StyleXP and StyleBuilder by TGTsoft were perfect for doing this, but for XP and below only. Creating a Visual Style for Vista, at the moment, requires a lot work. Now that is all too change. For people who prefer visual styles on Vista, a new product is on it's way to help you.
Andreas Verhoeven, of AveDesk fame, is finalizing his new program Vista Style Builder and I had a little chat with him to get some insider info, find out more about it and get some first looks of what to expect
Hello again Andreas . Last time we spoke, we teased the readers with mentions of a new program you are working on. I think it's time we put them out of their mysery. I know it's going to prove very popular with visusal style creators, especially vista users. Please, tell everyone about your new program, Vista Style Builder
Creating MsStyles for Vista has not been as easy as for XP: everything has to be done by hand with a resource hacker, changing properties such as colors or margins is magic for most people, image import and export often screws up the alpha-channel and there is the 'problem' of MUI files. Also, all custom MsStyle files are still hacked Aero.msstyles files.
Vista Style Builder will change this all by providing a much easier to use application which allows for easy exporting of images, all properties can be changed and created MsStyles files will not be hacked Aero.msstyles files. Things like editing STREAM images (vista style modders will know what I mean) will be as easy as replacing an image - VSB will regenerate a whole new optimized STREAM, so it will easily be possible to use custom sized STREAM images.
Together with the StyleBuilder, we also created an application to install and manage Visual Styles on Vista. We need this mainly because the control panel applet to switch styles will disable DWM/Aero when you apply a theme that is not called "Aero". Furthermore, the control panel applet previews suck hard: they only show a non-DWM/Aero window - our application will generate Aero previews on the fly.
Next to that, there is also a in-memory UxTheme patcher in the works by Rafael.
I use Skinstudio a lot to create my windowblinds. I took a look at StyleBuilder, when I was on XP, to see about creating some visual styles. It seemed a little daunting, but that's to be expected when trying something new. Have you stuck to the same principle or have you created something totally "noob" friendly?
I have no experience with WindowBlinds or StyleBuilder, but VistaStyleBuilder gives full control over the Style: anything can be changed. Of course, with full control, you have a bit higher learning curve. This means the application is not simply a "throw some images together and get a Visual Style" application; this is simply
not possible with the flexible format that Vista Style have.
Another thing is that the Vista Style format is much more complex than the XP version: there are more controls, more properties, more everything.
Of course, over time, options will be added in future versions that make things simpler. You can think of options like a Photoshop importer which will cut your photoshopped window frame in the correct pieces automatically.
We do, however have a feature called "StyleHacks" which allows people to export their favorite tweaks and hacks and share them with others. For example, to get a small taskbar, you'll need to edit quite some stuff; by applying a "24px Taskbar StyleHack" you get a small taskbar with one click of a button.
Cut you frame into the correct pieces automatically? now that is one feature that will be awesome. I know that with skinning vista you have a lot more options available than skinning XP. A lot of people don't realise just how much of Vista you can actually skin. I would probably go as far to say that you can change any little element in Vista. Is this something you have found and has vista proven to be a lot more stable for this kind of thing than all of the "negative gossip" around it suggests?
It's hard to say right now - The real Vista Style modding has just actually begun - there are new things discovered everyday.
Sadly, it's easy to screw up to: Vista DWM (the process giving you the Aero look) does minimal error checking, so if you modify something wrong you can end up killing DWM. You need to restart it with a good working Style to get the Aero look back again.
How many people are actually involved in creating VSB or have you done all of the work yourself?
The research and coding has all been done by myself. It took quite some time to find out how the inner format worked exactly. Besides the coding, I'm working together with UKIntel on features and testing out things. UKIntel knows a lot about how to actually skin Vista (he made most of his themes by hand with a resource hacker), so he had lots of ideas on options that we need to have.
I know Vista users will never be able to have something like Styler Toolbar because Vista just simply does not have a toolbar as such, well, in the same manner than XP does. People will wonder and want to ask, even though the answer will be obvious, but you have not worked a miracle and found a way around this?
Explorer's commandbar (the green bar with the buttons) can be skinned through the MsStyle file.
Will people be able to skin Internet Explorer or is it just for the actual OS interface?
A lot of GUI elements for Internet Explorer can actually be changed with a different MsStyles.
Obviously it's not going to be a freeware program. Will there be a free version for people to try with more features available in the premium version or will there just be one version? Also, how much should people expect to pay to purchase your program?
There will most likely be two major versions:
+ a basic version with just support for creating and editing MsStyle files
+ a "pro" version, which has extra features, like comparing two MsStyle files, and more important, an XP Visual Style importer.
With the Pro version, I actually imported XP's Luna or Reluna and made them run on Vista with support for DWM. The Luna theme actually got dropshadows for free on Vista .
Due to the differences between the two OSes, there will be small things in the converted VisualStyle that need tweaking. However, the importer is constantly being tweaked to do a better job.
There won't be any free version, simply because there went a lot of work in this application, and, contrary to popular belief, not everything is free in the world. We don't have any final information on the prices yet, but it will probably something like 20$ for the basic version and 35$ for the "pro" version.
Will you be launching a webiste with support forums etc?
There is a website already, [link]
How long will it be before people can get their hands on a copy?
I hope it will be somewhere in the month of August. The code is all finished, we only need to get everything covered business-wise.
Of course, there will be more questions people will have you but I think we have covered some of the main questions and a lot of the basic ones. Is there anything you feel you would like to mention that we have not covered?
I can't wait to see more themes for Vista that are not Longhorn inspired
AMEN! Thank you for giving us an exclusive peek at Visual Style Builder. I can safely say that you will be making a lot of people happy and to make you all a little happier, here is a little sneek look at the program in action [link]
Skinning Community and New Toys FTW