UxStyle beta now available

Rafael Rivera from Within Windows has announced that UxStyle Core beta is now available for download.

To give us some information on what UxStyle Core is, we'll start with a little history. Back in the Windows XP days, users were able to modify a system file called Uxtheme.dll and create custom .msstyle files, thus creating their own desktop themes to replace the default "Luna" theme.

However, over time, patching went from just one file to multiple files and re patching was necessary when Microsoft would update the Uxtheme.dll files. When Windows Vista came, not only did it get complex, many problems arose such as stability issues, users replacing system files with malicious copies, non-functional copies, setting up incorrect folder permissions, and so forth.

Enter UxStyle, the solution to the current problem of patching. It consists of a service, and a kernel driver. The service enables and disables the custom theme support and the kernel driver handles the patching. While it currently doesn't have a theme manager or UI, it has the bare minimum needed to enable third-party theme support. This means no more manual patching and risk messing something up along the way.

There are currently two versions:

  • UxStyle Core which offers functionality closest to the pre-patched files as possible and is free.
  • UxStyle Premium which Same as core, but has live/automatic updates, and additional code to correct the "Windows Aero" theme name issue in the Appearance Settings window on Windows Vista/7. Final pricing has not yet been announced.
The final release is planned towards the end of 2009, around the time Windows 7 will be released.

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I'm also quite contempt with the Vista and now 7 visual styles. I used to use custom themes on XP for a little while until they released the Royale which was perfect for me since the one thing that annoyed me the most was the ugly titlebars and taskbar which Rolaye made look nice and glassy. Haven't used a 3rd party theme since.

But to each their own - some people like to make their computers look like from a movie and if that makes them happy then let them be. For me, Win 7 looks amazing without any 3rd party customizations. All I have felt the need for ever was to change the color variant of the glass effect and pick the desktop backgrounds that I like the most (the ones included with Win 7 are more than good enough for me) and the ability to switch them every X minutes is also very welcome - keeps your desktop a little less stagnant.

And honestly, I have seen very few really good themes for XP (haven't bothered looking since I switched to Vista). But I remember about there being about 100+ variations of Royale, 500+ OS X rip offs and about 3 - 4 unique ones that were well done all around. Tons of themes looked great on screen shots at first until you start using them and start seeing all the defects in Explorer and imperfections in various other places which for me ruins the whole experience.

it works great! using it on vista atm, if you want themes just have a peek on deviantart, theres plenty of real MSSTYLES themes :D
right here!

kiddies can't survive unless they have their eye-candy. Daddy buys them a car and the first thing they do is add a "Alpine Stereo" sticker on the windshield to make their 'Delco Radio' l33t.

Or, OR, maybe the kiddies spend a lot of time behind their computers, or like me are employed to sit behind a computer, and custom themes make them more at home with their computers. If I spend 12 hours a day sat behind a computer, I would prefer to have an interface that's pleasing to the eye.

Just because you don't want to skin your windows doesn't make you right and us wrong.

Speaking from experience when I worked for Apple we were indeed set to support schemes. Some of you may remember the great Mac program called Kaleidoscope? It was finally decided that we just could not be responsible for the potential access to the system by malicious third party sources. Most skinners are great, but then there are some that have caused mayhem. I know Microsoft feels the same way. Once the computer and OS become the property, so to speak, of the end user, then they can do whatever they feel like doing.

It wasn't just a matter of letting the OS read a different set of png's. It was also a matter that sometimes the themes or skins would come in .exe format. Don't get me wrong I am all for skinning, theming, whatever you want to call it, in fact on several of my computers I have different themes, but when you are releasing an Operating System to the public you must take a few considerations into mind. One of those is, and was to address third party changes of the OS, and while we loved some of the skins at time we felt that it just wasn't the right thing to do.

TruckWEB said,
I wonder when Stardock will release their ObjectDesktop for Win7 x32 AND x64 ??


Should be in a few months now that the beta for Windows Blinds is out. Most of the other OD programs already work.

who needs to patch Vista/7 themes? Me - not. Aero is the best theme. It is so not annoying. You have only to find the right color for yourself.

Windows XP had to be patched, because their themes were to bright for LCDs. I used in XP ages the Opus OS from ~b0se.

I agree. I've only seen a handful of truly good 3rd party themes for XP and Vista/Win7 already have a great default theme so there isn't that much incentive to change the theme. OSX also does just fine with its only theme.

cpu said,
who needs to patch Vista/7 themes? Me - not. Aero is the best theme. It is so not annoying. You have only to find the right color for yourself.

Windows XP had to be patched, because their themes were to bright for LCDs. I used in XP ages the Opus OS from ~b0se.

I need to patch it because the blue toolbars are extremely ugly.

I don't understand why both MS and Apple seem adamant about not supporting theming out of the box.

