Since my return to being the Product Manager of Object Desktop and the programs that make it up in October, one of my jobs has been to re-evaluate where skinning is today and try to take the products in the direction I think skinning is going.
Object Desktop 2010, launched this month, is the result of some of this thinking – at least, as much as we could do in a couple of months.
My mantra for skinning has basically been: Make it useful, target power users. I’m not interested in making software for grandma or pointless cosmetics which is the direction Object Desktop took in my view for the past few years.
Let me give you an example of the problem with skinning in a Windows 7 world.
Paint.net with plain Aero:
Pros: Perfect compatibility, visually pleasing.
Cons: It’s just AERO, like everyone else.
Paint.net with WindowBlinds 7 running a UIS 2 skin (Sublime):
Pros: Looks cool, very customizeable.
Cons: Cosmetic glitches can mar functional compatibility.
Next: WindowBlinds 7 running a UIS 0 skin (Aero Clay black)
Pros: Perfect compatibility, customizeable Aero.
Cons: Still basically Aero.
Next: WindowBlinds 7 with a UIS 0 Hybrid skin (Corporate Aero)
Pros: Perfect compatibility, skinned controls and client area, customzeable Aero
Cons: Aero frames limits how much skinning you can do.
Probably the single biggest change that I see coming to skinning is its return to the realm of power users. That means, if it’s a cosmetic only change then it better be 100% compatible and have no downsides.
Power users might sacrifice something if it increases their productivity or looks significantly better but in the age of Aero, I have yet to see a skin that looks so good that I’d be willing to give up one iota of compatibility and I suspect I’m not alone.
That’s why UIS 0 is so important and moving forward why UIS 0 Hybrid is so important.
UIS 2 skins, the ones that let skinners go wild, will continue to evolve to be better and better but there will always be apps that do different things that acan’t be predicted.
The upcoming public release of SkinStudio 7 will be crucial because it’ll include easy ways of making UIS 0 skins. I wouldn’t mind there being a SkinStudio 7 Starter Edition that just does UIS 0 to simplify things for new skinners.