How To Skin a Start Menu





Anatomy of a skin file
Bitmaps
Bitmap slices
Backgrounds
Skin items
Main menu
Windows 7 style
Sub-menus
About box
Skin variations
Skin options
Scaling
Custom skin
Troubleshooting
Skin reference

Introduction

Classic Shell™ supports skin files for the start menu. The skin can change things like:
  • The background image or color of the menu
  • The font and text color for various elements
  • Arrows and other icons
  • Sizes, padding and alignment
  • The image to use for the menu separators

All information about a skin is stored in a .skin or a .skin7 file (the .skin7 files are for use by the Windows 7 style). The skin files must be installed in the Skins directory of Classic Shell (for example C:\Program Files\Classic Shell\Skins).

Tutorial Contents:


Anatomy of a skin file

The skin file is a DLL that contains specific resources like bitmaps, icons, etc. The only mandatory resource is a text resource with ID=1 and type="SKIN". It is the text that describes the skin. The description can refer to other resources like bitmaps and icons.

The easiest way to create a new skin is to start from an existing .skin file. Make a copy of one of the default skins and save it under a new name. Then open it in Visual Studio's resource editor, or another resource editor like Resource Hacker:

Skin file

A great feature of Resource Hacker is that it lets you edit the text directly inside. When you are done, press the "Compile Script" button, then save the file.
Note: Keep in mind that often the Skins folder is protected by the OS. If you want to use a tool to edit a file directly in that folder, the tool must be started as Administrator.

To replace a bitmap resource, select Action -> Replace Bitmap. Then pick your new bitmap file, pick the ID of the bitmap resource you want to replace, click Replace and save. You can replace an icon resource in a similar way.

To add a new bitmap, select Action -> Add a new Resource. Pick the new bitmap file, enter a new name (must be a number), and you can leave the language blank. Finally click Add Resource and save.


Bitmaps

The start menu uses various bitmap resources for its graphical elements. Every bitmap in the menu has a name for its setting (for example "Main_pager_arrows" or "Search_bitmap"). You specify the bitmap resource with the setting <name>=<resource index>. For example:

Main_bitmap=1 -
use bitmap resource with index 1

A bitmap can optionally have a color mask. The mask determines how the bitmap is mixed with the system window (Glass) color or the system menu color. The Red channel of the mask controls how much of the window color to mix in and the Green channel controls how much of the menu color to use. The mask only applies to the RGB portion of the bitmap. The Alpha channel remains unchanged:

Color masks
In this example the first image is the background, the second is the mask and the third is the end result. The red portions of the mask blend the glass color (purple) with the background. The green portions blend the menu color (gray) with the background. By varying the intensity of red and green in the mask image we control how much the colors are blended.

The mask can be specified in one of two ways - either <bitmap>_mask=<resource index> or <bitmap>_mask=#RRGGBB (a color in hexadecimal format). If the mask is a bitmap it must have the same dimensions as the main bitmap. Some examples:

Main_bitmap_mask=2 - use a bitmap resource with index 2
Main_bitmap_mask=#FF0000 - use a fixed color with Red=255, Green=0, Blue=0

See the reference section at the end for the supported bitmaps.


Bitmap slices

Since many of the start menu elements are not fixed size (they is resized depending on the number of menu items, the font size, etc) and bitmaps are fixed size, we need a way to resize the bitmap to fill a given area. Simply stretching the whole bitmap will not work because fine details around the border will get blurred.

That's where the "slicing" system comes in. Each bitmap is split into slices horizontally and vertically:

bitmap slices

The 4 corners are never stretched. The left and right slices are stretched only vertically. The top and bottom slices are stretched only horizontally. And the middle portion can be stretched in any direction. This lets us get any size background without sacrificing the sharp edges or the smooth gradient in the middle:

Resized images

Some images can have more than 3 slices. The main menu background has 6 slices - 3 for the caption area and 3 for the menu area.

Some images don't need both vertical and horizontal slices. The menu separator image is only split horizontally because all separators have the same height.


Backgrounds

A background is a combination of a bitmap and its slices. It consists of the following settings: <name>, <name>_mask, <name>_slices_X, <name>_slices_Y. For example if the name is "Main_bitmap":

Main_bitmap=1 - use bitmap resource with index 1
Main_bitmap_mask=2 - use a bitmap resource with index 2
Main_bitmap_slices_X=6,1,1,6,1,13
Main_bitmap_slices_Y=60,317,8

Not all backgrounds have both X and Y slices. For example horizontal separators only have X, and vertical separators only have Y, since they can only stretch in one direction.

