GUI Customization Resources and Tutorials: Themes, Icons, Docks etc.


Act your wage.
Political Access
27 Dec 2001
I'm starting this thread to cover many of the repeatedly-asked questions concerning GUI customization, and to compile a lot of information that we can all take advantage of. My hope is that we can all contribute and learn some things to help us make our desktops look better, which will of course result in better screenshots for the monthly thread. ;)

As a resource, this thread will attempt to provide information and links for all relevant customization software, more or less creating a library for all of us to browse through. With everyone's help, I'd like to keep an updated list of the apps that are available for the different types of customization.

Additionally, a listing of good icon sites will be made, and can be updated whenever new ones are found or submitted. Like the wallpaper request thread, icons can be requested here for those who are looking for specific ones.

This thread will also be used for tutorials on GUI customization. The tutorials can be on specific apps or on a general subject that applies to the thread.

I'll update this first post as often as needed, so post anything you find that I haven't included and I'll be sure to add it. :)

Theming Applications
WindowBlinds - (Freeware) "Skins virtually every aspect of the Windows GUI that one can imagine."
Style XP - (Shareware) Manage themes/visual styles, wallpapers, logons, bootscreens and icons.
UXTheme Multi-Patcher 4.0 - (Free) Use themes/visual styles without an extra app. Compatible with XP/SP1/SP2 and Windows Server 2003.

Themes/Visual Styles
StyleSuites - "Suites" containing visual styles, icons, backgrounds, etc.
Shark's Place

ObjectDock - Stardock's app has many available docklets, themes and backgrounds. The current version is 1.02.
Mobydock - Current version is 0.87b. May no longer be under development.
Aqua Dock - Little is know about this app... not even who the author is. Support for docklets is also unknown.
Y'z Dock - The first app to emulate the Apple doc. Development has stopped at Apple's request. Supports docklets.
DockEx - A collection of docklets for Y'z Dock and ObjectDock.

Icon-Replacement Apps
Replacer - (Free) For use with Shell Packs.
IconPackager - (Shareware) Good for replacing individual icons and for use with IconPackages.
Resource Hacker - (Freeware) For advanced users only.
Bee Icons - Replace most default icons in Win95/98/ME/2000/XP.
IconPhile - Replaces icons for most common filetypes.

Icons & Shell Packs
RAD.E8 Design
iconaholic - formerly FOOOD's Icons
Pixelgirl Presents
wbc images
Xanthic Eye
David Lanham
GANT 2 Shell Packs
HardwareGeek's Shell Packs Collection

Bootscreen & Logon Screen Apps
BootSkin - ( Freeware) Does not patch the XP kernel (ntoskrnl.exe), and there is no risk of corruption with service packs.
BootXP - (Shareware) Supports 7 graphic formats for bootscreens.
LogonStudio - (Freeware) Uses .logonxp files instead of requiring the replacement of the logonui.exe file.
XP LogMod - (Shareware) Allows you to randomize your logon screens.
LogonLoader - (Freeware) Allows you to randomize your logon screens.

Widget Apps
Samurize - 100% customizable desktop configurations. More info and help can be found in these forums here.
tadis:WEB - Great widgets for Samurize.​
Kapsules - Closely emulates Konfabulator, the widget app for Macs. Very easy to use.
Rainmeter - A customizable performance meter.
DesktopX - Stardock's widget application.
AveDesk - NetRyder's favorite widget app! :D

Other GUI Apps
ObjectDesktop - A suite of apps including WindowBlinds, DesktopX, IconPackager, ObjectBar, and more.
ObjectBar - Create custom Start bars, finders, pop-up menus, docks, etc. - Skins for ObjectBar and other apps.​
WindowFX - Add special effects to windows, such as shadows and open/close effects.
Icon Searcher - (Shareware) Finds all available icons on your system and also extracts them from system file types (.exe, .dll).
Aston - Desktop Manager and Shell Replacement for Windows 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP.
True Launch Bar - A great replacement for the standard Quick Launch bar. Thanks to coathanger007.
Power Menu - Adds "Always On Top," "Minimize To Tray," "Priority" and "Transparency" sub menus to all top level system menus. Thanks to coathanger007.
IconX - Give your desktop icons shadows, make them any size, have them zoom up on mouse-over and much more.

*Updated on 1/3/06 to fix and remove broken links. Thanks to NetRyder, ~bk and coathanger007 for their contributions.*
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Installing the UXTheme Patcher

The UXTheme Patcher is great because you don't have to run any additional app in order to install themes and visual styles. The link I provided in the first post is to a version of this patch that works with XP, XP SP1 and SP2 Beta build 2082. There are a couple of ways to install the DLL, the first is my preferred way and much simpler. The second is more manual, but not especially difficult.

First Way
Use Replacer. It's quick and automated. No hassle.

Second Way
1. Boot into Safe Mode
2. Stop the System Restore Service
3. Choose to Show Hidden Files and Folders
4. Rename uxtheme.dll to uxtheme.bak in C:\Windows, C:\Windows\ServicePackFilesi386, C:\Windows\System32dllcache, and C:\Windows\System32
5. Copy the patched uxtheme.dll to all of these directories
6. Reboot
Nice, looks like a good and needed thread :D Will keep checking back.
Very nice...I'll be adding some stuff to this thread sometime later for sure.
The Difference Between Themes and Visual Styles

Thanks to for this.

