Basics - Default files, template default and overrides

What is a default file vs a template file?

Zen Cart has a templating capability that allows you to modify the functionality and appearance of the cart. This capability sometimes called “overrides,” “template overrides,” or “overriding a file.”

Once you have built a new template (more on this later) and overridden the files you want to change, you can switch back and forth between your new template and the default template from the admin using Tools > Template Selection. Thus, the advantage of using overrides versus modifying the original files directly is that with overrides, you can “revert” to original behavior and appearance quickly and easily for troubleshooting.

When you first install Zen Cart, the template which is in use is called responsive_classic. This is a new template, introduced in Zen Cart 1.5.5, which works on both desktop computers and mobile devices.

Template Files

The files which determine how the page will appear are called template files. In the case of responsive_classic, they can be found in the following folders:


The files under these folders are called overrides. In other words, Zen Cart’s basic functionality and appearance has been overridden by these files.

Some files could be overridden but are currently not - for example, the site map template file (tpl_site_map_default.php) is not part of the responsive_classic template. When this happens, Zen Cart uses the default file instead.

Note: Sometimes the default file is called the base file or the core file instead. These terms are all interchangeable.

Default Files

How do you find the default file?

There are two possibilities:

a) For files under /includes/templates, the default file is includes/templates/template_default/FOLDER/FILENAME.

So the file


is a template modification file based on


This is the default template.

b) For all other files, the default file is one level above the template folder.

So the file


is a template modification file based on


Likewise, the file


is a template modification of


If a templated file doesn’t exist in your cart, you can create it by simply copying the default file. See the I don’t have the file … FAQ for more detail.

And remember: if you aren’t changing a file, there is no need to copy it from the default file - the default file will be used by Zen Cart automatically. For this reason, you should expect your template to have many fewer files than the default template.

When you’re ready, you can read more about overrides.

Still have questions? Use the Search box in the upper right, or try the full list of FAQs. If you can't find it there, head over to the Zen Cart support forum and ask there in the appropriate subforum. In your post, please include your Zen Cart and PHP versions, and a link to your site.

Is there an error or omission on this page? Please post to General Questions on the support forum. Or, if you'd like to open a pull request, just review the guidelines and get started. You can even PR right here.
Last modified September 20, 2020 by Scott C Wilson (f3bd368).