Terry's Second Site Tips

Customizing Your Site with Stylesheets

This page updated 19 Apr 2013

Version note: Applies to Second Site 6 & 7

This article describes how to use the standard Stylesheets sections to make customizations to the appearance of your site, modifying the effects of your selected Theme and Format. My Customizing Your Site article describes the basic concepts and tools behind the many customizations possible with Second Site. This article explores some examples of how the hundreds of options in the Stylesheets section can be used to customize the appearance of your site. More advanced techniques that use User Styles to achieve effects not possible with the standard Stylesheet options are described in my Customizing with User Styles article. Other articles in my Second Site Section cover other topics about customizing your site.

This article is long and detailed, with many examples. Unless the reader simply wants to gain a feel for the use of stylesheets, I suggest scanning the list of topics below and reading only those that seem to be of interest.

Topics Included in this Article
Stylesheets > Theme Section
Master control of your styles
Fonts Styles
Setting the fonts for body text and headers
Background and Font Colors
Setting color for backgrounds and text
Button Colors
Setting colors of buttons
Chart Colors
Setting colors for box charts
Stylesheets > System Section
Fine-tuning styles of individual features
Box Chart Shadows
Turning off the shadows under boxes on box charts
Indented Chart Fonts
Adjusting the fonts used in Indented Charts
Indented Chart Connectors
Making the connector lines in Indented Charts more visible
Chart Accents
Setting custom colors for chart accents
Positioning Exhibit Images
Positioning embedded exhibit images on the right
Numbering Children Lists
Adding numbers for the children in the parent's lists of children
Icon Legends
Removing borders from Icon legends
Styling Link Text
Changing link text to bold; underline only with "hover"
Fonts for Names
Setting font styles for name in body of Person Pages
Styling the Site Title
Creating a distinctive style for the site title
Positioning Site Icon
Managing the location of the Site Icon
Styling the Site Sub-title
Styling the site's sub-title, and adding a line below it
Styling Page Titles
Styling the title of each page
Styling the Family Explorer
Changing box colors, link behavior, removing icons in the Family Explorer
Adjusting Person Page Labels
Changing font, spacing, of parent and other labels in Person Page entries
Modifying Printer Codes
Changing the effect of TMG's center and left indent codes
Styling Superscript Fonts
Changing the fonts used for citation reference numbers
Highlighting Citations & Sources
Turning on the feature to highlight target Citations and Sources
Creating Boxed Notes
Creating boxed notes by styling a Narrative Panel

When you choose a Theme for your site you set a variety of features, including colors, font size and style, and much more, as described in my Overview article. Many of these choices can then be modified using the many options available in the Stylesheets section if you want to tweak some of the settings made by the Theme you select. You may want to use care in doing so because they are designed to present an integrated appearance as provided.

Alternatively, you can essentially create your own Theme, as I did in order to match the other pages on my website. If this is your objective it is best to start with the Plain Theme because it is "intended as a base from which you modify color properties and supply graphics to create a custom look," to quote the description in Help. You can then make adjustments to the Stylesheets to create the look you want. An example of the results can be seen in my Family History pages.

The Stylesheets section is broken into logical sub-sections, which are described below. For many of the sub-sections I have described some options I have used to customize my own family history site. Some of my examples illustrate methods I used because I was essentially creating my own Format, after starting with the simple Plain Format. But others are minor tweaks that one might choose to make to any Format. While you may want different results, these examples may illustrate methods you may find useful.

When making changes to the Stylesheet section you may need to try several different settings to get just the effect you envision. To save time during this process press F2 to update the styles, rather than re-making the whole site. Then refresh the page in your browser to see the results. If you have made changes that will not be updated by pressing F2 the program will warn you that some changes will not be displayed.

Stylesheets > Theme Section

As described in my Customizing Your Site article, when you choose a Theme in Second Site, many of the styles in the Stylesheets > Theme section are set to create the "look" of that theme. Also as described in that article, many of the individual styles in the System sections described below are by default linked to those in the Theme section. Thus the Theme you select indirectly sets many, if not most, of the styles used in your site.

