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    From the version 1.9.2 on Aston has got a new plug-in configuration system which is generally described in Aston Shell manual. Here we won't repeat everything written there and will just focus on some less obvious aspects of skinning certain plug-ins.


    Aclock is an analog clock plug-in for Aston featuring anti-aliased hands, glass and other interesting things. In fact it gives you anything you can wish from a modern analog clock widget but takes considerably less resources.

    Clock skin itself consists of three parts (as defined in the Skin tab):

    • Glass skin - optional semi-transparent top layer, often displaying glass reflection

    • Background skin - the clock itself, the main skin image

    • Hands texture - hand texture image

    The first two layers are pretty common and I'm sure we don't need to explain what "glass" means.

    Hands texture is used the following way: you define each hand's width and radius and then instead of being filled by a solid color the hands are "cut" from the background. Below is a sample from Dmitry Prosvirnin's "Aston 1.9.2 Desktop" Theme:

    Aclock background Aclock hands texture
    Background (left) and hand texture (right) skins for Aclock plug-in

    Aclock: resulting image
    The resulting image

    I think the pictures talk for themselves. Still, this technique is not common and many users prefer some more common look of the clock:

    Aclock skin
    Aclock by frozzen from his "N-SyS ^ e X T a Z y ^" Theme

    Aclock skin
    Fragment of Roman Osadchy's "Techno Dream" Theme

    While frozzen has decorated his skin with a glass, Roman has made a transparent background, so the clock looks pretty at any part of the screen.

    Configuring other plug-in's options should be relatively easy as most options are hidden in the Skin tab. You should generally configure hands properties plus carefully define the hands center offset (by default it's located exactly in the center of the background skin bitmap), set hands color (you can also make hands drop shadows!) and finally define date options. Even though date is rarely displayed on the analog clock (in most cases designers don't think it's necessary) you can make an exception.

    Taskbar ClockEx

    This plug-in displays Tray clock and can also show calendar on clicking or pointing to the clock area. Tray clock can be skinned by applying a single image plus making some font tunings. In the most primitive case the clock background might have the same texture as Tray, but it's far not the most beautiful solution.

    By using some more complex images you can get much more interesting results:

    Taskbar clock skin
    Taskbar clock from the "Ocean Morning" Theme by Roman Osadchy

    And with 3PICs your fantasy is unlimited. Just note, that this is actually the same skin with different user-defined time display modes.

    Taskbar slock with 3PICs
    Fragment of Smanic's "Corona" Theme mockup

    In order to make something similar you'll just have to define a proper 3PIC as a background in Skin>Clock>Background skin plus to fine-tune the text offsets.
    There're just two of them: Text offset left and Text offset right. The first value defines the offset from the left border of the skin while the second one points out the right one. Configuring the text in Fonts and Colors tab is even easier: nothing complex at all.

    Now let's turn to the calendar.

    It can be displayed in one of the following modes (Misc.>Background type):

    • Color - background, filled with a solid color

    • Skin - background image

    • None - transparent (invisible) background

    Still, it would be great if you could make a decent skin for it although in certain cases you may get appropriate results with the colored background.

    Tray calendar, basic
    TaskbarClockEx calendar, solid infill mode

    Colored calendar might look quite primitive and should mostly be used in minimal Themes. Taking into account that calendar skinning is not complex and its skins might be nearly as attractive as the ones of Rainlendar you're free to experiment:

    Tray calendar, advanced
    Frozzen's calendar prototype for Aston 1.9.2

    You can change all the font properties and colors (like setting different fonts for today, months, year and previous/next months) and place date/month/year text in any part of the skin. You may also have an additional glass layer to be dislayed on top of the calendar.

    Note, that you may replace text month/year arrows with custom images, even ANKz.
    By default the arrows are located outside the month/year rect.
    At the same time you may place the arrows to any part of the skin by setting the values of the corresponding arrows' bound boxes. Also take note that these bound boxes are made only for arrow positioning and thus the arrows are displayed inside the rect.

