Renaming a theme and its folder


Sometimes you are going to want to rename a Theme. Maybe you’re utilising a free theme to base your development work on. Perhaps you’ve just done a huge rewrite on an existing theme. Or even you just think your theme needs a new name. If you want to modify your theme you may as well do a thorough job, as there are some annoyances that’ll show if you don’t. Below I’ve included the considerations you’ll need to account for:

  • WordPress Admin – Appearance -> Themes
    • The theme selector – all of the theme information will be displayed here. You’ll also receive update notifications for themes here. If you are modifying an existing theme you do not want these!
  • Code – Themes folder
    • Your theme folder name will likely become out of date if you’re modifying a theme. For clarity of code and the benefit of future developers we want this to change to match your new theme name!



You will lose some theme settings. So it’s best to do this before doing theme setup. However, if you’re modifying a theme you’ve already set up I’ve identified a couple areas that will be affected:

  • Widgets will be made inactive, luckily this makes it extremely easy to recover, you just need to drag them back into the right sidebar.
  • Menus locations will be lost. You can just remap the Menu to the Menu location and it should look correct again.



So where do we start? The themes style.css file actually contains all of the theme’s identifying information.

  • Theme Name – this is the display name of your theme. Any time your theme is referenced in WordPress this will be used.
  • Theme URI
    • This should be where your theme can be downloaded from. However if this isn’t going to be publicly available you can leave it blank or just use the URL of the site you are building it for. I favour the second option.
    • This is also very important if you don’t want to receive version update notifications for the theme you’ve used as a basis.
      • Some themes do some very crafty version checking. Themify for example looks up the theme version based on the name of the folder for the theme. In order to stop notifications you must change the theme folder name (covered below).
  • Version – Current version, you’ll want to increment this as you work on your theme and add new features and fixes.
  • Description – Here you want a brief descriptive line or two about what your theme does and what it’s for. If your theme is available to the world you’re going to want a more comprehensive description to sell it to potential users.
  • Author – You! Simply, your name. If you’re modifying an existing theme perhaps you’ll want to leave Author information alone to give credit to the original creator.
    • You could add a ‘Modified By:’ line if you want to give credit to the original author.
  • Author URI – As above, except website.
  • License and License URI – This allows you to suggest what developers and users are allowed to do with your theme. I won’t pretend to be all knowing about licenses, so please refer to people more knowledgeable –

So you’ve updated the themes style.css file with all of your new information, great! Now you will want to change the folder name. This can be done very simply by renaming the folder in the themes directory. Remember you will lose theme settings.

After renaming your theme folder you will need to reactivate your theme!

So now, unfortunately, we’ll have to reapply any theme settings that were done. I’ve noted the ones I know of above in to the ‘Beware’ section. However, your theme will now be fully customised based on the info in style.css, and you should receive no more pesky notification updates! Enjoy.

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I am a Web Developer who has been creating websites and hacking at WordPress for over 4 years. I'm a graduate of Surrey University where I studied Computer Science.

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