Just for Newbies! Installing Thesis 1.6 for the First Time

Installing Thesis 1.6 may look like a difficult task — all that copying, the file permissions, the renaming.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

A new article just posted, “Installing Thesis 1.6 for the First Time” has all the help you need to install Thesis 1.6 quickly and easily. It has step-by-step directions and lots of illustrations to help you plunge into the thorn-patch and emerge unscathed!

Coming up next: Upgrading to Thesis 1.6

Another New Menu! CSS Multilevel Dropdown Menu!

I just love menuing systems, and have posted my fifth one for your enjoyment.

It’s a CSS-only Multilevel Dropdown Menu, meaning that there is no JQuery, no JavaScript, and no plugin. That’s right — you can now have a multilevel dropdown menu at the same time as all of your favorite plugins like Featured Content Gallery.

Another big plus is that this menu is completely compatible with all major Windows and Mac browsers, including the notoriously hard-to-please Internet Explorer 6.

The CSS Multilevel Dropdown menu has these outstanding features:

  • CSS only — no JQuery, JavaScript or plugins!
  • Any URL can be put in any menu item, unlike the Thesis 1.6 menu
  • Completely compatible with Thesis 1.5x and Thesis 1.6
  • Works with Windows IE6, IE7, IE8, Chrome, Firefox and all Mac browsers
  • Very customizable — size, alignment, colors, borders, fonts, arrows, etc
  • Very easy to set up and use. No URL configuration required — it works right out of the box!
  • Great SEO: Menu items are included in the page HTML so Google and other ‘bots can index them
  • Coexists fully with JQuery plugins such as Featured Content Gallery
  • Very small CSS file takes up few system resources
  • Instant operation. No lags and flickering like JQuery menus.
  • Can have flyouts to the left as well as to the right.

Why would I be releasing a dropdown menu when the new Thesis 1.6 has them? Easy: mine does more than the Thesis menu! Here are three big differences, although there are many more:

  • You can put any URL in any menu position — there’s no restrictions or rules and no need to worry about parent-child relationships. You can mix and match pages, posts, category pages, and offsite URLs in any order you want them.
  • This menu has four levels with one dropdown and two flyouts. The Thesis menu has only a single dropdown.
  • This menu is more customizable. It can be customized in literally hundreds of combinations with an easy-to-use CSS file. It can even be made to look like the Thesis menu!

So why not give it a try-out on your site? It takes only a few minutes to set up and will enhance the looks and navigability of your blog greatly!

New Tip! Upgrade-Proof Your Site with the bloginfo() Tag

Thesis has the reputation of being upgrade-proof. That is, you do not lose your work in the custom folder when you upgrade.

Running against this is the necessity of putting full URL paths to images and files in the custom_functions.php file. If you use a lot of images from your /custom/images folder, it can be a real pain going through the file updating the URLs.

But you really don’t have to do that — not if you use the WordPress bloginfo() tag!

The article Upgrade-Proof Your Site with the bloginfo() Tag in the “Tips” section shows you how to use the tag to automatically put your Thesis path into URLs. That means that no matter what your Thesis folder is named, your URLs will always be up-to-date!

If you do a lot of work in the custom_functions.php file, this article is for you!

You Too Can Have a Fat Footer!

Widgetized “fat” footers are a popular addition to blog sites. There have been several threads on the DIYthemes Forums about widgetized footers, but often they are complicated and hard to follow.

A new article, Tutorial: Widgetized “Fat” Footer, offers a solution that is simple to set up, needs no configuration and can be used right out of the box! It has been tested in both Thesis 1.5x and 1.6x.

The article shows you how to create a 3- or 4-widget footer like the ones at the bottom of this page and on the Thesis Theme Tools demo site.

The widgetized footer described in the article can contain any kind of widget, video, image, or other information that can be put in the sidebars — they are widgets just like any other widgets. The footer widget items appear in the WordPress widgets panel right along with the sidebars, so they are easy to set up.

Included is a link to a zip file that contains all the required code to put into your custom_functions.php and custom.css files.

So try it out! You too can have a “fat” footer — in less than 10 minutes!

New Menu! Vertical Multilevel Dropdown Menu

You’ve probably noticed the vertical menu at the top of the left sidebar. It is used for supplementary navigation to help you quickly find anything on this site.

It is an example of the Vertical Multilevel Dropdown Menu described in a new tutorial.

You can use the Vertical Menu as your main menu or as a supplement to another menu system. It is completely compatible with beta versions of Thesis 1.6.

