Windowblinds went translucency crazy!

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!

Read the rest of this article »

Posted in Skinning, SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

WindowBlinds 5 translucent frames explained

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

Originally posted on

One of the coolest features of WindowBlinds 5 is the possibility to define a translucent frames in your skin. This means a lot of things and a lot of new possibilities. Your windows can drop shadows, glow but most of all you don’t have to look at those jaggies if your skin features rounded corners in them. The level of excitement can probably be shown by the fact that it does not have even shown in the public beta, yet it already has artists creating artwork advocating it. and a number of authors creating a mock-ups of the skins they intend to create. I have to admit I do not recall being contacted so much about any previous version of WindowBlinds and any other version that generated such passion among even the MSStyles users.

The new window frames blend nicely into the current feature set of WB.

The window part is divided into 5 parts, one for each side: top, bottom, left and right like in the following picture:

Read the rest of this article »

Posted in Skinning, SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

A guide to WindowBlinds fonts in SkinStudio

How does one define a font to use for WindowBlinds.

Originally posted on

I find a lot of users having problems with how fonts are defined in a WindowBlinds skin. It’s quite simple once you understand it how it’s done.

WindowBlinds bases on the premise that most of the skins use just a small number of font variants but use them in a number of places, meaning that one font setting will be used in a number of places like a push button, a tab, a status bar.

A font setting in SkinStudio is called “font preset” and is a set of font name, size and formatting as well as its shadow settings. When you think of it in the terms of any word processor a font setting is not different from “styles” used e.g. in Microsoft Word. And they are equally as useful! in contrast to MSStyles where you define the font for every control or its sub style in WindowBlinds you only define it a few times and then use them in multiple places.

What’s better… if you decide to change the font in a style, do it only once for the style and WB will change it everywhere the font is used! Let me show you how it’s working on a sample skin for a push button.

Every control section has a font setting (at least one) in most cases grouped in the “Fonts” subgroup in its section section.

Read the rest of this article »

Posted in Skinning, SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Where’s that “File dialog… *something*” section?

Another feature that you may find helpful in your day to day skinning.

Originally posted  on

It all started with another brain-freeze today. I just couldn’t find a section that contained the File Dialog places bar images. You know the bar on the left on the File->Save and File->Open dialogs? I bet you’ve been cursing more than once searching for a section like that. SkinStudio will help you with searching for a section if you know it’s UIS name or its part AND if such section actually exist. But in my case it didn’t.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could just lookup the section by it’s name or a part of it?

So I’ve added a tool button like you can see on the image below.

Read the rest of this article »

Posted in Skinning, SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Make a translucent start pane like a pro

As all problems this one appears to obvious when you know the answer.

Originally posted on

Little I knew that I will be involved in it, when I was posting a while ago on Neowin and WinMatrix about the cool Warcraft skins available on Wincustomize. Blizzard is offering a World of Warcraft suite now for download on their  US and European pages pages and upon their request we needed to swiftly modify the Apocalypse‘s great World_of_Warcraft skin to meet Blizzard‘s request to match the game GUI more closely. I was assigned to the task so I went swiftly to the local store with the perfect excuse to get myself a new toy!

– Honey, but I need it for work…
– Sure you do!
– but really, darling… look…

… so I started hacking the game files to get some artwork out of it. As it appears there’s a lot of people looting the game resources than one could expect… a bi-product of it you can find in my previous article here.

But to the point….

Out of the game files I got some cool graphics, now I’m not really good with with design but equipped with some original artwork I can be pretty dangerous. So I got some artwork out of the game and started cutting and pasting this auction window:

as you can notice the frame drops a nice shadow and I wanted to reflect that in the skin. To make the long story short I ended up with  this design:

Read the rest of this article »

Posted in Skinning, SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

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:

    Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Skinning, SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

New WindowBlinds window frame possiblities

How WindowBlinds 4.5 made the window frames even more frolicsome.

Originally posted on

WindowBlinds 4.5 introduced two new cool tricks for window frames –

  • IE/Explorer special shell frames, and
  • random frames.

