Monday, March 28, 2005 by Frogboy | Discussion: Customization Software
A visual style is a partiuclar type of "skin" designed to change the look and feel of the entire user interface of an operating system.
On Windows XP, there are two popular formats for visuals tyles - WindowBlinds and MSStyles.
WindowBlinds visual styles are designed to be more flexible than MSStyles but require the user to use the commercial program, WindowBlinds ($19.95) in order to get the most out of them.
MSStyles are very basic but are also free. They cannot move title bar buttons, cannot change border sizes, cannot add additional buttons to the title bar, cannot change styles on title bar text, cannot control alignment on controls or text.
Advocates for MSStyles will argue that these limitations are a good thing because most msstyles tend to be pretty derivative of the existing Windows XP look and therefore are more "usable". Proponents for WindowBlinds will argue that WindowBlinds users can use msstyles as well via SkinStudio and that the whole point of "skinning" your GUI is to be able to make it look and feel how you want not just tweak it a little bit. MSStyles cannot change tool bar buttons or progress animations and don't skin as many parts of the Windows XP OS.
The advantage of WindowBlinds (the program) is that in addition to being able to use WindowBlinds visual styles as well as MSStyles via SkinStudio that it can provide hardware acceleration based on graphic card improvements that have been made since Windows XP's release back in 2001. In addition, WindowBlinds provides features such as color changing on the fly, per application visual style support, mouse button customization, mixing and matching progress animations and toolbar icons, and can skin non-theme aware applications.
For a full list of WindowBlinds features versus the bundled msstyle system, visit http://www.windowblinds.net/wb4
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