WindowBlinds from Stardock Corp. is a skinning engine that enables you to customize the Windows GUI by loading visual styles. Remember that Microsoft developed the uxtheme.dll skinning engine so that only digitally signed visual styles (.msstyles files) could be loaded. WindowBlinds uses its own custom skinning engine and visual style format, but it is still tightly integrated with Windows XP (and the interface APIs) and certified by Microsoft.
WindowBlinds 1.0 was released in 1999, so it has been around the longest in terms of skinning software. WindowBlinds uses its own file format for visual styles. However, you can import .msstyles visual styles into WindowBlinds by double-clicking any .msstyles file. We talk more about the skinning language and file type used by WindowBlinds when we discuss SkinStudio, WindowBlinds' companion visual style editor, in Chapter 9, "Creating Windows XP Skins with Stardock SkinStudio."
Because it doesn't really deal with the internal Windows skinning engine, WindowBlinds is considered a safe and stable way to skin Windows (through visual styles). It does require some RAM, however, and can slow marginal systems such as computers that really don't have that much RAM or a relatively new video adapter.
WindowBlinds is compatible with Windows XP and is unique among the skinning software we have discussed because it is also compatible with Windows 98, Windows Me, and Windows 2000. Figure 6.25 shows the WindowBlinds interface.
Figure 6.25. The WindowBlinds interface.
WindowBlinds is available as a demo download from www.stardock.com, but it can also be purchased and downloaded from the same URL. Not all the features we discuss in this chapter are available in the demo version, though.
Discussing WindowBlinds in a vacuum would really be a disservice. WindowBlinds controls the visual style that is applied to Windows. And we already know from our discussion of skinning in this chapter that being able to control theme elements and other interface items such as logon screens is important in realizing a true Windows skin.
WindowBlinds is tightly wrapped with other products from Stardock that come in a software suite named Object Desktop. Installing other members of the Object Desktop suite gives you greater control of the Windows GUI and provides the ability to create your own visual styles and edit these styles on-the-fly (with Stardock's SkinStudio).