Skinpacks.com is one of those gems of a website that offers a centralized place for multiple sources of great content. It offers tons of customization options for the windows interface and lists tons of different ‘packs’, each of which contains multiple programs from different authors and freeware sources, brought together with a specific theme in mind. Each of their “Skin Packs” comes with multiple features installed, such as custom skins for Windows Aero elements, special effects like glowing frames or drop shadows, and helpful utilities like Rocket Dock.
For purposes of this article, I chose the “Neon” skin pack and downloaded it to my desktop. The download package (for Windows 7 and XP) is pretty small, coming in at a modest 22.9 MB from the DeviantArt.com page where it is hosted. There is a custom installation option, which I chose so I could decline setting Bing.com as my homepage, etc. The installation took less than a minute, and required a reboot afterwards. Once rebooted, the Windows interface shows a definite change.
The Windows loading screen shows a magical purple spark orbiting the Windows logo. The taskbar is grey and sleek, steel. The mouse pointer is a glowing neon arrow, and there is a new ‘dock’ window at the top of my desktop, along with a couple of system tray icons as well. The dock in the upper center portion of the screen is the Windows program known as ‘Rocket Dock’. The Rocket Dock essentially works like an extra taskbar at the top of your screen and affords you more space. Various windows can be minimized to the Rocket Dock instead of the Windows taskbar, and can be selected independently.
Various settings are available for the Dock, like changing it’s position on the screen or the overall theme of the Dock’s appearance. For the Neon Skin Pack, the “Neo” theme is pre-selected, which makes the Rocket Dock appear to be made of glowing blue neon bars. Additionally, the Windows skin has changed the appearance of all Aero customization aspects to match the steely look of the taskbar. Even things like window backgrounds and font default font colors are affected, growing darker to match the Neon theme.
The icons in the system tray are for two separate programs. The first one, UberIcon, is a program that modifies the appearance and behavior of icons on your Rocket Dock or other windows (and was previously mentioned on Freewaregenius). It allows such things as changing the animations that occur when selecting an icon on the Dock. The other icon is for a program called Y’z Shadow 2.3 (Beta 3) that gives you a ton of new controls over the drop shadows that Windows uses for each of the windows that you have open. You can change the direction, distance from the window, and even the color of the shadows. You can change their behavior as well, including such options as having a whole different set of parameters for deselected windows than for the currently selected one. There are also a few other options, like making the currently selected window’s shadow pulse or glow. There is support built in to Y’z Shadow for both English and Japanese.
One of the nicest features is the ability to specify different program windows to be either black or white listed by the Shadow program. Meaning you can set the Shadow never to appear on a browser window, but always appear on a notepad window. The depth of customization options is something rarely seen in a program this simple and totally free.
Each of these things by themselves isn’t much in the way of customizing your Windows interface, but put them all together and you have a great, comprehensive package for changing the look and feel of your Windows interface to your own desires. Skinpacks.com has a number of great “Skin Packs” for download from their site, like a Halloween based pack or a pack themed on the Windows 8 interface. They even have a freeware program that you can use to create and post your own Skin Pack of customization tools and media.There is also a large forum-based community attached to Skinpacks.com, where you can discuss ideas and tips for other customization tools and methods with like-minded individuals. There’s even a section devoted to Mac and Linux customizations. I’ll be visiting this site frequently, in the near future, as I just love free pointless eye candy.
Until next time, my friends.