Visual Styles

A definition

Monday, March 28, 2005 by Frogboy | Discussion: Customization Software

Visual Styles:

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

Reply #1 Monday, March 28, 2005 7:20 PM
Can someone give me an idea of how to convert a MSStyle in SkinStudio? I could for a while, but now I can't seem to get them to work.
Reply #2 Monday, March 28, 2005 7:50 PM
All I have to do is doublt click the .msstyle file and Skin Studio fires up, ready to give it a go.
Shakey (the Original)
Reply #3 Monday, March 28, 2005 7:52 PM
I am having the same issue (may be user related), but when I either try to open by double clicking or through the menu, it simply asks if I would like to apply the skin. I don't seem to get the editor that I used too.
Bebi Bulma
Reply #4 Monday, March 28, 2005 7:55 PM
Here's another thread on converting visual styles to windowblinds:
Reply #5 Wednesday, March 30, 2005 8:42 AM
I am using DirectskinSDK fro my application.
I localized application for hebrew and changed alignment of all controls to Right to left layout.
Now directskin is giving problem with menus and taskbar buttons.Can you give a solution fior this problem.
Also i like to know.
1. If directskins supports right to left alignment.
2. If skin can be independent of alignment.

Shrinath R.

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