10 Things to check before uploading your WindowBlinds skin

The most common problems with skins we find on Wincustomize

Friday, April 22, 2005 by Adam Najmanowicz | Discussion: WindowBlinds Tutorials

Browsing the WindowBlinds skins on Wincustomize and applying them is a source of a lot of joy, but there's also a drop of frustration. There are some common problems with the skins that skinners notoriously forget to check for. Perhaps my working environment is not typical but since you've went all the way to create a skin it's relatively easy to make it a perfect skin for everyone. So here are the 10 things I find most common to be wrong with a lot of skins:

  1. Vertical taskbars. this one is a source of a lot of grief for me. I use 2 monitors, which results in a very wide desktop area, so it's logical for me to use the vertical taskbar. And I do use it. I must say that it's the most common for Both WindowBlinds and MSStyles not to include a customized Vertical Taskbar and leaving it in Luna Blue instead.
  2. Make sure your horizontal taskbar does not have problems when it's located on top of the screen or when user resizes it to more than one row of task buttons. If I use the horizontal taskbar (for example when a skin does not provide a vertical one) I always have it resized to at least 4 rows of tasks. Being the developer I tend to have a teen up to 30 windows open at once for testing various aspects, browsing sites with code and helpful tips and what not. 1 row of tasks in NOT enough.
  3. Making dark skins is tricky on Windows. A lot of apps are not ready at all for dark skins they hard-code colors or use the classic ones for a lot of things: Internet Explorer for example always uses only the classic color for text on buttons. No. it is not sufficient that your dark skin looks good outside Internet Explore, if it makes IE forms unusable it's not going to be used by the majority of users. IE uses the color defined in Section: "Miscellaneous"->"Colors" in Attribute: "3D Controls"->"Text - System Button". If you make the skin have dark buttons, make sure this color is readable on Web forms or you'll run into this:

  4. Make sure you fix the colors on the Desktop context menu, the "New" item sub menu and you won't have problems with custom drawn menus. On this menu Microsoft pretty much violated it's own guidelines of how menus should be implemented (which a lot of other apps do as well - including one menu in SkinStudio). If you do not make sure the following hint worked in your skin, this menu is liable to look bad.

    The text should be black on the olive green, but instead it has the light outline. the colors responsible for the outlines in your skin are:
    • Section: "Miscellaneous"->"Colors" Attribute: "Window"->"Background - Window" for the regular non highlighted menu items. (this is what makes the menu in this very skin look bad). Update! I have just recentlydiscovered that this color is overriden by the: Section: "Miscellaneous"->"Colors"->   Attribute: "Menus"->"Background - Menu" which is much better choice as it is liable to interfere with much less places in windows.
    • Section: "Miscellaneous"->"Colors" Attribute: "Selections"->"Background - Highlighted" for highlighted text outline (which in this skin is not visible since it's defined as orange - which is very good)
  5. Some people use task grouping. It's the first thing people on large screens tend to turn off. I'm sure I don't use it and the graphic designers tend to have big screens as well, but people on notebooks with small screens may indeed find it useful. So make sure you turn on the attribute grouing on for a while before uploading your skin. Launch a few Explorer windows with Win+E to make sure you have something grouped and check out the fonts and colors on the arrow and the grouped menu. We tend to see some real problems with a lot of skins on the menu. As I understand people simply do not use this feature and forget about it.
  6. Make sure yous skin looks good with re-sizable and not re-sizable taskbar. this error is not nearly as common as the previous ones built it just like the one with taskbar using more than one row of buttons draws from the assumption that people will use your skin the same way you do. They don't.
  7. If you use the classic widget fonts referenced from section "Miscellaneous"->"Fonts for classic widgets" and defined as subsections to the section, make sure you specify the font sizes in negative values. Should you fail to do this, all kind of bad things may happen. Firefox will look bad. Outlook 2003 will most probably have problems and applications are liable to have some of their fonts blown out of the proportion.
  8. If you use non typical fonts, you have a mechanism for WindowBlinds to temporally install those fonts for you. Section: "Miscellaneous"->"Fonts to Install" is the place where you can specify the fonts you want to have installed. If you do not reference them from there, Window will try to substitute the fonts with something it has in stock which is mostly not what you intended.
  9. A lot of users use Firefox or Mozilla these days. Since Firefox GUI toolbox (XUL) look and feel is defined with CSS, it's only aware of the classic colors. Just like IE, you need to make sure they all play nicely together. You cannot make sure it will look nicely with all Firefox skins but you should at least try the "Default" one.
  10. Minimized Window caption and its buttons defined as subsections to "Minimized Window Caption" are often omitted by skinners since they do not see the appliance for them, but they actually are used. The Restore, close and Maximize are quite obvious as they are used by all MDI apps (like SkinStudio - when you minimize the Skin document from the menu bar) on minimized windows. But applications from Adobe and a few other vendors are actually using them for custom painted buttons. Photoshop for instance uses the minimize button for all of its palette windows.

this my no means exhausts the list of skin bugs, but those the things I find most commonly wrong with the WindowBlinds skins. To be honest most of the tips also concern the MSStyles I tend to convert a lot. Of course they do not have their menus skinnable and do not have a way to auto install fonts and SkinStudio auto converts classic fonts to negative values during conversion but it does not really make the things much better better, if anything - more limited.