I recall it was planned to be supported in OSX back when 10.0 was in beta, then they cut it off at the last minute.

Windows obviously had the parts, but they didn't want to let the public in.

What's the fear?

The fear that people will make drastic changes to the UI all over the place thus breaking that familure consistancey everyone knows with regards to the Windows UI.

This also makes it a damn mess for any customer service center if someone calls in and you try to walk them through some steps, but they don't match because someone decided they wanted to change the UI to the point where things are different enough.

What MS lets you do in Win7 is for the most part at the limit of customization without going into anything drastic.

GP007 said,
The fear that people will make drastic changes to the UI all over the place thus breaking that familure consistancey everyone knows with regards to the Windows UI.

This also makes it a damn mess for any customer service center if someone calls in and you try to walk them through some steps, but they don't match because someone decided they wanted to change the UI to the point where things are different enough.

What MS lets you do in Win7 is for the most part at the limit of customization without going into anything drastic.

So permanently bind one keystroke to "switch off all customizations for the remainder of the session?"

GP007 said,
The fear that people will make drastic changes to the UI all over the place thus breaking that familure consistancey everyone knows with regards to the Windows UI.

This also makes it a damn mess for any customer service center if someone calls in and you try to walk them through some steps, but they don't match because someone decided they wanted to change the UI to the point where things are different enough.

What MS lets you do in Win7 is for the most part at the limit of customization without going into anything drastic.

The changes you can make via msstyles are too superficial to run into these issues.

Don't know about anyone else buy I couldn't care less to skin Windows. Most custom skins just plain old suck and I am not good enough to make my own which doesn't suck.

There are some nice Windows skins out there, for XP at least. However, WindowsBlinds has some of the... most... ugliest god awful themes I've ever seen.

dead.cell said,
There are some nice Windows skins out there, for XP at least. However, WindowsBlinds has some of the... most... ugliest god awful themes I've ever seen.

I use Windowblinds and I think its far safer and has far more features in it than ux patching. Plus it doesn't replace MS files.
That said I do agree there are some terrible themes, but there are also plenty of terrific usable themes, it all depends on your tastes. There are themes that change a lot or many that are simply variations on XP/Vista/Win7 looks.
I enjoy being able to change the skin once in awhile to change things up. Some people like having the same look day after day, but thankfully for some of us skinning is available to provide the variety we seek.

It is really stupid that something like this has to exist. This issue/stance seems to have deep roots within Microsoft, and I don't understand it at all

I guess they don't want to be responsible when people download and install some godawful theme that screws up their entire system.

TRC said,
I guess they don't want to be responsible when people download and install some godawful theme that screws up their entire system.

It's not hard to see why though, if everything was in the same place and looked the same users would feel at home on any computer.

You should be able to install "Advances Customisation" from the add/remove windows components list though!

TRC said,
I guess they don't want to be responsible when people download and install some godawful theme that screws up their entire system.

I agree, however, this is just MS being lazy, they would rather not do anything than just setup a system for themes which is not prone to exploits. It's easier for them to put the blame on users when something goes wrong when they try hacking up Windows.

PCBEEF said,
I agree, however, this is just MS being lazy, they would rather not do anything than just setup a system for themes which is not prone to exploits. It's easier for them to put the blame on users when something goes wrong when they try hacking up Windows.

Well, it would cause nightmares in enterprise if they natively supported themes, trust me. And this way, at least they can say it's because of some 3rd party hack that's messed it up, and not have to deal with it.

MS wants to keep the UI the same and consistant on their side. Letting you make drastic UI changes with a new theme or even with something like windowblinds built in would be a mess and a headache they don't want to deal with.

On that note, the ability is in the OS, and they don't block it or try to stop it. As such, they'll leave it to 3rd party devs and advanced users to mess with it. Not everyone wants to change the default Aero theme outside of the colors. I'm quite fine with using what Win7 has, just with a different glass color.

TRC said,
I guess they don't want to be responsible when people download and install some godawful theme that screws up their entire system.


That's the part I don't understand. You can install unsigned drivers, unsigned ActiveX controls and unsigned gadgets, but not themes?

TRC said,
I guess they don't want to be responsible when people download and install some godawful theme that screws up their entire system.

Doesn't the potential to screw up the entire system increase when that aforementioned theme decides to include them uxtheme patchers and package itself in an .exe?

If you want to switch themes you're going to do it. The only question is whether you will just be able to replace a folder filled with png's or whether you'll need to run some .exe which is making changes to important files in your System32 folder.

Deathray said,
It is really stupid that something like this has to exist. This issue/stance seems to have deep roots within Microsoft, and I don't understand it at all

Having a consistent user interface is one of the most important aspects of usability.

TRC said,
I guess they don't want to be responsible when people download and install some godawful theme that screws up their entire system.

Why would they be responsible for that? There's some other misguided motivation behind it.