You can modify the default boot screen by hacking Windows resource files such as boot.ini. However, there are software options for creating and managing your own boot screens. For example, LogonUI Boot Randomizer, available at http://www.belchfire.net/~userxp/indexlbr.htm, is a logon and boot skin manager and provides the ability to create your own boot skins.
Boot screens consist of three things: two image files and the hacked boot.ini file. In the case of Bootskin, you have the two image files, the same as you do if you are creating a boot screen hack. However, Bootskin uses its own .ini file, bootskin.ini, to skin the boot screen.
So, how do you create a boot skin for use by Bootskin, which can be managed using the Object Desktop Theme Manager? You need to create the image files and then create a custom bootskin.ini file for your particular boot screen. First, let's see how you prepare the image files.
As I've said more than once, boot skin creation and use is a risky proposition. I prefer the use of Bootskin for skinning the default Windows boot skin because I don't have to mess with system resource files. How you approach boot skinning is up to you, and many resources and discussion groups are available on the Web that are related to skinning and boot screens. I am covering Bootskin in this section because it is the least problematic of the possibilities.
Preparing Boot Skin Images
Two image files are required for a boot screen: the background image and the progress bar. These images must be 16-color bitmap pictures. You can look at existing boot screen files provided with Bootskin and then use these to reverse-engineer your own boot screens. Each boot skin is installed in its own folder in a Skins folder that is a subfolder of the Bootskin folder. You should open some of these folders and look at the images used and the bootskin.ini file that is used by each boot skin. You have to edit a bootskin.ini file for your boot skin, so scrolling through some of the bootskin.ini files associated with each boot skin can be helpful.
To prepare the image files you will use for your boot skin, you should use a utility provided by Stardock's SkinStudio. We discussed SkinStudio's ability to create Windows skins in Chapter 9.
So, let's look at how you would prepare your boot skin images in SkinStudio. First, open SkinStudio by selecting Start, All Programs, Object Desktop, SkinStudio. You can bypass the SkinStudio opening screen by clicking Close.
Select the Tools menu, point at Bootskin, and then select Prepare Image. The Boot Screen Image Prepare window opens. Click the Browse button to locate the file you want to prepare. In the Open dialog box, locate your file and click Open to open the image (see Figure 13.20). You typically start with the background image.
Figure 13.20. Select the image you want to prepare for the boot screen.
You can adjust the resampling and dithering settings for the image using the appropriate drop-down lists. Try different combinations to achieve the best effect. Remember that you are creating a 16-color image, so it will not look as good as the original if you started with an image that uses a more complex color palette.
When you are ready to save the image, click the Save button. In the Save As dialog box, navigate to the C:\Program Files\Stardock\wincustomize\Bootskin\skins folderthis is a folder that is created when Bootskin is installed. Create a subfolder in the Skins folder, using the name you will use for your boot skin (for example, I will call my folder Bigcat). Open the new folder and save your background image to it using a simple filename with no spaces (see Figure 13.21).
Figure 13.21. Save your image file to the folder you created.
When you save the file, the Boot Screen window closes and returns you to SkinStudio. Now you can prepare the second image you will use for the boot screen. If you have already prepared the background image, you need to prepare the progress bar image.
You don't have to prepare your own progress bar image if you are satisfied with the default progress bar that appears when Windows boots. If you look at the progress bar images included with some of the Bootskin boot screen files, you will find that you are basically dealing with a rectangle that is 22 ¥ 9 pixels. You can create this image in any drawing software and then prepare it using the SkinStudio Boot Screen Image Prepare window. Be sure to save the image to the folder you created for your new boot skin (don't put spaces in the filename).
When you have your files prepared, you need to create the bootskin.ini file. We discuss this file in the next section.
Modifying the bootskin.ini
The last step in the process is accomplished in a text editor, and your best option is Windows Notepad. Open one of the bootskin.ini files that is used by one of the alternative boot skins provided with the Bootskin program and held in the Skins subfolder. If you are using a new boot screen image and a new progress bar image, open the bootskin.ini supplied with the Toon boot skin (look in the Toonboot 1-5 folder and open the bootskin.ini file with Notepad, as shown in Figure 13.22).
Figure 13.22. Open an existing bootskin.ini file that you can edit.
You need to edit each line of the bootskin.ini file so that they are specific for your boot skin. For example, for my Bigcat boot skin, I would edit the bootskin.ini file as follows:
[bootSkin] Type=0 Name = "a cat boot screen" Author = "Joe Habraken" Description = "A cat boot skin" ProgressBar=catprogress.bmp ProgressBarX = 241 ProgressBarY = 420 ProgressBarWidth = 200 Screen=catback.bmp
Note that descriptive text for the boot skin is always placed in quotation marks. The three progress bar settingsProgressBarX, ProgressBarY, and ProgressBarWidthare in pixels and determine the location and width of the progress bar. I suggest that you use the settings provided in the bootskin.ini files of boot skins that work. You can deviate from these settings for experimental purposes and to determine how you want the progress bar to look at bootup.
After you have edited the bootskin.ini file so it points to your image files, you can use Notepad's Save As command to save the file to the folder you created for your boot skin. And that is all there is to it.
ProgressBarX is the horizontal position of the progress bar on the screen, and the ProgressBarY setting is the vertical position of the progress bar on the screen.
Now comes the real test: Open the Stardock Theme Manager and click Boot Skins in the Applications list. Your new boot skin should appear on the list of available boot skins. Select it to preview it (see Figure 13.23).
Figure 13.23. Preview your new boot skin.
Click Apply to apply your boot skin to Windows. You can close Theme Manager by clicking OK. Now when you reboot the system, your new boot skin should be used. And because this is the last of the Windows elements, you have completely skinned the Windows interface.
If your boot skin fails to work, Windows will have problems opening and might hang. Restart the computer and the Windows boot menu should appear (or press F8 after a reboot). Start the computer in Safe mode and then change back to the default Windows boot skin. In a worst-case scenario, start the computer in Safe mode and use the Add/Remove Program utility in the Control Panel to remove the Bootskin program. This resets the boot skin to the default Windows boot screen.