The folks from Automattic just this week released the _s theme, pronounced “underscores”. It’s their team’s attempt at a better and more flexible starter theme. The new theme is a fork of Toolbox, which was the starter theme used to build the free and premium themes on WordPress.com.
Toolbox worked, but the fact that people had used it as a parent theme meant that making drastic improvements would break things up. As Theme Wrangler Ian Stewart explained, this meant a change was worthwhile:
Unfortunately, we wound up in a situation with Toolbox where we wanted to make some more drastic improvements to it as a starter theme but got a little stuck. We had people using it as a Parent Theme and that meant that the simplest id or class change could become a problem. Simply changing an id of #branding to #masthead in the template is enough to break most CSS.
The _s theme comes with additional starter styles, a generic framework for adding your own responsive CSS, a script that handles menus on smaller screens, and sample theme options to customize.
Stewart said _s incorporates code and lessons learned from many of the best WordPress themes, and will continue its evolution incorporating things with each new default theme release. They have made it available for free through GitHub, which means any updates and changes to _s get pulled in from the same Automattic theme repository being used live on WordPress.com and pushed out to GitHub. Read more about the theme in Stewart’s announcement post on ThemeShaper.
You can be sure that I’ll be delving into it right away. Will you be checking _s out, or are you happy with your development theme?