If you’re an msstyles author you may want to read it.

Originally posted on Wincustomize.com

Very important: Recoloring/converting or altering icons or skins does not change the original author’s copyright, nor does it make such skin yours! If you recolor/convert or alter a skin or icon that has not been made by yourself you may not upload or share the modified skin or icon without the original author’s permission.

Working on enhancing the porting filter in the most recent months I’ve been working with various msstyles authors (and a lot of them either ported or allowed to port their msstyles). And almost always the first question that arises is – “What’s the point? I can use Windows XP built in theming after all. What does it give me to release my style as a WindowBlinds skin?”

  1. WindowBlinds skins non-theme aware programs so all of Windows would have the style, not just theme aware ones.
  2. Users can mix and match toolbar and progress animations with it (yes there are other ways to do this but nothing as easy as WindowBlinds).
  3. You can change its color easily on the fly.
  4. For most people, it’ll run significantly (i.e. noticeably) faster. Hardware acceleration!
  5. You can assign other mouse button operations to the title bar.
  6. You can easily add buttons that enhance the theme’s functionality.
  7. You can apply advanced recoloring to it with SkinStudio.
  8. With minimum effort you can enable dropdown menus skinning after conversion.
  9. Setting SkinStudio use “maximum quality” option during conversion will make your menu bar skinned as it was a toolbar.
  10. Ability to integrate the skin with the font (the font is installed automatically as the skin is used). It comes with the skin in one WBA (WindowBlinds zipped skin) so there is no risk the theme will look weird if user forgets to install the font or just skip reading the readme where you advise him/her to.
  11. Ability to associate the skin with the toolbar icons so that they are automatically applied once you start using the skin. Same with Animations if the msstyles contains them as well. No need for them to use Additional programs as Y’Z toolbar or replace system files.
  12. User can set the Visual Style to be used for a single app while having another one fot the whole system.
  13. Users do not have to hack the dlls vital to their system systems functioning. This may not be important for you, but believe me it has raised concern more than once among our customers. That was why actually we decided to make the MSStyles converter. Our customers liked some of the msstyles but didn’t want to hack their system files.
  14. On my ssytem (though you may have either confirm or an feel differently) WindowBlinds is more stable than Msstyles. Actually changing msstyles (And I’m changing both of them a lot) kills an application running on my system at least once a 4 changes of a theme. Will it be Firefox(a lot), my Bluetooth stack (more seldom) or my programing IDE(really, really popular at dying). It practically does not happen to WindowBlinds any longer. And being an msstyles author you most probably know very well what I’m talking about.
  15. There is no way you could make an Msstyle that a company like Nintendo, nVidia (or here), Marvel, ATI or Microsoft (or here) would pay you for. Those are just the few themes off a top of my head, but WindowBlinds skinners are making paid themes on a daily basis. The reason why you cannot sell your MSstyle to them is that there is no way for the user to apply the theme in a legitimate way. No – a hack is not legitimate even if some companies sell them). I’m sure you’re in it for fun and not for money. That’s cool, but making a few bucks now and then doing what you love is really nice, isn’t it?

That’s just 15 reasons that I think of first when someone asks me “Why WindowBlinds“. If you’re still undecided just download SkinStudio and you should be able to just double click on your .msstyles file (make sure you unzip it to a directory first) and have it imported in. SkinStudio is a free download that will not expire on you and will allow you to convert msstyles to WindowBlinds and edit your themes indefinitely!

Be aware that even though it’s still not perfect (especially the Free version is rather old) there will be a new SkinStudio release right after the New Year (Jan 2005) that will significantly improve upon what it does now. Object Desktop subscribers may already enjoy some of the improvements. More to come!

I used elements of Brad’s post from Neowin in my article – thanks for the inspiration Brad.

Posted in SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
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Blah this color!

How to successfully recolor skins with SkinStudio.

Originally posted on Wincustomize.com

I am aware that this article is partially redundant. I’ve written similar article in about a year ago but it was concerning icons. IconDeveloper is fairly similar in this term to SkinStudio since they share a great deal of their code base. However there I suppose there may be a significant number of people not realizing that – hence the article.

So we have christmas again. I tell you – I love Mormegil‘s great ChristmasTime skin pack. Though Christmas do not necessarily come in blues for me. It comes in reds, it comes in greens and in golds. Now let’s take a look at the skin:

Yup. definitely too much blues. But hey! I’ve got SkinStudio! Read the rest of this article »

Posted in SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
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How to create a WindowBlinds shell animation file

It’s not as hard as David Copperfield would like you to think it is.

Originally posted on JoeUser.com

How exactly do you create those criters? At first it may seem a tedious job but once you have all the frames, you’re pretty much set.

First thing I did in my research was asking the experts. I’ve asked some of the skin authors and most of them uses a kind of workaround to this. The most detailed explanation I’ve received from one of the greatest WindowBlinds skinners – Mike Bryant:

Read the rest of this article »

Posted in Desktop Customization, Skinning, SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
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How to make a compact start menus in a substyle

and why doesn’t it happen automatically

Originally posted on Wincustomize.com

There was a concern by some users why SkinStudio shares a start menu with the original substyle when you create another substy;le based on it..

Basically the answer is – It’s not a bug – It’s a feature. It’s like that by design. If you select a prefix on save then you will get another start menu as well, otherwise skinstudio will use the same stuff for 2 reasons.

  1. it does not know how to name the new “xpstuff.xp”.
  2. it does not know whether you really want to break the connection. You may as well want to just make a variation of your skin with slightly different titlebar buttons.

But imagine it did that so 2 things happen – you didn’t specify the prefix to create new images so once you change the images in one substyle you change them in the other too since you didn’t tell it to make copies of them. Now imagine how outrageous it would be. “But it uses another xpstuff.xp” you would say. “Why one substyle breaks the other substyle images” you would say. And you would be right. if everything’s duplicated then everything is duplicated, if nothing then nothing.

