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Windows XP Theme Creation


Question:
I'm a theme author and I'm very interested in Windows XP but will I be able to create and package themes for distribution using this operating system?


Answer:
Questions, questions and more questions are coming in daily about the use and the creation of desktop themes for Windows XP. It's apparent that this new operating system is going to bring about some good news and some bad news for the desktop theme community. The bad news is, theme authors using Windows XP will need to either be very experienced with themes and theme code or use an older version of Windows to create their themes for distribution. Windows XP has a different way of compiling theme code and the resulting themes will not function properly on older versions of Windows. If theme authors are looking for compatibility with nearly all versions of Windows, including Widows XP, themes will have to be created using a theme manager in an older version of Windows or... the code will have to be created manually using a text editor.

All themes should contain a readme.txt file to explain theme installation. For most Windows XP users, installing a theme is not as easy as it has been in the past with theme managers available to quickly and easily install all theme parts. Now, everything must be installed manually. Theme files still reside in the older default "C:\Program Files\Plus!\Themes\" directory location but take note that for Windows XP users, the screensavers go in the "C:\Windows\System32\" directory location. (Any Windows NT/2000 user should already know this.)

One of the most difficult problems with Windows XP comes when a theme is applied. The theme manager checks the code for all file references and if ANYTHING is missing or in the wrong location, the theme will not load at all. Windows XP will report an error. End of story. Hello Recycle Bin!

The good news is, most themes do actually work with Windows XP. It's just a matter of understanding the correct installation path for each and every theme part. Most themes will install easily by extracting the contents of the zip to a temporary location and moving the main theme directory and theme (*.theme) files to the default "C:\Program Files\Plus!\Themes\" directory location. Again, note that the screensaver must be in the system32 directory for Windows XP users. At any rate, if a Windows XP user gets an error with a theme application, they should open the theme code and take a look at the file paths to make sure all theme parts are where they belong. It's either that or apply theme parts manually, which kind of takes away from the whole idea of a "desktop theme". The only other option is that dreaded Recycle Bin.

Theme authors, please take note of these issues when creating themes by writing a good readme.txt file with installation instructions for all theme fans.

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