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Page skins competition

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4706

15 October 2013, 12:25


Mahara 1.8 will have page skins included as experimental feature.

Skins allow users to customize the appearance of pages in ways they haven't been able to before: colors, fonts, background images, and even raw CSS. You can find more information about this feature at

This is a feature that has been long in the making and finally made it into Mahara. However, as there are still a number of things to iron out, we labelled it "experimental".

Nevertheless, we invite you to put forward your design skills and create good looking skins. Skins can be imported and exported and thus be shared amongst users and Mahara instances. At some point, we could even have a skins repository. :-)

How do I participate?

  1. Create an account on if you haven't already. This is our development site and has the latest code on it.
  2. Create a public skin that you would like to enter in the competition. Give it a title and also include your name in the skin title.
  3. Create a page that you share with all logged-in users at minimum, and apply your skin. Add a text box that contains the title of the skin as well as the theme that is underlying the page. If you added images to your skin, please also provide the copyright information (creator of the image, link to the original, license of the image).
    Note: Skins may be displayed differently depending on the underlying page theme that you have chosen for your page. Thus, experiment with the theme as well for optimal results. You can find the theme chooser in the content chooser on the left-hand side of a page that you are editing.
  4. Post the link to your page here in the forum so other people can view your page with the theme and can also play with your skin.

Can I only submit one skin?

You can submit as many skins as you like.

How much time do I have?

Skin submissions are accepted until 23 October 2013, 9 a.m. Mahara time, i.e. NZDT (please check the time zone converter for your local time).

After that, we will compile all submissions and the Mahara community will be able vote on their favorite three skins. Voting will be open until 28 October 2013, 9 a.m. Mahara time, i.e. NZDT (please check the time zone converter for your local time).

The winners will be announced in this forum discussion and will be notified via email.

What can I win?

You will be able to win Mahara swag from our shop.

1st prize: A T-shirt of your choice

2nd and 3rd prize: A mug of your choice

What else do I need to know?

  1. If you are the recipient of one of the prizes, you agree to make your skin available for download under the GNU General Public License version 3 or later. That will allow others to use the skin on their own Mahara site. In the first instance, the skins will be made available on the Mahara wiki.
  2. If you do not win any prize, you can still make your skin available for download to others on the Mahara wiki. If you do not specify a license, the GNU General Public License version 3 or later will be assumed.
  3. The prizes cannot be converted into cash prizes and are only valid in the official Mahara shop on Cafepress. Shipping fees are included.
  4. If you encounter an issue with the skins feature, please report it at However, for the duration of the competition, no updates will be made to the site unless everyone is prevented from creating skins. The skins feature is experimental and thus, issues are expected.
  5. The voting will take place online and is open to all as it will be publicized on

Have fun.

The Mahara core development team

Julian Ridden's profile picture
Posts: 37

15 October 2013, 12:32

Woops...Strike that. Ill have a skin online soon. Mistaken post!

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4706

15 October 2013, 12:38

P.S. This competition is for page skins and not themes. :-) And thus nobody needs to have their own installation in order to install a theme.

Aaron Wells's profile picture
Posts: 896

15 October 2013, 14:53

We'll probably need to write an FAQ entry about this. Wink It's one of the reasons the feature is "experimental", because it is kind of a confusing distinction.


  • Have been present in Mahara in their current form since 1.2
  • Must be uploaded directly onto the web server by a system administrator
  • Can override the page template for every single screen in Mahara, giving total control over how everything is displayed
  • Depending on site & institution settings, there may be a single theme for the whole site, or there may be a theme for every institution, or users may be able to choose their own theme, and/or a user may be able to apply a particular theme to each portfolio page


  • Are new in 1.8
  • Can be created, shared, exported, and uploaded by users via the Portfolio -> Skins page in Mahara!
  • Are less powerful than themes -- they can only change page colors, fonts, background images, and add extra CSS (basically they add one additional user-controlled CSS stylesheet to a page)
  • Can only be applied to user-created portfolio pages. They don't change the way any other part of Mahara is displayed.

When Skins & Themes Collide!

  • If a user applies a skin to one of their pages, it adds one additional CSS stylesheet to the page. This is in addition to the CSS from the theme.
  • Naturally, any particular skin might not look good in all themes, especially if the theme has changed the underlying page templates for portfolio pages
  • If you're a theme designer, the good news is that the skin stylesheet is itself a page template (skin/style.tpl). So, you can specify which page elements each of the skin settings should apply to by overriding that page template.

I hope this clears up any confusion. Laughing



Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4706

15 October 2013, 16:37

Hi Aaron,

I added the differences to the user manual at The change will be visible tomorrow morning only though upon the next update of the manual.




Gregor Anželj's profile picture
Posts: 349

18 October 2013, 10:10

My first "retro" skin -

I've developed it on my local test environment, exported it and imported into

The Google web fonts should be imported also, but they weren't. So I added a screenshot with the fonts I've used... I've also noticed that the buttons are not coloured as they supposed to be.

Gregor Anželj's profile picture
Posts: 349

18 October 2013, 17:31

Notes to myself

I've looked at skin export and import code:

  • It looks like Google web fonts don't get exported at all (only site fonts).
  • Even if they were exported they could not be imported since only site admins can import fonts - have to rethink that and the usability issues for regular users...
Wullie's profile picture
Posts: 252

22 October 2013, 22:56


One thing I've really picked up on is that it would be nice if there was a tab to change the menu colours through the skins process (at least background colour and text colour) as I've added that to the additional css in all 3 skins I've created.

Happy to raise a feature request for it if you like.


Aaron Wells's profile picture
Posts: 896

25 October 2013, 12:33

Hi Gregor,

Yeah, since only admins are allowed to install fonts, I had to disable the ability to import fonts as part of a skin import, for non-admins. Otherwise it's kind of a "back door" for non-admins to install fonts.

Although, now that we've moved fonts into the dataroot directory, there's no longer a security need to prevent non-admins from installing fonts. The only reason to prevent it, is to allow the site admins to control which fonts show up in the font dropdown menu.

So perhaps there should be some kind of system where user can install their own personal fonts?

Though actually, a Google search indicates to me that there is such a thing as "malicious fonts": . I'll consult with my security people (i.e., Hugh Davenport Wink)

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 4706

25 October 2013, 19:18

Hello Gregor and Aaron,

I wonder if it could be possible by not having to upload fonts. Google fonts can be used by just embedding a link from the site as can some other fonts online. So why would need to upload fonts altogether? I assume it's because not all fonts can be used straight from the web. But for those where that is possible, we could use that functionality instead of the required upload.

It would then be easier for users to continue the fonts they have chosen. Maybe many will look for Google fonts anyway? We could offer to allow the continued use of those fonts then and not the upload.

The upload also poses the problem that if a user incorrectly uploaded a non-free font, Mahara would be distributing it and breach copyright.

I also noticed that not all fonts have a license file, but that is required for uploading non Google fonts. Gregor: Where do you usually find this file or what should be included? I think site admins would need a bit of help there.

Happy to create bugs once we know what would need to / could be looked into.




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