As you can see from our discussion of themes in the previous chapter, a theme is a collection of elements such as mouse cursors, icons, a color scheme, a background, fonts, a screensaver, and a sound scheme. When you create a new theme, your job is putting together all the raw material that will make up the theme.
Although creating a new theme doesn't require that you modify each and every theme element (for instance, your theme might use new elements but use the default sound scheme or mouse cursors), even the most basic theme typically includes a new background, desktop icons, and a custom color scheme.
Where you get the various elements for your new theme is really up to you. Windows XP provides some alternative icons, backgrounds, and color schemes. Because you create your color schemes from a huge palette of colors, the color scheme is an element you don't really have to acquire (such as downloading an icon set)you create it when you build the theme.
In terms of some of the other theme elements, you can download any number of desktop backgrounds, icon sets, mouse cursors, screensavers, and sounds. You can also create your own elements, such as backgrounds or icon sets. And it is assumed that, as you create your own themes over time (and move on to creating skins), you will want to create your own library of each theme element. We cover the creation of theme element collections later in this book.
We discussed downloading themes in Chapter 3, "Applying and Downloading Windows Themes," but you can also download theme elements such as backgrounds, icon sets, sounds, and so on from many websites. Use your favorite search engine and search for "theme elements." Although we now call it a background, earlier versions of Windows use the term wallpaper. So, you will find that you get more hits doing a search for "Windows wallpaper" than "Windows background."
So, you need to organize the various theme elements that will make up the theme. This means downloading or creating them and then saving them in a folder where you can easily find them when you start the theme creation process.
One thing you can do to stay organized is create a folder for each theme you create. This allows you to keep all the elements, such as the background picture, icons, and cursors, all in one place. You can then easily find the elements when you are changing the various display properties and other settings to create the theme on the desktop.
It is also important to have a place to put theme elements you find when you are browsing the Web or when you are playing around with a graphics package and creating elements such as icons or cursors. One possibility is to save the various elements you find on the Web or create yourself in the folders that hold these types of files by default, such as the following:
However, a better approach might be to create your own folders for each of the elements rather than cluttering the various Windows program subfolders (this way you are also not messing around in the folders that hold the files that make Windows work). For example, you can create a folder for each element in a parent folder called themes. This doesn't clutter the C drive because there is only one parent folder (themes) and each element type can then have its own resting place in a specific subfolder. Figure 4.1 shows this type of folder setup as shown in Windows Explorer.
Figure 4.1. Create folders to hold the various theme elements you will use when creating your own themes.
You end up with two sets of folders. You will have "library" folders that hold elements that don't go to a particular theme. For instance, you might feel inspired and create a bunch of icons; you can save them in the Icons folder. However, if you're creating the icons for a particular theme, you could save the icons in that theme's folder.
After you have the various theme elements saved where you can find them, you are ready to modify the various display properties, mouse cursor settings, and sound scheme settings to create your new theme. However, before looking at the actual nuts and bolts of creating the theme, let's take a moment to discuss some basic issues related to the aesthetics of a theme.