In terms of skinning, the icing on the cake is the ability to skin individual applications. These skinned applications can then become an integral part of your overall desktop theme or skin. The types of applications that are most often skinned are applications that reside on the desktop while being usedfor instance, media players such as Real Player and the Windows Media Player that you use on the desktop to play music or view video.
Let's focus on Windows Media Player because it is installed by default on Windows XP. You can open Windows Media Player via the Start button: Select Start, All Programs, Accessories, Entertainment, Windows Media Player.
Windows Media Player 10 is the most recent version of Windows Media Player at the time of this writing.
Windows Media Player comes with a number of skins. Click the Access Applications menu button, which is next to the Minimize button). Point at View and then select Skin Chooser. The Skin Chooser window opens (see Figure 14.17).
Figure 14.17. Choose a new skin for Windows Media Player.
A large list of skins for the media player is provided. Select a skin to view a preview. When you find a skin you want to use, click the Apply Skin link.
After you apply a skin, you can return to the full mode by clicking the Return to Full Mode icon (the icon placement varies from skin to skin). With the large number of skins available, you will probably find a skin that integrates nicely with any Windows skin you have created.
Sometimes, however, you won't find a skin that works well with a Windows skin you have created. Therefore, you will have to create your own skin for Windows Media Player.
You can download more Windows Media Player skins by clicking the More Skins link. This takes you to the Microsoft Windows Media Player website. When you download new skins, they are added to the skin list.
One way you can create Windows Media Player skins is to write the code for the skin. Microsoft Windows Media Player 10 uses XML files to skin the application. Microsoft provides a software developer's kit (SDK) that has the resources for creating Media Player skins; do a search on the www.microsoft.com site for "Windows Media Player 10 SDK" to find the current location of this kit.
The alternative to coding a skin is to use a utility that enables you to create a skin from a more graphics-oriented approach. Stardock's SkinStudio Professional provides the ability to create a Windows Media Player skin. The approach to creating a Windows Media Player skin is the same as creating a Windows skin in SkinStudio. You are provided with a default skin that serves as the starting point for the new skin. You then systematically replace or modify the graphics in the default skin to create a custom skin.
You start SkinStudio Professional by selecting Start, All Programs, Object Desktop, SkinStudio Professional. When you do this, the opening screen provides a link for creating a new Media Player skin. Click the Windows Media Player Skin link. The Enter New Name dialog box opens. Type a name for your new Media Player skin and then click OK. SkinStudio opens and loads the default Media Player skin (see Figure 14.18).
Figure 14.18. Create a Windows Media Player skin in SkinStudio.
To create the new Windows Media Player skin, select each of the skin parts in the Preview pane. This loads the image for the selected item into the Edit pane. You can then open the item in your image editing software, such as Photoshop, and change the image as needed.
SkinStudio creates Windows Media Player skins in its own Universal Free Form (UFF) skin format.
Creating a Media Player skin is exactly the same as creating a Windows skin. Refer to Chapter 9, "Creating Windows XP Skins with Stardock SkinStudio," and follow the steps for using a skin template and editing skin components. After you have created your new Media Player skin, you can apply it to the Media Player by selecting Tools, WindowBlinds, Apply This Skin. Figure 14.19 shows a simple Windows Media Player skin created by modifying the sample SkinStudio Media Player skin. Note that a picture (of me) is used as the volume control.
Figure 14.19. Windows Media Player skins provide another possibility for skinning Windows.
You can also load Windows Media Player skins using the Stardock Theme Manager. Additional Windows Media Player skins can also be downloaded from www.wincustomize.com if you don't want to create your own.
Creating custom skins or downloading skins that match the Windows skins you use provides a unified look for your new Windows interface. The application skins you create are limited only by the time and effort (and some creativity) you want to expend creating the skin.