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Making skins is fun and easy. (Ok I am done mocking.) To make a skin the first thing you need to do is take your favorite skin and copy itís folder and paste it back into the themes directory under a different name. This will be the skin we work with from now on. Now youíll most likely want to make a background image which will serve as the wallpaper for your skin. Just open up Photoshop or your favorite editor and make one and overwrite the existing background.jpg in your skin. Ok now we have a good base to start with and can open the editor if we wish and get started.


Open the skinner.exe and either use the open command to browse to your newly created folder or drag the folder from explorer onto the skinner. Now the fun begins.  Start with each element and place it how you want. If you donít want it to show up uncheck the visible box. To bring individual items visible again or for more precise placement go to the advanced tab in the menu. You can access the same options as if you had clicked on the item by clicking on the button in the lower left of each tab. I think the rest is fairly self explanatory.


Now you need to set the font options and color schemes by going to the appropriate menu tab and opening the scheme page. Select your colors and font styles and sizes here. You need to set a transparency value, even if you donít run xp as our nt users wonít be able to see the menus with the default value of 0. Iíve found that a value of 235 works best for most skins. Pulsing highlight is what makes the highlighted item flash. If you have any other items behind your list you may wish to turn this off, however, as it will flicker badly.


Ok, save your scheme, save your skin and you have a usable theme now. Open it up in Lazarus to make sure the layout is to your liking and then we will move on to optional components. You can have ďnot foundĒ images for nearly every element, but they are optional. They should be named screen32.jpg (snapshot), flyer32.jpg, cabinet32.jpg, marquee32.jpg and notfound.gif (for non textual lists.) If you make these prior to loading your skin, they will appear in the skinner instead of the default white boxes so you can place them better. If you omit these images, when a piece of artwork isnít found for a game, the image area will turn clear, showing the background behind it. You also have optional event sounds you can include. These are start.mp3, com.mp3 (for when a game is selected) and end.mp3. There is also a pop.mp3, used for a sound to make when an item is selected or when you are scrolling through the list. This particular one is always a tad touchy though, and as of this writing is broken.


You also have some cool optional things you can add to each skin. You can make a movie called intro.mpeg and place it in a skinís folder. When that skin is applied, that movie will play whenever Lazarus starts up. You can also make a background.mp3, which is also placed in a skinís folder and will serve as background music while you are browsing. If one song isnít enough make a play list called background.m3u and put it in its place. Thatís it, you should have a perfectly working skin now, enjoy!


Tip:

Make your intro movies small, Iíve found about 20 seconds, tops, is the average attention span. You can make the startup sound slightly longer though. Also separate the audio track from your intro movie. Lazarus will play the startup sound as the movie is playingÖ. This is intentional as some people will choose not to use your lovely intro movie. The idea is to put any video-related sound effects on the video track and keep the music and dialog of the startup sound on the start.mp3.  This way if your movie isnít included, there is still a startup sound and the startup sound makes sense without the video. I only hope that what I just said makes sense.


Guidelines for Skin Submissions:

To include a skin from now on it has to have the following things:

The skin should be zipped in a zip file which contains the actual folder the skin is in. So a skin called ďMySkinĒ would be in a zip file called myskin.zip and inside this zip would be the skin elements contained in a folder called myskin. This way users can download the zip to their themes folder and extract with the default options.


The skin needs a preview screenshot in a special format. Just before you send me a skin, email me for the template. Itís easy to make, we just have fixed dimensions and border sizes you need to conform to.


If your skin does not use a standard windows system font you need to include the font, which can be found in the windows/fonts folder on your system drive. This font should be placed on the outer layer of your zip file above the folder. This way when the user extracts your skin the font file will immediately be visible to them and it will remind them to install it.


The skin should have an included text file that explains any copyright you might have (or your source images might have) and any credits you wish you give. We will no longer post author names under a skin on the downloads page, so this is the only way to get your credit.


Intro movies and skins should be sent to me separately, each in their own zip. Both shouldnít exceed 1 meg each but I will make exceptions occasionally. I break my own rule on this one, so do as I say, not as I do.


On a final note, the skinner is still very much a work in progress. Itís sure to have bugs, so if you find one let me know.

 

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Copyright © 2007 Howard Casto. All Rights Reserved.