I have a theme. It depends on a plugin. If you try to activate the theme and the plugin isn't installed, then I want to switch_theme() to some other (random**) theme in the search_theme_directories() list.

I can get the $template value from the key of the array returned by search_theme_directories(). But I can't seem to sort out how to get the $stylesheet.

Also, given this approach, what's the best way to check if a theme is child or a parent? Without getting into details I would prefer to pick parent theme as a default.

Perhaps there's a better way to do this? I would presume WP has something similar built in but I can seem to pin point that either. In short, I'm listenin' if you got ideas :)


I was not able to tag this with: search_theme_directories(). That tag doesn't exist and I don't have the rep to add it. Could someone with some juice add it to the list of valid tags? Thanks.

Note: I'm first going to check for twentytwelve and twentyeleven and then if necessary pick one if they aren't around.

1 Answer 1


But I can't seem to sort out how to get the $stylesheet.


$themes = search_theme_directories();

// a random theme
$themename = array_rand($themes,1); 

// that random theme's stylesheet
$stylesheet = content_url('/themes/'.$themes[$themename]['theme_file']);

// The absolute path to that theme's stylesheet
$stylepath = WP_CONTENT_DIR.'/themes/'.$themes[$themename]['theme_file'];

Getting a random theme that is not a child is more involved. I think this is it, though. It works in testing but don't consider it rigorously tested.

$themes = search_theme_directories();
$rand_theme = false;
while (!$rand_theme) {
  if (empty($themes)) {
  $themename = array_rand($themes,1);
  $theme_obj = wp_get_theme($themename); 
  // Parent themes don't have a 'Template'
  $template = $theme_obj->get('Template');
  if (empty($template)) {
    $rand_theme = $themename;
  } else {

wp_get_theme returns a Theme Object. I set $rand_theme to the theme name since that is what switch_theme expects.

As is, that will switch themes on every page load. Drop that into the plugin directory and you have yourself a pretty annoying plugin :)

  • Thx @s_ha_dum but I don't think the first bit is going to work. For example, this is what works to switch to twentytwelve: switch_theme('twentytwelve','twentytwelve'); Notice how "stylesheet" ain't really so. I tried a number of different things, yours included and this is the only thing that work. As for get_the_theme(). If that gives me an object with theme details then that'll do. Cheers! Perhaps you can take another shot at the first bit? Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 23:13
  • 1
    What 'first bit' are you talking about? I dropped that code into a plugin file and it randomly switches themes on every page load as long I as keep reloading. I just re-pasted that second block from that plugin file just in case I had something wrong.
    – s_ha_dum
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 23:33
  • Oh. Sorry. Specifically, this: $stylesheet = content_url('/themes/'.$themes[$themename]['theme_file']); I tried that and WP didn't like it. switch_theme() doesn't want/need the folder structure. it wants a name. e.g. switch_theme('twentytwelve','twentytwelve'); codex.wordpress.org/Function_Reference/switch_theme. This is what had be confused and in search of a viable solution. Thanks again for your help. Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 12:52

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