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  1. #1
    ajfudge is offline
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    Question question about system patchers, theme builders & customiziing folder icons

    Hi. I hope I am posting in the proper section. I do have lots of questions regarding customizing just about everything in my desktop. This site is wealthy with resources and knowledge of experienced users, so I hope someone would be able to give me a wise advice to ease my confusion.

    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 a large amount of information regarding custom theming. I downloaded a lot of tools that were suggested by many. But most articles I found were just re-written descriptions and don't say much information that's benefecial to users who are new to dealing with custom themes. With that said, I have following inquiries:


    1) Between Universal Theme Patcher and UxStyle Core, which one is safer to use? I know that these 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 alongside the normal system patchers like UxStyle Core or Universal Theme Patcher?


    3) What are the risk of patching system files? For example, if I already patched my computer using any of the aforementioned tools, 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).


    5) Since I haven't decided yet which theme I'll be using, I am fancying the thought of making my own. 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 (I will be using Resource Hacker)? (PS: I'm also confused which software I should use for theme building. There's Windows Style Builder, Restorator, Resource Hacker. How different are they? Do they accomplish the same tasks?)

    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.
    This is me now --->
    LOL

    -AJ
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  2. #2
    jhgenius01 is offline
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    Hi afjudge,
    I'm disappointed that there hasn't been a reply since over 4 months ago.
    I can say I am in a similar situation to you where there are a lot of articles but I'm not getting the answers or tutorials I want. I can also answer some of your questions, if you will, 4 months later.

    1) Between Universal Theme Patcher and UxStyle Core, which one is safer to use? I know that these 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?
    Universal Theme Multi-Patcher (there are many ux theme patchers but I'm talking about this one) patches dlls and other system files to allow third party themes to be installed. VistaGlazz (I use this for Win 7 SP1) does something similar in a nice easy one click package. UXStyle Core instead installs a service which constantly runs to allow third party themes to be used. In terms of safety and restoring, apparently lots of people say UXStyle Core is safer because it doesn't deal with any system files but I personally think that's not all to it. I don't know the specifics, but if you have themes not working after updating to SP1 just reinstall your theme patcher again.

    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 alongside the normal system patchers like UxStyle Core or Universal Theme Patcher?
    Theme Resource Changer helps in replacing extra files that the theme author supplies to change parts of Windows such as the Explorer navigation buttons. This is different to the above which allows you to install themes in the first place. Personally I use either Windows Theme Installer by Kishan from thewindowsclubcom or Windows Theme Manager by bickelk-d2wvtyk (somewhere on deviantart)

    3)
    Some of what I said above in 1) but also recommended you create a system restore beforehand, and you're also twisting yourself with the patching files thing. Hopefully 1) and 2) will have clarified some of that, but I am waiting for your reply.

    4)
    less certain about this, but imageresdll in Windows system contains many of the icons. Somewhere you can customise these icons? Sorry I don't really go into this topic

    5)
    Yes you need to patch your system with the stuff in 1). This is the essential first step.
    Windows Style Builder is pretty much the go to to modify the msstyles file in a theme. For other system files Resource hacker (preferably with Resource Hacker FX patch)or Restorator is needed to edit and replace the bitmap images. Sorry if that didn't make sense, I'll put in more detail later.


    PS: Also It is very confusing when I first learnt. There should definitely be a comprehensive tutorial for ALL of this that will take a long time to write up somewhere (I would like to make one myself but I'm afraid I'm not fully proficient in all this business, though I could definitely start off on it as I have some idea)
    Also since you're running 64bit it makes things a bit more complex (I've got 32bit) I am aware you may need to patch some other dlls and other things which I'm not sure of but one tip I'll give which may or may not make sense right now. Put 64bit dlls in "system32" and 32 bit dlls in "SysWOW64"

    So I hope you can see I am also in the same situation, and in 2011-2012 I did make a few attempts at some themes.
    Hope that helped!
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  3. #3
    ajfudge is offline
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    jhgenius01,

    Wow. Thank you for responding. At the time of your reply, I abandoned any attempt to create my own theme. But now that I am giving this theme building business another try, I am very grateful of your very in-depth answers as I have forgotten most of the stuffs that I have learned before.

    I think the problem with writing a very detailed tutorial about creating visual styles is the possibility that anything you know now regarding custom themes will soon expire. At least that's my impression. For example, I have found some good tutorials and then when Windows updates came pouring in, those tutorials no longer apply. I think language barrier is also another factor. Others try with their well-meaning instruction, but language gets in the way and only gets the reader confused. And the fact that the scope of theme building is very wide, I think a single expert themer gets intimidated to share that kind of broad knowledge.

    Anyway, here's what I'll do:
    1) I think I'm going to stick with UxStyle Core. Maybe I trust it more because it runs as a service. But we'll see.
    2) Theme Resource Changer sounds like Resource Hacker or Restorator. I could be wrong here, though.
    3) I am no longer that paranoid about patching system files. It's just that the word "system" haunted me. But since I have opatched explorer.exe to change my navigation buttons and Start orb and my computer did not show any sign of BSOD, it made the concept less threatening.
    4) From my research, most people rely on Stardock IconPackager. But I don't want any more software to modify my Windows, so I crossed that one out. And since I am building my own custom theme, I decided to supply it with my own custom icons as well.
    5)I am still holding on to Resource Hacker Fx to modify images. I know that Windows Style Builder is the most preferred and I know that I can get that in one of those unspeakable nether places (I probably will if I become tempted enough. :evil laugh, but based on my readings of WSB-related threads, it sounds more confusing (classmaps, stylehacks, what do those things do and are they custom-made)?
    My first attempt to create myt custom theme I used Resource Hacker Fx. It's not perfect but it's just dang so easy.

    So here goes. This 11-months response also marks my second attempt to creating a theme. And thank you, by the way, for sharing what you know.

    -----
    It's 2013 and I'm still on Windows 7. It doesn't bother me. It never made me want to switch anyway. So I'll stay.
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  4. #4
    ajfudge is offline
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    UPDATE:
    Going through my theme project folders, there were explorerframe.dll and explorer.exe that I modified. And I have forgotten about that. Now everything makes sense. I actually used Theme Resource Changer before. Why it slipped my mind, I don't know (must be the name of the application which can easily be mixed up with something else). So right now, I'm sticking to three programs to create a theme which I believe will get rid of the clutter, overcrowding and depedency to more programs:
    1) Resource Hacker Fx
    2) UxStyle Core (will get rid any concern with windows updates)
    3) Theme Resource Changer (will put an end to relying on StartOrbz, W7 Navigation Button Changer, etc.)
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