Posted on Apr 8, 2005


Yesterday Lambda Chi Alpha publicly announced the launching of, a wiki-based website I built for all fraternal organizations.

I built the site using MediaWiki, the open source software that powers Wikipedia, among others. Though WikiMedia is a very powerful piece of software, I found it much more difficult to work with as a designer than say WordPress, a blogging tool.

MediaWiki made some effort to permit designers to create new skins, but didn’t really separate content, design, and function. I had such a hard time trying to figure out how to create a new skin from scratch that I just gave up and modified the default Monobook skin.

Feel free to download my modified Monobook skin, shown here.

Once MediaWiki fully separates the PHP, XHTML, and CSS; I think designers are going to eat it up. Such a format would have certainly made my work on much easier.


  • Great work! You should consider working your own .com into a wiki skin.

  • MediaWiki is a great piece of software. I stared to want a wiki after using Flickr that lets you change the page on the page, rather than going to a back office as in Movable Type or WordPress. MediaWiki lets you do this just by double clicking the page you are looking at. What could be more natura.

    But at the same time the community seems to be rather limited to those that are supporting the Wikipedia enterprise. As you say it is not easy to change the look and feel.

    I wanted to get away from a wikipedia style site and your skin does just that. Thank you very much.

    By the way, I went through all monobook.php renaming. I think that you should consider doing the same since it is easier to import as a new skin.

  • I have your skin displaying when I am logged in but not when I am not. I guess this serves me right for changing the name of the skin to something new. The new skin (nMonobook) is displayed only when I am logged in. Oops. I will overwrite monobook!

  • jasonpearce says:

    Chris: Thanks. I might do that.

    Tim: Yea. I also had the same problem and gave up figuring out how to a) create a new skin and b) make it the default for all users. If somone want to provide the URL for such a solution, please do.

    Bengt (via email): To require users to log in before making change to your wiki, add this line of code to your LocalSettings.php file:

    #Entirely disable Anonymous Edits $wgWhitelistEdit = true;
  • Graeme says:

    Hi, Your skin is exactly what I’m looking for. I was wondering how you remodelled the MonoBook. I too saw the design layout and it’s frightful. It is quite difficult to visually change. Did you simply change the .css and reload the page as needed or did you have some visual tool. I use DreamWeaver, I’m sure it is capable of displaying live data, I just can’t figure it out.

    Any info would be great! Graeme.

  • jasonpearce says:

    Graeme: Though I’m rather skilled in Dreamweaver, I completely re-wrote the CSS by hand (from scratch). I also had to make changes to Monobook’s PHP to build my skin. I’m no expert in either, but I’m happy to share the FratMan skin. I also used my FratMan skin for the Third Goal Wiki.

  • Graeme says:

    Thank you for the reply – I found your skin very useful. You saved me a lot of time trying to figure out MediaWiki’s skin stuff. For now I’m using the Skin to do all my design needs. The only annoyance however is that if I had an image for one skin, I’m not sure how to add it to all skins. I should look deeper and find the template that mediawiki bases all the skins on. For my needs your skin was great! Currently, I have the mediawiki installed at however it will soon move to -> .

    Right now I want to make the fubar wiki mock the current fubar website as much as possible and then change it over. Annoyingly there is no way to do javascript or flash sections on the mediawiki.

    Well not until now! I have created an extension to do this :) You can now create a new page with whatever html code you want and it will be imported from the base page as raw html (like a mediawiki templates). For security the extension only allows restricted pages to be added. In the future maybe there is a way to plugin ‘safe’ php code to do whatever you’d like.

    Keep your eye on the mailing list – or the extensions page on mediawiki. I will post it shortly.

  • Bananeweizen says:

    There is a minor bug in your skin. It misses the and definitions from the monobook skin. Those are needed on the discussion pages and other pages where one can use indentation by writing a (:) in the first column of the text. With your skin, there is no indentation, regardless of how many (:) one put at the beginning of a row. But otherwise I can only say Thank you for your hard work with this!

  • Rene says:


    I love your design and tried to incorporate monobook in mediawiki with success. however, your 3rd goal wiki showed up the left sidebar meshed with the main content, but your frat. manuals wiki turned out to be great in Safari.

    I’m using Safari, Panther Version.

    Any explanation why it happened?


  • Alif says:

    Hi Rene,

    I experienced the same situation with safari! After trying out a few things, it seems that removing/renaming the KHTMLFixes.css file fixes things.

    The file contains a directive setting the column margins to 0:

    column-content { margin-left: 0; }

    Give it a whirl, it works for me.

    Best, Ali

  • Tim says:

    I cannot decompress the rar file properly. (Tried on two systems.)

    Any advice?


  • jasonpearce says:

    Download and use WinRar for Windows by RarLabs. It’s free and will unzip/rar the file.

