Written by on

Announcing Automatic Updates for iThemes Builder 5.0

When we surveyed Builder customers earlier this year, we heard what we already knew was a big pain point for users: Builder had no way to update straight from the WordPress dashboard, a feature known as automatic updates.

Automatic Updates for Builder are Here

We’ve been hard at work to solve this problem and we’re proud to announce a new version of Builder is here that includes automatic updates. With the Builder 5.0 update, you’ll no longer have to manually update your Builder theme when version updates are released.  You’ll also receive WordPress dashboard notifications that a theme update has been released.

This has been a complicated process and it’s meant changing our approach to providing a parent theme (Builder Theme – Core) and totally separate child themes. Starting with Builder 5.0, the parent theme / child theme relationship (the combination of functionality, design and customizations) will be different to provide automatic updates, but we’re rolling out this update in two separate stages.

We’ll be redefining some of our Builder terminology from now on, but we’re confident that the new system will be simpler and, ultimately, save you time when it comes to installing, customizing and updating your Builder themes.

The Relationship of Functionality, Design and Customizations in iThemes Builder to Automatic Updates

To better understand this, we thought it would be helpful to explain the relationship of theme functionality, design and customizations. These three concepts have always been at the heart of the Builder’s use of child themes.


  • Functionality – In iThemes Builder, this is functionality “behind the scenes”: the layout engine, layouts, views and extensions.
  • Design – For Builder, these are the design elements or “front-facing” components of the site: fonts, colors, padding, navigation styling, etc.
  • Customizations – Any custom modifications to the CSS of the existing design or changes to template files.


The Wrong Way: All-in-one Function, Design & Customizations

Combining functionality, design and customizations makes it difficult to provide updates to the functionality and design of themes. If you update the theme to access new features or make updates to the design, you would lose any customizations you had made. This is why we’ve always separated Builder into a parent theme and child theme.


The Old Way: Builder Theme Core + Child Theme Customizations

In order to allow updates to Builder while giving you the ability to customize your theme, we used child themes. With this parent theme / child theme relationship, you could update Builder Core to get new features, but your customizations occur in the child theme.

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 3.23.48 PM

The New Way: Builder Themes – Functionality and Design Separate from Customizations

In the new version of Builder, we’ve combined the functionality of Builder in every Builder theme. After installation, Builder now creates a child theme for you, so there’s no separate installation process. With this new system, you can now get automatic updates to your theme (which now will include Builder functionality and theme design) without losing your customizations.

Builder Child Themes Will Have Builder Functionality Built-in

With this update to Builder, we’ll be referring to Builder child themes as Builder Themes since Builder is now “built-in.”

By combining Builder into child themes, we think you’ll appreciate:

  • One installation process – No more uploading Builder Theme – Core then your child theme. For new Builder sites, all you have to do is upload your Builder Theme and go.
  • Auto-Created Child Themes – After installation, Builder prompts you to create your own child theme to customize.  Again, this allows us to provide automatic updates to your theme (which now will include Builder functionality and theme design) without losing your customizations.
  • Themes can now come with pre-packaged layouts to look like the demo sites – This new system allows us to package custom layouts with individual Builder themes so your sites can look like the demos.
  • Automatic updates for Builder – As we mentioned this above, this new system allows us to push automatic updates to your Builder themes. After updating to Builder 5.0, just be sure to license your Builder site to start receiving automatic updates.

The Builder 5.0 Update Roll-Out Process

Today: Builder Theme – Core – 5.0 Available

Today you’ll find the Builder Theme – Core – 5.0 update now available for download from your iThemes Member Panel.

We’re recommending that all existing Builder customers make a backup of your siteupdate to Builder 5.0 and license your Builder site for automatic updates.
Next Week: Individual Child Themes

Next week we’ll be rolling out the new versions of child themes with Builder functionality built-in. By providing the Builder Core – 5.0 update first, you can update your existing Builder sites to get automatic updates now and use the new child themes for new Builder installs.

Questions or Comments?

We anticipate you’ll have lots of questions about this update, so we’ll be outlining what this update means for both your existing Builder sites and new Builder sites in more detail in upcoming blog posts and tutorial videos. We want to make sure this transition is as simple as possible, so please let us know how we can help by asking questions below in the comments or tweeting us @iThemes.


  1. Oh, yay! This will make life so much easier in the future.

    To make sure I’ve got it right, for THIS update: my process to date has been to install Builder, install a child theme, COPY that child theme to a different folder/different name, and customize the copy.

