This helps you customize Windows XP themes, icons and display to your likings. Some of this info may have been outdated though…
Originally By: Mollie Hall
Before starting, make sure you have enabled XP to show *all* system folders and hidden files.
Also, I have yet to come across a downloadable Style XP theme that wasn’t in a “.zip” file, so the following directions deal only with “.zip” files.
These directions are pretty detailed, so you need to read them carefully. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, I promise!
1. Download “.zip” file – remember what folder you downloaded it in. I usually use the “My Documents” folder on the desktop because it’s easy to remember.
2. Locate the downloaded “.zip.”
3. Once you have located the .zip file:
a. For XP users using the Windows XP built-in zip file manager: locate the “.zip” FOLDER (not file), and then open it as you would any other folder. That will open the folder and show you the compressed files. Click on “file” on the toolbar, then “extract all” and then extract the files to “c:windowsresourcesthemes.”
b. For XP users using WinZip or another compression program: click on the .zip file, and extract to “c:windowsresourcesthemes.”
4. After you have finished extracting the files, right click on your desktop then click on “properties.” That will open the Display Properties dialog box. Then:
a. For themes with the “.msstyles” file extension: click on the “Appearance” tab then choose your desired theme from the “Windows and buttons” dialog box, then choose which color scheme you prefer from the “color scheme” dialog box (most themes only come with one color, but some come with more) (see screenshot1). Click “apply” then close the display properties dialog box.
b. For themes with the “.theme” file extension, make sure the open “display properties” window is the “Themes” tab (it’s the default window, so you should already be looking right at it.) Choose your theme from the “themes” dialog box (see screenshot2). “.Theme” files often come with icons and wallpaper, but it is not required that you use the icons or wallpaper, so before you click “apply” make sure the wallpaper and icons are the ones you want – for wallpaper click on the “desktop” tab, then choose your wallpaper. For icons, same as the wallpaper, except click on “customize desktop” and then choose your icons (see screenshot3). Once that is accomplished, click “apply” then close the display properties dialog box.
c. For themes with both the “.msstyles” and “.theme” extensions, use the “.theme” version if you want to use any included icons, wallpaper, etc. Use the “.msstyles” version to use the “visual style” only without using any of the included icons, wallpaper, etc.
You’re done! Yeah, right, wouldn’t that be nice? You only *wish* it was that easy, because I know I do. So keep reading.
There are certain things that *must* be in place in order for themes to work correctly, so I recommend you double check to make sure everything is good to go before you do any of the above. So go ahead and open the “c:windowsresourcesthemes” folder, and follow the below directions:
1. “.Theme” files *must* be directly within the “c:windowsresourcesthemes” folder (see screenshot4), and not within individual folders. a. If you find any in individual sub-folders, simply move the *.theme* file directly to the “c:windowsresourcesthemes” folder.
2. “.Msstyles” files *must* be within their own individual sub-folders within the “c:windowsresourcesthemes” folder (see screenshot5). For example, the file “generic.msstyles” must be in a sub-folder entitled “generic,” “generic1.msstyles” must be in a sub-folder entitled “generic1,” etc.
a. If any “.msstyles” files are directly in the “c:windowsresourcesthemes” folder, make a *new* sub-folder and name it EXACTLY AS THE “.msstyles” FILE IS NAMED (minus the “.msstyles” extension of course), then move the “.msstyles” file into that sub-folder.
3. After doing the above, you will need to check each individual sub-folder within the “c:windowsresourcesthemes” folder, *including* the ones you didn’t have to fix, or create yourself. Why? Because:
a. It is essential that the name of the sub-folder match the name of the “.msstyles” file exactly, and caps, lower case, spaces, underscores, etc., ALL count – i.e., the file “generic.msstyles” must be in a folder entitled “generic,” “Generic_01.msstyles” must be in a folder entitled “Generic_01,” etc. (see screenshot5, above). If they don’t match, you will need to rename the sub-folder that the “.msstyles” file is in so that it matches the file name.
b. Some “.zip” files will extract files into what I call a “sub-sub folder.” For example, the file “generic.msstyles” might be in a sub-folder of a sub-folder; i.e., “c:windowsresourcesthemesgenericgeneric.” If this is the case, you will need to move the “.msstyles” file into the first sub-folder, “c:windowsresourcesthemesgeneric.” Delete the “sub-sub” folder after you’ve moved the “.msstyles” file.
4. Some “.msstyles” themes include what is known as a “shellstyle” (“shellstyle.dll”.) “Shellstyle.dll” should be in its own sub-folder entitled “shell” *within* the “.msstyles” theme sub-folder, “c:windowsresourcesthemesgenericshell” (see screenshot6). Sometimes, the “shell” sub-folder has its own sub-folders, for example, “c:windowsresourcesthemesgenericshellnormalcolor” (see screenshot7). If this is the case, “shellstyle.dll” should be in the “normalcolor” sub-folder (see screenshot8). If you find any “shellstyle.dll” files floating around in the “generic” sub-folder itself, make a new sub-folder, name it “shell” then move “shellstyle.dll” into that folder.
Okay, NOW you’re done. Have fun with your new theme!
If you have any questions regarding the above, please feel free to email me.
© 2003 by Mollie Hall