While the styles in the Stylesheets > Theme section are initially set by the Theme you select in the Stylesheets > Styles section, you can modify any of them, effectively modifying the Theme. The styles in the Systems sections which are linked to those in the Theme section are then automatically updated.

As can be seen in the screenshot below, within the Stylesheets > Theme section, there are two sub-sections which control the appearance of various text items, and four that control colors of the overall site, menus, charts, and slide shows. In this case the colors for the Plain Theme are shown. For comparison, see those for the Mint Swirl Theme in my Customizing Your Site article.Theme Stylesheets

While you can modify the styles for any Theme, the Plain Theme, which I use, is especially intended for those who want a simple starting point from which to add their own preferences.

Listed below are some of the setting I used, listed in the order they appear on the Second Site screens. For rules not mentioned I left the settings applied by the Plain Theme, either because I was satisfied with them, or because they are not used in my site.

I prefer a serif style font for the majority of my site, including for most levels of section headers. So I changed two sections:

Stylesheets > Theme > Body Text

Parameter Value
font-family Times New Roman, Serif


Stylesheets > Theme > Heading Text

Parameter Value
font-family Times New Roman, Serif


I wanted to change the background colors of the site to match what you see on this page, change the color of link text to my "signature" orange, visited link text to a darker color, and heading text to black.

Stylesheets > Theme > Colors, Backgrounds

Parameter Value
page-background-color #FFFBE5
container-background-color theme:backcolor.page-background-color
link-color #B76600
visited-color #990000
header-text-color #000000

See the discussion in my Customizing Your Site article on the advantages of linking the colors as shown for the "container-background-color" field above, and how to do so easily using the Color Picker tool. The same technique is used in many of the examples below.


I do not use menus on my site, but I wanted to change the color of the background color of the letter blocks that appear at the top of the Surname Index and the like to match my link color, so I set:       

Stylesheets > Theme > Menus

Parameter Value
item-background-color theme:backcolor.link-color


I wanted to set the colors of my Charts to match the colors used in the site. I wanted a unique color for the background of Ancestor Charts that fit with the other colors used in the site, so I chose a pale green color (for descendant charts, I use the Indented Descendant Charts, and set the background color for them, separately, in the System sections as described below). I wanted the boxes to use colors used elsewhere on the site, so I set the backgrounds to match the page background, and the boarders to match the color I had selected for links.

Stylesheets > Theme > Charts

Parameter Value
backgroud-color #cfeac7
subject-backgroud-color theme:backcolor.page-background-color
female-backgroud-color theme:backcolor.page-background-color
male-backgroud-color theme:backcolor.page-background-color
female-border-color theme:backcolor.link-color
male-border-color theme:backcolor.link-color


Stylesheets > System Section

The Stylesheets > System section allows modification to the styles of hundreds of detailed items. Many of the items listed are by default linked to the styles set in the Stylesheets > Themes section described above, either by using the "inherit" parameter, or in the case of colors by use of an explicit reference to a Theme color, as mentioned in the Note above. You can change those links if you want to obtain specific effects. In addition, many features have properties that are "built-in", that is are set explicitly in the System section and not linked to the Theme section. Any changes you want to make to them must be made in the System section.

Listed below are some of the setting I used in the System section, listed in the order they appear on the Second Site screens. Because of the large numbers of sub-sections in the System section, it is divided into groups of related items. While you may not want to create the same look I did, perhaps this list will offer some ideas of interest, or suggest how to achieve a particular result you have in mind. For rules not mentioned I left the settings at their default values, either because I was satisfied with them, or because they are not used in my site.

While the Stylesheets > System section exposes hundreds of properties that you can modify, there are thousands of styles used by Second Site. Those styles can be adjusted by use of User Styles, as described in my article on Customizing with User Styles. User Styles require more knowledge to apply, but may be worthwhile for users intent on arranging their sites "just so."

