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One trick I've used, is similar to the "use the Delphi classic", but I pick a Theme whose colors run parallel to the skin I'm preparing to install. For example, if my forum is going to be dark grays and blacks with white text, I click "Goth Theme", then I get to my work. Similarly, if I am going to make a Patriotic forum, I use the corresponding theme so that anything not covered by CSS, will still mesh with the overall style.
Is that parallel to what you were saying, or is there something specific the Delphi default view can do, that the other themes cannot?
Installing the Delphi defailt theme first and empty the CSS box helps to speed up the new theme to show.
I used to do the same as you, but not anymore. I install the theme and then change the color and fonts page to matching colors.
... it never was betawww.prospero.com ... at least not that I ever used ... it was betawww.delphiforums.com ... which still appears to be active ... although I've not used it to speed check a theme for years, so I've no idea if it still updates faster than forums.delphiforums.com ...
... these days the Start Page, and Discussion List (Left Hand Frame) are the only frames that you have to wait for at all ... the message frame (right hand frame) and start bar (tabs) always update immediately.
As Els and Kid have said, start from the Delphi Basic theme, delete the whole stylesheet code, and make sure to make at least one change on the Colours & Fonts page.