The Vertical Multilevel Dropdown Menu offers these outstanding features:

  • Easy to set up and use.
  • Any kind of URL, document or file can be put in the menu — no restrictions and no conditional php!
  • Dropdown menus with as many items and dropdown levels as you want.
  • Menu items may be in any order you want.
  • Dropdown menus have a sliding effect that is very appealing
  • Completely configurable as to size of menu items, font characteristics, colors, etc. with CSS.
  • Includes support for most major browsers, including most versions of Internet Explorer.
  • SEO friendly: Its unordered list is generated within the HTML of the page, so Google’s and other bots can read and index it.
  • Very fast execution. Uses Google libraries for speed.
  • In browsers with JavaScript disabled, the main tabs are still usable (but not the dropdowns)

Why don’t you give the Vertical Menu a try? You’ll find it’s an easy way to draw readers into your site so they stay longer, improving your SEO and page ranking.

New Tutorial! Tabbed Info Pane

You may have noticed a new addition to this blog page. At the top is a tabbed box containing recent posts, popular articles, and recent comments widgets, as well as a coming soon tab.

This addition is the Tabbed Info Pane, and I have just written a tutorial to show you how to use it on your site.

You will find the Tabbed Info Pane very versatile and easy to use. It can be used anywhere on the page where there is a Thesis hook, and the basic idea can even be used in widgets.

The Tabbed Info Pane can hold almost any kind of information you can put into HTML or PHP. For example:

  • Text
  • Lists
  • Tables
  • Images
  • PHP functions
  • Widgets

A few of the features of the Tabbed Info Pane are:

  • Easy to set up and use.
  • It is very flexible and can be used in many different ways.
  • Requires no plugins. It is written entirely in JavaScript and CSS.
  • Coexists with JQuery sliders, menus, featured posts plugins and other JavaScript elements
  • Its simple programming ensures trouble-free operation.
  • Can contain almost any kind of information or element
  • Highly configurable. You can change almost everything about the appearance of the Info Pane.
  • SEO friendly. The information is contained in the HTML of your page so Google’s and other bots can index it.

I hope you give the Tabbed Info Pane a try on your site. You will find it a great enhancement that takes only minutes to set up.

Updated: Multilevel Menu with CSS and JavaScript

The Multilevel Menu with CSS and JavaScript has had a major revision, both in its code and in the tutorial.

The Menu now is much easier to install, and most of the causes of installation troubles have been eliminated. It also loads and runs much faster. In addition, the Menu has been made upgrade-proof, meaning that that hard-coded URLs will not have to be changed when you upgrade.

The tutorial has been extensively revised as well. New sections on menu setup and troubleshooting have been added, and the sections dealing with the code and the installation have been updated to reflect the revisions.

If you are a user of the Menu there is no reason for you to upgrade if you are pleased with its performance. But if you want a faster-loading, upgrade-proof program, then you can update in just minutes. Here are some things to note when upgrading:

  • The CSS files “jqueryslidemenu.css” and “jqueryslidemenu-thesis.css” and the CSS you put into custom.css have had only a few revisions. Those are for ease of use, so there is no reason to replace them.
  • The JavaScript file is unchanged, so it will not need replacement, either.
  • You will need to remove the code from the header section of Thesis Options. This is now taken care of with functions in custom_functions.php.
  • There are three functions for custom_functions.php now instead of one. You will need to copy the first two, “slidemenu_head” and “slidemenu_foot” into custom_functions.php They load the necessary files into the HTML of your page and replace the code in the header section of Thesis Options. The third function, the one with your menu definitions, is unchanged, and does not need replacement.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Gary Jones for his suggestions for the Menu’s improvement. They are the basis of several of the revisions in the Menu code.

And thank you to all who have tried the Menu out, and to those on the DIYthemes Forum whose experiences with the Menu have led to my making this revision.

Four New Articles on Dressing Up Your Posts and Pages!

Let’s face it: The internet reader’s attention is hard to grab. They scan the page and if they don’t see something interesting they are gone, all in 10 to 15 seconds. How do you get the reader to look at your post or page and read past the first couple of sentences?

One key way is to make your article attractive to the eye — it pulls the reader in and keeps her reading.

