With the release of Windows XP, Microsoft provided a radically different approach to the customization of the Windows graphical user interface (GUI) by providing a built-in visual style engine. A visual style controls the color scheme and the bitmap graphics that are used for such Windows interface elements as the Start menu, the taskbar, and the objects we find on a typical window (such as the title bar and control buttons). Although Windows XP shipped with only one visual stylethe XP stylethe fact that the visual style engine exists makes it possible for any user to radically alter the look and feel of the Windows interface.
Through the manipulation of Windows themes (the icons, mouse pointers, desktop background, and other GUI elements we interface with when we use Windows) and visual styles, we can actually "skin" the Windows interface (a skin being the combination of modified theme elements and visual style items). This means you can create a custom interface, and the limits on the possibilities are really up to you and your artistic inclinations.
Theme elements can be easily modified using tools built in to the Windows XP environment. For more radical interface modification, a number of third-party software packages make it easy to create any number of extremely unique "looks" for the interface.
Skinning Windows XP provides both a primer and an advanced user guide to creating your own Windows themes, visual styles, and skins (whether you are using Windows XP Home or Windows XP Profesisonal). Although this book is designed for the novice as well as the more advanced Windows user, its logical step-by-step approach provides a learning environment ideal for the novice and provides the more experienced user with a breadth of details because more advanced skinning topics are discussed.
Although this book takes its subject matter very seriously, the material itself is approached in a straightforward, conversational manner that should help you digest the information without dozing off or developing a horrible migraine headache. It will also provide you with the knowledge base you need to further explore the concept of skinning Windows and enable you to advance your own creative sensibilities when you have set the book down after reading the last chapter.