WordPress Appearance Editor – Beginner’s Guide (2021)

As the name suggests, the Appearance section of the WordPress admin panel encompasses everything that has to do with the appearance of your WordPress website.

In this guide, you’ll get an exclusive look at the different options under the Appearance tab, their purpose, and how to use them when running your blog or website.

However, the information included may vary depending on the theme, plugins or customizations you have used on your site. So, you can take the help of theme documentation and plugins for further customization.

Let’s take a look at various subsections under the Appearance tab.

Appearance Settings – WordPress Basics

Appearance> Themes

Starting with the first subsection of the Appearance tab, the Themes submenu includes all the themes installed on your website: WordPress default themes or free or paid themes. Through this section you can activate, deactivate, delete or install new themes.

Themes submenu screen

The theme that you see first in the list on the theme subsection screen is the active theme on your WordPress website.

Active theme on WordPress

If you want to change the look of your website, you can edit or upload a new theme. You can search for already installed themes by adding the theme name to the search box placed just after the Add New button on the theme subsection screen.

Find themes already installed in WordPress

You can also install new themes directly from the WordPress theme repository. To do this, click on the “Add new»At the top of the theme subsection screen.

Add a new theme option on the theme subsection screen

Once you click Add New, you will be able to browse Featured, Popular, Newest, and Favorite Themes by clicking on one of these links.

Choose the type of theme

If you have marked any themes as favorites on WordPress.org, you can browse / search them by clicking on the Favorites tab.

Find favorite themes on WordPress.org

You will see another option named “Feature filter“To apply filters on”Material“,”Functionalitythe sand “Disposition“. Once selected, click on “Apply filters»To save the settings.

Option to filter themes

You can also search for a theme by typing the theme name or a keyword in the search field at the top right of the screen.

Search for a new theme by name or keyword

If you want to download a new theme and you already have a .zip folder on your computer, you can download it by clicking on the “Download the themeButton “located just after the”Add themes»At the top of this page.

Install a new theme via the download theme option

After clicking on the “Download the themeYou will see a dialog box indicating to download the theme in .zip format. Hover your cursor over the “BrowseAnd find the .zip folder on your computer. Don’t forget to activate the theme after installing it. You are now ready to use a new theme.

Appearance> Customize

The Customize submenu option on the Appearance tab displays a preview of the active theme on your site as well as other options that can affect the appearance of your website.

Customize the submenu screen

The options in this customization section may vary from theme to theme. For example, Premium or Paid themes may have more options to configure compared to free themes or WordPress default themes.

The most common options that you will find in this section will allow you to modify various sections of your site, such as adding a title and logo, setting your website default color, personalization menus and widgets, configuring some homepage settings and adding custom CSS for the styling that will be applied to your website.

Common options in the Customize section

By default, the WordPress customizer displays the home page in the preview window. However, not all customization options affect the homepage only. Some of the personalization settings can also impact your blog or static pages. You can browse your site in the live preview window to view these other pages before posting changes to avoid inconvenience later.

Unless you click “Publish”, Only the theme preview will be updated. The changes will be applied to the theme on your live site when you click the Publish button and these changes will be applied instantly after clicking the “Publish” button.

Publish button in the Customize section

The Widgets sub-menu allows users to manage widgets and their content. The theme provides different areas to display the widgets on the front end of your website, like the sidebar widget area or the footer widget area. This means that the areas or positions where you can display widgets depend on the theme.

Widgets submenu screen

Drag widgets from the left side and drop them into any widget area on the right side to display the widget in that specific widget area on your website.

When you have finished your changes, don’t forget to click on the “to save»At the bottom of the widget options panel.

Drag and drop widgets

A WordPress user can also add more sidebars by editing the theme’s functions.php file or by installing a new plugin to add additional widget areas.

WordPress also provides standard WordPress widgets like archives, calendar, categories, custom menu, recent comments, and recent posts. More widgets can also be added by installing new WordPress plugins.

The menu settings screen allows the user to create and manage menus for their WordPress theme to display. Once a menu is created, you can add pages, articles, categories, tags, and many other types of content. As with widgets, plugins can add new custom post types that can let you add them to a menu if they are configured to do so. You can easily create menus using WordPress’s drag and drop feature.

Menus submenu screen]

Just like widget areas, menu locations also depend on the theme. Themes can provide different locations to display the menu. If there are multiple locations to display the menus, you can create a separate menu for each location if you want.

Different menu locations in the theme

Basic operations in the menu setting screen

  • Add items to a menu
  • Remove a menu item
  • Creation of multi-level menus
  • Adding a menu to your site
  • Rearrange and configure menu items

Appearance> Theme editor

The Theme Editor submenu under the Appearance tab allows WordPress users or site owners to edit their theme files directly from the WordPress dashboard. However, this is not recommended, especially if you do not have enough technical knowledge.

Theme editor submenu screen

The theme editor section can be handy if you want to edit the theme’s style.css file to add, remove, or edit existing CSS rules. However, it’s not just limited to CSS files. You can modify any type of file present in your theme such as PHP files or JavaScript files.

To use the editor, choose the theme from the drop-down menu at the top right. By default, the currently active theme is selected, but it is still necessary to cross-check before making any changes.

Choose the theme to edit files

Once you have chosen the theme, find the file you want to edit in the list on the right and click on it. The contents of the files will be loaded into the editor for modification. Once the changes have been made, click on the “Update file“At the bottom of the screen.

One issue that can occur is that if you’ve made any changes to any theme files, those changes might be lost when updates occur to the theme. For this reason, it is recommended that you create a child theme whenever you want to make changes to your theme files.


Learning the WordPress Appearance tab is essential for creating menus, submenus, customizing themes, editing themes, and many other modifications. This article explains how to customize the WordPress site using the Appearance tab of the dashboard menu.

We hope this WordPress guide can help you learn how to use the Appearance tab effectively. Do you have any remaining questions related to the sub-sections of the Dashboard Appearance tab? Contact us using the comments section below!

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