NOTE: This article was originally written in May 2018. Since then, all the themes I looked at have continued to develop, and the new WordPress block editor has been introduced. I have not updated any of the information on the Astra theme.
Out of the Box
As with GeneratePress, Astra is quite plain looking but gives you a good starting point that you can customise to fit your requirements.
The free theme has options for showing any of the site title, tagline and logo as well as a site icon, and you can choose to show the logo and title in a line.
By default, the Astra theme name appears in the footer bar, along with the site name, but you can change this information, even in the free version of the theme.
The free theme provides base colour options, i.e. a theme colour for elements such as buttons and colours for links, text and the overall background. You can also change the colours of the footer bar and footer widget area.
Astra Pro’s Colors & Background Module adds a lot more options including the header, navigation menu and headings.
The free Astra theme allows you to pick different Google fonts for the body text and headings, but not for elements such as the navigation menu.
Different heading sizes can be chosen for display on tablets and mobile phones.
Astra Pro’s Typography Module extends the choice to include, for example, menus, buttons and widget titles.
The free version of the theme has options for changing the overall background of the website, as well as the footer widget area and footer bar.
Astra Pro’s Colors & Background module extends this to other areas.
The free version of Astra allows you to display the menu in 3 locations within the header. It also has a custom menu item which I’ve used to add a widget with a Facebook link in my example below.
There’s also the option to add a footer menu.
Astra Pro adds other features such as a sticky header and transparent header.
Astra’s free theme has options to make the content boxed or full width, and to change the position of, or remove, the sidebar. This can be done globally or on a page-by-page basis.
When editing a page, I can also choose to disable sections, including that “Home” page title.
There aren’t quite as many widget areas in Astra as in GeneratePress. It has one main sidebar, one widget area in the header, two in the footer bar, and four in the footer.
The Astra Pro Footer Widgets module adds a choice of 7 footer widget layouts.
As I found with other features, Astra does offer a few more options than GeneratePress when the free versions of both are compared. The amount of information displayed can be changed and the various elements can be dragged into a different order.
Astra Pro’s Blog Pro module offers similar features to GeneratePress Premium – including grid and masonry layouts and highlighting the first post by making it larger. There’s also an option for formatting the date.
As I don’t have the Pro version of Astra, I wasn’t able to try out the Page Headers module, but the documentation suggests that this is also a powerful feature.
Astra Pro has a hooks option as part of the Custom Layouts module. There is also a free Astra Hooks plugin, which enabled me to add actions in the customiser. I couldn’t seem to add conditional filters with the free plugin, which meant that, with my shortcode example, the featured posts appeared at the bottom of every page and blog post, not just on single posts.