You have a number of choices in terms of add-on software that enables you to manipulate the look and feel of the Windows XP interface. Each software choice puts a slightly different spin on how it modifies the Windows GUI and typically provides its own set of tools for managing themes, visual styles, and skins. As already mentioned, skinning software also provides the ability to modify the Windows boot and logon screens.
When I say modification, I mean that these products provide the ability to select alternative themes, visual styles, and boot and logon screens. I am not using modification in this case as a synonym for creation. We discuss creating visual styles and assembling skins in Chapters 7, 8, and 9.
So, skinning software allows you to select each component of the Windows GUI and apply it to Windows XP. The fact that you can mix and match themes and visual styles with boot and logon screens is what lets you assemble your own custom skins.
Something worth discussing further is the question of how the particular skinning software package gets around the Windows XP uxtheme.dll. It is the default visual style or skinning engine for Windows XP and requires a digitally signed visual style, such as Luna (the default XP style).
Skinning software falls into two categories in relation to the uxtheme.dll visual style engine: those that use the default engine and those that do not. For example, Style XP uses the default visual style engine to load new visual styles. On the other hand, WindowBlinds uses its own skin file format (a UIS file, which is similar to a .ini text file) to manipulate Windows skins (and the various theme elements such as icons, mouse pointers, and so on). So, in effect, the WindowBlinds skinning engine runs on top of the Windows operating system and does require some (quite minimal, however) overhead from the system.
If you do a web search for "Windows themes" or "Windows skins," the results consist of a large number of hits that directly relate to software that enables you to modify the Windows GUI. The list provided in this section isn't intended to be an exhaustive list. This is a list of some of the available visual style and skinning packages. We will concentrate on some of the more high-profile visual style and skin software packages in Chapters 7, 8, and 9.