover=hair,dermis then the final skin path will be hair, dermis, epidermis, muscle, bone.

Or we might specify a skin URL parameter, ?skin=flesh. With the same preferences this will set the skin path epidermis, flesh.

Note that you cannot use the cover URL parameter to remove a skin applied by the COVER preference. Once a COVER preference is defined, it is always applied.

Hard-Coded Skins and Covers

The text skin is reserved for Foswiki 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.

The cover URL parameter has some hardcoded effects that are not present when the same setting is prepended to the skin. The templates set the CSS media type by examining the cover value.
  • cover=print sets media="all" for the print.css stylesheet. This causes the CSS to render identically for all media. What you see on the screen will be similar to what will be printed.
  • skin=print,pattern links to the print.css stylesheet only for print media. This causes the CSS to honor the current media. The screen results will be different from what is actually printed.

Related Topics: SkinTemplates, SkinBrowser, AdminDocumentationCategory, DeveloperDocumentationCategory
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