The most common problems with skins we find on Wincustomize

Originally posted on

Browsing the WindowBlinds skins on Wincustomize and applying them is a source of a lot of joy, but there’s also a drop of frustration. There are some common problems with the skins that skinners notoriously forget to check for. Perhaps my working environment is not typical but since you’ve went all the way to create a skin it’s relatively easy to make it a perfect skin for everyone. So here are the 10 things I find most common to be wrong with a lot of skins:

  1. Vertical taskbars. this one is a source of a lot of grief for me. I use 2 monitors, which results in a very wide desktop area, so it’s logical for me to use the vertical taskbar. And I do use it. I must say that it’s the most common for Both WindowBlinds and MSStyles not to include a customized Vertical Taskbar and leaving it in Luna Blue instead.
  2. Make sure your horizontal taskbar does not have problems when it’s located on top of the screen or when user resizes it to more than one row of task buttons. If I use the horizontal taskbar (for example when a skin does not provide a vertical one) I always have it resized to at least 4 rows of tasks. Being the developer I tend to have a teen up to 30 windows open at once for testing various aspects, browsing sites with code and helpful tips and what not. 1 row of tasks in NOT enough.
  3. Making dark skins is tricky on Windows. A lot of apps are not ready at all for dark skins they hard-code colors or use the classic ones for a lot of things: Internet Explorer for example always uses only the classic color for text on buttons. No. it is not sufficient that your dark skin looks good outside Internet Explore, if it makes IE forms unusable it’s not going to be used by the majority of users. IE uses the color defined in Section: “Miscellaneous”->”Colors” in Attribute: “3D Controls”->”Text – System Button”. If you make the skin have dark buttons, make sure this color is readable on Web forms or you’ll run into this:

  4. Make sure you fix the colors on the Desktop context menu, the “New” item sub menu and you won’t have problems with custom drawn menus. On this menu Microsoft pretty much violated it’s own guidelines of how menus should be implemented (which a lot of other apps do as well – including one menu in SkinStudio). If you do not make sure the following hint worked in your skin, this menu is liable to look bad.

    The text should be black on the olive green, but instead it has the light outline. the colors responsible for the outlines in your skin are:

    • Section: “Miscellaneous”->”Colors” Attribute: “Window”->”Background – Window” for the regular non highlighted menu items. (this is what makes the menu in this very skin look bad). Update! I have just recentlydiscovered that this color is overriden by the: Section: “Miscellaneous”->”Colors”->   Attribute: “Menus”->”Background – Menu” which is much better choice as it is liable to interfere with much less places in windows.
    • Section: “Miscellaneous”->”Colors” Attribute: “Selections”->”Background – Highlighted” for highlighted text outline (which in this skin is not visible since it’s defined as orange – which is very good)
  5. Some people use task grouping. It’s the first thing people on large screens tend to turn off. I’m sure I don’t use it and the graphic designers tend to have big screens as well, but people on notebooks with small screens may indeed find it useful. So make sure you turn on the attribute grouing on for a while before uploading your skin. Launch a few Explorer windows with Win+E to make sure you have something grouped and check out the fonts and colors on the arrow and the grouped menu. We tend to see some real problems with a lot of skins on the menu. As I understand people simply do not use this feature and forget about it.
  6. Make sure yous skin looks good with re-sizable and not re-sizable taskbar. this error is not nearly as common as the previous ones built it just like the one with taskbar using more than one row of buttons draws from the assumption that people will use your skin the same way you do. They don’t.
  7. If you use the classic widget fonts referenced from section “Miscellaneous”->”Fonts for classic widgets” and defined as subsections to the section, make sure you specify the font sizes in negative values. Should you fail to do this, all kind of bad things may happen. Firefox will look bad. Outlook 2003 will most probably have problems and applications are liable to have some of their fonts blown out of the proportion.
  8. If you use non typical fonts, you have a mechanism for WindowBlinds to temporally install those fonts for you. Section: “Miscellaneous”->”Fonts to Install” is the place where you can specify the fonts you want to have installed. If you do not reference them from there, Window will try to substitute the fonts with something it has in stock which is mostly not what you intended.
  9. A lot of users use Firefox or Mozilla these days. Since Firefox GUI toolbox (XUL) look and feel is defined with CSS, it’s only aware of the classic colors. Just like IE, you need to make sure they all play nicely together. You cannot make sure it will look nicely with all Firefox skins but you should at least try the “Default” one.
  10. Minimized Window caption and its buttons defined as subsections to “Minimized Window Caption” are often omitted by skinners since they do not see the appliance for them, but they actually are used. The Restore, close and Maximize are quite obvious as they are used by all MDI apps (like SkinStudio – when you minimize the Skin document from the menu bar) on minimized windows. But applications from Adobe and a few other vendors are actually using them for custom painted buttons. Photoshop for instance uses the minimize button for all of its palette windows.

this my no means exhausts the list of skin bugs, but those the things I find most commonly wrong with the WindowBlinds skins. To be honest most of the tips also concern the MSStyles I tend to convert a lot. Of course they do not have their menus skinnable and do not have a way to auto install fonts and SkinStudio auto converts classic fonts to negative values during conversion but it does not really make the things much better better, if anything – more limited.

If you find any of the problems in your skins the fix are in most cases at the reach of your hand. Should you find none of the problems in them, your nick is probably treetog, , danilloOc or VoodooFreak ;)

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This entry (Permalink) was posted on Friday, April 22nd, 2005 at 10:44 pm and is filed under Skinning, SkinStudio, WindowBlinds. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response , or trackback from your own site.