By default, the name boxes in box charts have a shadow under and to the right of the box. I preferred the appearance of the boxes without the shadows so I changed:

Stylesheets > System > Charts > Indented Chart Items

Parameter Value
box-shadow deleted all contents


The size of the font used for names in Indented Charts was larger than I preferred, so I changed:

Stylesheets > System > Charts > Indented Chart Items

Parameter Value
font-size 13pt


I preferred the connecting lines in box charts to be a bit more visible, so I changed:

Stylesheets > System > Charts > Chart Connectors

Parameter Value
border-width 2


I use the Accent feature to highlight ancestors and siblings of ancestors in my Indented Descendant Charts, and wanted to use custom colors for the Accents. I used the Color Picker, as described in my article on Customizing Your Site to choose colors that seemed to fit with other colors in my site. I only use two Accent conditions, so there was no need to modify the others. I changed:

Stylesheets >System > Charts > Accents

Parameter Value
accent-1-background-color #FC9
accent-2-background-color #CC9


I prefer to have my image exhibits on the right side rather than on the left. I found some adjustments were then required in other fields to give the spacing around the image that I preferred. So I changed:

Stylesheets > System > Exhibits > Exhibit: Embedded Image

Parameter Value
float Right
margin-top 8px
margin-left 8px


I like the children to be numbered in the list of children at the bottom of the entries for their parents, like they are in TMG's Journal report. So I changed:       

Stylesheets > System > Family Sections > Children List

Parameter Value
list-style-type Decimal


If you use Icons to mark various attributes of people in your site (see my article on Icons) Second Site provides Content Items in the User Items section for creating a legend explaining to readers what the icons mean. While I created my own HTML code to create such a legend, I did find it convenient to use the styles Second Site provides for that legend. But I did not care for the default black border around the legend, so I changed styles in two sections:

Stylesheets > System > Icon Legends > Icon Legend Table

Parameter Value
border-style None


Stylesheets > System > Icon Legends > Icon Description Cells

Parameter Value
border-style None


I had already set the colors for link text I wanted in the Theme section, above, but I also wanted to change the text in links that they appear in in bold font, with no underline except where the reader hovers the mouse over the link. I changed settings in two sections:       

Stylesheets > System > Links >Link Tags:link

Parameter Value
font-weight Bold
text-decoration None


Stylesheets > System > Links >Link Tags:hover

Parameter Value
text-decoration Underline


By default names appear in the body of the Person Pages appear in normal fonts except for surnames, which are in bold. I prefer to have the surnames also in a normal font, so I left all the settings in the Stylesheets > System > Names sections unchanged except for one:

Stylesheets > System > Names > Name: Surname

Parameter Value
font-weight inherit


Since I was essentially creating my own theme, I wanted to style the title of my site as it appears at the top of each page in a distinctive way. I wanted title text on the various pages to be my in signature orange and in a distinctive font, and centered. So I changed:

Stylesheets > System > Pages > Site Title

Parameter Value
color theme:backcolor.link-color
font-family Comic Sans MS
Use font for Main Page title checked box
text-align field Center
If you would like to use a font family not generally available, try adding a "web font" in the Stylesheets > Webfonts section, and then selecting that font here.


As part of creating my own format, I added a custom icon, or logo, in the title area of each page (see my Icons article for details). I wanted that icon to be aligned to the left and centered vertically, so I changed:       

Stylesheets > System > Pages > Site Icon

Parameter Value
float None
other vertical-align: middle;

The "other" field used here is present in many sections. It is intended for use in specifying parameters not specifically listed for this rule. It requires that the user enter both parameter and the value, as shown here.


I wanted the page subtitles to be in my signature orange, centered, and bold. I like a horizontal line below the icon (see above) and title text on each page to "finish" the title block. I found adding a "border" under the Sub-Title was a satisfactory way to achieve that. So I changed:       

Stylesheets > System > Pages > SubTitle

Parameter Value
color theme:backcolor.link-color
font-weight Bold
text-align Center
other border-bottom-style: groove;


I wanted the title of each page to be in a different font than the body of the page, and in my orange color, and centered. So I changed:

Stylesheets > System > Pages > Page Title

Parameter Value
color theme:backcolor.link-color
font-family Arial, Helvetica, Sans-serif
text-align Center


I wanted to make several changes in the default appearance of the Family Explorer. I prefer that the Family Explorer Icon not change color when the reader hovers his or her mouse over it, and wanted to change the colors of the male and female boxes to better match my site colors. I wanted to not display the male and female icons in the boxes and lists of siblings and children. And I wanted the links in the chart to be styled the same as those in the rest of my site. So I changed:

