One Theme To Rule Them All

We see that TPTB are working diligently on improving the Straight Dope Light and Dark Themes. But these still lack important features of some of the other themes. It’s been noted that


And yet other must-have features, present in one or another other themes, are still absent.

I propose we should have a public discussion here, all in one place, all in one thread: What features/details of each theme you have tried do you like? Not like? Absolutely MUST HAVE?

Let’s see if we can develop a general agreement on what the ideal theme must have, and develop a theme (or continue to develop the Straight Dope themes) in the directions of being the ideal theme that most of us Dopers want it to be!

One Theme To Rule Them All!

I’ll start with another post with some of my observations (if someone else doesn’t beat me to it!)

(ETA: I see someone else is already beating me to the next post!)

One option in Tapatalk that I used more than anything else was to use the view where you could see the first couple of lines of the latest response to a thread, instead of the first couple lines of the OP. To me, that was much more valuable, in order to see where the thread currently is, not where it began.

Here are some things I MUST HAVE, or that I see other people demanding:

(1) The proper Straight Dope Banner with the immortal words “Fighting ignorance since 1973. (It’s taking longer than we thought.)” – in nicely formatted readable text. The SD themes have this, but the other themes don’t. Ideally, ALL our themes should be updated to include this.

(2) Square avatars vs Round avatars: I, for one, don’t care, but I see many other Dopers want Square. So our Ideal Theme, or all our themes, should have this.

(3) MOUSE-OVER PREVIEWS !!! Yowza! Now that we know this is possible (I wasn’t so sure), this is a MUST HAVE.

(4) Some essential details from Sam’s Simple Theme, missing from the SD and other themes, on the Thread List pages:
(a) The OP’s name in plain-text and the time-stamp of the OP.
(b) The most recent poster’s name in plain-text and time stamp of that post.
(c ) Lose that row of five avatars. They’re just clutter.
(d) Include the columns for number of replies and number of views. SD Themes have these, Sam’s omits the number of views.

Those are the top issues for me, that I can think of at the moment. Note that the SD themes include the good banner and mouse-over but lack items (4)(a-d), while Sam’s Theme has items (4)(a-d) but lacks mouse-over and a good banner.

Thus, currently I am conflicted. Each of Sam’s and SD themes include one MUST-HAVE feature but lack the other MUST-HAVE feature.

Okay, everybody. Discuss your wishes here. In particular, note the features you’ve found in various themes you’ve tried that you’d like to see all pulled together into One Theme To Rule Them All!

Three other things:

  • Improved layout, less wasted white space. (To be sure, the Straight Dope Dark Theme eliminates ALL the white space! :slight_smile: )

  • Clearer demarcation between posts. Sam’s has a thin (barely visible) horizontal rule between posts. In contrast, the Classic (I think it was) theme is blatant, perhaps a bit too gaudy for this board. But I could live with that. Still wastes too much space.

  • If possible, some way to choose two themes, one primary and one alternate, and quickly switch between them without navigating through layers of menus and profile pages. This way, we could have our preferred Light and Dark themes, and quickly switch between them.

Another detail that I’d like, that I’m also seeing a lot of other users requesting: Display the time stamps of all posts with their actual date and time, not that “relative time before now” form.

You can see that time by hovering over any time stamp, but there’s some interest here in having that be the way all timestamps are displayed to begin with. Is this something that can be done in a Theme?

My one “must” for a theme is good visual separation between posts, which is why I’ve settled on Discourse-classic. Other than that, not that fussy, really.

Was replying to this when my internet cut out. I’m fine with whatever, really, but I would like a more precise timestamp.

  1. As discussed above have the original poster and last poster written in text and remove the avatars like in Sam’s theme.
  2. Have a box around the posts like in Material Design
  3. Make better use of the horizontal space. I am sure most users have a widescreen monitor or laptop.

My suggestions boil down to what Lantern2 has just posted above.