See the reference section at the end for the supported backgrounds.


Skin items

A skin item is a combination of settings that control a particular element of the menu, for example the selected element. The following settings are supported:
<name>_font - the font used for the text
<name>_glow_size - the glow size for the text (only works in Windows 7)
<name>_text_color - the color for the text (4 colors for normal, selected, disabled, disabled+selected)
<name>_text_padding - the padding on all sides of the text (left, top, right, bottom)
<name>_icon_padding - the padding on all sides of the icon
<name>_selection - the background of the item, usually when it is selected (this setting has the _mask, _slices_X and _slices_Y sub-settings, it can also be a solid color in #RRGGBB format)
<name>_arrow_color - the color of the sub-menu arrow triangle if the arrow is solid color (2 colors for normal and selected)
<name>_arrow - a bitmap for the arrow if the arrow is a bitmap
<name>_arrow_padding - the left and right padding of the arrow
<name>_icon_frame - a background for the frame of the icon
<name>_icon_frame_offset - an X and Y padding between the frame and the icon (X applies for left and right, Y applies to top and bottom)

For example this defines the normal text in the main menu:
Main_font="Segoe UI",normal,-10
Main_text_color=#FFFFFF,#FFFFFF,#9F9F9F,#AFAFAF
Main_text_padding=1,0,8,0
Main_icon_padding=4,3,3,3
Main_selection=3
Main_selection_slices_X=4,63,4
Main_selection_slices_Y=4,20,4
Main_arrow_color=#FFFFFF,#FFFFFF
Main_arrow_padding=8,9

When you specify a font you need to provide the font name, the weight (normal or bold), and a size. The font size is given in points. A point is 1/72 of an inch. So the font size in pixels is:

pixel_size = point_size * DPI / 72

where DPI is the current DPI display setting.
The font size can be negative or positive. A negative size measures the character height and a positive size measures the cell height of the font. Since the cell is usually taller than a character, a font size -10 is usually slightly larger than 10.


Some items inherit settings from other items. For example the "Main_split" item may only have these settings:
Main_split_selection=11
Main_split_selection_slices_X=4,63,4,0,16,4
Main_split_selection_slices_Y=4,20,4

The settings that are not specified will come from the "Main" item.

See the reference section at the end for the supported items.

Main menu

Now that we know what is a Bitmap, Background and Skin item, we are ready to define the look of the main menu.

The main menu can use a solid color for its background or use a bitmap.

If you want solid color, use this in the skin description:

Main_opacity=solid   - the menu is a solid rectangle
Main_background=#00FF00   - green color

The color (and all colors in this file) are in the #RRGGBB hexadecimal format. This is the same format that is used by HTML text.

To specify a bitmap, use:

Main_bitmap=1   - use bitmap resource 1
Main_bitmap_slices_X=8,1,1,5,1,13   - the horizontal slices
Main_bitmap_slices_Y=13,50,9   - the vertical slices
Main_opacity=glass   - use glass effect

Main_opacity can be solid, region, alpha, glass, fullalpha or fullglass. Solid means the menu will be filled with the Main_background color and the bitmap will be drawn on top. Region means the pixels with alpha=0 will be transparent, and the rest will be opaque. Alpha means that the bitmap will be alpha-blended with the desktop behind it. Glass means the pixels with alpha=0 will be transparent, all the rest will blend between the glass color and the pixel color (alpha=1 is full glass, alpha=255 is fully opaque). Fullalpha and fullglass are the same as alpha/glass but inform the start menu that the background behind the menu items can be transparent.

The bitmap must follow certain restrictions:
  • The bitmap can be either 24-bit or 32-bit with alpha channel.
  • For 32-bit images don't premultiply the alpha channel. If you don't know what "premultiply the alpha" means, never mind
  • The area where the menu items are going to be must be completely opaque if fullalpha or fullglass are not used
  • For region, alpha, glass, fullalpha or fullglass modes there is a limitation where the fully transparent (alpha=0) pixels can be. For every horizontal line of the bitmap there can be transparent pixels on the left end and on the right end, but not in the middle. The non-transparent (alpha>0) pixels must be contiguous with no holes.
  • For right-to-left versions of Windows (like Arabic and Hebrew) the bitmap will be mirrored. Any text or directionally-sensitive graphics (like a logo) will be backwards. If you want to support right-to-left Windows, either don't use such graphics or provide an option that uses alternative image
  • The Windows 7 style (skin with extension .skin7) does not support fullalpha or fullglass opacity modes
To create a 32-bit bitmap with alpha channel you need an image editor like Photoshop or GIMP. In Photoshop the alpha channel goes here:

Alpha in Photoshop

When saving the bmp file make sure you pick the 32-bit file format.