    So updating the Builder core is not an issue. I’m wondering what effect, if any, updating the source files for each original child theme will have on my sites, or if I even need to bother for existing sites?

    • This will have no effect on your existing child theme — you’ll just receive the benefit of getting automatic updates to Builder. Builder 5.0 has a check in place to see that you are running an existing child theme and lets you go about your business.

      There is no reason to update any of your original child themes unless we release a major change to the ORIGINAL child theme, but that is very rare.

      Hopefully I didn’t confuse you!

      • No, that makes sense, but:

        I just updated about a dozen sites to Builder 5.0. All of them are running custom child themes based on Builder Child Themes as I explained above.

        On none of those sites did I see that window you referenced here http://cl.ly/QyZ3. Should I have? I’m guessing it’s because I work not directly in the iThemes Child Theme folder but in a copy of it? The sites all seem to be running fine.

        I did NOT activate Builder; I kept my child theme activated. Is that why I didn’t see that “keep your settings” window?

        On only one did I not have to license Builder. And that one is actually running an Allure child created in much the same way (install Builder, install the Allure Foundation, install the Allure child, copy that child into my custom theme folder).

        Again, I guess I’m working one or two steps removed from the normal flow. It’ll be interesting to see whether the automatic updates work as expected, since apparently *I* don’t work as expected!

  2. My child theme is not one of yours, but a custom child theme built from scratch. I’m concerned about the automatic creation of a child theme asked for by builder 5.0. What happens in that case?

    • Hi,

      Builder 5.0 is smart enough to realize you’re already running a custom child theme and will present a message stating so — then it lets you go on without forcing you to create a new child theme, so you shouldn’t worry at all!

      Here’s a screenshot of my local installation running Builder 5.0 and the currently released Everett Child Theme:


      I should note this check also works with any custom child theme that you’ve created.

      Hope that helps!

    • Just updated builder to 5.0 on a development site, and it picked up that the child theme was a custom and simply asked if I would like to retain the current layouts and views (which I did), or go with the child theme’s layouts and views (which, I assume, would come with an ithemes child theme).
      So, bottom line, no big deal on the child theme integration for me.
      Auto updates of Builder is a big deal.

  3. Like rpttrson, I’m also curious about how this works with custom child themes. Or for instance, using Builder Foundation blank and then modified with new name, location, etc. in order to create a custom child theme not quite from scratch?

  4. Hi, will future builder updates work with infiniteWP? I have hundreds of sites linked up. Part 2, assuming it does work, will they need to have license info installed 1st?
    (that’s going to be a time consuming job!)

    Thanks for making the overall product easier, simpler and faster to work with going forward.

  5. When the child themes are released as Themes and I want to update mine to the new theme version how do I do this? Will builder just tell me there is an update to my child theme and update it?

  6. Awesome! Looking forward to putting builder 5 through its paces. Will have to re read the above functionality and structural changes but it all sounds great!

    Thanks iThemes

  7. Two questions:

    1) will the new update work fine on WP Multisite and has it been thoroughly tested with multisite?
    2) how will the builder style manager work alongside this upgrade and the new child themes?

    Sounds good though and being able to preset layouts sounds awesome.

  8. Am running a customised foundation theme 1.0.6.
    Updated Builder to 5, but no message appeared, nor any automatic child theme. Do I have to install a new ‘built in ‘ theme in order to see this?

  9. How does this work when I make a change to the core. Google authorship modifications have forced me to alter the Builder core in two locations to insure that the theme presents the right parameter tags for rich snippets.

    The child theme inherits these parameters from the core. I tried to fix this issue in the child theme, but no dice. I asked about this functionality being added to the core right after Google added Rich Snippet Author Schema in Web Master Tools a year ago.

    So far none of the themes supports rel=author or date=updated in the right places in the rendered XHTML . I always end up modifying the child and extensions templates, but with some templates such as Keen I have had to edit the Builder Core to get the correct functionality.

    Please advise….

  10. I want to be certain that nothing “custom” in my custom (non-iThemes) child themes will be overwritten. Please confirm that this is not something to worry about. thx

  11. So unless you are running builder default theme, you no longer need to install builder. You could just install Everett for example and create a child theme???



Sale ends Nov. 30! Save 50% OFF our entire library of WordPress tools Get the coupon