Switching from Thesis to Canvas by WooThemes

The WOOSEO Importer is no longer available. Please use SEO Data Transporter.

Woo Themes Logoon July 14 there was a debate between WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg and Thesis creator Chris Pearson.  The debate was about Thesis not following the GPL guidelines.  My view on this topic is very simple.  I love open source and the idea of sharing ideas and techniques to improve on the overall quality of a system.  To me that is what it is all about. However, I do understand Chris’s points on sharing something that has taken a lot of work to compile.  To be brief, I did not switch to Canvas because of Thesis not being GPL compliant.  As a matter of fact, one week after the debate Chris caved in and made Thesis a split GPL license.  That means that parts of Thesis as GPL and parts are not.

So why did I switch?

I switched because of Chris’s attitude during the debate.  Chris was cutting Matt off which is very disrespectful.  It almost seamed like Chris did not want Matt to speak at all.  Yes.  I said I am switching because of his attitude.  Ok, so the GPL issue bugged me too.  I believe in the growth of all things the WordPress community has to offer.

Watch the video

To view the video visit Mixergy.com because their embed code is not working.

So Why WooThemes?

The WooThemes Canvas theme is very similar to Thesis where I can easily change the theme to work for my needs. The backend of Canvas is very simple to use just as any other premium theme.  Not only that but WooThemes is 100% GPL, very nice people and offer a great affiliate program.  My one and only complaint of WooThemes is the lack of hooks for customizing.  Thesis has so many hooks that the possibilities are endless.   When customizing Canvas to match my Thesis design I wasnt not able to make it a perfect match due to the lack of hooks.  However, it is pretty close.

Most of the themes by WooThemes include built-in support for Gravity Forms and Scribe SEO.

Canvas has built-in post style layouts.  This means that for each post I can change the look without any other customization the coding.  You can see an example of this because you are currently reading a post with the standard layout.  If you read yesterday’s post titled “Notice anything different?” you will see a very different look.

The last straw

What made my final decision to switch themes was a tweet from Matt stating that he would buy anyone a premium theme if they want to switch away from Thesis. After he tweeted that I purchased my theme from WooThemes and shortly after Matt refunded it for me as he promised.

How did I do it?

It started with a plugin called All in One SEO Pack Importer which I modified for import to WooThemes instead of the All in One SEO plugin.  Want the modified plugin? Download WooSEO Importer.  The plugin will not only import the Thesis SEO data but also the post images.  Make sure you back up your database as I hold no responsiblity for any problems that may arise. So why am I not using the All in One SEO plugin? I want as little plugins as possible. It is just that simple.

Now, I knew that WooThemes handles post images differently than Thesis so the there were a couple of options.

  1. Set the Canvas theme to include the post images in the post itself
  2. Create a script to grab the Thesis Post images and insert them as html at the top of each post.

I was never a fan of how Thesis handles its post images so I opted for a script for conversion.  My friend Joe took on the challenge and created a php file that did the job.  His script converted each Thesis post image into a <img src=” link at the top of each post.  After that conversion was complete I switched themes and then ran my modified plugin, WooSEO Importer.  My conversion was then complete.

Again:

I converted the Post Images to html FIRST and then ran the WooSEO Importer plugin

Where to go from here?

So if you are a Thesis user and have considered a switch I highly recommend WooThemes. They have a support forum (while not as quick on replies as the Thesis forum they do help), they have an affiliate program, they have an amazing framework that is simple to use, very customizable and if you buy one theme you get a bunch more for free.

I will leave you with this

My switch is complete but there might be some left over glitches so if you see any please let me know so I can find a solution. I do not regret owning Thesis. In fact I am so glad I did. The Thesis community is the best out there (in my opinion). I learned so much from each person and am grateful for that. So thank you to everyone in the Thesis community for your help in the past. I appreciate everything you have done and helped me with.

Thanks for reading and cheers to the growth of the WordPress community.

