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Windows 7: questions about system patchers &theme building in general


05 Mar 2012   #1

Windows 7 Professional x64 | Windows ME | Windows 8 Dev Preview
 
 
questions about system patchers &theme building in general

Hi. Here's another set of bulleted inquiries. I do have lots of questions regarding customizing just about everything in my desktop. I posted this on other forum sites but I didn't receive a response. I am hoping that any experienced user can help me out, coz right now I can't start anything with custom themes until I am very sure what I am about to do.

I'm really not that new to patching system files. I've done this last year when I used a custom theme. It didn't go successfully as I expected though. Sadly, I wasn't able to detect what went wrong back then because I changed my failing hard drive that prompted me to reinstall Windows. Now I am back to square one. And I did my homework by researching large amount of information and collecting various tools regarding modifying desktop & explorer and custom themes in general. With the many tools I downloaded, I am comparing one to see what will fit to what I want to accomplish. Most articles I found online simply described the tools and don't say much information that's benefecial to users who are new to dealing with custom themes. With that said, I have these inquiries:


1) Between Universal Theme Patcher and UxStyle Core, which one is safer to use? I know that these two programs use different approach to patching. But on the event that I want to restore my system to the original unpatched version, which one will give me a good allowance? Does either of these automatically backup the original files and allow me to restore them later? Or do I have to backup those files manually? Maybe it's okay to just leave them patched? Also, how these patched files are going to be affected by Windows Updates? I know there are themes that don't work with Windows 7 SP1, so do I have to patch my files every time I installed a Windows Update?

2) Also there's this tool called "Theme Resource Changer" which eliminates the need to edit .dll files. Is this used for building themes or installing themes? The software description doesn't give me much clarity. Should I use this with the normal system patchers like UxStyle Core or Universal Theme Patcher? Or is it a good replacement?


3) What are the risk of double patching system files? To explain further, if I already patched my computer using any of the mentioned tools above, should there be any precaution when using/installing themes that already include patched files? In this case, I would be double-patching my system files, but is it okay to do that?


4) If I may go a bit off-topic, some themes include icons that I do not want to use. I think I can disable it from installing, but I want to use a different set of icons instead (Faenza or iRob for Mac which I converted to .ico, I haven't decided yet). Is there a tool that would allow me to accomplish this? (I'm talking about changing every Windows 7 icons). I have read from some posts here that icon changers should be avoided. Is that advice still ring today? Or has there been a stable, reliable tool that can change icons safely since those posts?


5) Since I haven't decided yet which theme I'll be using, I am fancying the thought of making my own (or at least modifying custom themes I downloaded from reliable sites). Do I have to use UxStyle Core or Universal Theme Patcher or Theme Resource Editor before I proceed making my own themes if I am going to modify, let's say, my explorer frame?
Also from my research, the most popular tools to dealing with custom themes are Windows Style Builder and Restorator. But those are not free. I am thinking of using Resource Hacker. Is it good enough? Does it accomplish the same tasks that WSB & Restorator do? Or are they different tools to be used side by side?

I am running Windows 7 Pro, 64-bit / Admin account / UAC disabled

Thank you to anyone who will give me a very good insight.
Here's hoping that I will lessen my confusion soon.

I'm rolling with so much thoughts right now, help me stop the confusion please.

-AJ


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

05 Mar 2012   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Win 7 Pro x64 / Win 8.1 Pro
 
 

#1
Both are safe to use, I preferred to use UxStyle Core because it is a service that runs in the background and does not need any system files patched, and if there is any updates from Windows you do not have to rerun it.
With Universal Theme Patcher sometimes you get a Windows update and you have to re-patch. If you want to go back to the unpatched environment with Universal Theme Patcher in the program it has a feature to unpatched the files, with UxStyle Core there is nothing to do because it did not patch anything.

#2
I have never used Theme Resource Changer but your description is accurate, you are using a custom theme with Theme Resource Changer than you already are using either UxStyle Core or Universal Theme Patcher.

#3
You do not want to double patch once you have run UxStyle Core or Universal Theme Patcher that is it.

#4
Most themes you should have the option of not using their icons simply by just installing the theme only. Do not use any icon Packers that do it for you the best way to change an icon is manually in the .dll.

#5
If you are going to make or customize a theme you will definitely need to use one of these UxStyle Core or Universal Theme Patcher.
Most resource hacker's can be used to extract and replace the images in the .msstyles but if you want to change any text colors or change fonts you will need to purchase Windows Style Builder (about $23.50 US) it's the only way I know how to do that.

