Customising Site and Space Layouts

You can modify Confluence's look and feel by editing the 'decorator' (layout) files. Modifying these files allows you to change the look and feel of:

  • The Confluence site as a whole, which includes all spaces within the Confluence site.
  • An individual space within the Confluence site.

This page tells you how to customise the layout files for your Confluence site as a whole. These customisations:

  • Modify the default 'decorator' files of each space in your site.
  • Are reflected in every space unless the space's own equivalent layout files have been customised.

You need System Administrator permissions to perform these customisations.

You can also customise the layout files for a given space. For more information, refer to Customise Space Layouts. Space layout customisations override the equivalent site customisations.


If you modify the look and feel of Confluence by following these instructions, you will need to update your customisations when upgrading Confluence. The more dramatic the customisations are, the harder it will be to reapply your changes when upgrading. Please take this into account before proceeding with your customisation. For more information on updating your customisations, please refer to Upgrading Customised Site and Space Layouts.

Confluence is built on top of the open source SiteMesh library, a web-page layout system. Read more on the SiteMesh website. To edit the layout of Confluence, you will need to modify these decorator files. A decorator file is a .vmd file and is written in a simple programming language called Velocity. You can learn more from the Velocity User Guide.

Once you are familiar with Velocity, you can edit the decorator files to personalise the appearance of Confluence.

The decorator files in Confluence are grouped into the following categories:

  • Site layouts: These are used to define the controls that surround each page in the site. For example, the header and the footer.
  • Content layouts: These control the appearance of content such as pages and blog posts. They do not change the way the pages themselves are displayed, but allow you to alter the way the surrounding comments or attachments are displayed.
  • Export layouts: These control the appearance of spaces and pages when they are exported to HTML. If you are using Confluence to generate a static website, for example, you will need to modify these layouts.

Editing a site decorator file

  1. Choose the cog icon , then choose General Configuration under Confluence Administration
  2. Select Layouts under Look and Feel in the left-hand navigation panel.
    • Click View Default to view the .vmd file.
    • Click Create Custom to edit the default .vmd file. This will open the .vmd file in edit mode.
  3. Make changes and click Update.

If something goes wrong: Click Reset Default to revert to the original layouts.

Using Velocity macros

When editing Custom Decorator Templates, there are a number of macros available to define complex or variable parts of the page such as menus and breadcrumbs. You may insert these macros anywhere in your templates. More information on Working With Decorator Macros.

Advanced customisations

Overriding Velocity templates

The velocity directory is at the front of Confluence's Velocity template search path. As such, you can override any of Confluence's Velocity templates by placing an identically named file in the right place. While we don't recommend you do this unless you know exactly what you're doing, it does give you complete control over the look of every aspect of Confluence. It also means that you can edit your templates in a text-editor if you wish, rather than through the web interface.


Velocity is configured to cache templates in memory. When you edit a page from within Confluence, it knows to reload that page from disk. If you are editing the pages on disk, you will either have to turn off velocity's caching temporarily in WEB-INF/classes/, or restart the server to make your changes visible.

Location of Velocity files

You will find the Velocity files in your Confluence installation directory. The primary Velocity files are located in the <CONFLUENCE-INSTALLATION>\confluence\decorators directory. For example, you will find the following files in that directory: main.vmd, space.vmd, form-aui.vmd, global.vmd, and more.

Finding the layout via the URL

If the layout has changed so extensively as to not be visible, you can browse to the URL directly:

http://<confluence base url>/admin/resetdecorator.action?decoratorName=decorators/main.vmd

Substitute the base URL and the appropriate .vmd file.

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