Another vote for widescreen. I’ve pretty much got used to it, except for that.

This. So much this. I don’t care how old a post is (and if I should get a wild hair up my ass inspiring that desire within my breast, I’ve got a little clock in the corner of my monitor, and I’ll figure it out for myself. Of course, the Discourse folks COULD give us the real timestamp in plain text, and make the elapsed time visible on hover-over.

Another thing I’d like is the ability to go to my first unread post, or even to a specific page number, like “Last Page.” Which implies that I also want pagination. WHICH I DO.

Type Shift L (Capital ELL) to go to the first unread post in the thread you are viewing. Type ? (Question mark) to see a pop-up box listing the keyboard short-cuts like that.

ETA: But generally, if you’ve read a thread, and then more posts come in, and you go back to that thread again, it automatically takes you right to the first unread post. vBulletin was supposed to be able to do that, but it never worked right. This board seems to get that right.

Ah. Thanks.

I want pagination anyway.

Now I’m okay with previews to linked web pages, but they should be unobtrusive. They shouldn’t visually overwhelm the poster’s own text.

In Sam’s Simple theme, these sometimes appear as a box with a big blue headline, a thumbnail image, and about a paragraph of text. It seems to occur when the link is to, say, a news article.

I’d prefer these to have SMALL blue headlines. I guess the thumbnail image is okay. Even less sample text content would be better — just a line or two is enough.

(Earlier I was complaining about these ads that were appearing in some posts. Turns out they weren’t ads at all — just these boxy thingies!).

I know some folks love to get an accurate feel for a link’s content before they click on it…or, like not having to click on the link at all sometimes, because these boxes give them enough of its content. I get that, but I really think the Doper’s post should take visual precedence — and this shouldn’t be something you have to turn on or off, it should be the default (for this custom theme we’re developing here).

This is rather important to get right, in part because we pride ourselves on our insistence on cites to back up claims.

I’m getting quite happy with SD light. The avatars are square now! :heart:
One thing I’d like to change, which is probably not possible, is the title of the topic in large font remaining at the top of my screen at all times. If I’m reading about pan-fried semen, I don’t necessarily want to share that with any passerby.

Which theme is the dark theme?

I also wish I had taken a screenshot of the old forum, to compare and contrast. The forum now seems to have a lot more white space.

Yes. Please change this SDMB Gods.

I’d really like less wasted horizontal space. Some people have said that the Straight Dope theme reduces that; but it doesn’t for me; I’m in that now. More than half the horizontal space available on my screen is blank space, about equal amounts on the left and the right plus a good two inches between the edge of the posts and the edge of the navigation bar.

Firefox on a Mac desktop.

– I’m rather surprised to discover that as long as I’ve got the navigation bar I don’t care about pagination.

– Kimera757, I have screenshots of the old forum; plus, believe it or not, a window with several tabs still open in it (though that’s bound to get closed eventually, at which point it’ll disappear.) Total horizontal margins on that are less than an inch; just a narrow white strip on each side. Length of text lines adjusts with window width.

I don’t miss pagination, either, especially since the post number is so prominently (yet unobtrusively) displayed now, at the bottom of the screen.

At least we won’t have any more of those occasions when someone posted “on page 3, you said XYZ!,” and someone pointed out that page numbers might be different for different people, depending on their settings.

In individual threads, this is a must for me as well. And I’m using Discourse-classic too for that reason.

The big downside of Discourse-classic is that for some reason, on the forum pages, the thread titles are listed in light blue, unlike most of the other themes.

But yeah, the wasted white space is THE big deal. I have to scroll a lot more often now than I did at the old Dope, just to read the same amount of stuff.


  1. Threads and forum pages: do away with wasted white space, both in between posts/thread titles, and to the sides of the pages.
  2. Threads: have clear visual breaks between posts.
  3. Forum pages: black thread titles on white background
  4. Everywhere: do away with bullshit clutter that looks like it’s designed for teens.