I'm looking for a way to easily customize the look of the core EE Private Messaging functionality. I know that there are add-ons out there that open up some of the functionality, but I would really like to utilize as much of the core functionality as possible. I've found the templates in the 'themes' > 'profile_themes' directory, but is there any documentation or anything out there on how to actually customize this? Anyone out there have experience doing this?

Thanks in advance.

  • How far do you want to push this customizing? A few css tweaks to the existing ones or do they have to fit an existing design? Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 10:31
  • @erwinheiser, mostly it's just CSS tweaks. There are a few more extensive customizations that are requested (like changing the recipient from username to a custom field). Some of these customization might be more than are possible, but I'm hoping to make most of the changes if possible. Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 13:01

1 Answer 1


Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately working with the default member profile templates really is a massive, massive pain. Hence the large number of member related addons out there.

About the only plus point is that they are saved as files unlike the system message/speciality templates, but otherwise the documentation really is next to non-existent as you've no doubt found, and the default templates are an ugly mess of layout tables and inline JS with no clear structure that I personally doubt has been touched much since they were ported from EE1.

Previously I would have sent you to the EE wiki, in which the community had tried to plug this particular void, but helpfully EllisLab pulled the wiki as part of their recent redesign. Here is a google cache link, not sure how long it will work for though. You can get more (possibly relevant) stuff from Google's cache of the wiki here

When I last built a serious membership-based site on EE I lasted lierally about an hour before I bought Solspace User (I didn't need private messaging for that site though) and I'm so glad I did. Using native functionality where possible is absolutely a good idea to aim for, but in this instance it really is a world of pain.

  • thanks for the response. Do you happen to know of any other add-ons that do something similar. I have User installed already, but the PM stuff that is part of that add-on is pretty limited and I really require a more robust PM system. Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 13:02
  • 1
    Have a look a the Messaging addon. Which (though I haven't used it personally) should do what you want, in that it lets you access private messages via "normal" EE templates instead of the member profile templates.
    – Tom Davies
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 19:21

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