The two features are mutually exclusive, meaning that if you use random frames you cannot specify the special frames for the shell windows.
First of all – both features are only available in the UIS2 skins (Advanced WindowBlinds skinning format).

Now let me explain how you can use/access the features in SkinStudio and what exactly do they do:

1) Shell windows

Those are the system windows that you browse/explore your computer and the Internet with. SkinStudio added a special section for referencing them placed in the tree in this node: “Window Borders”->”Frames for Shell Windows”. The section defines two attributes:

  • “Explorer Active Windows”
  • “Explorer Inactive Windows”

The names are pretty self explanatory. The attributes define the indexes of the states used for the active and inactive shell windows. But what you may find confusing is that the index is zero based – meaning that the first state in your frame set has an index of 0. If you define the attributes WindowBlinds will choose those states for shell windows instead of it’s regular choice being – the first state for active and the last one for inactive windows.

What you need to do is simply make your window frame images contain two more states for the shell windows so instead of 2 or 3 (if you define the disabled state) images you would include normally – you put 4 or 5 states in there. Of course the states layout setup cannot violate the 3 canonic WindowBlinds rules which are:

  • first state is for the regular active window.
  • last state is for the inactive window (or the second from the end if disabled state is used).
  • and if you have the “Disabled frame state” enabled in the skin, that is you have this attribute:
    Section: “Window Borders”-> Attribute: “Miscellaneous options”->”Image State – Disabled Frame”
    set to “Enabled”, then the “disabled state” must be added as the last state in the strip. By the way – if you never realized this before – disabled frames are used when a window is showing a modal dialog that makes this window inaccessible for the user. You can find when a window is disabled if Windows will *ding* at you when you try to click such disabled window.

So this forces us to use a following states layout:

  1. Active window
  2. Active shell window (this is the state that you need to point at in the “Explorer Active Windows” attribute – in this case you would need to set it to “1” since the index is zero based).
  3. Inactive shell window (this is the state that you need to point at in the “Explorer Inactive Windows” attribute – in this case you would need to set it to “1” since the index is zero based).
  4. Inactive window state
  5. Disabled window state (if the disabled state visualization is enabled).

That’s all that it is to it. Of course you need to equip all the window edge images with the equally same states number as that’s a fundamental WindowBlinds requirement.

2) Random frames

Random frames is a feature which I personally find much cooler than the shell windows skinning. This feature actually changes the windows states layout established so long ago. You enable the feature by flipping the:

Section: “Window Borders”-> Attribute: “Miscellaneous options”->”Random frame selection”

from “Disable random borders” to “Enable random borders”.

By doing so you allow WindowBlinds to randomize the available frames looks for newly created windows. If this option is enabled, the skin must provide more than one pair of active/inactive states for windows borders. The borders must be organized in sets of pairs of active and inactive states following each other like that:

  1. active state 1
  2. inactive state 1
  3. active state 2
  4. inactive state 2
  5. active state X
  6. inactive state X

Also like previously – exactly the same number of states needs to be supplied for all edges of the window frames. Also there is another limitation here – all states must be of the same shape, which means that if you put any pink area on the frame in the active1 state – it needs to be in the exact same shape in all the active states as well and unless you enabled Dynamic frames (Section: “Window Borders”-> Attribute: “Miscellaneous options”->”Dynamic Frame Image Shape”) – it needs to be in all of the disabled states too.

WindowBlinds will choose among the pairs on a random basis during creation of each window/app.

Now if you define say… 20 framesets – the user will have a few hours of fun and surprises with the skin. I can see how this is a big job to define that number of frames, but isn’t a skin an enormous effort already? Now if you add just a little bit to it making it exceptional – don’t we all agree that it’s what lies in the heart of customization? I can see how this could be a true favorite feature (on top of the translucent start menus) in the coming months

Posted in SkinStudio, WindowBlinds
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

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

Originally posted on

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
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Blah this color!

How to successfully recolor skins with SkinStudio.

Originally posted on

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
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

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

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
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)