You have learned different strategies for replacing and personalizing all the elements that make up a Windows skin, including visual styles, the Windows desktop, program windows, and the Windows XP boot and logon screens. Although each of the skinning software packages we have discussed, such as StarSkin, WindowBlinds, and Style XP, provides its own strategy for modifying the Windows interface, the overall effect they all provide is similar. These programs provide alternative graphics and color schemes for the various GUI elements. For example, Figure 14.1 shows the Airlock skin created by Mike Bryant.
Figure 14.1. Skins can provide a dramatic makeover for the Windows GUI.
This skin really provides a complete makeover for the Windows environment. So, even though these skinning software packages do modify the overall look of Windows XP, they really don't alter the basic functionality of the interface. So, it might not look like Windows, but it still operates like Windows.
As another example, you can apply a skin that looks like the Apple OS; see Figure 14.2, which shows the MacPC skin created by Brad Wardell for the Stardock Object Desktop. Some Mac-like functionality is available in terms of how windows are manipulated (note the Mac-style close button on the My Computer Window), but you are still basically looking at the Windows desktop (note the standard Start panel).
Figure 14.2. You can skin Windows to look like a Mac.
Now, I'm not saying that skinning Windows is a futile endeavor. It allows you to create your own, personalized Windows GUI, and that is pretty cool (and fun) in its own respect. However, what if you want to skin Windows and also alter the functionality of the Windows desktop? You can do this, but it requires additional software tools. Let's take a big-picture look at the whole idea of enhanced skins (enhanced in terms of functionality); then we can discuss some specific tools that allow us to play with the interface functions.