Creating new Themes with Foundation and SCSS

Creating the Theme

Directory Layout

themes/THEME                    Base folder of the theme
+---theme.css                       the theme's SCSS-built CSS style sheet
+---style.css                       the theme's additional CSS (optional)
+---eden.min.css                    css.cfg-built, minified CSS (includes the two above)
+---*.css                           any additional injectable CSS (s3.stylesheets)
+---foundation                  The theme's Foundation base CSS style sheets (SCSS-built)
|   |
|   +---foundation.css              the theme's Foundation base style sheet for Left-to-Right writing direction
|   +---foundation.rtl.css          the theme's Foundation base style sheet for Right-to-Left writing direction
|   +---foundation.min.css          minified versions of the above
|   +---foundation.rtl.min.css      "
+---scss                        The SCSS environment of the theme
|   |
|   +---_settings.scss              the theme's Foundation SCSS settings (required)
|   +---foundation.scss             the theme's Foundation SCSS imports (Foundation SCSS modules)
|   +---foundation.rtl.scss         the theme's Foundation SCSS RTL overrides
|   +---theme.scss                  the theme's SCSS imports (Sahana SCSS modules)
|   +---config.rb                   the build configuration for Compass
|   |
|   +---theme/                  The theme's SCSS sources
|       |
|       +---_base.scss              the theme's SCSS base (required)
|       +---_config.scss            the theme's Sahana-specific SCSS settings (required)
|       +---_*.scss                 the individual SCSS sources (=> fall back to the corresponding default/scss/theme/_*.scss)
+---img                         Image folder of the theme
+---js                          Script folder of the theme (injected scripts)
+---favicon.ico                 The bookmark icon of the theme

Copying from Skeleton

To start a default-based theme with Foundation and SCSS, copy the static/themes/skeleton.scss folder.

This folder contains the directory structure described above, except for the CSS targets which will be created when building the theme for the first time.


CSS can be converted to SCSS using:

Foundation Components

Foundation components ("modules") are configured in THEME/scss/foundation.scss. This configuration is also used for the right-to-left variant of the foundation base styles.

Theme Settings

Styles in themes derived from default/scss can be controlled by configuration settings.

Foundation base styles are configured in themes/THEME/scss/_settings.scss. These settings control the colors and other parameters of Foundation elements, e.g. menus, buttons, etc.

Sahana-specific styles are configured in themes/THEME/scss/theme/_config.scss. These settings control the colors and parameters of Sahana-specific UI elements, e.g. data tables/lists, rheader tabs, S3 form widgets etc.

There is naturally some overlap between Sahana-specific elements and Foundation elements (e.g. some Sahana widgets using Foundation elements). In such cases, Sahana-specific styles will apply Foundation settings, unless overridden in _config.scss.

Modifying Styles

To modify Sahana styles, simply copy the respective SCSS file from themes/default/scss/theme into themes/THEME/scss/theme, and then modify the copy. The build process will then automatically use the modified copy instead of the corresponding default source.

To add new styles without copying+modifying a default SCSS source, one can simply create another _*.scss in the THEME/scss/theme folder, and then add an @import statement for it to THEME/scss/theme.scss.

Changing the Default Theme

Note that modifying any of the SCSS configurations or sources in default/scss would require to rebuild all themes based on it (including default itself, of course), in order to propagate the changes.

While this is a good way to let all themes benefit from fixes and enhancements developed for the default theme, major changes in the default theme could also conflict with the design of derivative themes. In some cases, such conflicts can perhaps be resolved by introducing additional settings in _config.scss - but over time, enforced backwards-compatibility could lead to undesirably complex SCSS that becomes hard to maintain.

To not let this kind of dependencies prevent future development of the default theme, they can be resolved by simply copying the affected, original SCSS source from default/scss into the dependent theme's THEME/scss, before changing the SCSS in default.

In the same way, a theme can be made entirely independent of default SCSS by simply copying all remaining SCSS sources from default/scss into THEME/scss, before changing the SCSS in default.

Building the Theme

Debug Versions

The theme can be built using compass:

cd static/themes/THEME/scss
compass compile

This will rebuild the following CSS style sheets as/when required:

  • foundation/foundation.css
  • foundation/foundation.rtl.css
  • theme.css

For longer development sessions, it can be convenient to let compass automatically rebuild the theme:

cd static/themes/THEME/scss
compass watch

This runs continuously, watching the file system, and will automatically run compass compile whenever a source changes.


To rebuild the minified versions of the foundation base stylesheets:

  • foundation/foundation.min.css
  • foundation/foundation.rtl.min.css

...we need to tell compass to build for the production environment:

cd static/themes/THEME/scss
compass compile -e production

Note that this only needs to be done after changing THEME/scss/_settings.scss or THEME/scss/foundation.scss, not routinely.

The eden.min.css can be rebuild as usual with the script.

Using the Theme in a Template

Adding Foundation to layout.html

Base Styles

Foundation-based themes must include the Foundation base stylesheets, ahead of any Sahana style sheets:

  • static/themes/foundation/normalize.css
  • static/themes/THEME/foundation/foundation.css
  • static/themes/THEME/foundation/foundation.rtl.css

Note that only one of foundation.css or foundation.rtl.css is loaded, depending on the writing direction for the current UI language (Left-To-Right or Right-To-Left).

The sequence to include Foundation base styles is encoded in a view template views/foundation.css.html, so it can easily be added to layout.html:

{{for sheet in s3.external_stylesheets:}}
 <link href="{{=sheet}}" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen" charset="utf-8" />

{{include "foundation.css.html"}}    <--- Foundation base styles are loaded here

{{for sheet in s3.stylesheets:}}
 <link href="/{{=appname}}/static/styles/{{=sheet}}" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen" charset="utf-8" />
{{if s3.debug:}}{{=s3base.s3_include_debug_css()}}{{else:}}
 {{# Built by /static/scripts/tools/ }}
 <link href="/{{=appname}}/static/themes/{{=theme}}/eden.min.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />


Additionally, Foundation requires loading and initialization of some scripts at the end of the <body>. The corresponding sequence is also encoded in a view template views/foundation.js.html, so it can easily be added to layout.html:

{{include "foundation.js.html"}}    <--- this loads and initializes Foundation scripts

Adding Theme Styles to css.cfg

The SCSS-built theme.css style sheet is included at the end of css.cfg:

# Final line required for parsing

It can be followed by an optional THEME/style.css to add CSS for template-specific elements as well as final overrides. The style.css style sheet is not built from SCSS, so it can be edited directly.

Last modified 22 months ago Last modified on 07/05/19 09:47:21
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