Free StackOverflow-like theme: CivicStack

In the next few weeks, we’ll be releasing innovative WordPress themes for free to the public. We want our themes to be unique and provide features not found anywhere else.

So we’re very proud to release a beta version of our new CivicStack theme. This theme allows you to create a WordPress site that will allow your visitor to quickly and easily engage in conversations through two types of voting processes without the need to create a user account.

The first type of voting is based on a five-star system for the posts. The second type of voting allows you to vote on comments made by users. Visitors can vote up or down comments similar to the StackOverflow site. There’s also a user leaderboard page that shows you the top commenters based on votes that they have received.

The system defaults to a home page listing all the categories similar to a message board format. This home page is dynamically generated as you add new posts and categories. The stacking order of the categories can be set through the theme options panel.

Civicstack theme home

You can upload also thumbnail for each category through the theme panel. The theme lists the posts with the most votes as “popular topics.”

When a visitor drills down to a post page from the home page, they’ll see something similar to this:

Civicstack theme voting

Visitors can only vote up or down a comment once. The gravatars are shown from once a user has registered for an account. We also suggest using the Mingle Plugin that will allow other users to look at other user’s profiles.

You can also activate a widget that allows visitors to suggest a post by dragging over the widget called “Suggest an Idea” to the left sidebar. This will visitors to suggest an idea. Currently it saves the “idea” as a post in draft mode. So it’s up to you to edit, categorize, and publish each suggested post as needed.

To create a user leaderboard page, create a new page called “leaderboard” and then go under page templates to select “user leaderboard.” On the public side, it will display a page like this:

Civicstack theme leaderboard

Home page options
You can also specify a blog type home page in the theme panel that will show a list of blog entries. The option exists in the theme panel. See a demo of the blog home page version…

To create an “inner” category listing page, simply create a new page and choose the “Category List” under page attributes/templates module. Then link up that page on the navigation menu to show the category list.

Extending functionality with plugins
So far we’ve successfully used our theme with the following plugins: NextGen gallery (photo gallery), Smooth Gallery for NextGen, Sharedaddy (social media sharing), Google Analyticator (track visitors), and Mingle (social user profiles).

Download Stable: CivicStack 1.4b
Download Beta: civicstack-1.5a

Two finds of the day: Another WP theme finder and best WP shortcodes

Here’s another WordPress theme finder, that’s not as visual as WP Candy’s but nevertheless may be useful for some. It’s called QualiThemes. We like it as it includes both free and commercial themes and you can rate them. Our nitpicks: the original theme developer doesn’t get listed on the page and the drop down menus to filter the themes could use some visual work and spacing.


We also noticed there’s a huge list of awesome WPshortcodes at WordPress Answers by Stack Exchange including: delay RSS posts, add excerpts to pages, customize the order of the admin menu navigation, and profile the database performance.

Get it: QualiThemes | WordPress Answers


Four options for copy editing & proof reading

I’ve been writing for almost 20+ years now and I still have some embarrassing typos or grammatical errors pop up here and there. It’s not a big deal when it’s in your personal email but yikes (!) do you want that happening on your blog when the general public is reading it?

What to? You first step is an almost no brainer, install “After the Deadline” plugin for WordPress, it expands on WP’s built-in spell checker with a grammar checker. It works right inside of your WordPress post/page editor in the toolbar. It’s probably not going to fix and solve everything for you but it will catch things you miss.

The next step is to subscribe to a paid service called “Wordy.” It’s basically a service where you out source your editing to a virtual editing team. Their “Wordy” plugin lets you submit posts and pages to them for review. They claim very fast turnaround time. The workflow is integrated into WordPress so you shouldn’t have to leave your WordPress interface. Their WordPress plugin differs slightly from their pre-paid plans as you get an instant quote as to how much it would cost you to copy-edit this. For example, this post would cost us approximately $10.

If you want more of an all you can eat model, check out Grammarly. For $20/month you can copy/paste as much into their web app window. Unfortunately there is no WordPress integration but it maybe the best bang for the buck for now.

And if you’re on tight budget, PaperRater is similar to Grammarly but free, works quickly and efficiently. Just like Grammarly, you’ll have to copy and paste into a web browser but heck it’s free.

