Kaleidoscope: The Color-Changing WordPress Theme

Kaleidoscope is on it’s way to being pretty much the best theme ever. Ok, not really. But it does have a number of unique feature that are at least worth giving a look. They are:

  • Each post has it’s own color. (Well, assuming that they’re written on different dates.) This allows for instant visual differentiation between them, as well as a quick estimation of their date of authorship.
  • Posts get darker with age. Hate reading an entry on a blog, only to realize that it’s years old? With Kaleidoscope you can easily tell that the post your reading is old because the color will be a darker shade. If it’s really old (over 12 years) the page will be completely black.
  • This blog's archives page, shown with the Kaleidoscope theme, on August 6, 2008.

    This blog's archives page, shown with the Kaleidoscope theme, on August 6, 2008.

  • You can easily tell when a random post was written by the background color. Posts written in winter are shades of purple and blue. Those from spring range from blue-green to yellow. Summer moves from yellow to red. Autumn is typically red to purple. You’ll never be surprised to realize that this post was actually five months old.
  • The archives page is beautiful. Taking advantage of these colors we keep talking about, the archives page for the theme includes a visually interesting and thoroughly useful quilt of all your posts. The tags, categories, and date parts of that page aren’t too shabby either.
  • The Mini Quilt, which is a sidebar-located lighter-version of the above is pretty cool. Oh, and it disappears when you’re looking at the big quilt. That’s thinking!

“All right!” you’re yelling, I get it, COLORS. Does Kaleidoscope have any other good features. Yes, some of those are:

  • Full WordPress 2.7 support. You can have threaded and paginated comments, as well as sticky posts that will be noted as such and not breaking anything else in your theme.
  • Not a fan of the default gravatars? Kaleidoscope hides them by default, substituting the comment’s number in its place. (But don’t worry, it’s also easy to disable this feature. Just change that choice on the Options page.) N.B. This feature currently only functions on pre-2.7 installs, or those with threaded comments disabled.
  • Yep, it has an Options page. Striving for a zen-like balance between too-many and too-few, the still-evolving options page lets you control the things you’re most likely to want to.
  • Tired of trackbacks breaking into the flow of the conversations in the comments? Kaleidoscope disaggregates them so you’ll never confuse them again. N.B. This feature currently only functions on pre-2.7 installs, or those with threaded comments disabled.
  • While we’re talking about comments, Kaleidoscope also features an understated but noticeable highlighting of the post’s author in the comments. N.B. This feature currently only functions on pre-2.7 installs, or those with threaded comments disabled.
  • The sidebar is, of course, widgetized.
  • It’s designed with an eye toward search engine optimization, without sacrificing utility.
  • Out-of-the-box support for custom.css. Though the theme doesn’t come with the file, any custom CSS you want to add to the theme can easily be put there. Putting your CSS in a seperate custom.css file, will allow it to style your blog, but also save you from loss if you ever need to update the theme.
  • The whole theme is constantly changing and improving. Your feedback — best offered using our contact form — is valued and encouraged.
  • The footer features a link to a random post to encourage visitors to stick around. (And it’s now compatible with WP Super Cache.)

Kaleidoscope is currently at version 0.7.9. As that pre-1.0 number suggests, it is still undergoing serious bug fixes and changes. (Try viewing the theme’s changelog to see what’s changed, and what’s likely to change in the future.) That said, this blog is using this version without problems, so there’s no reason for you to fear doing the same.

The only reason you should worry about a pre-1.0 is if you’re planning to make heavy modifications (i.e. modifying the PHP, or changing style.css). If that’s the case, I’d encourage holding off until 1.0 is released. Or using merely custom.css or child themes.

Also, as a pre-1.0 release, I really really really appreciate any feedback. (That’s two more “really”s than you’d get with a 1.0 release). Please use this form to contact me with bugs you find, features you’d like, and ideas you have. You can also use it to prod me along, if that’s your whim.

Kaleidoscope 0.7.9 is now live on the WordPress themes directory, from which you can download it. Their preview — which sadly lacks the archives page which really makes Kaleidoscope great — shows some bugs I’d managed to miss thus far, and which I shall correct shortly.

Finally, I do have something people who need to be thanked for allowing to me to pilfer their thoughts. Shaun Inman was the one who got me thinking about dates and colors. Avice D’Aragon gave me the awesome and unexpectedly elegant is_default_gravatar function. Matt Mullenweg created the Random Redirect function used for the footer link. And The Undersigned provided the first insight into how to make a theme options page. Surely there are hundreds of others who could be thanked, or will need to be thanked in the future, but that’s the list I’ve got so far.

Happy blogging!