Now let's take a quick look at using WindowBlinds. Then we can dive into the possibilities the Object Desktop components provide for a more complete skinning of the Windows Interface in the next section.
You start WindowBlinds from the Start menu: Click Start and select All Programs Object Desktop, WindowBlinds. WindowBlinds provides a simple, single window interface (refer to Figure 6.25). It also includes several visual styles.
To load one of the available visual styles, make sure that My Skins is selected in the Settings list on the left side of the WindowBlinds window. A horizontal list of the available visual styles appears along the bottom of the WindowBlinds window. Select any visual style. If the visual style provides more than one color scheme, a drop-down list appears on the right of the window and allows you to select one of the available color schemes.
You can also launch WindowBlinds from the Appearance tab of the Display Properties dialog box. An icon is provided on this tab when WindowBlinds is installed. If WindowBlinds is available in the Windows system tray (already running), double-click the icon to open WindowBlinds.
After selecting a visual style (and color scheme if available), click Apply This Skin Now. The visual style is applied to the Windows interface. Figure 6.26 shows an applied skin created by Pixtudio. Note the changes that have been applied to the Windows taskbar and the WindowBlinds window itself.
Figure 6.26. You can apply any of the skins included with WindowBlinds.
Although you can choose to have any background supplied with a skin to be applied when the skin is applied (this is discussed later in this chapter), other elements of the interface such as the icons available are not really within the realm of what WindowBlinds can do by itself. Therefore, you need additional software form Stardock. For example, Stardock Icon Packager can be used to apply icon sets to the Windows interface. We discuss Icon Packager later in this chapter in the section "Understanding Object Desktop."
Installing Additional Skins
You can also install additional skins and visual styles from the WindowBlinds window. To download a new skin, click Install Skin from Web. Internet Explorer opens and takes you to www.stardock.com. On the left side of the Stardock window, click the Skins link. This opens the winCustomize.com Skins page (see Figure 6.27).
Figure 6.27. winCustomize.com provides skins and other theme and skin items.
You can download any of the available skins by clicking the Download link for that skin. A File Download box appears; click Save and then specify a location for the download.
WindowBlinds can install new skins directly from Zip files. So you don't have to unzip your downloaded skins before installing them. After the skin has been downloaded, you can add it to WindowBlinds by clicking Install Skin from Disk. In the Install Skin from Disk window that appears, locate the Zip file (the skin) you downloaded from winCustomize.com. Select the Zip file and then click Open. The skin is added to the WindowBlinds skin list, and you can then apply the skin to the Windows interface.
Each skin description also includes information on the support provided by the skin. For example, skins/visual styles provide shell-style support in that they change the visual style for the interface as a .msstyle file would. Skins can also include support for toolbar icons and animations, both of which can be enabled by WindowBlinds. Skins also can have associated downloads, such as backgrounds and other GUI elements.
WindowBlinds Toolbars and Animations
WindowBlinds is not limited to the changing of the current skin/visual style. It also provides the ability to change the current toolbar icons used and the animations applied to the Windows interface.
In the WindowBlinds window, click My Toolbars. This screen allows you to change the icon set used by the various window toolbars (see Figure 6.28). You can select any of the sets available and then click Apply Changes to apply the toolbar icons to the Windows interface.
Figure 6.28. You can select from different sets of toolbar icons.
Other settings on this screen enable you to have toolbar icons associated with the current skin to always be applied to Windows or to have the selected toolbar icon set applied instead. A check box is also provided that enables you to assign the current WindowBlinds colors to the icon set that is applied.
Another group of settings you can apply to Windows via WindowBlinds is related to screen animations. Click the My Animations selection on the left side of the WindowBlinds window (see Figure 6.29).
Figure 6.29. Select a set of custom screen animations.
You can use this screen to change the Windows progress animationsfor example, the animation used when a file is copied from a folder to another folder. Click an animation set and a preview is provided in the WindowBlinds window. To view the animations in a set, select an animation, such as File Copy Animation, File Move Animation, or File Delete Animation, from the drop-down list.
By default, the animation associated with the current skin is used by Windows. To select a different set of animations, click the Always Use the Animations Selected Below option. To apply the changes to Windows, click Apply Changes.
Other WindowBlinds Settings
WindowBlinds also provides other settings related to which GUI elements should be skinned by WindowBlinds, provides for user override settings, and allows for a selection of settings on a per-application basis. To view the WindowBlinds basic settings, select Basic Settings on the left side of the program window (see Figure 6.30).
Figure 6.30. WindowBlinds' basic settings.
Each check box either controls the skinning of a particular interface element or determines whether skin backgrounds or icon packages are also applied with the skin. By default, all options are selected. To disable any selection, clear that check box.
You can also set user overrides for WindowBlinds by clicking User Overrides. On this screen you can set advanced options such as the flattening of toolbar buttons and the size of the taskbar (when skinned). A set of overrides is also provided for fonts related to the font size and font type used; you can actually override the fonts used by a particular skin.
Finally, if you determine that a particular application requires custom settings related to skinning, you can refine the settings by application. Click Per Application on the left side of the WindowBlinds window.
Open the application to which you want to assign custom settings. Position the application window and the WindowBlinds window on the desktop so you can access both.
In WindowBlinds, click the Add per Application Setting button. In the Add per Application dialog box, drag the Setting icon onto the application window for which you want to create custom settings. The Per Application Settings dialog box opens (see Figure 6.31).
Figure 6.31. You can select the skin settings for a particular application.
You can choose not to skin the application, or you can select settings that disable skinning attributes, such as flat toolbars or the skinning of window elements such as scrollbars and the title bar. When you have completed making your selections, click OK to return to the WindowBlinds window. An icon for the application (that has custom settings) appears in the Per Application screen. You can edit the custom settings for the application by selecting the icon for the application and then clicking the Modify per Application Setting button.
You can purchase WindowBlinds as a standalone application. But considering the small price differential, it makes sense to purchase the entire Object Desktop. This provides all the tools you can possibly need in terms of skinning Windows. It includes SkinStudio Professional, which allows you to create your own visual styles. SkinStudio is discussed in Chapter 9.