The first 3 numbers of Main_bitmap_slices_X relate to the caption area. Set them all to 0 if you don't want caption. If you do want caption, set the numbers to to the left, middle and right slice of the caption area of the bitmap.
The second 3 numbers of Main_bitmap_slices_X are for the left, middle, and right slice of the menu area.
The 3 numbers of Main_bitmap_slices_Y are for the top, middle and bottom slice of the whole menu. The same numbers are used for the caption and the menu.

Here's an example of how the slices should look:
Main menu slices
The highlighted vertical slices are single pixel wide and are stretched to fill the width of the caption area and the menu area.

If your menu background is solid color or a completely rectangular bitmap, and you are running in Windows 7's Classic theme, you can select whether the menu will have a 1-pixel thin border or 2-pixel 3D border:
Main_thin_frame=1 - use thin frame instead of the thick 3D frame (for Classic mode only)


The caption

The caption is the area on the side of the menu that shows text like Windows 7 Home. If you want caption you must provide a bitmap for the main menu. There are few parameters related to the caption:

Caption_font="Segoe UI",normal,18   - the name, weight and size of the caption font
Caption_text_color=#FFFFFF   - the color of the caption text
Caption_glow_color=#FFFFFF   - the color of the glow behind the text
Caption_glow_size=10   - the size of the glow (0 - no glow)
Caption_padding=4,8,2,16   - the padding on the left, top, right and bottom of the caption

The padding is the number of pixels to leave on each side of the caption text.


Two columns

All Classic skins must support either a single column mode or two-column mode. The Windows 7 skins only support two columns.
There is a system option "TWO_COLUMNS", which is set when the skin runs in two-column mode. You may use that option to provide a different bitmap and other settings. For more on options look at the Skin Options section.

The main bitmap for two columns must have 6 vertical slices, just like if the menu has a caption. But instead of having a caption section and the menu section, there are the first column section and the second color section.

The second column can have its own set of properties to specify a different font, colors, selection bitmap, etc.:

Main2_opacity=fullglass
Main2_font="Segoe UI",bold,-10
Main2_text_color=#FFFFFF,#FFFFFF,#7F7F7F,#7F7F7F
Main2_padding=3,10,4,8

These properties are optional. If something is not set, the values from the first column will be used.


The menu items

The main menu can display different kinds of items. Also some items can have multiple states. Each item is described in the skin as one or more "skin items" (as explained above). Here are some examples of items:
Main - the normal items in the main menu
Main_new - highlighted new programs
Main2_separator - a separator in the second column of the main menu

Note on separators: For simple separators (with no text) the height of the separator is determined by the height of the provided bitmap. If no separator bitmap is given the menu uses the default etched line.

Custom separator


For the complete list see the reference section at the end.


Other menu elements

You can provide a custom bitmap to be used for the arrows:

Main_arrow=3   - the resource ID of the sub-menu arrow bitmap

The arrows bitmap (Main_arrow) needs 2 have 2 arrow images like this:
Sub-menu arrows
The top half is used for the normal arrow and the bottom half is for the selected arrow.

The pager is used to scroll items in the menus if they don't fit. The pager needs a background and a bitmap for the arrow:

Main_pager=2
   - the resource ID of the pager bitmap
Main_pager_slices_X=3,1,3   - the horizontal slices of the pager bitmap
Main_pager_slices_Y=4,66,4   - the vertical slices of the pager bitmap
Main_pager_arrows=3   - the resource ID of the pager arrows bitmap

Main_pager has the normal and selected backgrounds for the scroll buttons:
Pager buttons

Main_pager_arrows must have 4 arrow images like this:
Pager Arrows
The top 2 point up, the bottom 2 point down, the left 2 are normal and the right 2 are selected.


More on padding

The start menu uses multiple padding settings to correctly align all graphical elements. You can see from this image:
Padding settings

Tweak the numbers to get the desired alignment of the caption, or the gap between the icon and the text, etc.


User Picture (Classic skins)

The start menu can also show the user picture. You enable it by setting the size of the user picture. All original skins use 48x48 pixels, but you can choose any size up to 128x128:

User_image_size=48

You must also set the position of the image inside the menu:

User_frame_position=-10,6

Positive position is measured from the left and top, and negative numbers are from the right and the bottom. So "-10,6" means 10 pixels from the right and 6 pixels from the top. The horizontal position can also be "center", "center1" or "center2". Then the image will be centered over the whole menu, or over the first column, or over the second column:

User_frame_position=center2,6   - center on top of the second column

Optionally, you can specify a frame bitmap:

User_bitmap=12   - the resource ID of the frame bitmap
User_image_offset=8,8   - how many pixels between the top/left corner of the frame and the top/left corner of the user picture

The frame is drawn on top of the user picture, so it must have a hole where the picture is supposed to be. That means the frame bitmap must have alpha channel.

