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How Do You Make a Free Template or Skin For ArticleMS?


I decided to write this article after spending many, many hours unsuccessfully trying to make myself a new template (skin) for my ArticleMS website. Now after much trial, and plenty of errors, I have finally succeeded, and achieved what I had begun to feel was not possible before. I have now made my very own ArticleMS directory template.

I had previously used the “default” template, which is nice, but I felt that I wanted the site to look more customised and different from the rest, so I attempted the changes. I might add that this is not being written by a “techie”, I do know a “little bit” about editing through using MS FrontPage HTML editor, but if I have not got this exactly right, you coders out there, then please forgive me. What I do know, is that it works fine and my site now looks great.

What do you need?

Html Editor:

Obviously the first thing you will need will be some type of html editor, like either MS FrontPage, Dreamweaver, or something similar.

CSS Template:

Why CSS template? Because that is really all you need initially, no idex.html, no header, footer or anything else, just the css style file, as the rest will all be made for you on installation. I will explain more about this later.

There are many free css templates around, just enter the search term “free css templates” into Google, and you will see millions of websites where you can view them, and download for free. The only condition that they have normally is that you leave the link back to the designer in place, normally in the footer of the page.

Before downloading the new template, it is important to find a design that you like, and one that you think will also fit in with your site. I chose a three column layout, which did prove a “little difficult” to say the least, but there are many types of css templates that you can select from. I wanted to make a “similar” template to that of an existing AMS Skin AmsNonZero, which I like, but with a different column layout.

As an example the current “default” skin used in ArticleMS 2.0 is a “two column” design, so if you selected another two column template design, with different colours, then it would be reasonably straight forward to implement your new template into your ArticleMS site.

After downloading your choice make sure that you have a file that says styles.css. If it does not say that, but something else.css, then copy the existing.css file, and then name it styles.css (this is important).

Install File:

In your existing website template files (default, AmsNonZero etc.,) you will have a file that says install.php. This file does it all for you, but you do need to edit it first!

So now you have your new template downloaded, let say it is in a folder that you have called “mysite”, copy the install.php file from either your default or AmsNonZero template folder to your “mysite” folder. I used the copy from AmsNonZero, and also copied over the “fancybox” folder, but not sure if I needed this or not. So might be an idea for you to do so as well.

So now you should have at least the following files in your folder “mysite”.

images folder

fancybox folder




Editing, before installing:

Ok, now we are ready to edit the install.php file. I know very little about php files, and as I said earlier the change of templates was achieved by me after a lot of trial and errors. However, MOST of the templates that you will need to edit later will be installed into AMS Admin by this one file.

1/. First check the version that you are using of the install.php. You must have a 2.0 Version install.php file for Ams 2.0. So check to make sure that line 3 of the install.php file says this: $version = ‘2.0’;

2/. With the install.php file open use the “find & replace” function in your editor it will save you a lot of time!

Find AmsNonZero Replace mysite

What this does, is goes through the install file removing the previous template name, and then inserting your new template name in it’s place. Under Replace use the name of YOUR template. Under Find insert the name of the file that you have copied it from (ie.default, AmsNonZero etc.,)

3/. About half way through the php code of the install.php file you will find text that will say something like this: This is the frontpage of your new ArticleMS installation.

You do NOT need to edit this now, you can edit later via Admin AFTER you have installed your new template.

4/. The following you WILL need to edit.

This depends on the install.php file that you are using, but between line 800 and 900 you will find the following code:

$queries[] = “INSERT INTO {$this->pre}blocks (block_name, block_owner, block_set, block_parent_name, block_display_name, block_url, block_description, block_active, block_type, block_html, block_php, block_cache_settings, block_settings) VALUES (‘main’, ‘default’, ‘universal’, ”, ‘Main’, ”, ‘Global Template’, 1, 2, ‘

Right under this code will be a selection of php code that you WILL need to edit in order to MATCH your styles.css file. The following code has been taken from the AmsNonZero, install.php, and will change with different templates used. You will need to edit the code marked.


By-Line goes here







‘, ”, ”, ”)”;

I changed the code to match MY styles.css file as follows:


Article Directory







‘, ”, ”, ”)”;

Make sure that you do NOT change anything other than the text highlighted. Save the install.php with all of the changes that you have made, and that is it finished.


OK now you are ready to install your new template.

1/. Upload your new skin/template in the folder marked “mysite” to the “skins” folder on your site. CHMOD the new “mysite” folder, and all files in it to “777” (So you can edit it.)

2/. Go to your Admin Panel select “Manage Skins”. Where you should see your new template listed. Click “install”, and all being well, it should install it for you onto your site.

Final Editing:

With your new AMS template installed all you now need to do is to edit it, and then view your changes. This is done in the same way as you edited your site previously, under “Edit Templates”, but make sure that you select the newly installed skin to edit.

Then insert the blocks where you want them.

I hope that you find the above useful, I do know that if I had known all of this several months ago, it would have saved me an awful lot of work. I hope it helps you too.


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