Now let me show you the solution to the problem. I usedto direct people to the “Code” tab forgettig that the combo for “non image” file references is actually editable. But today I’ve read an easier sollution, by Tiggz:

When you want the substyle to have a different start menu, after you create the new substyle you need to click “taskbar” in the navigation tree in the left hand side of the window, then over on the right click on the word file, and then below, in the “value” text entry field you can change the name from the default (XPStuff.xp).

Keep your great skins coming!

Posted in SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
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Skinning Icons!?!

Are there no limits to customization?

Originally posted on Wincustomize.com

Very important: Recoloring or skinning icons does not change the original author’s copyright, nor does it make such icons yours. If you recolor or skin an icon that has not been made by yourself you may not upload or share a recolored icon without the original author’s permission.

In the next few days Stardock is publishing the next component of it’s extremely successful ObjectDesktop. The new component is called IconDeveloper – the tool’s , I’m the developer of, main purpose is to make it easy for casual users to create icons and make it faster and more efficient for professional icon artists to do their work. Celebrating the event I decided to write a short article about going really crazy with icons and how to do it with IconDeveloper. What skinning means (but is not limited to) is changing the look of certain part of applications. The article will describe how you can change the appearance of an IconPackager theme or an Icl file (Icon library).

So you recolored your icons already? (If not checkout the article about mix matching your themes with your skins – the functionality described there is now a part of IconDeveloper). But it still isn’t enough? Why stop on recoloring? Why not make your icons exactly how you want them to be? Why not SKIN THE ICONS?

I have recolored according to my taste (or lack of it) the great Bant’s “Ciela” Visual Style (Please do not ask for the recolored skin. Curtesy of Bant, it’s available here for free and you can easilly recolor it with SkinStudio). It has a kind of toxic look now, which if you have seen the screenshots in some of my previous articles, you have probably noticed I’ve developed a taste for.

Since i can never get enough of the marvelous PixOs icons by Paul Boyer I have decided to recolor them to match the skin.

But since I’ve done the recoloring already, should I stop there? Let’s open the modded “PixOs Toxic”…

Select a new name for skinned theme and specify that I want to actually “skin” it…

Now what can we do here… I know! Let’s set it on fire!

Or make it suffer in a really polluted environment… sorry Paul

and actually make it ultimately match my skin of choice… and a bit smoked (Why? Why not?!). To do this I’ve had to edit an image from the Visual Style to create a bevel I can now use as a background (made for sake of this artticle only). You can actually use any image for either a background or overlay – just press the “Browse” button and select the image you want to use.

The possibilities are countless. IconDeveloper comes with a number of backgrounds and overlies for you to toy with, but the real potential is in your creativity. Make your own icon’s skins. The sky is the limit!

Posted in IconDeveloper, Skinning
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Could we have some decency here?

Originally posted on Wincustomize.com

There’s a lot of noise in the news sites (Slashdot.org, News.com and Neowin.net) about the Monday release of Konfabulator for Windows. But to be honest they just make me think that journalists today no longer care to be through and accurate and will chew in everything  that a PR department will send them. I do not personally rant about those kind of things, but this one got me going. Especially one thing Mr Alro said which is cited in about all of the sources:

‘When you have a great idea, you want more than 2 percent of the global market to have access to it.’

That’s just utter gibberish!

Unless you lived in a glass castle for the last 6 years or never been a part of the desktop customization community you know that there already is a pretty stiff competition in that area on Windows. He sounds as if some Macintosh saviours bring the desktop customization into the abandoned wasteland of Windows.

Hellooo! I have a news for you! DesktopX is at least a few years older than Konfabulator and it has always been a Windows application. And it just began from that. There are multiple desktop customizing apps epart from that, Kapsule and AveDesk to mention just a few of them.

Unfortunately this is not news for Mr Arlo Rose he is pretty aware of it as I’ve been reading his rhetoric after Apple anounced Dashboard in Tiger and that just makes me all much more astonished about this statement.

Posted in Desktop Customization, Rants, Software
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The power of clipboard

Originally posted on JoeUser.com

A few days back I found that nice Visual Style. Really easy on eyes – perfect for coding – titlebar not to high – not too many distractions. So i ran it through Skinstudio, added a few mods to make it the nice place to look and shown it to Pas (Snidely Whiplash). He’s made a couple of mods himself and I wanted to have them in my skin. But my skin was USF (yes you can apply USF skins to WindowBlinds with Skinstudio) and his was WindowBlinds. But the image format is the same, so i could just copy it and change the settings in my skin. But how would i do that without wasting an hour chasing all the attributes that needs to be changed? So i came up with 2 easy features to do that.

Extract from the change log:
– added possibility to copy and paste images between skins! Just select image attribute in the section view and right click it and press copy. Now right click the image attribute in the other skin and select Paste. Skinstudio will actually copy the image from one skin to another!
– made it possible to copy images from explorer and paste it to Skinstudio. Just select the image file in the explorer and copy it with Ctrl+C or any other method Explorer supports, then in skinstudio select the target attribute in the list, right click it and select pause from the popup menu – Skinstudio will ask you what do you want to do with the image if the file was actually an image

It builds on top of another feature i’ve added recently – as for now you may just copy bitmap from your favorite image program – take Photoshop for example and just paste it into Skinstudio in the form of bitmap. based on the attribute or control you have currently selected (image attribute must be currently selected) skinstudio will do all the boring work for you.

Ctrl+C , Ctrl+V it’s as easy as that. Skinstudio asks you an easy question then and takes care of all the layout changes you may ever need.

Power of Clipboard

Posted in Desktop Customization, Skinning, SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
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