Exploring Theme Elements

As already mentioned, the Luna or Windows XP theme is the default. It is enabled the first time your boot up Windows XP. So, where are the settings for the various elements that make up the Luna theme, such as the background or sound scheme? They are kept in an actual theme file (called Luna.theme).


If you refer to Chapter 1, "Understanding the Windows XP Graphical User Interface," we have included the desktop and window fonts as part of the elements that make up a Windows theme. While not forgetting that they are important to a theme, we will forgo a discussion of font changes in this section because we already discussed the options for sizing fonts in the Display Properties dialog box in Chapter 2. Take a look at the section "Changing the Windows Font Size" in the previous chapter.

But we want to actually view these settings, so we need to find the particular dialog box or utility that enables a user to actually edit the settings of a theme. Let's begin our survey of the Luna theme elements with the desktop background settings and then work our way through the other elements, such as the desktop icons, mouse pointers, and sound scheme.

The Theme Background

The theme background (or wallpaper, as it was called in previous versions of Windows) is the background that covers the Windows desktop. By default, the Luna theme uses the Bliss background shown in Figure 3.2.

Figure 3.2. The default background for the Luna theme is Bliss.

For the sake of comparison, let's take a look at the Windows XP desktop when it is not covered by a background. Figure 3.3 shows the desktop without a background.

Figure 3.3. The Windows desktop without a background.

When no background is selected, you actually see the color that has been selected for the desktop as part of the theme's default color scheme. In Luna's case, a dark blue color has been assigned to the desktop (as part of the default color scheme).

To find the default background for a theme you have assigned to Windows, you need to go to the Desktop tab of the Display Properties dialog box, which is shown in Figure 3.4.

Figure 3.4. The Desktop tab lists the current background and offers a list of alternatives.

To open the Display Properties dialog box, right-click the Windows desktop and select Properties from the shortcut menu. When the dialog box opens, select the Desktop tab.

You can see from Figure 3.4 (and your own Display Properties dialog box) that Windows XP offers a number of backgrounds. When you change the background, you are actually modifying the theme. We will cover changing the desktop background and how Windows XP acknowledges that you have done this later in this chapter.

Desktop Icons

Each theme can have a unique set of desktop icons. We discussed changing the default icons for Windows applications and folders in the previous chapter. In terms of a theme and an icon set, however, we are actually limiting our discussion to the default desktop icons: My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and the Recycle Bin.


The Desktop Items dialog box provides a set of check boxes for icons such as My Computer, My Documents, and Internet Explorer. Enabling the check boxes places the particular icon on the desktop.

The icons used by the current theme can be viewed in the Desktop Items dialog box. This dialog box is opened from the Desktop tab of the Display Properties dialog box (right-click the desktop, select Properties, and then select the Desktop tab).

On the Desktop tab, click the Customize Desktop button. The Desktop Items dialog box is shown in Figure 3.5.

Figure 3.5. The standard desktop icons are controlled using the Desktop Items dialog box.

Not only does the Desktop Items dialog box show the current desktop icons used by the theme, but it also enables you to modify the icons used by a particular theme (making it a modified theme. We discuss creating and modifying theme elements in Chapter 4.


Another element that is typically part of a theme is the screensaver (although not all themes you download from the Web include a setting for a "special" screensaver or include a screensaver). The screensaver keeps the screen active when there is no user activity. It is up to you to set the amount of time that must pass without user activity before the screensaver is turned on.

Screensaver settings and the selection of a screensaver are accessed via the Screen Saver tab of the Display Properties dialog box, as shown in Figure 3.6.

Figure 3.6. The Screen Saver tab of the Display Properties dialog box provides the various settings for your screensaver.

Windows XP provides a number of screensavers, and you can download screensavers from the Web (and if you have the time and inclination, you can create your own screensavers). We examine screensavers in more depth in Chapter 12, "Adding Screensavers to Your Skins."

You can see in Figure 3.6 that the Screen Saver tab not only provides access to screensaver settings, but also provides a drop-down list of the screensavers that are included with Windows XP. The Luna theme uses the Windows XP screensaver as its default.

Theme Color Scheme

The color scheme for the theme dictates the colors of theme elements, such as the Windows desktop and Window title bars, but it can also include settings for caption button size, menu size and font, the background color for application windows, and a number of other visual settings.

To access the color scheme for the current theme, select the Appearance tab of the Display Properties dialog box. Figure 3.7 shows the Appearance tab.

