Welcome to the first annual top skinning awards (The Skinnies!).

Skinning, the art of changing the look and feel of your computer programs.  Many popular programs can be skinned - Windows Media Player, Winamp, and using programs like WindowBlinds, all nearly all your programs become skinnable! And 2004 was a great year for skinning.  Now what you think is a great skin and what we think are great skins probably differ. Some people like incredibly minimalistic skins that focus purely on functionality. Others like skins that really go against the flow.

What we try to celebrate is the diversity that skinning brings to the table. The whole point of skinning is that we all have different tastes. People spend a great deal of time worrying about what their cars look like. So it stands to reason why millions of people around the world, who spend hours a day in front of a computer, might want to have the programs they use have a particular look and feel.

No doubt that we missed some truly remarkable skins last year.  Over a thousand WindowBlinds skins were created last year. A similar number of Winamp skins were created last year in various forms and hundreds of Media Player skins came out.  There are also skins in all kinds of formats ranging from NextSTART to Astonshell to msstyles.  To keep things in line, we're focusing on what is on WinCustomize.com, the world's largest, most popular dedicated skin site in the world. If you have a favorite program that WinCustomize.com doesn't have, let us know.

So let's take a look at some of the highlights of 2004!

And so we start here, with the default Windows interface...

Blue Luna, the standard look of Windows with its icons.


Skin of Note:  Alienware ALX Vortex
Designer: The Skins Factory
This skin was designed for Alienware and was one of the most popular skins on the net this past year. The screenshot I show here doesn't really give it justice as the animation effects of the actual skin are outstanding.

It requires Windows Media Player 9 or later (I'm using 10 here).


Skin of Note: DogmaX
Designer: Brewman
This skin totally dominated much of the late summer early Fall time frame. It's clean design and completeness helped it. Pictured here is just the WindowBlinds visual style but this is just one part of a greater suite.


Skin of Note: D-Relection
Designer: Kriptoner
This is another skin that a screenshot can't do justice on. Ths is the type of skin that is so well done that it should arguably be the default skin of Winamp in my opinion.  It's too bad you can't use this skin with Winamp Lite because this skin really does demonstrate why Winamp is still such a good media player.


Skin of Note: ThunderStorm
Designer: Pixtudio
Pixtudio's ThunderStorm skin remained popular long after the GUI Olympics was over. Its completeness and overall polish made it a favorite amongst users everywhere.


Skin of Note: WooHoo-FER
Designer: VGA-MetaSkins
This was one of the GUI Olympics skins that was quite popular for its artistic design. It's not quite as "usable" as D-Reliction but in terms of skinning it shows the maturity of the artform.

One of the nice touches is that as the music plays, the two speakers vibrate.


Skin of Note: Opulence
Designer: b0se
One of the cleaner looking skins of the GUI Olympics also remained very popular after the fact. In terms of clean usable skins this was one of the most best of the year.


Skin of Note: Fabre
Designer: Gabriel
While there are vocal people out there who seem to freak out if a skin isn't as minimalist as possible, there are millions of others who like to dress up Windows with cool and original looking skins.  Fabre is one of those skins that has to be run to really be appreciated. It's really fantastic, especially if you run at higher resolutions.


Skin of Note: WooHoo-FER
Designer: Andrew Mackowski
This too was one of the GUI Olympics skins and it was incredibly original and very useful.  It was for these kinds of skins that it was worth having the GUI Olympics in the first place IMO.


Skin of Note: Gizmo
Designer: MikeB
No one is going to accuse this skin of being usable on a production machine (with the title bar being on the bottom and the buttons spread out).  But man it looks cool. I love the Start bar in particular.


Skin of Note: Halo 2 Skin for WMP10
Designer: The Skins Factory
This is another one of those skins where screenshots don't do them justice. Many of the best skins end up like that - where the coolness is in the little touches. This is another skin from The Skins Factory.


Skin of Note: Catwoman
Designer: The Skins Factory
It was an awful movie but man it made a good skin. Lest someone think I have some "thing" for The Skins Factory let's just face the facts - they dominated their area of skinning last year. Fans of Windows Media Player should be thankful that these guys are getting these skins made. That isn't to say that there aren't plenty of fine Windows Media Player skins, but the gulf in polish between those and these is pretty immense.  Of course, one might argue that because The Skins Factory is a professional design studio it should have "better" skins. But to the end user, downloading them, they're just as free as anyone else's.


Skin of Note: Jester
Designer: Essorant
This is one of those skins that is useful and grows on you over time. I don't use it in its default color but rather change the hue of it (using WindowBlinds 4.5) and turn down the saturation to make it somewhat more subdued.  But it's very usable and easy on the eyes over the course of the day.


Skin of Note: VectorCell
Designer: b0se
I suspect if there was an overall vote by all USERS of skins for 2004 this would be the skin most people would be willing to agree on was the best skin of 2004. Not because it was the most complete, it wasn't. Not because it was the most creative, it wasn't.  And not because it was the most minimal, it wasn't.

But because it had that certain something, it was creative enough combined with simple enough it was really quite remarkable how unique this skin was. It's so usable and so easily modifiable that it does with almost anything. In some ways, one might argue that this is the visual style that some innovative OS developer would have as its default UI.

That isn't to imply that it is "better" than all the others. That's all a matter of taste. But it was definitely one of the highlights of 2004.



Skin of Note: Synthek
Designer: danillo0c
On IRC I have seen some people describe danillo0c as perhaps being the next Treetog.  And not just because he's from Brazil too.

Synthek is really just the tip of the iceberg in a year of fantastic skins from danillo0c. They're highly creative and artistic.

If you click on the designer's link, you can go to his personal page on WC and see that Synthek is actually part of a greater suite of skins. It's quite outstanding.



Skin of Note: GT3
Designer: Tiggz
Tiggz is multi-talented as a skinner. For old timers who lament the passing of classic skinners should keep an eye on the fact that skinners like Tiggz are rising stars in the skinning community.

GT3 is a WindowBlinds skin. But Tiggz is the #2 DesktopX widget maker, the #2 Rainlendar skinner, a leader in the wallpaper and ObjectDock groups, and in the top 30 icon designers. He does it all.



So there you have it. Some of the highlights in skinning from 2004.