As I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, StyleBuilder is used to create visual styles. This means you can manipulate the color scheme and each individual bitmap that makes up a particular graphical element of the interface.
StyleBuilder can't build background or icon files which, as you already know, can be built using drawing software or other image software. These interface elements are not restricted by Windows XP (meaning you can change them at will) as the visual style is. Remember that Windows XP's skinning engine, uxtheme.dll, is designed to allow only Microsoft digitally signed visual styles (such as Luna) to be applied to the interface. StyleBuilder builds files with the extension .sb (for StyleBuilder), which can then be compiled as .msstyles files, which are in the same file format as Luna. By default, StyleBuilder loads the attributes of the Luna visual style as your starting point when you choose to create a new visual style. You then modify the Luna elements (the bitmaps and colors) to create your own visual style.
So, StyleBuilder doesn't allow you to create all the skin elements, but it allows you to create the most important skin elementthe visual style. The visual style is normally restricted by Microsoft Windows XP, meaning you have to have software that gets around the digital signature issue. You probably noticed from our discussion of skinning software in Chapter 6 that it is really the visual style that controls most of the visual elements of a skin because it is made up of a library of bitmap files that depict each window part, the taskbar, and other interface items. Building your own visual styles and then adding other theme and skin elements such as custom icons, backgrounds, screensavers, and so on completes a skin, and assembling all these skin elements and then applying them to Windows is really what skinning is all about.
So, StyleBuilder is your artist's tool for creating the visual style. A skinning engine, such as Style XP, is then used to apply the visual style and other skin elements to the Windows interface.
Let's see how you can create visual styles using StyleBuilder. We can then review how you apply your custom visual styles created in StyleBuilder to Windows using Style XP.