WooThemes is a premium WordPress themes shop, best known for their high quality and visually attractive designs.
Among their themes, the majority has a clear focus – there are business themes, portfolio themes, multimedia themes, or magazine themes.
With Canvas, the company decided to do something different. Instead of focusing on the visuals, WooThemes created a theme which incorporates enormous power on the inside, but it is up to the user to make the best use of it.
The name perfectly indicates the purpose of this theme – it is a blank canvas, but you’re fully equipped to make a masterpiece out of it.
How Canvas works
Even though Canvas looks so plain right after activation, as soon as you dive into the available settings and options, you will see how much power you get to style your website to your liking.
When you activate Canvas, a new collapsible menu is added in your WordPress admin section. It provides access to all Canvas features and options.
Theme Options is the main section where all the visual styling options are available. You have separate sections for virtually every part of your site:
- General styling
- General typography
- Header styling
- Post styling
- Widget styling
- Footer styling
- Navigation styling
Just have a look:
When you dive into individual sections, you get a lot of detailed options. Let’s for example have a look at post styling:
It’s just a small part of the available settings – I don’t want to get this screenshot crazy long.
Despite its apparent simplicity (on the outside), Canvas comes with a number of specialized templates to make your life even easier.
- Magazine template
- Business template
I find the magazine and business template to be especially useful. They allow you to quickly set up a custom frontpage, with featured posts and a slider. The slider is built into Canvas, so you don’t have to play with third-party plugins to get that functionality.
Layout manager is another powerful feature. While Canvas comes with a number of layouts predefined (single sidebar, double sidebars, on either side, etc.), and you can select from a number of predefined site widths, with the Layout Manager, you can freely set the width of your main content column and your sidebars.
It all happens by dragging a divider which splits your columns – you don’t have to enter any values manually or do any math. Just have a look:
When you’re writing a post or a page, you can easily assign any of the layouts in the editing screen. This means great flexibility. For example, if you need a landing page without any of the sidebars, it’s just one click away:
The one thing that is missing, or that I can’t find, is a way to easily assign individual layouts to categories / archive pages.
The Canvas theme is really full of great features. Some of the most powerful ones include the Hook Manager and the Sidebar Manager.
The Canvas theme has many “hooks” within its code, and with the Hook Manager, you get a number of text fields to enter your code. Whatever you put into those fields, gets attached to the hook.
Here’s what it looks like:
What could you use hooks for?
- Injecting your ads outside of of the widget areas
- Embedding newsletter forms, for example at the end of every post
- Embedding the output of various WP plugins in various places outside of your widget areas
The number of hooks is really huge, so you get convenient access to virtually any part of your template. Here’s a quick overview – the text in red is where you can place your snippets of code, using hooks.
There’s no doubt that you can do a lot of customization with the hook manager alone, but the Sidebar Manager is at least equally impressive.
Yes, it is great that with a WordPress blog, you can add many widgets to your sidebars. There’s your Twitter stream, or your recent posts, or your recent comments. All well and good… but it gets boring after a while, and honestly, is not very flexible. If you’re building anything more advanced than a simple blog, you will want to customize your sidebars depending on sections of your site.
The Sidebar Manager is designed to serve exactly this purpose. It allows you to create custom sidebars which are displayed only in specific sections of your site, replacing the default sidebar. You can add custom sidebars for:
- Individual pages
- Page templates
- Post tags
- Template hierarchy (i.e. for example for single posts or for search results)
- Custom post types
- Post type archives
To illustrate it a bit more – here’s the Sidebar Manager interface where I’m adding a custom sidebar for single posts. It’s called “Singular”, and it will replace my primary sidebar.
When done, I can navigate to my Widgets settings. As you can see, my Singular sidebar appears among other positions available for widgets, and whenever someone displays a full post or page, it will replace the default primary sidebar.
Canvas has a separate section for setting your SEO option, but admittedly, this is the weakest part of the theme. There are some basic options to configure the title tag, archive indexing, description meta and keywords meta, but it is more than likely that you will want to use a more powerful plugin to do the job properly.
Luckily, all SEO settings in Canvas can be easily disabled, so it does not interfere with third-party plugins.
With Canvas, it’s all about power for the user. I can build WordPress sites much faster than with any of the standard themes, and I can customize them exactly to my liking. With the help of hooks, sidebar manager and layout manager, the site is configured exactly as I need it to be.
Obviously, Canvas looks very plain initially (although I like even the default look). If you’re after a cookie-cutter theme with some fancy graphics out of the box, you’d better look elsewhere. But I was always disappointed in the lack of flexibility of such themes.
Canvas comes with very detailed documentation, including many professional video tutorials. It’s worth studying, as almost all possible questions are answered, and you’ll quickly become proficient with Canvas.
What I don’t like
I only wish that I could also execute PHP code in the Hook Manager. Currently, it is not supported. On the other hand, this feature could be dangerous to less advanced users, and users who require such functionality, are most likely capable of making direct edits in the theme files.
The SEO settings are not impressive either, but that is very easy to mend with one of the many free and powerful SEO plugins.
There are several ways to buy themes from WooThemes.
First of all, you can buy your selected theme for $70, and you also get two bonus themes from their collection of standard themes. You can use your themes on an unlimited number of domains.
You can also get a developer package for $150, with 3 bonus themes, plus layered Photoshop files.
But you can also join the club, for either $125 startup fee, and then $15 per month for the standard subscription (without PSD files), or for $200 startup fee, and then $20 per month for the developer subscription (including PSD files).
As a subscriber, you get access to all the past themes, plus at least 2 new themes per month. Even if you cancel, you can continue using your themes – you just don’t get access to new themes or updates.
It is all nicely detailed on the official pricing page.
This site is running on Canvast – I don’t think I can give any better recommendation than that. Canvas is very flexible, and very user friendly.
So, if you’re after a premium theme which will serve as a solid foundation for many projects, you will do yourself a great favor by investing in Canvas.