By default the user picture is drawn opaque. You can control the transparency of the picture with this property:

User_image_alpha=200   - set the transparency to 200 (out of 255)


User Picture (Windows 7 skins)

The Windows 7 style shows the user picture as a separate window that can extend beyond the size of the start menu. The user image is restricted to 48x48 pixels and the frame around it is always 64x64 pixels. This limitation is because the size must match the size of the extra-large icons used by the items in the second column of the menu.

You can provide the following settings:
User_bitmap=12   - the resource ID of the frame bitmap
User_bitmap_outside=1 - if the frame can go outside of the main menu (but only when the start menu is at the bottom of the screen)
User_image_padding= -4,8 - top and bottom padding of the frame (used to fine-tune the vertical position of the frame. the horizontal position is always centered)


User Name (Classic skins only)

The start menu can also show the user name. To enable that feature you have to provide the location of the name inside the menu, its font and alignment:

User_name_position=10,15,-75,55
User_name_align=right
User_font="Segoe UI",bold,22
User_text_color=#FFFFFF
User_glow_color=#000000
User_glow_size=2


The four number are the left, top, right and bottom offsets of the rectangle. Positive numbers mean offsets from the left and top. Negative numbers mean offsets from the right and bottom. In this example the rectangle will be 10 pixels from the left, 15 from the top, 75 from the right and the bottom will be 55 from the top. Since the top and bottom numbers (second and fourth) are both positive, the rectangle will be aligned to the top of the menu and will always be 40 pixels tall.

Unlike other fonts in the skin, the font for the user name does not scale when the screen DPI changes. Read more about font scaling in the Scaling section below.

The alignment can be center, center1, center2, left, left1, left2, right, right1 or right2. If this setting is missing, the name is centered by default. Center, left and right align the name relative to the whole menu. Center1, left1 and right1 align inside the first column, and center2, left2 and right2 align inside the second column.

The user name is usually taken from the system. For systems that provide full name it will be something like "Smith, John". Otherwise it will be the login name like "jsmith". You can override the text in StartMenu.ini using the MenuUsername setting.


Search box

The icon next to the search box can be skinned to match the menu background. You need to provide one bitmap that contains 8 images like this:
Search icons
The top row has 16x16 images and the bottom row has 20x20. Then specify the bitmap ID:

Search_bitmap=11

Windows 7 style

The Windows 7 style (the .skin7 skins) have some additional requirements for the main menu.

First, it requires 3 separate backgrounds to be set, Main_bitmap (as shown above), Main_bitmap_search (used during search) and Main_bitmap_jump (used when a jumplist is opened). It is recommended that the top and bottom padding for all 3 backgrounds are the same, otherwise the menu items may move around as the menu transitions between different modes.

Second, the skin needs some new skin items to be defined, like Shutdown, List, Programs, etc. For the complete list see the reference section at the end.

There are some additional bitmap resources that need to be defined, also listed in the reference section. These include the background around the search box in various modes, custom pin icon, etc.


Sub-menus

For sub-menus the parameters are similar to a simple main menu:

Submenu_padding=2,2,2,2
Submenu_thin_frame=1

Submenu_font="Segoe UI",normal,-9
Submenu_background=#FFFFFF
Submenu_text_color=#000000,#000000,#7F7F7F,#7F7F7F
Submenu_selection=2
Submenu_selection_slices_X=3,1,3
Submenu_selection_slices_Y=4,66,4
Submenu_separator=3
Submenu_separator_slices_X=3,34,3
.......

Sub-menus can also have a vertical separator. It is used when a menu has more than one column:
Submenu_separatorV=12    - bitmap to use as a vertical separator between multiple columns
Submenu_separator_slices_Y=2,16,2    - vertical slices for Submenu_separatorV


About box

In the settings of the start menu there is a button About This Skin that opens a message box. Use it to provide information about the skin and about yourself. List any requirements of your skin - Does it require Aero? Is it intended for Vista only?

The parameters are:
About=Some text   - the text you want displayed
AboutIcon=1   - the icon resource to use in the About box

In the text you can use \n as a line break, like "Line1\nLine2". The text also supports hyperlinks in the format <A HREF="www.mycoolsite.com">Visit my site</A>.