Figure 3.7. The color scheme is set on the Appearance tab of the Display Properties dialog box.

The default color scheme for the Luna theme is called Default (blue). If you click the Color Scheme drop-down box, you will find that Luna offers two other color scheme possibilities: Olive Green and Silver.

When you create your own themes, you can create your own color schemes, which (as mentioned at the beginning of this section) can also include visual settings related to ToolTips, window scrollbars, and menus. These settings are not limited to color information but can include spacing and font settings, as well.

Luna is unusual in that it limits the amount of color scheme modifications you can make; you will find that these limitations encompass all three of the color schemes (blue, olive green, and silver) provided by Luna. This is why major modifications of Luna require skinning software. But we will begin to sort out the issues related to modifying Luna and the Windows Classic theme in the next chapter.


The various settings for a theme's color scheme can be modified using the Advanced Appearance dialog box. This dialog box is opened by clicking the Advanced button on the Appearance tab of the Display Properties dialog box.

Mouse Pointers

Another visual element of a theme is the set of mouse pointers provided by the theme. There is really no limit to the mouse pointers you can assign to a particular theme because you can download or create mouse pointers.

To view the mouse pointers for the current theme, open the Windows Control Panel by selecting Start, Control Panel. In the Control Panel, select the Appearance and Themes category. A shortcut for mouse pointers appears in the link box on the left side of the Control Panel. Select Mouse Pointers.

The Mouse Properties dialog box opens. Select the Pointers tab to view the current mouse pointer scheme (see Figure 3.8). By default, Windows XP uses the Windows Default (system scheme) mouse pointer set (as shown in Figure 3.8).

Figure 3.8. You can view the current mouse pointer scheme for a theme.

You can change individual mouse pointers or the entire mouse pointer scheme (we cover changing the scheme in the next chapter when we discuss creating themes). To change a single mouse pointer, select the mouse pointer in the Customize box and then click the Browse button. All you have to do is locate a new mouse pointer file (cursor files have the extension *.cur; animated cursors have the extension *.ani).


When you change individual mouse cursors that are part of a particular scheme, you can save your changes as a new scheme by clicking the Save As button on the Pointers tab.

An alternative to changing individual mouse cursors is to select an entirely new mouse pointer scheme. This is accomplished by selecting a new scheme from the Scheme drop-down list on the Pointers tab. Windows XP offers a number of mouse pointer schemes, such as the default, conductor, dinosaur, and others. You can also download mouse pointer schemes and create your own; we discuss these possibilities later in the book.

After you have selected a new mouse scheme or changed individual mouse pointers, you can close the Mouse Properties dialog box by clicking the OK button.

Theme Sound Scheme

Although not a visual element of a theme, each theme can contain a unique sound scheme. The default sound scheme for a theme (such as Luna) can be found in the Sound and Audio Devices Properties dialog box.

To open the Sound and Audio Devices Properties dialog box, select Start and then click the Control Panel icon. In the Control Panel, select the Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices link. Then select the Sounds and Audio Devices link to open the Sound and Audio Devices Properties dialog box. The sound scheme and sound events can be found on the Sounds tab (see Figure 3.9).

Figure 3.9. You can view the current sound scheme and the sound assigned to each program event.

In the Program Events scroll box, you can view the various Windows program events (such as Critical Stop, Device Connect, and Exit Windows) and the sounds that have been assigned to them.

You can change the sound used for any of these events (or assign a sound to an event that does not currently have a sound assigned to it). To hear the sound currently assigned to an event, select an event in the Program Events scroll box.

The sound assigned to the event appears in the Sounds box. Click the Play button to hear the sound. If you want to change a particular sound for a program event, select the program event and then click the Browse button. Sound files that are used for program events must be .wav files. This means you can use any .wav file on your computer or even create your own. We discuss selecting and creating sounds for program events in Chapter 4.

The Sound tab also allows you to view the current sound scheme being used (there is no selection by default in Windows XP when you use the Luna theme). To see the available sound schemes, click the Sound Scheme drop-down box. Only two possibilities are provided by Windows XP (No Sounds and Windows Default), but you can create your own sound schemes; again we discuss the possibilities in Chapter 4.

To close the Sound and Audio Devices Properties dialog box, click OK (to save any changes) or Cancel. You can then close the Windows Control Panel.

    Skinning Windows XP
    Skinning Windows XP
    ISBN: 078973348X
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2003
    Pages: 160
    Authors: Joe Habraken

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