Since Catalyst Theme was first released in December 2010, it has had several updates and revisions that have added a great wealth of new and additional functionality to the theme.
In this series of posts about Catalyst Theme updates and features, we’re going to cover the main changes and new functionality that has been added to Catalyst Theme over the last 15 months or so…
If you haven’t revisited Catalyst Theme for whatever reason over the last few months, I hope this will give you some fresh ideas about its amazing capabilities and hopefully prompt you to take another look at what it might offer you now.
If you are a more current user of Catalyst Theme, it should also provide a good indication of the strength of the development effort that has gone into it, and continues to do so….
Let’s start at the beginning.
Before Catalyst Theme…
For those who remember it, there used to be another WordPress theme called Frugal Theme. It was a clean, fresh and flexible theme – minimal by default but incredibly flexible too if and as required.
It was a theme that gave a user the ability to design a WordPress site easily enabling the user to adjust and define a huge array of design settings with no need for coding.
It was written by the same guys as Catalyst Theme.
As Frugal developed there came a point when it made more sense to start over with a clean slate.
That was the opportunity to create something special…..
Catalyst Theme Framework
Catalyst Theme is fully fledged WordPress theme framework that uses the concept of Parent and Child Themes.
Catalyst Theme itself is actually the parent theme that provides the central functionality for the site’s structure while a child theme provides the outer layer of styling and design customizations.
So for example, the core Catalyst functionality would include SEO options, the type of Header, Navbar structure and composition, Page Layout structures, the number and positioning of the Sidebars and the Footer composition etc.
The child theme then determines things like the width settings for Pages and Posts, margins, padding, border etc along with type fonts, sizes and colours etc.
A parent and child theme structure like this means that the core functionality can be updated independently of the child theme in place. Likewise it is easy to swap between different child themes supported by the parent without affecting the parent functionality.
Catalyst Theme divides the various settings for core functionality into clearly defined tabs for quick navigation and ease of use – as shown here.
Catalyst Theme Core Options for the Navbars
The example above shows (some of) the Catalyst Core options for the Navbars.
The other tabs across the top of every Catalyst Core Options screen provide similar control over sitewide SEO choices, the Header, Content etc as shown.
Just to re-emphasize the point – these core options are those for the Catalyst Theme Parent.
In the case of the Navbars shown above, they allow you to specify the number of Navbars for the site, where they are located, whether they use WordPress Custom Menus for their content etc… There are no design styling options provided here.
That’s where child themes come in!
A Catalyst Child Theme Called Dynamik
The Catalyst Theme package includes a very special child theme called Dynamik. It’s an incredibly flexible and powerful child theme that allows most aspects of a site’s design to be customized.
The Dynamik Child Theme is a powerhouse of design options that allows any one to customize their site design without the need for any coding knowledge.
Example of Dynamik Child Theme Navbar 1 Settings
The image above shows the settings provided in Dynamik for just some of the settings used to design the styling for one of the two Navbars.
Even on its initial release, the Catalyst / Dynamik combination included hundreds of such settings, all cleverly organised for straightforward clarity into tabbed sections of Header, Navbars, Content, Sidebar, Footer etc etc to make it easy to find and adjust the particular settings you might be looking for.
Most child themes provide a ready made template based designs that you fill out with your content. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to change things to suit your particular requirements (without hacking the code anyway) and often requires a different child theme to be used instead.
With the Dynamik child theme however, you’re given pretty much a blank canvas and the ability to change pretty much anything and everything to how you want (without resorting to coding).
In this first post, we’ve looked at the origins of Catalyst Theme leading up to its release in December 2010.
It’s also shown how Catalyst is a WordPress Theme Framework that follows the Parent/Child Theme concept and what this means for the functionality it provides and how it is divided up.
In the next post we’ll look at more of the features and functionality that was originally included as the basis of Catalyst Theme.