Version 5 supported

Template inheritance

Theme types

Templates in Silverstripe CMS are bundled into one of two groups:

  • default Templates, such as those provided in vendor/silverstripe/framework/templates/ or app/templates/ folders
  • theme templates, such as those provided in themes/mytheme/templates/ folders.

The default templates provide basic HTML formatting for elements such as Forms, Email, or RSS Feeds, and provide a generic base for web content to be built on. They are also used to generate markup for many sections of the CMS.

Template types and locations

Often templates will have the same name as the class they are used to render. So, your Page class will be rendered with the templates/ template.

When the class has a namespace, the namespace will be interpreted as a subfolder within the templates path. For example, the class SilverStripe\Control\Controller will be rendered with the templates/SilverStripe/Control/ template.

If you are using template "types" like Layout or Includes, these are just folders which you need to append to your template file location (e.g. templates/Layout/ and templates/SilverStripe/Control/Layout/ in the examples above).

Note however that when using the <% include %> template tag, you don't reference the Includes/ folder. So for a template located at templates/SilverStripe/Blog/Includes/ you would include it as <% include SilverStripe\Blog\BlogSideBar %>

When choosing templates to use, unless a file has been explicitly declared, Silverstripe CMS will look through all of the relevant templates until it finds a match. In the CMS, the priority order is determined by the LeftAndMain.admin_themes configuration array, which includes all of the default templates but typically excludes theme templates. On the front-end, it is determined by the SSViewer.themes configuration array. See Cascading themes for more information.

Nested layouts through $Layout type

Silverstripe CMS has basic support for nested layouts through a fixed template variable named $Layout. It's used for keeping individual page layouts separate from top level template information (where you'll put your <head> and top-level nagivation, etc).

When $Layout is found within a root template file (ie. a template file directly in templates/), Silverstripe CMS will attempt to fetch a child template from the templates/<namespace>/Layout/<class>.ss path, where <namespace> and <class> represent the class being rendered. It will check for templates matching the current classname first, and if none are found it will search up the class hierarchy until it finds a template.

This is better illustrated with an example. Take for instance our website that has two page types Page and App\PageType\HomePage.

Our site looks mostly the same across both templates with just the main content in the middle changing. The header, footer and navigation will remain the same and we don't want to replicate this work across more than one spot. The $Layout template variable allows us to define the child template area which wil be replaced with the relevant Layout template.

<%-- app/templates/ --%>

    <% include Header %>
    <% include Navigation %>


    <% include Footer %>
<%-- app/templates/Layout/ --%>

<p>You are on a $ClassName.ShortName page</p>

<%-- app/templates/App/PageType/Layout/ --%>
<h1>This is the homepage!</h1>


Cascading themes

There are potentially multiple themes, and definitely multiple modules with template/ directories, in a typical Silverstripe project. Across all of these template directories, there could be multiple file paths matching any given template name. For this reason, a cascading search is done to determine the resolved template for any specified template name.

In order to declare the priority for this search, themes can be declared in a cascading fashion in order to determine resolution priority. This search is based on the following three configuration values:

  • SilverStripe\View\SSViewer.themes - The list of all themes in order of priority (highest first). This includes the default set via $default as a theme set. This config is normally set by the web developer.

    • Note: In the admin panel (aka the CMS aka the backend), SilverStripe\Admin\LeftAndMain.admin_themes is used instead. It explicitly does not include front-end themes.
  • SilverStripe\Core\Manifest\ModuleManifest.project - The name of the $project module, which defaults to app.
  • SilverStripe\Core\Manifest\ModuleManifest.module_priority - The list of modules within which $default theme templates should be sorted, in order of priority (highest first). This config is normally set by the module author, and does not normally need to be customised. This includes the $project and $other_modules placeholder values.


The resolution of themes is performed by a ThemeResourceLoader instance, which resolves a template (or list of templates) and a set of themes to a system template path.

For each path the loader will search in this order:

  • Loop through each theme which is configured.
  • If a theme is a set (declared with the $ prefix, e.g. $default) it will perform a nested search within that set.
  • When searching the $default set, all modules will be searched in the order declared via the module_priority config, interpolating keys $project and $other_modules as necessary. By default, your project's templates should be checked before any vendor modules.
  • When the first template is found, it will be immediately returned, and will not continue to search.

Declaring themes

All themes can be enabled and sorted via the SilverStripe\View\SSViewer.themes config value. For reference on what syntax styles you can use for this value please see the Configuring themes documentation.

Basic example:

# app/_config/themes.yml
Name: mytheme
    - theme_name
    - '$default'

Declaring module priority

The order in which templates are selected from modules can be explicitly declared through configuration. To specify the order you want, make a list of the module names under SilverStripe\Core\Manifest\ModuleManifest.module_priority in a configuration YAML file.

Note: In order for modules to sort relative to other modules, it's normally necessary to provide before: / after: declarations.

# mymodule/_config/config.yml
Name: modules-mymodule
  - '#modules-framework'
  - '#modules-other'
    - myvendor/mymodule

In this example, your module has applied its priority lower than the framework and "other" modules, meaning template lookup will only defer to your modules templates folder if not found elsewhere.

You can use Before to declare that your module should take precedence over other modules' templates.

Declaring project

The default project structure contains an app/ folder, which (if you used silverstripe/installer to generate your project) is automatically declared as the "project" via the SilverStripe\Core\Manifest\ModuleManifest.project configuration property. It effectively acts as as a module in terms of template priorities, so declaring it explicitly as the project means it can be handled specially.

For example, in the ModuleManifest.module_priority configuration mentioned above, the $project placeholder value is used to represent the project in the priorty order.

See Directory Structure to find out how to declare a folder with some arbitrary name as the project.

About module "names"

Module names are derived from their local composer.json files using the following precedence:

  • The value of the name attribute in composer.json
  • The value of extras.installer-name in composer.json
  • The basename of the directory that contains the module

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