If you need any more information let me know.
Jerry
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Mar 2012   #3

Windows 7 Professional x64 | Windows ME | Windows 8 Dev Preview
 
 

Hi Jerry. My post was rather lengthy, so thank you for taking the time to go through each item.


#1
This one's now solved. I'll use UxStyle Core (coz it has few buttons and requires less effort ).


#2
You lost me here. But I won't trouble you with further questions coz you never used it. I figured that since most customizers survived without using it, then I guess I can leave it alone (for now, at least). But for anyone else else who might be reading this, please give me an idea if this is used for building custom themes or simply for installing custom themes.


#3
Another item solved. Now that I decided to use UxStyle Core that involves zero patching, then I don't have to worry about double patching.


#4
Does Resource Hacker allow me to modify the .dll file? How many icons are we talking about here? Can you give me an estimate?


#5a
Here's the part where it got tricky: I was under the impression that I may be able to modify an existing visual style without the need to install it first. What I did I did so far was to copy my default Aero folder to a different location and use it as a template. I haven't modified it yet. I figured it's easier to just modify a visual style I have downloaded from deviantArt. I haven't installed it yet, so I stored it in a safe location and is ready to be modified.
So If you say that I need to run a patcher first before I could create/modify a visual style/custom theme, then it means that I have to install the VS first before I could access its resource?


#5b
I think I'd like to try out Resource Hacker first (until I got fed up by its limited features at least) coz the idea of using Windows Style Builder is still overwhelming to me. I found a rich amount of WSB tutorial from various sites. Will those tutorials be useful/applicable with Resource Hacker (because they talk about image numbers, location, etc.)? I'd like to know if those same places/locations, image numbers are accessible via Resource Hacker. For example: A WSB tutorial says that context menu is IMAGE_842 and it can be accessed in "Lists, Menus & Tabs > Menu > PopUpItem". Will there be a "Lists, Menus & Tabs > Menu > PopUpItem > IMAGE_842" in Resource Hacker too, or is does it use a different tree structure, names, etc? (that seems to be a dumb question but I just want to be sure)

Thanks again, Jerry.

-AJ
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


06 Mar 2012   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Win 7 Pro x64 / Win 8.1 Pro
 
 

Hi AJ and yes your posts are quite lengthy
#2
I can tell you that it is not used for building themes or installing themes at all. Here are two links that will explain how to use Theme Resource Changer you will need to join up at these two forums and it is free How to use theme resource changer
and
How-To Themes How to use Theme Resource Changer

#4
Yes Resource Hacker will work to edit .dll as far as how many icons that would be up to you in some .dll there can be hundreds of icons but you wouldn't need to change them all just the ones that you wanted to change.

#5a
No you do not have to "patched" to customize or create any theme but if you want to test the theme while customizing or creating it you will need to have it either "patched" or using the UxStyle Core that you now have installed your already set up to test the themes already. And it's a very good idea that you work on copies then working on the original that when they are not corrupt.

#5b
I have had difficulties with Resource Hacker when editing the .mstyles some people don't but I do, I have had some success with Anolis recourcer Anolis but I find the best tool to be Windows Style Builder Ave's Windows7 Style Builder
As far as the image numbers and the locations with WSB you go by the location not the image number because once a theme has been built with WSB all the numbers change on the images, the default aero.msstyles image numbers will be different in a custom theme. Yes to tutorials on some of them sites would be very helpful when using WSB, If you purchase WSB I can help you get started but I will make you prove that you purchased it by joining their forum which can only be done after purchasing it by using your e-mail address and the key that came with it, to prove that you would have to p.m. me there.
here are two screenshots one showing a resource hacker trees structure and WSB tree structure.
Name:  aero.msstyles - Anolis Resourcer.png
Views: 40
Size:  51.5 KBquestions about system patchers &theme building in general-win7-style-builder-cwindowsresourcesthemesaeroaero.msstyles.png





Hint: Looked at post #38 in this thread and it will show you how to start a new theme from scratch Start menu color change ??
Hint #2: you cannot be using the theme you are trying to edit at the same time, what I'm saying is you need to be using a different theme than the one you are trying to edit.

