I’d been fortunate enough to see the Catalyst Theme Framework as it developed through its beta stages and head towards it first GA (General Availability) release in early December 2010.
Even in it’s initial incarnation, it was a spectacular step up from what the existing user base of Frugal Theme owners had to work with (and that was pretty cool in itself).
As mentioned previously, Catalyst Theme has been designed as a Parent/Child Theme with Catalyst Theme being the parent providing the core functionality and using child themes for design and styling.
Let’s look at what was included in the first version of Catalyst Theme.
Catalyst Theme Framework Version 1.0
The first version of Catalyst Theme Framework came fully equipped with:
Strong SEO Options
Catalyst Theme provides sitewide SEO settings for defining the Title Tag structure, Robots Meta data and the ability to set specific information for the Homepage such H1 Header Tag placement and meta data.
Additionally SEO options for each Page and Post can be defined such as the Title, Meta Description and Keywords.
Flexible Header Area
A Header Area that could be split in two (separate left and right areas) and that allows for Text or a Logo Image to be used and that provides hooks for the inclusion of widgetized content.
The provision of hooks throughout the theme means Image or Text content can be included quickly, simply and very easily.
Flexible Navbar Options
The ability to separately configure upto 2 Navbars is provided (you can use 0,1 or 2 navbars as desired).
Each Navbar can be configured using Catalyst’s own default menu structure or WordPress Custom Menus. They can be located above or below the Header (and in the case of Navbar 1 beside the Left Header Area), with the ability to include or exclude Pages or Categories from them as desired.
With options for including RSS, Email subscription, Twitter and other links/text, the Catalyst Theme Navbars are very easy to configure and very flexible.
Custom Page Layouts
From the outset, Catalyst Theme included the ability to create unlimited custom page layouts where each layout could have its own sidebar structure and unique set of widths for its sidebars and content pane – or as we’ll see below, the same layout and widths but with it’s own unique widget areas for different widget content!
Flexible Content Display
As a result of its Custom Page Layouts, Catalyst Theme provides an incredibly flexible approach to displaying content.
Each Page or Post can be set to follow an individual page layout structure if required – or left to follow the default layout structure specified (and which can be any layout structure you wish).
Catalyst Theme Page Layouts – per Page or Post!
Catalyst also makes it easy to set the post content for blog pages to be either the full post content or just excerpts, with settings to further define what is displayed and how.
Along with defining things like Breadcrumb trails, excerpt images and meta byline data and comments, even the first version of Catalyst provided a very full featured set of options for content display.
Constructing the Footer Area became simplicity with Catalyst Theme. Footer content is controlled using shortcode content options for the left, right and central areas. Just drag and drop (or remove) a shortcode to change where it appears – and amending the custom content shown there such as links to pages and other content is quick and easy.
Custom Widget Areas and Hook Boxes
Here’s where Catalyst Theme really starts to get powerful.
Catalyst allows us to create Custom Widget Areas (and Hook Boxes) and define which Custom Page Layouts they are included on.
That allows different pages to show different widget based content – and remember that each custom page layout also has its own sidebar structure defined too, meaning that a page can be made totally unique to the rest of the site if desired.
All without any coding required!
Very powerful, very simple!
A Child Theme with over 600 Design Options
Catalyst also includes a super powerful child theme called Dynamik which is where pretty much most elements on a WordPress site can be styled for design purposes.
From background colours to header borders to font types sizes and colours, Dynamik lets you style the site content quickly and easily using drop down selection boxes, simple data fields and color pickers.
Dynamik Options for Styling Everything
Everything from the Body background, the Wrap Border, Header area, Navbars, Content areas, Sidebars, Footer, Widgets and much much more can all be tweaked and adjusted to get exactly the look you’re after.
With no coding required!
Custom CSS Builder
And if you do want to adjust some aspect of an element that isn’t readily available in the Dynamik child theme, Catalyst includes an easy to use Custom CSS Builder.
The Catalyst Custom CSS Builder
The Custom CSS Builder allows you to build CSS code and apply it to an element easily.
Again, you don’t have to know CSS coding – just select the element (say the text for H3 heading tags, or the Navbar area etc) and select what you’d like to style and how (such as the background or border etc).
As you define what you want with easy to use selection criteria, it builds the CSS code for you automatically.
And once you’ve got a design you like, you can save and export the Dynamik Settings for use on another site, and likewise do the same for the Catalyst Core Settings – effectively saving them as your own Child Theme.
Overview of Catalyst Theme 1.0
That covers most of the major functionality that was provided in the initial release of Catalyst Theme framework.
With a full suite of design options and solid core functionality for developing flexible and well optimised site structures and content, this first version of Catalyst Theme showed it was already a substantive and powerful theme providing lots of functionality through a well organized and easy to use interface.
And as we’ll see in future posts in this series, since then more and more fantastic functionality has since been added to Catalyst Theme!