Themes Fonts Screensavers Wallpaper Icons Games Reviews Support Top50
Site Search

Home: Help & Support

Create Desktop Themes

I'd like to know how to create new themes. I have icons, BMP images, and sounds, but I don't know how to make a theme. If anyone can help I would be grateful.

The quickest and easiest way to create a theme would be to change your theme settings directly from the Control Panel. Double click on the "Sounds" icon and change each individual sound association. Double click on the "Display" icon, choose the "Appearance" tab and change your color scheme. While you are still in the Display Properties, click on the "PLUS!" tab and change the optional desktop icons. Now, double click on the "Mouse" icon and change each individual pointer. Finally, double click on the "Desktop Themes" icon and save your current settings with the "Save As..." button.

Remember... this is the quick and easy way. If you want to create a theme for distribution, there are a few more steps.

Creation Tools
  • Instant Theme Creator
    This program takes the hassle out of creating desktop themes. Many other theme programs are difficult and confusing to use, this one isn't! It's written specially so that anyone can make their own desktop theme within minutes, whether they're a "power user" or it's their first time.

    It takes you through each stage of creating a theme, from choosing the wallpaper to selecting your sounds. It then makes the '.theme' file, the heart of every theme. There's a full user guide included and a dedicated e-mail address for technical support issues!

    We've got a special deal with Peanut Software, offering users of to buy Instant Theme Creator for a very reduced price! Instant Theme Creator usually costs $40, but for you it is only $19.95! Order Now to get this special price.

  • Microangelo
    This utility provides access to icons of all sizes and color formats used by Windows 95. Browse, manage, create, and edit icons from 8x8 to 64x64 pixels in size and up to 256 colors. The Explorer-like Browser specializes in locating icons on your system. Double-click to open icons for editing in Studio, libraries for viewing in Librarian. The Engineer replaces system icons, removes shortcut arrows.

  • Microsoft Resource Kit Utilities
    You will need this kit if you want to make your own desktop theme. This tool includes an Animated Cursor Editor and an Image Editor. The Image Editor is used to make and edit cursors and icons, and the Animated Cursor Editor used to make .ani files for any animated cursors. Check out the theme creation utilities on our Theme Utilities page.

  • WinZip
    This is a zip extractor for Windows 9x/XP. Also you will need this to extract any of the themes on this site. This utility also has support for long file names. Automatically installs most software distributed in Zip files, including desktop themes and screen savers.

Creating Icons
The easiest way to create icons is with the Microangelo utility. Create the picture in the 32x32 grid. Then rename the cursor (.CUR) to an icon (.ICO) when you are finished.

You need to create 4 icons: My Computer, Network Neighborhood, Recycle Bin Empty, and Recycle Bin Full. You can also use the standard icons that come with Windows 95 too (COOL.DLL). The icon numbers are 16, 17, 20, and 21. So, in the theme file, and listed as:

My Computer:           DefaultValue=%WinDir%System\Cool.dll,16
Net Neighborhood:     Default Value=%WinDir%System\Cool.dll,17
Recycle Bin Empty:    Default Value=%WinDir%System\Cool.dll,20
Recycle Bin Full:        Default Value=%WinDir%System\Cool.dll,21

Creating Cursors
You'll need to create 14 cursors with Microangelo or Microsoft Resource Kit Utilities. Cursors are made in 32x32 pixels. You can make all or none of them animated. The 2 cursors that are normally animated are the Wait and Busy icons. The Wait icon is shown when Windows 95 is doing something. The Busy icon is shown when Windows 95 is too busy to handle any other mouse clicks / commands. The rest of the cursors are:

Arrow - Normal pointer.
Help - Displayed when you click on the ? in a dialog box.
NWPen - The Pen cursor.
No - Displayed when an option is not selectable with the Arrow cursor.
Size NS/WE/NWSE/NESW - Will show up when resize a window.
Size All - Displayed when you can move a window.
Crosshair - Looks almost like a target sighting for precision selection.
IBeam - Displayed when you are in a text region.
Up Arrow - Never seen this cursor in action!

Creating Wallpaper
You will need a graphic manipulator like Windows Paint, PhotoShop or Paint Shop Pro to create a wallpaper. You do not need to create a .BMP wallpaper, .JPG is probably the best to save your wallpaper because they are 3-10 times smaller than the bitmap. Also, make sure the picture is in 640x480, 800x600, or 1024x768 saved in a decently high quality.

Creating Sounds
You will need a .WAV editor or Sound editor to create sounds like Cool Edit 96. There are 20 sounds you can provide for different events to. Try to match a good sound for the sound event (e.g. someone asking a question for the Question sound event, a theme song for the Windows Start sound event, etc). Here are the sound events:

Default Sound - Just what it says.
Program Error - Played when there is an error.
Maximize - Played when you maximize a window.
Minimize - Played when you minimize a window.
Restore Up - Played when you restore a window larger.
Restore Down - Played when you restore a window smaller.
Menu Command - Played when you select a program/option on a menu.
Menu Popup - Played when you look through program menus/option menu.
Open Program - Played when you open a program.
Close Program - Played when you close a program.
Ring In - Played with a program that uses the ringing options.
Ring Out - Played with a program that uses the ringing options.
Asterisk - Not sure when this is played.
System Default - Not sure when this is played.
Exclamation - Played when you do something that is not supported.
Windows Start - Played when you start Windows 95.
Windows Exit - Played when you exit Windows 95.
Critical Stop - Also known as System Hand.
Question - Played when a program ask you a question prompt.
Empty Recycle Bin - Played when you empty the recycle bin.

Sounds events that you can use with the same WAV file so you don't have duplicate WAV's:

Default Sound and System Default
Program Error and Critical Stop (System Hand)
Maximize and Restore Up or Maximize and Minimize
Minimize and Restore Down or Maximize and Minimize

You don't need to use the highest quality for sounds (Stereo, 44KHz, 16 bit). All of the files you download from my site have WAV's that are in Mono, 11KHz, 8 bit quality. And most of them sound great unless the original sound was bad quality.

Creating Startup Screens
A great part of a theme is the startup/shutdown screens. There are 3 screens that are needed:
Shutting Down
Shutdown Complete

These 3 files will replace the original Windows 95 screens that you see when your starting or shutting down windows. These files are located in the C:\ and C:\Windows directories named LOGO.SYS, LOGOS.SYS, and LOGOW.SYS. The .SYS extension is just for Windows. It is actually a .BMP file saved in 320x400, 256 colors and then renamed to a .SYS file. You can even animate the screens. For more on animating, go to the XrX Animated Logos home page. See our FAQ page for more details about startup and shutdown screens.

Finishing Themes
You will need a text editor (notepad) or Theme Create. Here's where the entire theme comes together with all the commands Windows 95 needs to set it up. There are a couple of ways to make the .Theme file. One way to create a theme can be done by doing the following:

  1. Copy an existing .Theme file that you like and rename it to your theme name.

  2. Use Theme Create to build a .Theme file.

There are some variables you can use in the .Theme file to point to certain locations for the files. The first is %WinDir% (you need the % signs) which tells Plus! to look in your default Windows 95 directory. The second is %ThemeDir% which tells Plus! to look in your default theme directory. These variables make the .Theme file more flexible on different machines. Some people may have Windows 95 set up in C:\Windows and others may have it in some variation. It makes it easier to write %ThemeDir% than C:\Program Files\Plus!\Themes.

Danworld Network
© 1996- Danworld, Inc.