All your changes to the default Windows XP theme have been fairly straightforward thus far as you've created a new theme. The appearance settings, which are also found in the Display Properties dialog box, are going to throw you a little bit of a curve. This curve relates to the Luna style (the Windows XP style) we discussed in Chapter 1, "Understanding the Windows XP Graphical User Interface." Visual styles (such as luna.mmstyles) take precedence over certain theme settings (specifically color scheme settings), so the Luna style might confound us (but certainly won't stop us) when we want to put a custom color scheme together for the various interface components, such as the taskbar and window title bars.
Let's take a look at the Appearance tab of the Display Properties dialog box (see Figure 4.9) to help illustrate the issue with custom color schemes and the XP visual style (luna). By default, the Windows XP style is selected in the Windows and Buttons drop-down box.
Figure 4.9. The Display Properties dialog box's Appearance tab.
If you like the look of the rounded title bars and the button style used for the Minimize, Maximize, and Close buttons, you might want to use the Windows XP style for the theme you are building. If you click the Color Scheme drop-down box, you can select from three color schemes: Default (Blue), Olive Green, and Silver.
You can also change the size of the fonts used on the desktop and in the title bars of windows and dialog boxes. Use the Font Size drop-down box to select Large Fonts or Extra Large Fonts (Normal is the default).
Now here is where the Windows XP style (luna) causes problems: When you attempt to create a custom color scheme, you can't modify the colors for all the various parts of the interface because the Windows XP style overrides your custom color selections.
Let's take a look at what happens. Click the Advanced button on the Appearance tab. The Advanced Appearance dialog box opens (see Figure 4.10).
Figure 4.10. The Advanced Appearance dialog box.
A message in the dialog box states, If you select a windows and button setting other than Windows Classic, it will override the following settings, except in some older programs. By default (without an add-on program such as Microsoft Plus!), the only other windows and button setting is Windows XP style (refer to Figure 4.9). So, what the message is really saying is that the custom colors settings will be negated by the Windows XP style.
There can be some confusion related to the Windows XP GUI and its modification. Remember that in Chapter 1 we discussed the luna.msstyles file that is the Luna visual style (and the only default visual style that ships with Windows XP). In Chapter 3 we discussed themes and found that there is also a luna.theme file (which is the default theme for Windows XP) and a second theme file named Windows Classic.theme. The Windows Classic theme doesn't have an accompanying .mmstyles file as Luna does, so we have greater capabilities for modifying the Windows GUI using just a theme (and not a complete skin) by starting with the Windows Class Style (selected in the Windows and Buttons drop-down list on the Appearance tab).
Now, this isn't completely true. For example, let's say you click the Item drop-down list in the Advanced Appearance dialog box and select 3D Objects. You then use the Color 1 drop-down box to select a new color for 3D Objects (which controls the interior color of windows, the taskbar, and the Start menu).
When you apply the new color, the taskbar doesn't change color. It is still the same blue color that is the default for the Windows XP style.
So, the Windows XP style overrides any custom color you try to apply to the taskbar and Start menu (by changing the color of 3D Objects). In addition, the Windows XP style overrides any custom colors you try to apply to the active and inactive window title bars.
Most of the other custom settings provided by the Advanced Appearance dialog box (including font changes) can be applied even if you have selected the Windows XP style, but creating a completely custom theme requires that you select the Windows Classic style (on the Appearance tab).
To modify the Windows XP style to any great extent, you need skinning software that enables you to modify and create visual styles that can then be applied to Windows. Chapter 5, "A Primer on Third-Party Theme and Skins Software," covers skinning software that allows you to completely modify the look and feel of the Windows XP GUI. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 examine creating your own skins using skin and visual style editors.
Now, let's backtrack for a moment and use the Windows Classic style so we can completely customize the colors for all the items found in the Advanced Appearance dialog box (we will also look at how each setting affects the GUI). The Windows Classic style offers a greater number of color schemes (as compared to the three offered by the Windows XP style).
On the Appearance tab of the Display Properties dialog box, select the Windows Classic style. To select a ready-made color scheme for your theme, click the Color Scheme drop-down list (see Figure 4.11). Select one of the color schemes to apply it to your theme.
Figure 4.11. The Windows Classic style offers a greater number of color schemes.
To change the font size for your theme, use the Font Size drop-down box to select Large Fonts or Extra Large Fonts (Normal is the default). Now you can modify any of the color scheme elements, including the font type and color used by the desktop and title bars, using the Advanced Appearance tab.
If you are satisfied with one of the provided color schemes for your theme, you are ready to move to the next step, which is modifying the mouse pointer. This is covered in the next section. However, if you want to create a custom color scheme, read on.
Click the Advanced button on the Appearance tab. The Advanced Appearance dialog box opens (see Figure 4.12). There are two ways to select GUI items so that you assign a custom color or font attribute to that GUI item. You can click an item in the sample box provided by the dialog box (it shows the desktop, an active window, an inactive window, and a message box). Or you can use the Item drop-down list to select an item and change its color and font attributes.
Figure 4.12. The 3D Object and other custom item settings are found in the Advanced Appearance dialog box.
Let's break down the Item drop-down list so you know what you are modifying when you select a particular item:
Select the various custom settings for the interface items. When you are finished working in the Advanced Appearance dialog box, click OK. You are returned to the Appearance tab, where you can apply the changes you have made to the interface items by clicking Apply.
To see how your custom color changes affect the desktop and a windows program, open a program such as WordPad or Windows Paint on the desktop. After selecting custom color and font attributes, close the Advanced Appearance dialog box to return to the Appearance tab. You can then click the Apply button to see how your changes look (and how they have changed the look of GUI items). You can then return to the Advanced Appearance dialog box to make additional color and font changes.
You don't have to close the Display Properties dialog box to proceed with the sections that follow. However, you might want to click the Theme tab. The Theme name in the Theme drop-down box is now Windows XP (Modified). You will save the theme after you've finished customizing all the GUI elements. We discuss mouse pointers next.