  • Valmeria says:

    Hi, firts thank for great job ! As others, your skin was exactly what I was looking for. However, it seems to me it’s done for the 1.4xx version, and I’m using the beta 1.5 which changed all the navigation system ; due to that I had to made some bad arrangements (i’m not a developper) :( Will you consider adapt the skin to the 1.5 version ????

    Anyway, thanks for your job again.


  • jasonpearce says:

    Valmeria, I’ll consider updating the skin once the 1.5 version is out of beta. Alternatively, I welcome modifications from any of you and will be happy to post your changes here.

  • Valmeria says:

    Hi Jason, and thanks for answering. 1.5 version is now out of beta … On my modifications, well, it’s not really a good work : as I was not able to adapt the new navigation code of MW to your monobook.php version, I just remplace all the navigation section code by a special include of links I needed :( This is not, I’m afraid, a valuable contribution to common work (it was the only way I found after a lot of time trying various possibility with both codes …), additionnaly, I got by this way some problems with UTF8 specification … as said above, i’m not a developper, just a little advanced user, and this not allow me to write php code.

  • Ipstenu says:

    To set the default skin:

    ## Default skin: you can change the default skin. Use the internal symbolic ## names, ie 'standard', 'nostalgia', 'cologneblue', 'monobook': $wgDefaultSkin = 'monobook';

    By the way, awesome! I took your skin used it to figure out what I wanted for my site (i.e. to match with the rest of the design). Tres sweet!

  • [...] g. If you like the skin I built for this MediaWiki, I simply made some improvements to my skin. Feel free to download this new fraternityrelie [...]

  • tentacle says:

    Hi there, this is a great Skin, simple & clear. Sadly it doesn’t seem to work anymore with the new mediawiki 1.5.0, i miss the Navigation. It would be great if you can fix it, because my knowledge of mediawiki is quit bad. Thanks a lot

  • tentacle says:

    Oh, I saw Valmeria did mention the same. Well, it did it the same way for the moment. Anyhow the best Skin currently around.

  • jasonpearce says:


    Robert Castley converted my skin to the 1.5 version. You’ll find it here.

  • Thumper says:

    Very elegant skin. I installed it to Wikimedia 1.5.4. Everything works — except I get this error text in Navigation sidebar:

    Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/wiki/public_html/skins/MonoBook.php on line 172.

    This is what’s at line 172:

        data['navigation_urls'] as $navlink) { ?>

    I had made minor mods to the original monobook template, including the CSS. Could my slight mods have messed something up? Any ideas what this could be?

  • Thumper says:

    Update: I installed the skin for 1.4. That’s why there was that error in the sidebar. When installed the Castley 1.5 version, it worked fine.

    EXCEPT that I have a floating problem in IE 6 for PC. The left sidebar floats to the top. I tried the changes to the IE 6 CSS file as suggested in the earlier post. But it hasn’t helped.

    Have anyone come up with any new ideas on how to solve the IE 6 sidebar float?

  • Riad says:

    Hi Jason,

    I used the Castley version 1.5 and rename the old folder and file from monobook as monobook-old. I put your files instead as monobook.

    I got this error:

    Fatal error: Call to undefined function: wfnomsg() in /srv/www/htdocs/web138/html/mobilelife/wiki/skins/MonoBook.php on line 130

    Any idea?

  • monK says:

    Hi Jason,

    I like your skin very much but I got some problems with it. I intalled MediaWiki 1.6.7 and your skin. Normally it works fine, except the edit-page. There the navigation is at the wrong place (it’s at the right of the normal place).

    It is possible, that it isn’t compatible to that version? Which one do you use?

    Thanks, monK

  • noktulo says:

    I’m having the same problem as thumper. Has anyone found a solution yet?

  • [...] In April 2005 I developed a MediaWiki Skin and released another in October 2005. At the bottom of this skin is a link that says “developed (by Jason Pearce of Lambda Chi Alpha).” [...]

  • jasonpearce says:

    2006 September 23: Anand released a new FratMan skin that works well with MediaWiki v1.7. The skin incorporates many of the changes suggested in these comments. Thank you Anand.

  • wikipedia says:

    Wikipedia is the key to most success online, when it comes to collabritive content adding. I have spent many hours writing articles for Jimmy Wales and am very happy with this project. I am based in Seminole FL close to the wikipedia offices in St Petersburg. I love contributing!

    Happy New Year Bloggers!

  • isaac says:

    Beautiful! We think we are gonna use it (a little bit modified) in Thanks for the liberation!

  • I have a few problems with this skin. I hope people are still checking this regularly! I have completely lost the toolbar. I think this is essential, as not everyone is proficient in wiki language.

    Also, the :indent code seems to not be working.

    Any fixes for either of these problems would be greatly helpful. I have tried all of the options that people listed to no avail. I need a new idea!

  • sagar says:

    hiii i am using mediawiki1.9.3 can you please tell how to install this skin??