Stylesheets > System > Person Pages > Family Explorer

Parameter Value
button-hover-color theme:backcolor.link-color
female-background-color #FC9
male-background-color #CC9
Show Box Icons un-check box
Show List Icons un-check box
link-color inherit
visited-color inherit
hover-color inherit
active-color inherit
text-decoration inherit


I use the Narration Format, which like many Formats, uses a grid arrangement for the Father, Mother, and other labels at the top of each person's entry on the Person Pages. I wanted those labels in a bold font, and to move the following text closer to the labels. So I changed:

Stylesheets > System > Person Pages > Grid Column 1

Parameter Value
width 3.6em
other font-weight: 700;

Note that the "g1" style, which is controlled by this section, is also applied to other labels some other Formats so the above settings my produce undesirable results in other Formats.

I also added a colon at the end of each label, but that required use of a User Style, as described in my Customizing with User Styles article.

I use TMG's [LIND:][:LIND] (left indent) codes mostly for the body of quoted newspaper clips, and for the text in my "Research Notes" tags in which I describe issues with a given person's data, and in the text of the FamilySectionNote tag, in which I describe issues with the list of children for a couple. I find all of those work well in a smaller font, and also indented on the right side as well as on the left, as is traditionally done with long quotations, and indented a bit more than the default value. I use TMG's [CENTER:][:CENTER] codes mostly for the headlines in quoted newspaper clips, which I like to display in a bold font. So I changed two sections:

Stylesheets > System > Printer Codes > Code CENTER

Parameter Value
font-size Smaller
font-weight Bolder


Stylesheets > System > Printer Codes > Code LIND

Parameter Value
font-size Smaller
margin-right 7em
margin-left 7em


I wanted the superscripted citation reference numbers within the text to be in the same font family as the rest of my text, so changed:       

Stylesheets > System > Sources > Superscripts

Parameter Value
font-family Inherit


Citation reference numbers are links, so a reader can click on the reference number and the page will scroll to citation. An optional feature highlights that citation to make it more visible, and similarly highlights a Source on the Sources Page when a reader clicks on the source number at the beginning of the citation. The highlighting feature is off by default, and is activated by setting a colored background to serve as the highlight, and/or setting a border width greater than 1. I chose to use a background color without a border, but wanted that highlight to have rounded corners. I also wanted to enlarge the colored highlight a bit beyond the edges of the text. So I made these changes:

Stylesheets > System > Sources > Source / Citation Target

Parameter Value
background-color #FC9
other border-radius: 5px; padding: 3px;

I selected the color to be harmonious with the other colors on my site, but sufficiently different to serve as a highlight. I made the selection with the Color Picker, which is described in my article on Customizing Your Site.


I use Narrative Panels to set off my Research Notes Tags, in which I mention various issues with the research on specific people, as described in my Tag Groups article, and for my copyright notice. In order better set these items off from the normal text I created a colored border around the panel. I also added some padding to separate the border from the text, and set the width of the panel to 80% of the width of the window in the reader's browser. Finally, because since my Research Note Tag encloses the body of the note in [LIND:]...[:LIND] codes, and I had already set the text within those codes to "smaller" (see Printer Codes, above), to avoid making smaller still I changed the "font-size" parameter from it's default "small." This required in changes in two sections:       

Stylesheets > System > Tag Groups > Narrative Panel

Parameter Value
border-width 2
border-color theme:backcolor.link-color
padding-right 10px
padding-bottom 10px
padding-left 10px
other width: 80%;
border-radius: 10px;


Stylesheets > System > Tag Groups > Narrative Text

Parameter Value
font-size normal



The list above, while seemingly long, still includes only some of the over 100 sections available. Finding the section you want to modify may seem daunting, but many of those refer to specific features, such as charts, maps, calendars, etc., so only you need only examine those that relate to features you use. Review the available options, read what Help offers, and experiment to see what changes appeal to you.

The settings described above allow you to customize a huge number of features. Still, if they don't allow the Style changes you would like to make, check out my article on Examples for User Styles for some more advanced methods.

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