Many websites are available that provide themes and skins you can download. Some of these websites are directly associated with specific skinning software packages. For example, when you choose to download a new theme or visual style from the Style XP command window, you are taken to the ThemeXP.org website (www.themexp.org), as shown in Figure 5.9.
Figure 5.9. Most skinning software has an associated website that provides themes, visual styles, and skins.
How you download the theme, visual style, or skin varies from site to site. You typically click a picture of the skin or click a download button. The actual file you download can be a zipped file (containing a number of files related to the theme or skin) or an executable file that either is a zipped executable (that automatically unzips the files when you double-click it) or is actually an installation file that installs the various skin components on your system.
In the case of a visual style I downloaded from ThemeXP.org, an executable file was provided that unzipped and placed the visual style and a new background file in a new folder. I could then apply the visual style and background to the Windows GUI using Style XP, as shown in Figure 5.10 (Style XP is covered in more detail in the next chapter).
Figure 5.10. Downloaded themes, visual styles, and skins can be applied to Windows using your skinning software.
Additionally, other websites provide themes, visual styles, and skins. These sites are just repositories for themes and skins created by skinning enthusiasts (with no particular allegiance to a particular skinning engine or skin creation software). These themes and skins might or might not work correctly with the particular skinning software you have chosen. In many cases, however, it is worth exploring these sites because many have discussion groups (posts can provide a lot of information) and other short articles related to themes and skinning Windows.
To find additional skin and theme websites, do a search using your favorite search engine. A search I conducted for "Windows skins" turned up a number of matches. One match in particular was SkinBase.org (http://www.skinbase.org; shown in Figure 5.11), which provides a number of downloads including skins, desktop backgrounds, and icons.
Figure 5.11. SkinBase.org, one of the results of my web search, provides a number of skins and other theme element downloads.
Downloading and applying themes and skins not only enables you to customize your Windows GUI, but also enables you to see some of the possibilities (and the lengths some skin designers go) for skinning the interface. Viewing premade skins allows you to get a good feel for different color combinations, schemes, and GUI element modifications; it provides you with some food for thought if you want to design your own skins (discussed in Chapters 7, 8, and 9).
Adware, unwanted software, and unwanted Internet Explorer add-ons are everywhere. They can even be hidden in the zipped files or executable files you download when you are downloading themes and skins. This can also include files you download from websites associated with a particular skinning software package (which is really annoying). Read each screen of any skin or theme installation program carefully. That way, you can ensure that you install only the skin and not a lot of extra software you didn't really want. Many of these websites also have annoying pop-ups and attempt to install ActiveX controls and all sorts of things when you go to the site. I suggest that you have Windows XP updated to Service Pack 2, which you can get from the Windows Update site. This helps negate some of these issues. You also might want to do some research on software that removes spyware from your system. Spyware is software that keeps track of your activities on the Web, and it is rampant on the Web, so protect your PC.