24 April 2005

Can't I Change More Than the COLORS?

Okay, so maybe we can change more than the colors in Windows...the wallpaper, the sounds, maybe even the look of the start bar or startup screen...but it still looks like Windows. Some of us get enjoyment from hacking Windows. Others use Linux in order to get away from Windows entirely. These two methods are great, and I have nothing against them; however, what if you don't have the savvy or patience to do either of these? (I'd become a Linux girl myself if I had the time/patience to learn. That'll come later, I hope!) But what about right now? Am I to suffer with the same old Windows shell until I learn Linux?

Fortunately the answer is no.

A year or so ago, I was recommended to try using programs that would allow me to create "alternate shells" for Windows. The "shell" is basically just explorer.exe, which runs the pretty start bar and system tray and clock, etc... try crashing it and see for yourself. I got my hands on LiteStep (LS). The homepage, litestep.net, is currently down or else I'd link you. For some good ideas on what it's all about there are many other good webpages, including those about themes themselves. Fortunately you can still acquire the download other places. I run the Omar installer, and though it doesn't particularly matter which you rock, you will need to know especially if you ask for help on a forum!! Omar comes with a sample theme (different installs may be different, don't shoot me if yours isn't exactly the same), called Austerity. It's a really nice theme because it still has a partial Windows feel so you can break yourself into the idea of a new shell without screaming, "I can't find ANYTHING! What the hell is this stuff!" and ripping your hair out.

To get a chance to look at the Austerity theme and see some LS setup (as well as to preview some of the material for my next post), visit my flickr photo page. As you can see, Austerity's start bar is made rather pointless by the standard LS replacement-- the right click. Right clicking on the desktop pulls out a comprehensive menu through which you can access..well.. a lot! I had a theme once that accessed my mp3 folder directly so I could browse all my songs. That got a little out of hand.

Now, once you get used the feel of LS, I don't recommend getting into building your own theme right away unless you're very patient and would like to learn all the scripting (or you're already familiar with it). It's much easier, though frustrating, to download pre-made themes and modify them. For you who feel like jumping in headfirst, there's a handy "how-to" floating around.

Get ready to mod a theme. I've taken the "Blue Heart" theme by Chris Fofiu (most people who make LS themes give absolute permission for everyone to change it around. If litestep.net was up I could tell you to comment on people's themes, too. Either way I still give people their props). Preview.jpg on the flickr site will give you a good idea what it originally looks like on a 1280 resolution (I'm on 1024).

For anyone who wants to follow along, I'll point out a few key programs you might want to check out when you want to start modifying: (they're all free, by the way)

Color Cop becomes handy when you need to match colors when changing them in the display or any kind of color.ini (which pretty much just changes the windows appearance in the properties-display box).

The Gimp ROX MY SOX (pardon my English) when it comes to graphics editing. Though you people with Adobe Photoshop may find the Gimp much different (I've had a testimony that it's tough to learn Gimp if you're used to AP), it's helped me through many problems. It doesn't matter whether you're seriously trying to edit or just roating or changing a few colors, or even if you know NOTHING about what you're doing, this program will help. You'll learn, I promise.

Metapad: You may have noticed if you've glanced around the photos that text editing is a big deal here. Notepad is good but metapad is better. I'm not doing a whole post on it, so go check it out.

Irfanview: A beautiful little program for viewing and semi-editing photos.

Coming soon: Let's hope I can fix the "Blue Heart" theme to suit my liking! Will I fix it or will I go crazy first?


Blogger XLShadow said...


Some real linux links. ;-)
"r0><0r meh s0><0rs" :-D
you forgot to mention color cop's magnify tool, color history, and RGB<>HEX conversions

more tools:
Screen Calipers

winvi32 (another text editor. also does modest hex)

sometimes its just easier

my 2ยข
thanks for the plug.

1:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm trying to install and use Gentoo (Linux), but with little success. Can't get the sound card or my wireless network card to work (and who knows what else). It's really starting to make me frustrated. Burrowing through the shell and opening config file after config file when I have little clue what I'm doing isn't my idea of fun. Might go with something more newbie friendly like Fedora. Anyway, I'll definitely have take a look at the links you've posted. Thanks, Kiera!


2:27 PM  
Anonymous sryo said...

litestep installer's homepage isnt ls.net, but http://lsinstaller.loose.screws.com
ls.net is another unofficial site dedicated to lietstep, like litestep.com, ls-universe.info or in some way although broadier, blizzle.com

10:59 PM  
Anonymous sryo said...

err, that was lsinstaller.loose-screws.com, always type it incorrectly :P

11:01 PM  

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