Get it: After the DeadlineWordyGrammarlyPaperRate

Enhanced GTD theme with new thread notifications


Looking for a simple and easy to install project management tool? We first wrote about GTD and P2 a few weeks ago. We are so enthusiastic about it that a version of that is becoming the first theme released on WPVerse.

What’s new? We’ve added the ability to send notifications of brand new topics to users.The templatic version of theme had notifications built in but only after someone replied to the original topic.

Our version lets you click which registered users to send a notification right above the post button. We’re planning on adding categories and a set of default widgets. Let us know if you have any other feature requests.

Special thanks to Valery K and Jam Studios for their work on this theme. Because the theme was originally released as GPL, you’re of course welcome to modify and distribute this theme as much as you want.

Download it: WPVerse modified GTD

Use WordPress to track projects and communicate better

Originally published at our sister site:

We’re big fans of Basecamp (a relatively minimalist project management web app) around here but it can get pricey if you start adding a lot of projects. We also use Twitter a lot around here.

That’s why when we ran across Automattic’s P2 theme we were thrilled. It’s a WordPress theme that includes extra functionality to combine the fast communication of Twitter and threaded messaging of Basecamp. There’s a main column where you can post your latest activity or start a message thread. Below that update area are previous conversations in a threaded view.

We were even more thrilled when we found Templatmatic’s GTD theme which adds more features like tagging posts and ability to add file attachments. This theme also adds an option to hide all the messages if a user is not logged in so it’s not exposed to the public.

These two themes aren’t going to replace Basecamp or compete with in terms of features but if you’re tired of having to search your emails for status reports and “what’s next”, then give either system a try. The only thing missing is that you can’t title your posts right now but you can filter by parent posts. You’ll need a self hosted WordPress blog site so unfortunately this won’t work if you have a hosted blog.

If you want to get some more mileage from your new “intranet”, I recommend adding these sidebar widgets to either theme to make them go further: first add the Login with Ajax plugin – so you can quickly login from the sidebar. The Tag Cloud widget is also great so users can filter messages by tags.

Also consider adding the default calendar widget to see a quick visual calendar. And finally you can add important URLs (example: logins to other systems) via the text widget or blogroll to the sidebar.

Get it: Templatmatic’s GTD theme | Original P2theme

Update: We’ve released our own special remix of GTD/P2 called P2 Reloaded

Comprehensive set of free CMS plugins

WNET a PBS station in New York uses WordPress to power their website. Now in conjunction with their developers, Tierra Innovation, they’re giving back to the WordPress community a set of unique WordPress plugins that extend its CMS functionality. Here’s a quick summary of the available plugins:

Ajax Report Comments allows users to report inappropriate comments to the administrators.

Audio Playlist manager extends the MP3 play capability of the built-in media gallery.

Billboard Manager is a JQuery-like slider or gallery. You can give it images or videos to cycle through along with unique hyperlinks for each one.

Extend KSES allows your WordPress editor to accept currently disallowed HTML tags like embed or iframe.

Facebook iLike allows your users to like your pages within your WordPress site along with customization options.

Smart Category Ordering allows you to resort your categories at both the parent and children level. This is useful if your theme automatically shows themes on a sub-navigation bar.

WPDB Profiling lets you profile your SQL database. It’s useful to track down errant plugins that might be slowing down your website.

Get it all: Tierra Innovation

Theme company spotlight: Graph Paper Press

You have probably noticed there a lot and I mean a lot of commercial WordPress theme companies out there. It seems like a new one is popping up every month. Let’s take a quick look at one of the veterans, Graph Paper Press.

Graph Paper Press specializes in photography focused themes so the grid paper metaphor and minimal use of text is prevalent in most of their themes. So you’ll see a lot of big photos blocks and less emphasis on text. The great thing about GPP is they give away most of their themes away for free use along with some light documentation. If you need support, then you’ll have to pay of course.

Let’s take a quick look at two of my favorite themes: Workaholic and Berlin.


Workaholic is a photography/art portfolio theme that I use at my site. It has a home page intro and rows of 3 across thumbnails. When you rollover the thumbnails, it reveals the title and category. It’s perfect when you think pictures are worth a thousand words.

When you drill down to an inner page, there are tabs that will allow the visitor to see multiple photos on the same page via AJAX. There’s also an automatically generated list of similar photos to the right. As a testament to the solid code behind it, I was using a version of Workaholic that is several versions behind the current version and I recently upgraded the site from WordPress 2.8 to 3.04 and the site still works beautifully with the older Workaholic theme.


