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Templates and Themes - Differences?

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Hello, this is my first day using oscommerce. Very powerful, works fine.. and i'm very excited to get my online store to work (as of now it's still only in my head)


i am having difficulty understanding the difference between templates and themes... as technically these two have approximatly the same meaning.


templates should be a totally new array of the website.. whereas themes are just some aesthetical changes?


is this right?

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I am a complete newb to this, but to me a theme is more of a superficial change (what you see) whereas a template is a change in the basic structure (how things interact and work on a fundamental level)


I could be completely wrong....

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This post by Xpajun sums it up.


Over the years of using osC I very often come across these terms: Template, Theme, Skin

It does tend, to a osC newcomer, that they all mean the same thing – that is – the look of osC

Unfortunately this is incorrect, so lets have a look at each word:


This is the one that very often confuses the new user as many osC coders are now using this term from meaning the framework (or design) of the page to what is contained within the osC program itself.

As the new osC user finds out osC comes as a working core ecommerce program – that is – it contains the basics to allow you to run an online store. There are, however, many contributions available that can be added to the core to improve it’s functionality, both for the administrators and the customers.

Many coders that specialise in osC will install a number of these contributions to the core, in some cases add one or two of their own, and then sell the result as a template

This offering may not look any different from the original package but it will do more that the original, fortunately most osC coders will offer a different look to their “template” as well…


Like the stuff that covers your body an osC skin covers the framework of the osC program, this, obviously, is the bit that makes your store different from your competitors and in many cases can or will alter the framework or shape of the original osC itself. Changing the skin can involve alterations to the stylesheet.css, in 2.2 the alteration of all the main files (these are the ones in the catalog folder) in 2.3 this just involves modifying template_top.php and template_bottom.php (do not confuse these with Template above!), again in 2.3 alteration or complete removal of the 960_grid may be necessary to achieve the graphic design you like or want


From osC v2.3 there was an addition to the core skin, this was Themeroller. Themeroller produces a Theme that controls the style of the header bars boxes and popups like the calendar as well as the shape and styling of each button, so if you don’t like your buttons in 2.3 toddle off to themeroller and produce your own look to install.


As you can see from the above a “Template” can make many changes to your store, many of the templates available to buy online are still based on old, insecure, easily hackable versions of osC, they also are renown to have have many “hard coded” modifications which turn out to be incompatible to any extra contributions you may wish to install, in addition none of these are compatible with osC v2.3.

If you are looking at one of these Templates that you like the look of, ask yourself if it is the visual design (the Skin) you like or the additional features, because 2.3 can be made to look like any Template you see on the internet as can 2.2 without the need to buy one.

At the same time there are a number of osC coders that produce templates or skins that are active members of this forum and would be able to point you in the right direction to get the right type of template you need or advise you on the degree of difficulty involved to achieve that eye catching skin that you want.


by Julian (Xpajun)




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Theme is a pack of templates. when you apply it to a website/blog, it replaces your templates. Plugin adds features to MT. A plugin can contain themes.

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