The icon can be any icon resource you want displayed. If no icon is provided, the system "info" icon is used.


Skin variations

One skin file can contain multiple skins. The first one (defined in the SKIN resource with ID=1) is the main skin and the rest are variations. The variations are described in the main SKIN resource like this:
Variation1=0, "Large Icons, With Caption"
Variation2=2, "Large Icons, No Caption"

Each variation has a resource ID and a text. The ID refers to a secondary SKIN resource, which contains overrides for some parameters (for example an alternative Main_bitmap, or Submenu_font). The text is the name of the skin variation that will be used in the Settings box.

The skin variations make it possible to pack multiple skins into one file, which makes them easier to distribute together. Also all skins can share bitmap resources from the skin file, reducing the total size.


Skin options

A skin can define a list of options for the user to pick. Each option is a checkbox that can be ON or OFF. The options are defined like this:
OPTION CAPTION="Caption",1
OPTION SMALL_ICONS="Small Icons",0

First there is the word OPTION, then the name of the option (like CAPTION), then the label for the checkbox (like "Caption") and finally the default value (1 - ON, 0 - OFF).

At the end of the skin file you can have one or more sections that provide overrides for some parameters. Each section has a condition, which is evaluated based on the options that the user has selected. The condition can be an expression that uses operations like AND, OR and NOT - like OPTION1 AND (OPTION2 OR NOT OPTION3).
For example:
[NOT CAPTION]- this section will be used when CAPTION is OFF
Main_bitmap_slices_X=0,0,0,15,1,13
Main_padding=12,10,10,8

[SMALL_ICONS]- this section will be used when SMALL_ICONS is ON
Main_large_icons=0
Main_font="Segoe UI",normal,-9

Each section starts from its header and ends at the next section or the end of the file. So it is important to place the sections at the very end of the file.

It is possible to disable an option depending on some other options. You do that by providing an expression for the option, as well as an alternate default value when the expression is false. For example:
OPTION USER_NAME="Show user name",0
OPTION CENTER_NAME="Center user name",1, USER_NAME, 0

The "Center user name" option will be disabled when USER_NAME is false (that is, when the "Show user name" option is unchecked). When the option is disabled, its value will be fixed to 0. The idea is to make it clear for the user that if you don't show the user name then you can't center it.

Important Note: An option can only depend on other options that are defined before it. So in this example USER_NAME must be defined after CENTER_NAME.

Skin modes

The classic skins (the ones stored in .skin files) can be used in 3 modes - "one column", "two columns" and "all programs". The first and the second are used depending on the current menu style. The last one is used on Windows 7 to show the All Programs sub-menu of the Windows start menu.

The skin system defines 2 built-in options TWO_COLUMNS and ALL_PROGRAMS. The skin can use them to detect which of the modes is being requested. For example:

[ALL_PROGRAMS] - this section will be used only for the All Programs menu
Submenu_text_color=#0000FF,#0000FF,#7F7F7F,#7F7F7F - override the text color

Not all options make sense in all modes, so it is nice to hide them from the user. For example the caption settings can't be used in "two columns" mode, and any main menu settings are ignored in "all programs" mode.
You can define the following settings to restrict what options to show:
Classic1_options - a list of options to show in "one column" mode
Classic2_options - a list of options to show in "two columns" mode
AllPrograms_options- a list of options to show in "all programs" mode

For example:
Classic1_options=CAPTION, USER_IMAGE, USER_NAME, CENTER_NAME, SMALL_ICONS
Classic2_options=NO_ICONS, SMALL_ICONS
AllPrograms_options=THICK_BORDER, SOLID_SELECTION

Radio groups

Sometimes you may want to present a set of options, such as only one option is active at a time. This is called a radio group. You define it like that:

OPTION RADIOGROUP=<name of the group>,0,<option1>|<option2>
OPTION <option1>=<name1>,1
OPTION <option2>=<name2>,0

The first option in the list defines the group. It has a name, then the value (which is ignored), then the list of the possible options.
The next few options define the possible selections. Exactly one of them must be set to 1 and that will be the default selection. When the user clicks on one of the options the rest will be set to 0 automatically.