Berlin is a deviation from their usual that’s meant for both photos and text. It has a large article block in the left column and there’s a smaller right column that can be used to show posts or other widgets. It’s very easy on the eyes and it’d be great for a magazine or news blog. I haven’t used Berlin myself so other than seeing the front end, I don’t know about the workflow and backend usability.

So hats off to the Graph Paper Press folks for giving back to the WordPress community in such a big way with a ton of polished free to try themes.

Get it: Workaholic | Berlin

Round up of 3 crisp and clean WordPress themes

Let’s take a look at some free WordPress themes that have a focus on strong typography and legibility. This is perfect when you want your visitors to be able to just start reading right away and not have to figure out where to start.

Some people would describe these themes as minimal or clean. They are all definitely based on some sort of obvious grid system. In all of these themes, there is a lot of negative / empty spaces which give the eye a chance to rest and not be overwhelmed with clutter. Here’s an overview of all three.

The screenshots used below in each theme mini-review will have gray boxes overlay-ed so you can see the layout of content modules.

Platform Pro by Pagelines Let’s start off with something the most complex in this theme round, Platform Pro. It’s more feature rich than the other two themes and has an theme control panel with a lot of controls.

I am using this theme right now on my website. So what do I like about it?

I like that the fonts are perfectly sized/proportioned and colored with subdued grays. I can tell the designers of this theme spent a lot of time fine tuning these things. There’s also a mixture of both of serif and sans-serif fonts which makes certain areas easier to distinguish. It supports the featured image control and has automatic thumbnail generation for the home page.

Out of all the themes in this article, this one didn’t require any tweaking to the CSS and works great out of the box. Pageline offers a “pro” version but the basic version is free.

Get it: Platform Pro

Inuit Types – Here’s a very unique theme that features a 2 column post area on the home page. Why do I like this? It gives almost equal importance to 4 or more posts and not force the reader to scroll down the page. There’s also a provision for a widget message area above the posts using large headline text.

You can see this theme in action on my site. This particular version is based from Dreamhost’s standard WordPress installation. I wasn’t happy with the stock version because it had a graphical pattern running across the top of the page and the fonts on the page were a mish-mash of Verdana, Arial, and Times. I “fixed” these in my modified version. Note that Bizz Themes has a newer revamped version of this theme with a featured post slider and a lot more features using a theme control panel. I think the early version retains the spirit of strong typography more than the newer version.

Get it: Modified Inuit Types (see bottom of styles.css for override settings) Get it: Inuit Types advanced

Clean Home by MidMo Design I like this theme because it has a very bold site name at the top and mixes both sans-serif and serif font. The layout has lots of spacing using two columns with a large main column and right sidebar. There’s also no fancy schmancy control panel. If you want that, you’d have to buy the “Pro” version for $20 at Gazelle themes. The pro version also gives you extra color schemes and support from the developers.

What don’t like? I am not crazy about the excessive use of dotted lines and underlined hyperlinks. But all that could be easily changed through the CSS. I think the Dreamhost version has more refined typography than the one that’s available from MidMo. See the official MidMo version in action used as their home page.

Get it: Dreamhost version | MidMo’s official version

More: A similar theme to Clean Home is Cleanr available at It’s actually the theme we’re currently using here!

We’re lucky that these developers have released free versions of these themes. They all excel with their crisp and clean typography. If you’re looking for a magazine style theme give Platform Pro a try. If you’re looking for pure read-ability, give the early version Inuit Types a try. And if you’re looking for a lot chunky text and a strong grid, Clean Home is a great choice.

Theme of the week: Polar Media

I started off as a print designer many eons ago. So when I see a WordPress theme with great typography, I take notice.

We think “Polar Media” by “Bizz Themes” manages to blend strong photographic elements with very sharp typography. It’s designed for magazines with blocky photo featured posts at the top of the page and posts right below that along with the typical right column widget. The footer area has a lot of customization options.

The choice of fonts, type and module spacing is easy on the eyes. Best of all, you can get the lite version for free! We haven’t heard of Bizz Themes until a few days ago but it looks they have an impressive selection of themes along with a powerful framework used across their other themes. We’ll keep an eye on them.

Get it: “Polar Media”