If you find any of the problems in your skins the fix are in most cases at the reach of your hand. Should you find none of the problems in them, your nick is probably treetog, , danilloOc or VoodooFreak

First Previous Page 1 of 2 Next Last
Reply #1 Thursday, April 7, 2005 4:10 PM
Great list of things to remember Adam, that's a keeper.

Can't believe I didn't update that menu BG color in one of the updates I did on w0rse, thanks for pointing it out

That means yet an update on it
Reply #2 Thursday, April 7, 2005 4:14 PM
great article. I think I'm guilty of some of those problems.
Reply #3 Thursday, April 7, 2005 10:30 PM
This should be MUST reading for all skinners, even experienced ones.
Reply #4 Friday, April 8, 2005 5:23 AM
I was doing good until I hit #7.

Excellent list Adam. Thanks for taking the time.
Reply #5 Friday, April 8, 2005 10:50 AM
Very interesting informatino there. Thank you. I'll bookmark this one.
Reply #6 Friday, April 8, 2005 1:08 PM
Great list. I was wondering how to fix a couple things, & now I know.
Reply #7 Saturday, April 9, 2005 8:54 AM
Finally! I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out why FireFox had those narrow strips instead of menus.
#7 did the trick!
Thanks, Adam.
Reply #8 Saturday, April 9, 2005 9:35 AM
EXCELLENT article Adam
WC should have a forum section with this kind of tips.
Reply #9 Saturday, April 9, 2005 10:00 AM
Very interesting article..
Reply #10 Saturday, April 9, 2005 12:06 PM
Thanks, Adam.

It's fair to say most of us (with the exception of those with the nicks you mentioned) would be lost without your help. This kind of detailed advice is really appreciated. I hope SD is paying you well - you most certainly deserve it.

Adam Najmanowicz
Reply #11 Saturday, April 9, 2005 12:53 PM
Danillo, it has, it's the "tutorials" section in the forums. Though I agree, there may be too few spotlights pointing on it and Brad and Martin and Cordelia contributed countless of them to that section already.... I'm merely trying to catch up on them
Reply #12 Sunday, April 10, 2005 8:33 PM
Adam -

This prompted me to test drive the vertical TaskBar thoroughly on a skin I've been working on and I've discovered that SKS itself doesn't respect the borders of the TaskBar when it is set vertically - it will open in a normal window with a portion of the window behind the TaskBar. Just FYI.

Reply #13 Monday, April 11, 2005 6:36 PM
Thank you

What an excellently authoured article. Thank you very much. That was very thoughtful and insiteful. I appreciate the time.
Reply #14 Saturday, April 23, 2005 1:17 AM
Adam -

24 April - You can ignore this, Adam - I figured out what I was doing wrong (not setting the individual fonts correctly) and all is well.

Forgive me for asking a question here, but which Attribute font setting controls the text size of the items in the *New* submenu of the Desktop right-click menu (the one you've shown as your example)? I've set all the available choices there to the font I want, but the text in that submenu doesn't want to change (XP). The text size in owner-drawn menus (such as the the Open Skin drop-down menu in SKS) appears to be modified by the System Menu Font attribute setting, but not the *New* submenu text.

Reply #15 Saturday, June 11, 2005 6:31 PM
i need mt seial numbers and my reg number thanks.......steven.toohey@verizon.net
Reply #16 Monday, June 13, 2005 2:07 PM
steven , the best way to retrieve your serial numbers is by endering your email into the support form: https://www.stardock.com/support.asp.

I've done that for you, and you should receive the serials to all your purchased Stardock software on your email.
Reply #17 Monday, June 13, 2005 9:51 PM
Forgive me for asking a question here, but which Attribute font setting controls the text size of the items in the *New* submenu of the Desktop right-click menu (the one you've shown as your example)? I've set all the available choices there to the font I want, but the text in that submenu doesn't want to change (XP). The text size in owner-drawn menus (such as the the Open Skin drop-down menu in SKS) appears to be modified by the System Menu Font attribute setting, but not the *New* submenu text.

I've since learned that Fonts for Classic Widgets are the ticket. So you can ignore this, too, Adam.

Reply #18 Saturday, June 25, 2005 3:19 PM
Pooos si muy útil! very nice!
Reply #19 Saturday, July 16, 2005 1:23 PM
Excellent article I personally think I managed to do a good job on all the things the article mentions, in my skins, so you can include me in the list of nicks LOL Sorry, couldn't resist.
poker empire
Reply #20 Friday, July 29, 2005 6:20 AM
poker empire

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