⚙ Add settings to your Discourse theme

Discourse has the ability for themes to have “settings” that can be added by theme developers to allow site owners to customize themes through UI without having to change any line of code and worry about losing their changes with future updates for the theme.

:heavy_plus_sign: Adding settings to your theme

Adding settings to your theme is a bit different from adding CSS and JS code, that is there is no way to do it via the UI.

The way to add settings is to create a repository for your theme, and in the root folder of your repository create a new settings.yaml (or settings.yml) file. In this file you’ll use the YAML language to define your theme settings.

:loudspeaker: Note: You may find it helpful to make use of the Theme CLI, which tremendously simplifies the development process.

Now if you’re familiar with plugin development, this shouldn’t be a new thing to you - it mostly works the same way as adding site settings to your plugin. Just dump some valid YAML in your settings file and you’ll be good to go.

A valid theme setting must have a name and default value, that’s the bare minimum and it looks like this:

simple_setting: true

As you can probably tell, that will create a setting with the name simple_setting and it’ll have true as its default value.

Similarly, you can add something like this:

site_name: My Forums
max_avatars: 7

And you’ll have two more settings, site_name which will be a string setting with “My Forums” as the default value, and max_avatars as an integer setting with default value of 7.

You can access your settings in your JS code like this: settings.your_setting_key.

So until this point we’ve covered the simplest way to define settings. In the next section we’ll dive a bit deeper into the various types of settings and how you can use them.

:symbols: Supported types

There are 7 types of settings:

  1. integer
  2. float
  3. string
  4. bool (for boolean)
  5. list
  6. enum
  7. json_schema
  8. upload (for images)

And you can specify type by adding a type attribute to your setting like this:

  type: float
  default: 3.14

I should say that you don’t always have to explicitly set a type attribute because Discourse is smart enough to work out the setting type from the setting’s default value. So you can reduce the above example to this:

  default: 3.14

That said, you need to set a type attribute when working with list and enum settings, otherwise Discourse will not recognize them correctly.

List Setting:

  default: apples|oranges
  type: list

Enum Setting:

  default: orange
  type: enum
    - apple
    - banana


In case the difference between list and enum settings is not clear to you: enum settings allow your theme users to select only one value from a set of values defined by you (see the choices attribute).

On the other hand, list settings allow your users to create their own list (i.e. an array) of values. They can add to or remove from the setting’s default list of values.
You can set the default list of values for the setting by joining the values with a vertical bar | character. See the list setting in the example above.

You can see a real-world use case for list settings here: Linkify words in post.

:loudspeaker: Note: Pay attention to indentation when working with YAML because YAML is very picky about spaces and will throw a syntax error if your code indentation is incorrect.

json_schema type

The JSON Schema type setting is a new and unique setting type that allows you to accomplish a lot of complex settings. [1]

Creating the Setting:

Unlike other settings where you defined the type of setting using the type keyword, the JSON Schema type setting has its own keyword (json_schema) where you build out a JSON object instead. This type of setting also requires a default value in order to work correctly.

Here’s how the setting is built in the welcome link banner component:

  default: >-
    [{"icon":"info-circle","text":"about this site","url":"/faq"},
    {"icon":"users","text":"meet our staff","url":"/about"},
    {"icon":"star","text":"your preferences","url":"/my/preferences"}]
  json_schema: '{
    "type": "array",
    "format": "table",
    "uniqueItems": true,
    "items": {
    "type": "object",
    "properties": {
    "icon": {
    "type": "string",
    "minLength": 1
    "text": {
    "type": "string",
    "minLength": 1
    "url": {
    "type": "string"
    "additionalProperties": false

The JSON Schema builder is developed using the json-editor library. For more information on how to define schemas and understanding what properties and values are available, click here.

How the Setting Appears in the UI:

Once the JSON structure is built, you will see a :pencil2: Launch Editor button in your theme’s settings page.

Clicking on this button will bring up a modal which will allow admins to edit, remove, add, duplicate, and re-order custom fields for the parameters you defined in JSON.

Using the setting’s values in your templates

To make use of the setting’s values inside your theme-component, you will first need to parse the JSON using the JSON.parse() method.

For example, you might create a Glimmer Component with a getter to parse your setting’s JSON like so:

import Component from "@glimmer/component";

export default class PracticeComponent extends Component {
  get bannerLinks() {
    return JSON.parse(settings.banner_links);

You can then reference your getter inside your template file and loop through the array’s contents to output the data like so:

{{#each bannerLinks as |link|}}
  <div class="header-dropdown-toggle">
    <a class="icon" href={{link.url}} tabindex="0">
      <h3 title={{link.icon}}>{{d-icon link.icon}}</h3>

:capital_abcd: Setting description and localizations

You can add description text to your theme setting and it’ll be shown as a label directly under the setting. To do that simply add a description attribute to your setting like so:

  default: apples|oranges
  type: list
  description: "This text will be displayed under this setting and it explains what the setting does!"