Scott

New Jersey Photographer

Thank you for reading the Scott Wyden Imagery blog. I am a Manalapan, New Jersey Photographer sharing my passion for photography any way I can. I am also the Community & Blog Wrangler at Photocrati, teaching other photographers on how to increase business with their website.

Join me on Twitter, or Facebook and lets talk photography.

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38 Comments

  1. Chris Ward August 6, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    I looked around the Woo site a bit. I don't see any mention of the GPL. I don't see a link to download any of the templates for free. I don't see a repository to browse the code.

    What makes them GPL compliant? If their theme code was GPL licensed, shouldn't anyone that has access to the code be able to repackage, and redistribute it?

    • Scott August 6, 2010 at 9:51 am #

      Chris,

      They went GPL back in 2009. In order to redistribute their themes you have to purchase them. While most companies don't like the idea of people doing that, it is part of GPL so they can not stop it from happening. You can read their post on going GPL at http://www.woothemes.com/2009/06/woothemes-gpled/

    • Scott Webb August 6, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

      GPL doesn't mean you get stuff for free. Though there are a number of totally free theme templates to download on their site. Being GPL doesn't just mean you can repackage and redistribute it. I'm not sure if you've read what the GPL actually is or not. But it's about building upon the work that's done before you.

      On my site, I've actually mashed 3 or 4 different WooThemes themes together with different widgets and styling.

      I could create a new theme name and release it. I built upon the original canvas theme. Added extra styling, moved php from one theme into another, added additional widgets that were not there before.

      I could sell this new theme or I could release it for free. I can't go in and strip out parts within the code that refer back to WooThemes though. And I would thus make my new theme GPL as well.

      If woothemes is 100% GPL, they are not just putting the GPL on the PHP but allowing it for the CSS, images, and more. Clearly more flexibility. They encourage people to create new things from their past work. They promote this type of creativity and development instead of suppress it like Chris Pearson was doing with Thesis. He wanted all the credit and glory.

      As Scott already said, the attitude of Chris is what caused his switch. Honestly why would anyone continue with Thesis for WordPress when Chris Pearson is making it super clear that he doesn't want to develop for WP anymore? He doesn't like the GPL and has made hints at creating something else. Why continue with a theme developer that had no drive other than monetary gain and fame? We don't buy what people do, we buy WHY they do it. Once the community realized that the why behind Chris Pearson was empty, they had nothing to connect with and these same people actually do have beliefs and causes they're working towards.

      I wrote a really long article on http://e.mbryo.net about this if you want to read it.

      GPL or not, people are still switching from Thesis to developers that care about them. Thesis does have a pretty rad community as Scott said, and I am certain that's why it's done so well for so long – it's those people and not Chris that helped that theme more than anything.

      I am certain we're going to see some awesomeness with Canvas. It's actually sparked me back into wanting to play with it way more. I tried starting to write articles when it came out but there wasn't enough interest. I think we'll see some great stuff from WooThemes and from more people as they adopt it.

  2. Chris Ward August 6, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    I looked around the Woo site a bit. I don’t see any mention of the GPL. I don’t see a link to download any of the templates for free. I don’t see a repository to browse the code.

    What makes them GPL compliant? If their theme code was GPL licensed, shouldn’t anyone that has access to the code be able to repackage, and redistribute it?

    • Scott August 6, 2010 at 9:51 am #

      Chris,

      They went GPL back in 2009. In order to redistribute their themes you have to purchase them. While most companies don’t like the idea of people doing that, it is part of GPL so they can not stop it from happening. You can read their post on going GPL at http://www.woothemes.com/2009/06/woothemes-gpled/

    • Scott Webb August 6, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

      GPL doesn’t mean you get stuff for free. Though there are a number of totally free theme templates to download on their site. Being GPL doesn’t just mean you can repackage and redistribute it. I’m not sure if you’ve read what the GPL actually is or not. But it’s about building upon the work that’s done before you.

      On my site, I’ve actually mashed 3 or 4 different WooThemes themes together with different widgets and styling.

