SkinStudio is a versatile skin editor that can be used to create visual styles and custom skins for the Windows Media Player. To understand the file formats SkinStudio uses for the visual styles you create, we need to briefly discuss Stardock's approach to skinning Windows XP.
I am working with SkinStudio Professional in this chapter. SkinStudio comes in three versions: free, standard, and professional. The free version lacks features such as the capability to import parts of existing visual styles. Only the professional version provides the capability to create skins for Windows Media Player. You can purchase SkinStudio as a standalone product or as part of Stardock's Object Desktop. Considering the pricing options and the fact that you also need WindowBlinds if you are using SkinStudio, the Object Desktop provides the best cost savings (and provides several other useful skinning-related tools).
The companion skinning engine to SkinStudio is Stardock's WindowBlinds. It provides its own skinning engine and does not use the default uxtheme.dll skinning engine. However, because Stardock worked closely with Microsoft in the development of the WindowBlinds skinning engine, there is little or no perceptible performance hit experienced in Windows when skinning with WindowBlinds.
WindowBlinds has evolved over time, so different file formats exist for WindowBlinds visual styles, including UIS1, UIS1+, and UIS2. The UIS1 format is no longer in use, and the UIS1+ format is considered a basic visual style format. The UIS2 format, considered an advanced format, has fewer limitations than UIS1+ and enables greater flexibility in terms of button placement, the skinning of menu bars, and animation support.
When you create a new visual style in SkinStudio, you can save the file in the UIS1+ or the UIS2 file format. You can use SkinStudio to modify existing visual styles, create new visual styles using a wizard or a template, or create a new visual style from scratch.
Let's take a quick look at how to download and install SkinStudio. We can then explore the SkinStudio application window and create some visual styles.