I love Windows XP, but can’t stand the standard “Luna” skin that comes with it and makes it look like a giant Fisher Price toy. You can make XP look like Windows 2000 if you want, but I’ve never been fond of that either. Microsoft built their own Windows skinning application into XP to get the look of Luna in the first place, but for reasons only they know they locked it off from use by anyone but themselves. That’s where programs like StyleXP come in. Adding this into your system basically allows you to use un-signed theme files with the built-in skinning system already in place. It’ll also allow you to change your login or welcome screen if your machine is setup for multiple users. Because it more or less uses the built-in skinning system it eats almost no resources. It’s not bad, but it seems to be quite a while between skins that I actually like.
WindowsBlindsXP from the folks at StarDock is another method of using non-standard theme files. WindowsBlinds has been around for a long time as it was originally a program that added skinning abilities to the older Windows OSes. It’s part of a package that allows you to not only skin your system, but add additional buttons and functions to a window’s title bar. I’ve not looked into exactly how WindowsBlinds does it’s thing, but it seems to be a bit more of an add-on to the OS rather than just a way to unlock a pre-existing system. I would assume there would be at least some additional resources in both memory and processing time being used by WindowsBlinds. It does seem to be the more popular of the two skinning applications though.
So I’m left in a bit of a quandary as I consider which application to make use of. I want the largest available selection of skins, but I don’t want to alter my OS anymore than necessary to be able to skin it. There are other programs that do similar functions as well that I’ve not had a chance to look at so there’s always a chance that I’m not looking at the best way to go about this. Suppose I’ll have to do a little more research to see what is the most popular method at the moment. Ah, the bane of being overly picky.