WindowBlinds “PerPixel” 5 – new features explanatory series – part two.

Originally posted on

If Stardock gave WindowBlinds version names like Microsoft did with XP and its successor, WindowBlinds 5 would probably be called “WindowBlinds Translucent” or “WindowBlinds See-Through” or… oh no… it can’t be… or can it (?) “WindowBlinds Vista”!

In the first part I’ve explained the most noticeable changes you will see in a new WindowBlinds 5 skin but to be honest it went all crazy about translucent parts. We’ve got used to the translucent start panel since 4.6 which I’ve described how to create in this article. But in WindowBlinds 5 you can make the whole taskbar translucent as well as the drop down menus, and the “Please Wait” dialog!

Here comes my skin!

Like it or not first impressions are important. For a skin, the first impression often determine whether the user will try it long enough to appreciate the qualities or reach for that “Delete This Skin” button right away. Right now you’ve really got the tools to make your skin transition smoothly onto the user’s system or make a big splash!

WB5 adds a new section that you can find in SkinStudio under “XP Shell”->”Please Wait Dialog”. The section is so straightforward there’s really not much to say about it. I just wanted to make sure you’re aware of its existence ands importance. The image now separated from the shutdown image and is no longer limited to the system dialog size. It blends nicely into the desktop and you gain the control over the text font and color! Think of it like of a movie trailer. It’s very important that it expresses the spirit of the skin and makes an excellent impression.

… with a cool taskbar…

The taskbar is probably more omnipresent on your user’s desktops than other controls you may consider crucial to your skin. It gives you a vast area to paint upon and allows for a quite a bit control over it. Now you can use that space in an even better way and you can finally make it blend nicely with the desktop wallpaper.

The effect is pretty simple to achieve. If you have read my other (previously linked) articles then you have a good idea about how translucency works. The simple Per-pixel effect has never worked on the taskbar before. WindowBlinds is always trying to be as backward-compatible as possible so not to break skins for which it might have been accidentally (or for research purposes) enabled, another switch has been enabled in section: “Taskbar”->”Taskbar Background”->”Horizontal”. The “Background Effect” attribute.  That failsafe need to be enabled on top of what you would regularly do to enable translucency. To summarize – to make the sample horizontal taskbar translucent enter the section: “Taskbar”->”Taskbar Background”->”Horizontal” and set the following attributes to their respective values:

  • “Painting options”->”Transparency and translucency – Switch” as “Transparent”,
  • “Painting options”->”Translucency – Switch” to “Translucency IS being used” and
  • “Background Effect” to “Translucent Taskbar effect”

Needless to say the taskbar must actually be a translucent image for the effect to work :)

The first two switches are enabled for each section respectively (vertical/horizontal taskbar/gripper) but the last one (the “Background effect”) is shared among all of them and toggling it in any of the taskbar sections will toggle it for the whole taskbar.

… and a sparkling menu.

Similarly the drop down menus are now skinned in a per-pixel manner…

It’s as simple making your “Controls”->”Menus”->”Pull Down Background”-> “Pull Down Background Image” translucent and enabling the usual:

  • “Painting options”->”Transparency and translucency – Switch” as “Transparent”,
  • “Painting options”->”Translucency – Switch” to “Translucency IS being used” and

attributes in the “Controls”->”Menus”->”Pull Down Background” section. Such menus will automatically become translucent in the new WindowBlinds version.

Similarly to what has been described in this article the new menus may have the shape that does not look good with the regular menus shadow that is simply square. So if your menu is of some irregular shape or simply do the shadow blending itself you can disable the system shadows with the “Hide Shadows” attribute in the same section. Also for the feature to work you should check to make sure that the “Flat menus – disables skinning” attribute is disabled. This will especially be the case with MSStyles converted to WindowBlinds skins.

One of the features that generated a lot of excitement in the comments of the first part of the series was the ability to define a reflection map for the window frames. The cool news is that the drop down menus will allow for the same features to work on them. One can only imagine what cool effects the skinners could make with it. Suffice to say the menu can look different depending on which part of the screen it’s open on.

The drop down menu section for the feature is located in “Controls”->”Menus”->”Pull Down Background”->”Pull Down Back – Reflection” in SkinStudio.

WindowBlinds 5 is one of the most exciting releases so far. The numerous translucency additions allow skinners to create smoother, more visually appealing skins. New features like the “progress flash” and the default button fading make them more dynamic and interactive.

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This entry (Permalink) was posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2005 at 3:51 am 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.