I know most of us have heard the term "themes" and "visual styles" and they seem to be interchangeable...however in reality there IS a difference. This isn't so much of a tutorial, as an explanation of the differences between themes and visual styles. smile.gif

The first difference, of course, is the extension. Themes are saved with a "*.theme" extension, where-as visual styles have a "*.msstyles" extension. Themes and visual styles are generally saved in the C:\Windows\Resources\Themes folder on your hard drive.

Visual styles are changed under the Display Properties->Appearance tab (under Windows and borders), where-as themes are changed in the Display Properties->Themes tab from the drop down menu.

Visual Styles are, in essence, a configuration file that holds several different bitmaps. It's really just a *.dll file with a different extension. When Windows XP is set to use it's new, built-in skinning engine, it will draw the configuration settings and bitmaps from the visual style in place and skin windows, borders, start menu, task bar, etc.. based on these settings and images. The majority of files in a *.msstyle file are .png, .bmp, .ini, and .xml files (though, aside from the image files, you will not usually edit these individually).

* .xml and .ini files hold configuration settings that tell Windows HOW to skin the items it should skin
* .bmp and .png (32 bit bitmaps) are the images the visual style uses when skinning the items it skins

Visual Styles can be applied by doubleclicking on them, but will not show up in the visual styles list in your display properties unless installed properly. A visual style must be in a folder that has the SAME EXACT name as the visual style.

For example, a visual style named AdvanceD.msstyles will have to be in a folder named AdvanceD. It is case sensitive, so don't take shortcuts here. wink.gif

Often visual styles contain shellstyles (complete one's do at least wink.gif ), and those shellstyles should be in a folder underneath the visual style. Here is a general idea of the standard format (continuing with AdvanceD example)...


I included two shellstyles in this example so you could get an idea of how the shellstyle is included in a visual style.

Themes are a little different... themes are purely a configuration file. In fact, you can open .theme files in Notepad.

Theme files save the following settings:

* icons
* cursors
* wallpaper
* sounds
* visual style
* fonts
* screensaver

You can actually create your own themes very easily without any additional tools! Just right click on your desktop and choose properties (or go to Start->Control Panel->Display Properties) and the first tab that comes up is themes. There is a drop down menu at the top that lets you choose a theme, but also there is a save button next to this menu.

You can easily configure your system how you like it (setting all the items in the above list) and then save a theme. Then after you have changed your fonts or icons or whatever, and want that specific setup back, just choose this theme from the drop down menu and voila! You have your own custom theme back. wink.gif

Another important thing to note is that you can use themes all you want, but in order to use any visual styles aside from the "Luna" visual style that is included with Windows XP, you will need either Style Builder, or a patched uxtheme.dll file. A guide to installing the uxtheme patch can be found a few posts up. :)
Unfortunately we lost some good posts in this thread due to the SQL glitch today. I'll repost the info on configuring the weather docklet for ObjectDock that Bman and I worked through. If anyone else remembers what they posted about then go ahead and repost it here. :)
Very nice, Omar. It's added to the list. :)
Oh yeah, I think that was added in the past 2 weeks that got deleted, wasn't it? Anyhow, added again. :)
How about listing Samurize, Kapsules and Rainmeter as widget apps?

Sazar asked for something like this a couple of days ago. Perhaps other members may also like to know, and find it useful in the future.

EDIT: Ah, before I forget - Dave Brasgalla and crew have LOTS of really nice free icon sets for both Windows and Mac on IconFactory.


OSX-E: Huge collection of resources for Windows to Mac OS UI emulation.
More goodies:
DockEx: all your docklets for YzDock and ObjectDock nicely organized in one place
tadis:WEB: Lots of great Samurize widgets
CRNI's site: Skins for Stardock's ObjectBar and some very nice Samurize widgets again
StyleSuites: A collection of theme "suites" that each contain matching visual styles, icons, backgrounds, and miscellaneous files
Thanks NetRyder! Listing the widget apps is a good idea. I had wished the other day that I had those on the list when Sazar was wanting that info. I'll be sure to add all of those. :)
OK, I added those that NetRyder recently posted. In doing so, I realized that I had lost quite a bit of the list due to the SQL glitch last week. They were mostly miscellaneous apps that will now be categorized as "Other GUI Apps," and I'll be adding those back over the next several days.

Please continue to post this kind of info when you come across it, and if any of you would like to write a tutorial of some kind then let me know. :)
muzikool said:
The UXTheme Patcher is great because you don't have to run any additional app in order to install themes and visual styles. The link I provided in the first post is to a version of this patch that works with XP, XP SP1 and SP2 Beta build 2082. There are a couple of ways to install the DLL, the first is my preferred way and much simpler. The second is more manual, but not especially difficult.

First Way
Use Replacer. It's quick and automated. No hassle.

Of course, I'm interested in the first easy way, but you seem to suggest two different things for the first way. First you suggest using the UXTheme Patcher, which I have downloaded (Multipatcher 1.5.1), then you suggest the Replacer. Hmmm... may I have an explanation?
The two ways I listed are ways to install the DLL (patch). The first way is to use Replacer. Replacer is a tool that installs the UXTheme Patch by replacing the original DLL with the hacked one. It's as simple as that.

Replacer can also be used to install Shell Packs, such as shell32.dll to replace all of the OS's default icons.

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Also Hi EP and people. I found this place again while looking through a oooollllllldddd backup. I have filled over 10TB and was looking at my collection of antiques. Any bids on the 500Mhz Win 95 fix?
Any of the SP crew still out there?
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Impressed you have kept this alive this long EP! So many sites have come and gone. :(

Just did some crude math and I apparently joined almost 18yrs ago, how is that possible???
hello peeps... is been some time since i last came here.
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