Moodle 1.9 Theme Design book review @moodlerific @packtpub [4 stars]


I recently read the book “Moodle 1.9 Theme Design” written by Paul James Gadsdon and I must say, of all the Moodle-related books from Packt Publishing,  I was the most excited to read this one. I take a great interest in Moodle themes and I enjoy learning this type of web development and design.

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Before reading this book I thought I had limited knowledge of Moodle themes and I gained it from exploring the PHP files, reading Moodle Docs and watching Julian Ridden’s wonderful screencasts. My experience in working with Moodle themes was mostly in testing and playing with non-production sites. I did use Patrick Malley’s Anomaly theme and modified it to include a navigation bar, use our district’s colors, logo, etc. Our district is currently using that theme but I want to do so much more and make it better – with the appearance and the functionality. If I could make our district’s Moodle site even 1/4th of what Leeds City College’s Moodle site is, I’d be a happy camper!

Okay, to the review! . . .

Initial reaction after reading the book

I give the book 4 stars out of 5 (5 being the highest).

My initial reaction was that is was a good resource for newbie Moodle themers and it focused on many of the same elements that I’ve read on blogs and Moodle Docs, which means the author did  a good job of pointing out the essential pieces of information when it comes to Moodle theming. Although, I was a bit surprised that overall the material was about 80% review for me, it made me realize that I knew more than I though I did.

What I liked

  • Included essential and useful tools and programs for Moodle theming.
  • Went over the most important topics in Moodle theming – was consistent with Moodle Docs.
  • Started from the beginning so the reader had a solid understanding before moving on.
  • Easy to understand.
  • Chapter 8 (creating a navigation menu) was a favorite part of mine (for my own personal learning).

What I didn’t like

  • There were several times the book gave instructions and explanations on other items that only indirectly related to Moodle theming. These items include step by step directions on downloading and installing Firefox addons, downloading and installing other browsers, step by step directions on adding a forum and glossary. It didn’t really take away from the book but it took up time and space. In my opinion is someone is learning Moodle Theming they know how to do the above tasks.
  • As with any Packt Publishing Moodle book it would be nice to have colored screenshots.

Final reaction

I expected a little more content about php and CSS, or maybe I was hoping for that. Thinking about it now, it makes perfect sense to start from the beginning and go over small, but important tasks. I have to remember the author did not write this book based on my needs 😛 and as stated in the title it’s a Beginner’s Guide and like Mary Cooch said in her review–it is a Beginner’s Guide.

Although I think there could have been a little less focus or explanation of indirect tasks, the author completed the task of providing the material needed to give a newbie the knowledge and tools to create a basic Moodle theme. I enjoyed “Moodle 1.9 Theme Design” as it confirmed and created a solid foundation of knowing the recommended way to create a Moodle theme from scratch and best practices. Again, another resource that I would be totally confident in recommending to any Moodler beginning their Moodle theming journey!


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