      I could create a new theme name and release it. I built upon the original canvas theme. Added extra styling, moved php from one theme into another, added additional widgets that were not there before.

      I could sell this new theme or I could release it for free. I can’t go in and strip out parts within the code that refer back to WooThemes though. And I would thus make my new theme GPL as well.

      If woothemes is 100% GPL, they are not just putting the GPL on the PHP but allowing it for the CSS, images, and more. Clearly more flexibility. They encourage people to create new things from their past work. They promote this type of creativity and development instead of suppress it like Chris Pearson was doing with Thesis. He wanted all the credit and glory.

      As Scott already said, the attitude of Chris is what caused his switch. Honestly why would anyone continue with Thesis for WordPress when Chris Pearson is making it super clear that he doesn’t want to develop for WP anymore? He doesn’t like the GPL and has made hints at creating something else. Why continue with a theme developer that had no drive other than monetary gain and fame? We don’t buy what people do, we buy WHY they do it. Once the community realized that the why behind Chris Pearson was empty, they had nothing to connect with and these same people actually do have beliefs and causes they’re working towards.

      I wrote a really long article on http://e.mbryo.net about this if you want to read it.

      GPL or not, people are still switching from Thesis to developers that care about them. Thesis does have a pretty rad community as Scott said, and I am certain that’s why it’s done so well for so long – it’s those people and not Chris that helped that theme more than anything.

      I am certain we’re going to see some awesomeness with Canvas. It’s actually sparked me back into wanting to play with it way more. I tried starting to write articles when it came out but there wasn’t enough interest. I think we’ll see some great stuff from WooThemes and from more people as they adopt it.

  3. Chris Ward August 6, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    I guess I don't see how making you purchase the theme, but allowing you to use it on of your projects is GPL. Just a more liberal rights license.

  4. Chris Ward August 6, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    I guess I don’t see how making you purchase the theme, but allowing you to use it on of your projects is GPL. Just a more liberal rights license.

  5. Chris Ward August 6, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    Maybe I don't understand what you like about their GPL claims. I don't see the that the code would be available if they fold. You only get the source because they can't redistribute compiled php. They don't seem to encourage user contributions. The core of GPL is that you have to submit upstream changes if you redistribute the code. If that is all they do then maybe they are GPL compliant, but what does that give you?

    • Scott August 6, 2010 at 10:20 am #

      From what I understand some of the WordPress 3.0 features were built off of WooThemes code. To me that is what it is all about.

      But like I said, Chris's attitude in that debate had a lot to do with my switching. That and the functionality of Canvas made it an simple choice. For me at least.

  6. Chris Ward August 6, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    Maybe I don’t understand what you like about their GPL claims. I don’t see the that the code would be available if they fold. You only get the source because they can’t redistribute compiled php. They don’t seem to encourage user contributions. The core of GPL is that you have to submit upstream changes if you redistribute the code. If that is all they do then maybe they are GPL compliant, but what does that give you?

    • Scott August 6, 2010 at 10:20 am #

      From what I understand some of the WordPress 3.0 features were built off of WooThemes code. To me that is what it is all about.

      But like I said, Chris’s attitude in that debate had a lot to do with my switching. That and the functionality of Canvas made it an simple choice. For me at least.

  7. James August 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Curious – would you be willing to share that bit of PHP that Joe made? The thought of having to edit 200+ posts is quite daunting…

    • Scott August 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

      James, I can’t send you the file but I do suggest contacting Joe. He is a very nice guy!

  8. James August 8, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    Curious – would you be willing to share that bit of PHP that Joe made? The thought of having to edit 200+ posts is quite daunting…

    • Scott August 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

      James, I can't send you the file but I do suggest contacting Joe. He is a very nice guy!

  9. James August 8, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    Off to contact Joe, then! :)

  10. James August 8, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    Off to contact Joe, then! :)

  11. Josh February 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Hey Scott,

    This is very useful. I have been a loyal Thesis user, but recently have gotten to like woothemes a lot. So much so, I kinda follow them occasionally for any cool things they keep launch. I am not a coder, so its great how woothemes is further simplifying stuff for the world.