Let me know if you need more help
Jerry


My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Mar 2012   #5

Windows 7 Professional x64 | Windows ME | Windows 8 Dev Preview
 
 

Jerry,
LOL. I just want to be as detailed as I can to make sure that what I'm saying is clear.

#2
I actually downloaded Theme Resource Changer from one of those sites. I'll just read through the description once more to see if it can be useful to me. Let's mark this as solved.


#4
I see. And if I backup the .dll, I can restore icons to default, right? What's the name of the .dll?


#4b
Just a quick follow up question. Which files do I have to backup aside from the icon .dll? Some themes have explorer.exe, would that mean I have to backup my explorer.exe too?


#5a
Alright, I agree that it's best to test themes to avoid any weirdness that might ensue. So in my case, now that I have copied my Aero folder in a safe place, that copy is what I need to modify and only install it to test it. Is that correct? And that I must avoid touching the Aero folder inside C:\Windows\Resources\Themes while it is still installed. Right?


#5b
Here's a question you'll probably laugh at: what is .msstyle? Is that the one I have to open and modify in Resource Hacker? What is the difference of .msstyle and .theme? (Now you have an idea how new I am to this. )

The Anolis Reaourcer seems to be abandoned. They didn't release a version .095 which was supposed to come out on Jan. 2011. I want to be cheap as much as possible so my only choice is Resource Hacker. Besides, I am very new to this, so until I have learned enough knowledge then that's when I'll probably move on to WSB. I will message you there with probably a new sets of questions so you better be ready if ever.

I will check out post #38 on the link you provided now.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Mar 2012   #6

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Win 7 Pro x64 / Win 8.1 Pro
 
 

Hey AJ
#4 and 4b
Always backup any system file you modified or want to change. That way you could always go back to the default easier. You'll find a lot of the icons are in imageres.dll but they also could be in a lot of other .dll depending on where the icon is.

#5
You are correct, but you must rename it before putting it in C:\Windows\Resources\Themes so you do not have 2 themes named aero which Windows would not allow any way, so follow post #38 to start a new theme Start menu color change ??

#5b
The .msstyle is what holds the images, and the .theme is used to control the name of the theme when it is in personalization and information on cursors, wallpaper, sound, screensaver etc., when making a theme you only need to edit it for the name which is shown in post #38 from the above link.

Anolis Reaourcer can still be downloaded from the link I provided it's free if you can't get resource hacker to work then try it.

If you are going to start making themes I would strongly suggest getting Windows Style Builder as soon as you can it will be a different learning curve than a resource hacker.

Jerry
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Mar 2012   #7

Windows 7 Professional x64 | Windows ME | Windows 8 Dev Preview
 
 

Jerry,

Thank you so much for your insight. I'll follow your tutorial (post #38 on the link you have given) as a starting point. We can now mark items #4 & #5 as answered/solved.

As for using WSB, I just don't want to spend money on a one-time thing as I probably just skin my Windows once or twice a year. So I'm sticking with Resource Hacker. It's not just the pricetag though. Until I become totally passionate about skinning, and if I sense a great improvement of my understanding on skinning stuffs, then that will be the time to commit to a big-boy tool like WSB and learning it won't be an issue if I am dedicated (like using an entry-level Paint.NET before accelerating to the more advanced Photoshop. Something like that).

Thanks again for your help. I'll now prepare all the necessary things and do what I must (like backing up, slimming down my disk, etc) and by weekend I'll start theming. I hope I get it right the first time. Here's hoping.

-AJ
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Mar 2012   #8

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Win 7 Pro x64 / Win 8.1 Pro
 
 

You're welcome, if you need to know a image number let me know I can help you. Remember image number change after it has been made with WSB so if you are editing a custom theme from lets say DA them will be different then the default aero.
Jerry
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Mar 2012   #9

Windows 7 Professional x64 | Windows ME | Windows 8 Dev Preview
 
 

Jerry,
Thanks again, especially for your initiative to be available for my aid.
I forgot to ask you about Stardock products named WindowBlinds and SkinStudio. There are free versions available, but they confuse me so much as to what they do. Not many people recommend them and I don't know why. What are your thoughts on these softwares? Do they accomplish the same things that Resource Hacker or WSB?

-AJ
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Mar 2012   #10

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Win 7 Pro x64 / Win 8.1 Pro
 
 

I have tried the free version of WindowBlinds and it is very limited, personally I would say using a resource editor or WSB is going to give you better results.
Jerry
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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