For example:

OPTION RADIOGROUP=Transparency,0,TRANSPARENT_LESS|TRANSPARENT_DEF|TRANSPARENT_MORE
OPTION TRANSPARENT_LESS=Less,0
OPTION TRANSPARENT_DEF=Default,1
OPTION TRANSPARENT_MORE=More,0


Scaling

DPI scaling

The skin parameters are authored for the default resolution of 96 DPI. When the skin is used at higher DPI setting you have the option to scale up some of the parameters. For example:

Main_arrow_padding=8,10,50%

This means that the arrow padding will be scaled by 50% of the increase in DPI. If the current DPI is 120 (25% increase over 96 DPI), then the numbers will be scaled up by 50% of 25%, which is 12.5%. 8 will become 9 and 10 will become 11.25 (rounded to 11). If instead the skin was:

Main_arrow_padding=8,10,100%

Then the full 25% increase will be applied, so 8 will become 10 and 10 will become 12.5 (rounded to 13).

It is also possible to use different scaling values for each number:

Main_icon_padding=4,4,3,4,100%,0%,100%,0%

In this case the first and third number will be scaled by 100% and the rest will not be scaled.

Not all skin parameters support scaling. For example bitmap slices cannot be scaled because they represent portions of some bitmap resource. The parameters that can be scaled are marked as such in the reference section.

Fonts

By default the fonts are scaled with the DPI at 100%. You can overwrite that:

Main_font="Segoe UI",normal,-9,50%

This will make the Main_font scale with half of the rate of the DPI increase.

Note: One exception is the User_font. It is not scaled by default because it is intended to fit in the User_name_position box. If you want the font to scale, you should use the same scale for the user name position.

High DPI parameters

When the DPI is 144 or higher (text size 150% and up), the skin defines a setting HIGH_DPI, which allows you to provide alternative bitmap resources and other parameters that are intended to be used with higher resolutions. Use it for example to define larger graphical elements like arrows and icons.

Localization

The built-in skins contain localizations for all their options and variations. Instead of providing the text directly in the skin file, the setting refers to a string in the localization DLL. For example:
OPTION USER_IMAGE=#7014,1
OPTION SMALL_ICONS=#7011,0

#7014 means to look up string number #7014 in the DLL. Custom skins can use the strings that already exist in the DLL, but unfortunately new strings cannot be added by the skin itself.


Custom skin

During development it can be a bother to have to Resource-Hack the skin file for every little change. That's why the start menu supports a special "custom" skin. Instead of packing all resources in a DLL, you can leave them as loose files in the Skins directory:

1.txt - the main skin description
12.bmp - bitmap used by 1.txt
2.txt - a skin variation
7.ico
...

The file name must be the resource ID of that asset in the skin file. For example 12.bmp will go into a bitmap resource with ID 12. Edit them until you are ready to package them into a skin file.

The "Custom" skin option is available in the settings only if the start menu can find the 1.txt file.

The custom skin has an additional parameter that is not available for other skins:
ForceRTL=1

This makes the start menu run in right-to-left mode. Use it to see how your background image will look on an Arabic OS. Note: The RTL emulation is not perfect. One notable difference is that all menu icons are mirrored. On a real RTL Windows they will not be.


Troubleshooting

If your skin is causing an error, the start menu will drop it and use the Default skin instead. The reason can range from a missing resource to an incompatible version to a bitmap with wrong size, and so on.

To figure out the cause of the problem turn on "Report Skin Errors" in the start menu settings. Then you'll see a popup like this:
Skin error

Note that only errors related to the current skin variation and the current skin options will be reported. So test your skin with every combination to ensure it works in all conditions.


Skin reference

This section describes all possible settings that can be used in a skin file. Before we can define the individual settings we need to define the types that a setting can have. A setting can be one of the following types: text, number (or multiple numbers), color (or multiple colors), font, icon, bitmap, background or skin item. Some settings like background or skin item have multiple sub-settings described below. The names of the sub-settings begin with the name of the parent setting.

Here are the types in more detail:

A color is represented in the hexadecimal format #RRGGBB, where each color component takes 2 hex digits. For example:
Caption_text_color=#00FF00


A font selects the font's name, size, and weight (normal or bold). For example:
Main_font="Segoe UI",normal,-10


An icon is a reference to an icon resource number in the skin file:
About=1


A bitmap is a reference to a bitmap resource number in the skin file. It can have an optional mask that determines how to mix the bitmap resource with the system colors. The mask can be another bitmap or it can be a solid color:
Main_bitmap=2
Main_bitmap_mask=#FF0000



A background is a bitmap that can be resized to the necessary size. It consists of a bitmap resource and slice numbers. The number of slices depends on the actual background. Some are 3x3, some are 3x1, some 6x3.