    I played around with canvas at their playground:test.woothemes.com and found there was no learning curve at all.

    Coming to my question, its been said Thesis is super awesome with SEO. But nobody explains me WHY? All they have is a bunch of affiliate links to diythesis.com and that’s it.

    Can you shed some light on whether it makes sense to use canvas on a new website that I ended to create. and will it be loved by google even if it is not on thesis?

    hope to hear from you.

    All the best,
    Josh

    • Scott February 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      Thesis is coded specifically for speed, optimization and SEO. They don’t have the flashy add-ons like other themes. That is where Thesis shines. If you want something with easier flexibility then Canvas is ideal.

  12. Josh February 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    Ummm.. so, just moving it a little forward, a blog using Canvas, if it were to switch to Thesis, the Google love would go up significantly? Assume no changes in content :)

    Sorry, but nobody almost responds to the ‘why’ question :-/

    • Scott February 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

      Not necessarily. If you don’t optimize your content for SEO then your overall ranking most likely won’t go up. However, the theme itself has the tools built-in to do that, as does Canvas and all WooThemes themes.

  13. Jason June 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Thanks so much for this post Scott — I have been wavering between the Thesis and Canvas for a few days, and you tipped the scales for me. Cheers…

    • Scott June 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      I’m glad it helped your decision!

  14. Lynn August 23, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    Thanks for the modification of the plug-in. I’m currently moving to a WooTheme and am facing the challenge of getting my post photos into the new site.

    If this works, I owe you a beer (or coffee, if you’re not a beer kinda guy).

  15. Lynn August 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    You. Rule. Simple as that.

  16. Mathew November 2, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    I have just installed Canvas on my site and I love it, very customizable and feature rich especially with the additional of the hooks now. However for me the main selling point over Thesis is the price, $70 for use on unlimited domains compared to Thesis $87 option for use on a single live site. Canvas is the way to go

  17. Enrique January 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    Hello Scott:
    I was searching some info about the canvas theme and I found your blog. It is very interesting!
    I have a small question maybe you can respond me: What widget are you using for the forms in your web. I like how they look !! and I would like to add one in my web.
    Thank you!

  18. Filipino Webmaster June 13, 2012 at 3:53 am #

    For the latest versions of Canvas, it issued a “hook” feature. This is definitely one of the best upgrades that you can ever have for Canvas.

    About Chris Pearson, he’s an online bully. That’s why I also did not go for Thesis. I don’t like supporting someone. Thesis is definitely NOT the best theme out there. I have had experience using it. I think, Canvas is still better.

  19. Krystal September 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    I’ve been debating switching from thesis to Woo Canvas of Genesis for a long time. It seems like recent updates to Canvas make it even more attractive now. It is attractive to me as a non techie. Seems like I would be able to control a lot more without hiring someone when I want to make small changes. Have you tried Studiopress Geneis framework at all to compare too? Just curious. The only thing that made me hesitant about Woo is Thesis load time is allegedly much faster. Woo has a lot more databases. But also hear newer versions less bulky. Thanks for the info. on trandfering from Thesis regarding the images! Krystal from Princeton, NJ

  20. Karen December 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Illuminating discussion, thanks Scott. After my Thesis experience, I am looking for a replacement, and just discovered the merits of Canvas before coming across your discussion. As basic-tech-savvy non-coder I am completely over Thesis. I think so many of us get sold by all the hype, which is later realized to be from a bunch of people who stand to make money from it through affiliate marketing. I had the developers license, so did have some commitment to the theme, and have recently even paid more money ($400US) for a course to learn to customize and work with this ‘seemingly simple’ theme. You are right that Chris Pearson does himself no favors and comes across as extremely arrogant. I for one am looking for a more ethical and personable theme supplier, and a theme I can trust to produce what I want, without the fiddling!

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