If you’re like me then you like to make your PC your own. Customisation with Windows PCs is fairly limited – out of the box you don’t have much choice with regard to themes. For this reason, many alternative solutions have popped up over time. These range from commercial applications to slightly dubious and potentially dangerous file changes. Having read a recent article, I’ve come across an alternative solution which is safe and seems to work rather smashingly. UxStyle allows you to use custom themes without paying a penny or involving yourself with altering Windows’ files.
With regard to the UxStyle website, don’t be put off by the rather abrupt homepage – the developers have an incredibly dry sense of humour, which has the nasty side-effect of making you run a mile in fear that the software will make your PC explode. Fear not, for it won’t. After downloading and installing the software, you won’t actually notice anything different. However, it does run a service in the background which beats Windows into submission and allows you to install custom themes on XP, Vista, and Windows 7 . The latter may be more prone to getting upset by the software, though. The aforementioned service should set itself to run at startup, this will let you apply custom themes and keep them for the next restart.
Despite the claims to the contrary with the “Talk to us, let us laugh at your problems” button, the developers are actually very helpful, and on the forums I was able to find a solution to the problem I was having. It had already been asked by someone else and solved promptly by the developers. Their solution worked, and my problem is now fixed. A party followed.
“Where do I get these custom themes?!” I hear you cry. There is one primary spiffing source – Deviant Art. Within the category of visual styles you can find many user-created themes ready and waiting for download. These will ususally need to be unzipped since they were compressed to make your download faster. If you’re not able to unzip the packages with Windows’ built-in unzipping software, you can use the free 7Zip. An article about this will follow shortly. I’ve been very impressed with the breadth and quality of themes available out there – ranging from simple colour changes to full-blown appearance overhauls, such as making your Windows PC look like a Mac. In addition to user-created themes, UxStyle is planning on adding a theme manager with the product soon, which will include themes and extra customisation options.
When you download a theme, you need to copy the files to Windows’ theme directory. This is located at C:\Windows\Resources\Themes . Some themes just come with the Visual Style file; others come with additional shell files. Create a new folder in your themes folder for the theme, then copy in the style theme. If it also has an accompanying shell folder, copy this over too. This is less confusing than it sounds, but if I haven’t explained it well, there are better instructions given by Lifehacker below:
.Themefiles must be in the
/Themes/folder, not within any subfolders.
.MSStylesfiles must be in their own sub-folders. If the style name is
NewStyle.msstyles, then sub folder in
- If your style pack came with a
shellstyle.dll, that also goes within it’s own subfolder, i.e.
- If you have any problem with loading a style or theme, go back and double check for spelling and capitalization. The names are case sensitive. If a file has a combination of upper and lower case letters, the folder name you place it in must be spelled exactly the same
If you have difficulty with the above, I’m more than happy to provide screenshots or a video to show it. It makes more sense when you look at your own folders. The themes are applied in the same way as default Windows themes – through the appearance properties window.
I haven’t noticed any negative side-effects from using the software, and I’ve been enjoying theming my XP desktop, which acts as my testing machine. I was dubious about doing it to start with, but it seems to be fine. I’ll be moving onto changing the themes on my beloved Vista laptop next. However, it should be noted that the software is still in beta, and you may encounter a glitch or two. You can download the software from www.uxstyle.com, and the forums are at www.uxstyle.com/talk. Happy skinning!
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