Possible settings for a background with a given <name>:
Name Type
Notes
<name>
number
The bitmap resource identifier
<name>_mask number or color
The color mask. It can be a bitmap resource identifier or a #RRGGBB color. If it is a bitmap then it must have the same size as the original bitmap
<name>_slices_X numbers
The sizes for the horizontal slices. The sum of the numbers must not exceed the width of the bitmap
<name>_slices_Y numbers The sizes for the vertical slices. The sum of the numbers must not exceed the height of the bitmap


A skin item controls the complete look for individual menu elements. It sets the font, colors, and other settings.

Possible settings for skin item with a given <name>:
NameType
Notes
<name>_font
font
The font for the item's text
<name>_text_color
4 colors
Colors for the text - normal, selected, disabled, disabled+selected
<name>_glow_size
number
Size of the glow in pixels (only supported on Windows 7)
<name>_text_padding
4 numbers (with scale) Padding on the left, top, right, bottom around the item's text
<name>_icon_padding
4 numbers (with scale) Padding on the left, top, right, bottom around the icon
<name>_selection
background or color
Background for the item when it is selected (can also be a solid color)
<name>_arrow_color
2 colors
The arrow colors - normal and selected (when the arrow is solid color)
<name>_arrow
bitmap
The arrow bitmap (when the arrow is a bitmap). The bitmap must contain 2 images, the top one is normal and the bottom is selected
<name>_arrow_padding
2 numbers (with scale) Padding on the left and right side of the arrow
<name>_icon_frame
background
Background for the icon frame
<name>_icon_frame_offset
2 numbers (with scale) Horizontal and vertical padding between the icon and the frame


