So I’ve been playing around with the two most popular methods of skinning Windows XP that are available for the past couple of days. I’d already been using StyleXP for awhile and I liked how little it impacted the system to do the job, but wasn’t happy with how slowly new skins were developed for it. So I decided to try switching over to StarDock’s WindowBlinds XP for awhile to see if I liked it any better.
WindowBlinds under XP is pretty resource friendly compared to how it performs under the older versions of Windows where it has to be a little more invasive to hook itself into the OS as the older OSes didn’t have their own built-in skinning system. WB also allows for more that just simply skinning the OS in that in the fully registered version you can add in extra buttons to window title bars and the skins can even be animated to a degree. One skin based on the movie The Matrix had the familiar scrolling green text symbols on the sides of all the windows open on the screen at the time.
There is a definite difference in how folks make themes and skins for both applications though. I found that the WB skins tended toward making window borders as thin as possible and were found of itty-bitty fonts and generally looked a lot more toy-ish than a lot of themes under StyleXP. A lot of the skins for WB also didn’t bother to modify the Start menu so that element looked out of place in relation to the rest of the skin. StyleXP skins seem to lean less toward making window borders special sizes as much as simply making them look nice and I’ve yet to come across a StyleXP skin that doesn’t dress up the Start menu. The thing that killed WB for me, though, was the tendency for skins under that system to “bubblize” the buttons on windows such as the navigation bar at the top of IE. It just doesn’t look right to me and can make it confusing to work with. Not that this doesn’t happen with some StyleXP skins, but it seems to be more common with WB skins.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference. I don’t need all the extra fiddly bits that WB brings to skinning XP and the skins themselves were less appealing than what I’ve found under StyleXP. For example, one of the Spider Man skins for StyleXP is simply wonderful. StyleXP also lets you easily change your login screen background as well, which WB doesn’t do. I had tried switching because I was impatient with the rate of new skins for StyleXP, but I found that having more skins doesn’t necessarily make for better ones. So I’m back to StyleXP. Your mileage, however, may vary.