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When SkinStudio is first opened, you have the option to create a new skin or to open an existing one. If you choose a new skin you will be presented with the default Windows GUI.

This is the SkinStudio welcome screen.

When you choose a new skin, SkinStudio will ask you what kind of skin you would like to make.

The two basic choices are:

  1. WindowBlinds Basic Skin. These are technically called UIS 1 skins. They are best used when you're making a skin that is basically the same as the Windows GUI but with different graphics. They are easier to make and faster. But they lack many of the more advanced features as they can only do what the OS can do.

  2. WindowBlinds Advanced Skin. These are much more powerful in that you can have title bars and borders of any size, use alpha blending and shadows in your windows. They don't run quite as fast (still faster than Windows is by default) but they are much more flexible.

The SkinStudio Categories

Once you have chosen what kind of skin you want to make, you are presented with a preview of your current skin along with a panel of actions you can use to make changes to it.

The categories of actions are:

  • Full Preview. This shows you what your skin currently looks like.

  • Edit Controls. This displays the various controls of Windows such as push buttons, tab controls, progress bars, scrollbars, etc.

  • Edit Start Menu and Taskbar. This lets you alter the look of the taskbar and menu.

  • Edit Explorer / IE Shell Parts. This option lets you change the special controls that are unique to Internet Explorer, Explorer (the main shell of Windows). This includes (on Vista) Internet Explorer tabs, the back and forth buttons and more. 

  • Edit XP File Animations. When users copy or download files on Windows XP, an animation plays. WindowBlinds can change that animation.  This is where you can assign new animations.

  • Edit Titlebars and Window Frames. The most basic part of the Windows GUI -- title bars and borders.  The frames of your window also include the close button, minimize button, maximize button, title bar text (technically called "the caption") and the system menu icon.  There are different types of frames to choose from depending on your design choice including per-pixel frames (these are frames with an alpha channel, use these if you want to have a shadow and have your windows be partially see-through) or UIS2 frames which are very powerful but don't have per-pixel options.

  • Change Skin Colors. Windows is full of places that display text. You can control what color text is displayed as.

  • Change Skin Fonts. Similarly, you can change what font face is used for different parts of the Windows GUI.

  • XP Specific Sections. Windows XP has many unique GUI elements not present in other versions of Windows (including Windows Vista).  These include the logoff dialog, control panel styles, task panels (often referred to as shell styles), and toolbar icons. 

  • Backgrounds. WindowBlinds can change the backgrounds of the desktop (the wallpaper) as well as add a background to explorer windows.

  • Theme Part Details. This category displays the most common parts of a skin that people tend to care about. It provides short-cuts to get to different parts of the editor.

Now that you have an overview of SkinStudio, we'll start creating a skin piece by piece in the next chapter.
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