Now that we know how to define settings of different types, here is a list of all settings used by the menu skins:
Name Type
Notes
About
text
The text to display in the About box
AboutIcon icon
The icon to display in the About box
Version number
Use version 2
Caption
Caption_font font
The font to use in the caption on the side of the main menu
Caption_text_color color
Color for the caption text
Caption_glow_color color
Color for the caption text glow
Caption_glow_size number
Size of the glow in pixels (only supported on Windows 7)
Caption_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding on the left, top, right, bottom around the caption text
Main menu
Main_background color
Background color for the main menu
Main_bitmap background
Background for the main menu. Needs 6 vertical and 3 horizontal slices
Main_opacity text Opacity of the main menu - solid, region, alpha, glass, fullalpha, fullglass
Main_large_icons number
Set to 1 to use large icons in the main menu
Main_thin_frame number
Set to 1 to use a thin border (as opposed to thick 3D border). Only applies to Classic theme in Windows 7
Main_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding on the left, top, right, bottom around the items in the main menu
Main skin item
The look for the normal items in the main menu
Main_split skin item
The look for the split items in the main menu. Inherits from Main
Main_new skin item
The look for the highlighted items (like new programs) in the main menu. Inherits from Main
Main_separator skin item
The look for the text in the separators in the main menu. Inherits from Main
Main_separator background The bitmap for the horizontal separators in the main menu
Main_separatorV background
The vertical separator between the two columns of the main menu
Main_pager background
The background for the main menu pager. Requires 2 pictures, the top one is normal state, the bottom is highlighted state
Main_pager_arrows bitmap
The arrow for the pager. Requires 2x2 grid with up, down, normal and hot states
Search_hint_font font
The font for the hint text in the search box
Two-column main menu
Main2_opacity text Opacity for the second column of the main menu
Main_no_icons2 number
Set to 1 to hide the icons in the second column
Main2_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding on the left, top, right, bottom around the items in the second column
Main2 skin item
The look for the normal items in the second column. Inherits from Main
Main2_split skin item
The look for the split items in the second column. Inherits from Main2
Main2_new skin item
The look for the highlighted items in the second column. Inherits from Main2
Main2_separator background
Horizontal separator for the second column. Inherits from Main_separator
Windows 7-style main menu
Main_bitmap_search background Background for the main menu in search mode
Main_search_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding for the menu items in search mode
Main_bitmap_jump background Background for the main menu in jumplist mode
Main_jump_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding for the jumplist items
Main_search_indent number (with scale) The indent in pixels of the search results relative to the search headers
Shutdown skin item
The look for the shutdown button. Inherits from Main
Shutdown_search skin item
The look for the shutdown button in search mode. Inherits from Shutdown
Shutdown_jump skin item
The look for the shutdown button in jumplist mode. Inherits from Shutdown
Shutdown_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding around the shutdown button
List skin item
The look for the search results and jumplist items. Inherits from Main
List_split skin item
The look for the search results and jumplist items that are split in two parts. Inherits from List
List_separator skin item
The look for the text in the separators in the search results and jumplists. Inherits from List
List_separator background Horizontal separator for the search results and jumplists Inherits from Main_separator
List_separator_split skin item
The look for the split separators in the search results. Inherits from List_split
List_separator_split background Horizontal split separator for the search results and jumplists Inherits from Main_separator
Programs_icon bitmap
The icon for the All Programs button. Requires 2 pictures, one for the normal state and one for the selected state
Programs_button skin item
The look for the All Programs button. Inherits from Main
Programs_button_new skin item
The look for the highlighted All Programs button. Inherits from Main
Search_bitmap bitmap
A bitmap with various icons used by the search box
Search_arrow bitmap
A bitmap for the arrow in the search separators. Requires 2 pictures, one for the minimized and one for the maximized state
Search_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding around the search box
Search_frame number
Set to 0 to disable the black frame of the search box, for example if Search_background has a built-in border
Search_background background
Background around the search box
Search_background_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding around the search background
Search_background_search background
Background around the search box in search mode
Search_background_search_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding around the search background in search mode
Search_background_jump background Background around the search box in jumplist mode
Search_background_jump_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding around the search background in jumplist mode
Pin_bitmap bitmap
Icon for pinned and unpinned items. Requires 2x2 grid with pinned, unpinned, normal and selected states
More_bitmap bitmap
Icon for the "More results" item. Requires 2 pictures, one for normal and one for selected state
Shutdown_bitmap bitmap
Icon that is added to the shutdown button when there are updates to be installed
Programs_background color
Background color for the programs tree
Programs skin item
The look for the items in the programs tree. Inherits from Main
Programs_new skin item
The look for the highlighted items in the programs tree. Inherits from Programs
Programs_indent number (with scale) Additional indentation (positive or negative) for the nested items in the programs tree
User Picture (Classic style)
User_bitmap bitmap
The frame for the user bitmap
User_image_offset 2 numbers The offset of the user picture inside the frame
User_image_size
number (with scale) The size of the user image
User_image_alpha number Opacity between 0 and 255 for the user picture inside the frame
User_frame_position 2 values (with scale) The horizontal and vertical position of the frame. The horizontal can be also "center", "center1", or "center2"
User Picture (Windows 7 style)
User_bitmap bitmap The frame for the user bitmap. Must be 64x64 or larger
User_image_offset 2 numbers
The offset of the user picture inside the frame
User_image_size number The size of the user image (should be no less than the size of User_bitmap). The default is 48
User_image_padding 2 numbers (with scale) Top and bottom padding around the user frame
User_bitmap_outside number Set to 1 for the user bitmap to appear partially outside of the main menu (only when the menu is at the bottom)
User_frame_position number (with scale) The amount by which the user frame is partially inside the main menu. The default is 36
User Name (only for Classic style)
User_name_position 4 numbers
Position of the user name
User_name_align string
Alignment of the user name - center, center1, center2, left, left1, left2, right, right1, right2
User_font font
The font for the user name. By default this font is not scaled with the DPI
User_text_color color
The color for the user name
User_glow_color color
The glow color for the user name
User_glow_size number
The glow size in pixels (only supported on Windows 7)
Sub-Menu
Submenu_background color
Background color for the sub-menus
Submenu_bitmap background
Background image for the sub-menus
Submenu_opacity text Opacity for the sub-menus
Submenu skin item
The look for the items in the sub-menus
Submenu_split skin item
The look for the split items in the sub-menus. Inherits from Submenu
Submenu_new skin item
The look for the highlighted items in the sub-menus. Inherits from Submenu
Submenu_separator background The bitmap for the separators in the submenus
Submenu_separator skin item The look for the text in the separators in the sub-menus. Inherits from Submenu
Submenu_separator_split background The bitmap for the split separators in the submenus. Inherits from Submenu_separator
Submenu_separator_split skin item The look for the text in the split separators items in the sub-menus. Inherits from Submenu_split
Submenu_padding 4 numbers (with scale) Padding on all sides of the sub-menu items
Submenu_offset number (with scale) Additional horizontal offset (positive or negative) for sub-menus relative to their parent menu
Submenu_thin_frame number
Set to 1 to use a thin border (as opposed to thick 3D border). Only applies to Classic theme in Windows 7
Submenu_separatorV background
Vertical separators between the columns of the sub-menus
Submenu_pager background The background for the sub-menu pager. Requires 2 pictures, the top one is normal state, the bottom is highlighted state
Submenu_pager_arrows bitmap
The arrow for the pager. Requires 2x2 grid with up, down, normal and hot states
AllPrograms_offset number (with scale) additional horizontal offset (positive or negative) for the first sub-menu in All Programs mode


Classic Shell 2010-2013, Ivo Beltchev.
All right reserved.