Today I have put up 4 new posts on different aspects of dressing up your posts and pages. All are located under the “Tips” category “Posts & Pages:”

Dressing Up Your Posts and Pages” is the main article in the group and shows you how to really make your article pop on the page. It has sections on the following subjects essential to an attractive-looking post or page:

  • Drop caps
  • Images
  • Screenshot and code illustrations in your posts and pages
  • Adding section titles
  • Adding pullquotes
  • Using callout or highlight boxes
  • Software helpers

Make Your Pullquotes More Attractive” shows you in detail how, why and when to use pullquotes. It includes code to enhance the way your pullquotes look, how to put pullquotes into your text, and 7 tips on how to use pullquotes.

Many times you might want to use code in your post or page, or you might have a text snippet that you want users to copy. “Using the code and pre Tags for Code and to Highlight Text” gives you what you need to do this quickly and easily. It has code to put into your custom.css to make your use of the “code” and “pre” tags more legible and attractive, and shows you how to use these tags in the WordPress editor.

Finally, “Finding Legal Images for Your Posts” gives you a great deal of information on how to find free and legal images for your posts and pages. There is a list of great sites on the internet where you can find images, and it provides guidelines for understanding copyright, conditional use, Creative Commons, and fair use.

Armed with these 4 articles, you can your posts and pages more visually appealing, enhance your readers’ experience, and keep your readers coming back for more!

New Articles for Newbies: Basic Syntax for custom.css and custom_functions.php!

People who are just getting their feet wet with customizations are often daunted by the strange words and punctuation they find in the code for custom.css and custom_functions.php. Even the basic format of the CSS and PHP languages are foreign.

Two new articles just published in the Newbies “Getting Started” section, “Basic CSS Syntax for custom.css” and “Basic PHP Syntax for custom_functions.php” provide just the kind of information newbies need to get a grip on their first adventures with CSS and PHP in Thesis.

Both articles are filled with illustrations of what is being discussed, and are written in clear and concise language. They cover just the what’s needed to work with Thesis and leave the long tutorials to someone else.

The PHP article, in particular, is full of advice for preventing syntax mistakes and troubleshooting errors in the custom_functions.php file. This is because even the smallest syntax error in the PHP code will bring your blog crashing down, preventing access to your blog site, and delivering only a cryptic error message. In a large number of cases — perhaps the majority — the problem is not bad code, but some tiny syntax error.

I have many more articles on tap for Newbies, and am receiving some good suggestions for more. If you would like to see an article on a subject that is puzzling you, please leave a comment or email me directly by clicking the “Contact” button.

New Article in Tips! How to Build Two-Column Sidebar Boxes

We often don’t think of the possibilities of two-column sidebar boxes because the multimedia box is so predominant. However, Thesis makes it easy to build and use sidebar boxes that span both columns of the sidebars. They can be placed above or below the multimedia box or at other locations along the sidebar — even at the bottom.

These boxes might be used for an opt-in box form, advertisements, pictures of Spot, a flash movie, or almost anything you might dream up to put in them. In fact, many people use them instead of the multimedia box because of their flexibility.

A new article, “How to Build Two-Column Sidebar Boxes,” shows you how simple it is to build these sidebar boxes, and provides illustrations of where they can be located on the sidebar. It is an easy-to-follow tutorial that will leave you itching to try it!

Later today I will publish two more articles for newbies (and oldies, too!) about basic CSS and PHP syntax and how they are used in the custom.css and custom_functions.php file.

New Article! Create an Element and Place It on the Screen

One of the most frequent tasks in customization is creating a screen element and placing it. It could be an ad, or an image, or an opt-in box. Despite all these different uses, screen elements share a basic setup — and this article shows you how to do it!

Create an Element and Place It on the Screen” first shows you how to set up a basic box with an id in custom.css and a simple function in custom_functions.php. Then it provides you with a real-life example of putting a “Subscribe by RSS” phrase and icon on a Multilevel Dropdown menu bar. The example includes all the code required, plus illustrations showing the various stages of getting the subscribe box into place.

I have lots of interesting and useful articles on tap, some big, some small. For example, a couple of little articles on finding hex color codes and controlling spam with the .htaccess file. Then a larger article on how to build and place two-column sidebar boxes.

On another matter, my Resources tab is empty right now, and may remain so. The DIYthemes Forums have started a new section, “Resources and Tutorials” that does much of what I intended my Resources section to do. Grouped under headings are listed external internet resources for many Thesis subjects, which is exactly what my Resources section is intended to do.

As a basic principle of this site, I have said that I will not duplicate material found elsewhere, so I’m thinking about doing away with the section and finding something else to fill its place.

What do you think?