If you are going to create your own skins, you will need some software tools (we cover other tools you'll need in the next section). One of the most important is a skin editor. A skin editor is software that enables you to alter the various objects that make up the GUI, such as the taskbar, window elements (borders, title bars, and so on), and buttons and controls.
The skin editor is the core application for skin creation and is a requirement for creating custom skins. The other applications we discuss in the next section, such as drawing or graphics manipulation software, serve only as support applications for the skin editor.
Selecting a skin editor isn't as difficult as you might think; this is mainly due to the fact that there aren't many skin editors available. I recommend either Stardock's SkinStudio or TGTSoft's StyleBuilder. These two skin creation applications are similar in many ways. Figure 7.3 shows the SkinStudio interface, and Figure 7.4 shows the StyleBuilder interface.Selecting a skin editor isn't as difficult as you might think; this is mainly due to the fact that there aren't many skin editors available. I recommend either Stardock's SkinStudio or TGTSoft's StyleBuilder. These two skin creation applications are similar in many ways. Figure 7.3 shows the SkinStudio interface, and Figure 7.4 shows the StyleBuilder interface.
Figure 7.3. SkinStudio provides several panels that provide tools and information for creating skins.
Figure 7.4. StyleBuilder breaks the Windows GUI down into skin elements.
The two skin editors pictured in Figures 7.3 and 7.4 (SkinStudio and StyleBuilder, respectively) appear to be similar in terms of the general layout of the application window, but they do have differences. We explore each of these skin editors in more detail: StyleBuilder is covered in Chapter 8, "Creating Windows XP Skins with TGTSoft StyleBuilder," and SkinStudio is covered in Chapter 9, "Creating Windows XP Skins with Stardock SkinStudio."
Because subsequent chapters will help you decide on the skin editor that most suits your needs, there is probably one overriding factor that can help you make the selection of a skin editor. If you are using Stardock WindowBlinds as your skinning software, it makes sense to use SkinStudio (also from Stardock) as your skin editor because these applications have been built to work together. Likewise, if you are using TGTSoft's Style XP as your skinning software, you should use StyleBuilder as your skin editor.
So, the bottom line is that your decision is really related to your selection of skinning software. It is to your advantage (because Stardock and TGTSoft has each built a suite of applications) to use a skinning engine and skin editor from the same software developer.
You will find that, to really create unique skins, you need other software in addition to the skin editor. The skin editor is actually only one of the software tools you will need to create your own skins (although you could make very simple skins just using the skin editor). In the next section, we examine some of the other programs you might want to acquire before you begin the process of creating your own skins.