Version 2.4 is a legacy release, and these documents are no longer being maintained.


AtoM themes can be customized by editing the appropriate css and .php files, or you can create a custom theme.

Customize how an AtoM theme looks

  1. Revise website name, tagline and logo in apps/qubit/templates/layout.php.
  2. Add new logo image to web/images.
  3. Revise website name & logo section in graphic.css to style new website name, tagline and logo
  4. Replace favicon.ico in /web.
  5. Change website meta tags (e.g. title, description, keywords) in apps/qubit/config/view.yml.
  6. Change the homepage and about page content in staticPages.yml or in the user interface- see Manage static pages.
  7. Change default user interface labels in siteSettings.yml or in the user interface- see User interface labels.
  8. Change the default templates for each module in siteSettings.yml or in the user interface- see Default templates.
  9. Revise default drop-down/picklist values as well as menu options and labels in the user interface- see Manage Menus.

Create a custom theme

In most cases, it’s probably enough to build a custom theme upon an existing one and preferably to use one that relies on our base theme Dominion, so you don’t have to get your hands too dirty. It’s in the details where most of the complexities are found. Dominion is the result of a cyclic process of testing and refining by a large community of users, try not to underestimate that!

AtoM bundles two themes: arDominionPlugin and arArchivesCanadaPlugin. Their names follow the naming convention of Symfony 1.x plugins, because that is how themes are implemented in AtoM. You may want to read more about Symfony plugins later following one of their guides.

arDominionPlugin is the default theme, i.e. the theme that will be used in a fresh installation. arArchivesCanadaPlugin was developed as an extension of the former and the following instructions will show you how to create your custom theme as we did with arArchivesCanadaPlugin.

Assuming that you already have AtoM installed in your development environment (you can use our Vagrant box), let’s start building the plugin structure from the command line. Our theme is going to be called Corcovado (arCorcovadoPlugin). We are going to track its contents with git and publish them in a remote repository hosted by GitHub so we can enable others to contribute in the development. The repository is open source so you can use it for your own reference, see You can also create your own repository.

Let’s begin to do some real work:

$ cd ~/atom/plugins
$ mkdir arCorcovadoPlugin
$ git init
$ echo "# Corcovado theme" >
$ git add
$ git commit -m "Initial commit"
$ git remote add origin
$ git push

We’ve created an empty directory where our plugin is going to be contained, made a git repository of it, tracked our first file and published our work to GitHub! However, our plugin does not meet the needed requirements for AtoM to recognize it and allow us to enable it. Let’s make that happen:

$ cd ~/atom/plugins/arCorcovadoPlugin
$ mkdir config
$ cd config

Create a new file arCorcovadoPluginConfiguration.class.php with the following contents:


class arCorcovadoPluginConfiguration extends sfPluginConfiguration
  // Summary and version. AtoM recognizes any plugin as a theme as long as
  // the $summary string contains the word "theme" in it (case-insensitive).
  public static
    $summary = 'Theme plugin, extension of arDominionPlugin.',
    $version = '0.0.1';

  public function contextLoadFactories(sfEvent $event)
    // Here we are including the CSS stylesheet build in our pages.
    $context = $event->getSubject();
    $context->response->addStylesheet('/plugins/arCorcovadoPlugin/css/min.css', 'last', array('media' => 'all'));

  public function initialize()
    // Run the class method contextLoadFactories defined above once Symfony
    // is done loading the internal framework factories.
    $this->dispatcher->connect('context.load_factories', array($this, 'contextLoadFactories'));

    // This allows us to override the application decorators.
    $decoratorDirs = sfConfig::get('sf_decorator_dirs');
    $decoratorDirs[] = $this->rootDir.'/templates';
    sfConfig::set('sf_decorator_dirs', $decoratorDirs);

    // This allows us to override the contents of the application modules.
    $moduleDirs = sfConfig::get('sf_module_dirs');
    $moduleDirs[$this->rootDir.'/modules'] = false;
    sfConfig::set('sf_module_dirs', $moduleDirs);

You may also have to clear the Symfony cache, depending on the configuration of your environment but it’s not necessary in our Vagrant box. Now open the theme manager in AtoM found under the Admin menu. The new arCorcovadoPlugin should appear and you can enable it now. We have not defined our stylesheets yet so you will basically see a bunch of text and links on a blank page. We are going to fix that now.

Download the reference stylesheet and compile it:

$ cd ~/atom/plugins/arCorcovadoPlugin
$ mkdir css
$ cd css
$ wget
$ lessc --compress --relative-urls main.less > min.css

Now try to visit your AtoM site again from your browser. The aspect of Corcovado is a bit unusual and buggy but you can have an idea of how much you can achieve with just a small number of CSS selectors and expressions. Additionally, you can take advantage of the extra sugar supported by the Less CSS pre-processor, e.g. variables, functions, includes, etc…

The arCorcovadoPlugin repository includes a Makefile that simplifies the compilation of the final stylesheet artifact which you could track in your git repository or build when needed. We prefer the latter but you may prefer to avoid having to install Less and its dependencies in production.

In Dominion, we use the Gulp build system in order to automatically build the final CSS file when we make changes in our stylesheets, saving us from running that extra step. It’s a tiny improvement that really counts when you spend hours building a theme. Gulp can do much more than that, like refreshing our browser or doing live reload each time we make a change, but that’s something that we haven’t tried yet.

Symfony plugins allow you to do much more, e.g. you could include our own images, override the original templates provided by AtoM or add your owns, inject new controllers, filters, signal callbacks and much more. Take a look at our arArchivesCanadaPlugin. This theme overrides the original homepage template as well as the search box and the main header template. Other plugins in the same repository may give you more ideas of what’s possible - we’ve built much more than simple application themes through plugins, e.g. our metadata templates or our initial HTTP API work are Symfony plugins too.

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