Once you got the idea of the WordPress template hierarchy, it’s quite easy to use. As the case may be (Archive, Single Pages e.g.), and therefor the status of the global WP_Query instance (called »Main Query«), WordPress will look up for the most relevant template in your theme directory. Starting at the most specialized template for the current Query, it will search for more universal templates and finaly for the index.php. The first template file found by this process will be included.
These generic templates are a powerfull tool to build very complex content structures without claiming authors to choose the right template on their own.
The name of the template file tells you in which case the file will be applied. For instance category-catpics.php is a very significant name. But it’s not allways that clear if you come from the other way arround: so it might be not very easy to find the themplate which is in charge for the current »page« you are looking at.
I often had this problem, particularly with more complex themes and so i wrote myself a small plugin, in fact a developer tool, which prints the template name right into the admin bar. Now I don’t want to miss this tool any more on any of my developing systems, I am working on themes.
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