How To Make Custom Windows 7 Themes – Part 1: The Editor

Do you want to make custom Windows 7 themes? Making 3rd-party themes is not as easy as making Windows 7 themepack themes, but it’s doable with some work and a good resource editor.


Making Custom Windows 7 Themes Part 1

Making Custom Themes With Restorator

First of all, you need to decide which tool you want to use to make custom themes for Windows 7. This is not an easy choice, because there are many many tools available and all have their own weaknesses and strengths!

Making Custom Windows 7 Themes With Restorator
(Image: Modifying shellstyle.dll via Restorator 2007)

You can use the Restorator 2007 program to browse all Windows 7 resources e.g. DLL files (most important file is .msstyles and NOT shell32.dll). Also important is the file explorerframe.dll which also includes the navigation buttons. In order to open the most important msstyles file you need to make sure you select “All files” from the dropdown or you won’t even be able to see it in Restorator.

Within Restorator 2007 just for fun open the msstyles file within the Windows 7 Aero theme which is located at C:\Windows\Resources\Themes\Aero

Uncollapse the folder IMAGE and you can now start browsing through the main elements of a Windows 7 theme. Basically you could now start making custom Windows 7 themes:

Modifying Custom Themes: Msstyles

Of course, you’ll first need a list of the most important shell elements. We have a good list of icons stored in imageres.dll, but a list of shell elements still needs to be created (and will follow soon).

My Favorite Resource Editor For Making Windows 7 Themes

Free Resource Editor For Making Windows 7 Themes

Resource Hacker

Other Windows 7 Resource Editors

Other editors that are great for making Windows 7 themes that are worth mentioning are:

- Vista / Windows 7 Style Builder (http://vistastylebuilder.com)

There are various other resource editors for Windows 7 that you can use to make custom Windows 7 themes, however Restorator and ResourceHacker and Ave’s Style Builder are the top 3 resource editors that work well enough to get the job done quickly.

Make Basic Custom Windows 7 Themes

Only want to start small? Sure, give Style 7 a try. Style 7 uses the default Windows 7 Aero theme as a default. Based on that you can make Windows 7 themes using blackboxes. This is particularly easy because you can actually see where the different shell elements are stored and you don’t need to do a lot of research (at least that’s what I believe, I haven’t had time to try this tool yet, I use ResourceHacker)

Making Windows 7 Themes With Style 7

You can download Style 7 here

MORE: Part 2 – Navigation Buttons

Make Custom Windows 7 Themes Part 2 => Change Navigation Buttons

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Oliver is the founder and lead editor of this site. He is interested in finding new ways to break Windows, find common errors and help others to fix them. Aside from that, he loves to fully customize systems with Rainmeter and Dreamscene, find out more about ancient civilizations like the Chachapoya, sharpen his digital photography skills and create software with a small group of selected developers. If you would like to connect with him to discuss anything, send him a mail!

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