And you’ll get this:


Multiple languages support

If you know more than one language, and you’d like to add support for those languages to your theme, then you can totally do that provided that Discourse supports said languages.

First of all, make sure the language you want to support is in this list:

Languages list
Code Name
ar اللغة العربية
bs_BA bosanski jezik
ca català
cs čeština
da dansk
de Deutsch
el ελληνικά
en English
es Español
et eesti
fa_IR فارسی
fi suomi
fr Français
gl galego
he עברית
id Indonesian
it Italiano
ja 日本語
ko 한국어
lv latviešu valoda
nb_NO Norsk bokmål
nl Nederlands
pl_PL język polski
pt Português
pt_BR Português (BR)
ro limba română
ru Русский
sk slovenčina
sq Shqip
sr српски језик
sv svenska
te తెలుగు
th ไทย
tr_TR Türkçe
uk українська мова
ur اردو
vi Việt Nam
zh_CN 中文
zh_TW 中文 (TW)

(If you can’t see your language in the list then you might want to take a look at How to add a new language)

Then you’ll need find your language code from the above list and use the language code as a key under the description attribute and translation as a value for the key like so:

  default: apples|oranges
  type: list
    en: English text
    ar: نص باللغة العربية
    fr: Texte français

And now you have support for 3 languages: English, Arabic and French.

:arrow_up_down: Min and max attributes

Sometimes you may need to specify limits that a setting value can’t exceed to prevent your users from accidentally breaking the theme or possibly the whole site.

To specify limits, simply add a min or max or both attributes to your setting like so:

  default: 10
  min: 5
  max: 100

You can specify limits to integer, float and string type settings. For integer and float settings, the value of the setting itself is checked against the limits. And for string settings, the length of the value is checked against the specified limits.

If your user tries to enter a value that’s not within the allowed range, they’ll see an error telling them what the min and max values are.

Access to settings in your JS/CSS/Handlebars

To have access to setting in your theme JS code, the script tag that wraps your code must have a type="text/discourse-plugin" attribute as well as version specified like so:

<script type="text/discourse-plugin" version="0.8.13">
  alert(settings.integer_setting + 1);

In CSS, you’ll get a variable created for every setting of your theme and each variable will have the same name as the setting it represents.

So if you had a float setting called global_font_size and a string setting called site_background, you could do something like this in your theme CSS:

html {
  font-size: #{$global-font-size}px;
  background: $site-background;

Similarly, theme settings are available in handlebars templates that you define in your theme whether you’re overriding a core template, or creating your own. For example if you have something like this in your theme:

<script type='text/x-handlebars' data-template-name='my-template'>
  <h1>{{theme-setting 'your_setting_key'}}</h1>

It’ll render with your setting value.

You may want to use a boolean setting as a condition for an {{#if}} block in your template, this is how you can do that:

<script type='text/x-handlebars' data-template-name='my-template'>
  {{#if (theme-setting 'my_boolean_setting')}}
    <h1>Value is true!</h1>
    <h1>Value is false!</h1>

If you have a question about this or there is something unclear, feel free to ask - I’ll try to answer/clarify as much as I can. Also this is a wiki post, so contributions to improve this are greatly appreciated! :sunflower:

:question: Frequently Asked Questions

Not directly; you’ll need to use the registerConnectorClass plugin API to add an attribute that has the current year to the connector instance behind your connector template. See an example from my theme.

My theme sets the tabs attributes which is then referenced in the Handlebars template at the end of the file. You can do something like this.set("year", compute current year here) in the setupComponent method and then in your template you can access the year value like this {{year}}.

You can use the Ember’s html-safe helper here and it will render the HTML instead of the text.

{{html-safe (theme-setting "my_text")}}

No, that’s the version of our Plugin API

We bump that every time a new method is added to the API so that themes / plugins which relay on methods that were recently added to the plugin API don’t end up breaking sites which haven’t been updated.

You don’t really need to worry about this a lot because:

  1. We don’t add new methods very often
  2. Most sites that use Discourse are updated very frequently.

To access theme settings in Ruby you need to call the settings method on a theme like so: Theme.find(<id>).settings . It will return an array which contains a ThemeSettingsManager instance for each setting and from it you can get the setting name and value by calling the name and value methods respectively.

In JavaScript and hbs templates, there is no way this can happen. The settings variable that you use to access your theme settings is local to your theme and only contains your theme settings. In hbs templates, the settings of each theme are namespaced with their theme’s primary key in the database, so conflicts are impossible.

You can create custom SCSS functions to transform settings values into whatever format you want. E.g., in your case I think all you need is a string replace function that replaces commas with whitespace and pipes with commas? Here is an implementation of a string replace function in SCSS: Str-replace Function | CSS-Tricks

There is not a supported way to access the settings of another theme/component.

No, neither of those things are possible at the moment.

:link: Related Topics

Last Reviewed by @keegan on 2022-10-06T07:00:00Z

  1. JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. For more information on JSON see this article. ↩︎