    In fact there're lots of things you can do: just use your imagination.

    Tray calendar sample, Makrom
    Calendar from Aston 1.9.2 "Makrom" Theme by DanilloOc

    You may highlight the current date by changing its font and color properties but you can also assign a background or glass to it on Skin tab.


    The process of the Main menu skinning is already described in the corresponding section.

    Note, that the Main Menu and Start button are skinned separately.

    Quick launch

    There's not much you can do with the Quick launch plug-in. Mostly because it uses the same skin as the Main menu and you can only define additional skins for the background (in most cases the skin is the same as for the Taskbar) and the menu access button (which makes QL behave like a Start button).

    Here are just three common skins for the Quick launch button:

    Quick launch button
    Quick launch buttons from the "Ocean Morning", "Duality" and "Prion" Themes by Roman Osadchy, SacRat and mrbiotech correspondingly.

    With the implementation of 3PIC support and left-right offsets for the Quick Launch background in Aston 1.9.2 it has even become possible to mimic Windows Quick Launch:

    Windows Quick Launch in Aston
    Taskbar fragment with Windows-like Quick Launch from the "Makrom" Theme by DanilloOc.

    You can easily find out the way of creating similar skins by just having a look at this Theme, included into Aston 1.9.2 package ;)

    DisksEx and RecycleBinEx plug-ins

    These plug-ins are very similar: both are skinned by a single frame list and both require nearly no efforts to fine-tune.

    These plug-ins are multistate i.e. they can visually indicate the state of infill for the HDD partition and the Recycle bin. The actual number of frames (states) depends only on your wish. In any case, make at least three, for the full, intermediate and empty states.

    Note, that the first frame of the Disks refers to the full partition while for the Bin the first frame is used for the empty state!

    If you're reading this you must already know how to make a frame list with the set of frames (this topic is covered in the ANK section). Here're just two image list fragments from Dmitry Prosvirnin's "Aston 1.9.1 Desktop" Theme:

    Disks Ex frame list sample
    First three frames from Dmitry Prosvirnin's Disks skin

    Recycle Bin sample frame list
    Last six frames from Dmitry Prosvirnin's Recycle Bin skin

    Should we mention that you can draw nearly anything you like instead?

    One more thing about the Disks plug-in you should know. For Disk labels you might use the following predefined commands:

    • \r\n - return (new line)

    • %name% - disk label (name)

    • %index% - disk letter

    • %free% - free space

    • %freeEx% - free space without Gb/Mb text

    • %total% - total disk capacity

    • %used% - used disk space (in gigabytes/megabytes)

    • %p_free% - percents of free space

    • %p_used% - percents of used space

    Everything else should be intuitive.


    From the moment of its appearance in Aston 1.8 on TopPanel has become one of the most popular Aston plug-ins. Its current successor, Panel, gives you everything you need to organize shortcuts on your Desktop. Skinning Panel is harder than most other plug-ins but it's worth the efforts.

    Panel skin
    Panel from Dmitry Prosvirnin's "Aston 1.9.1 Desktop" Theme: classic Panel skin

    Panel lets one organize shortcuts into two-level menus. Although one can create a single "stripe" of shortcuts (using only one level) we'd recommend not doing this. The first level items are called Categories and the second level items are just "Elements".

    Skins are defined in the Skin>Skin list section. There're actually not many of them:

    • Left Flank - left border of the Categories "stripe"

    • Right Flank - right border of the Categories "stripe"

    • Item - Categories skin

    • Header - elements header

    • SubItem - elements skin

    • Footer - elements footer

    • Separator - separator :)

    Each of these elements has 3 state skins.

    While creating a default panel item tree, don't assign links to the first level elements as this might be confusing for users.

    Have a look at the screenshot below:

    Panel skin
    Panel from SacRat's "Duality" Theme

    It's quite a typical look of Panel except for the left flank being combined with the set of ANKs.

    • Here're a few hints you may find useful when making Panel skin:
      • Use flanks to give your skin a solid look.
      • Don't ignore the ability to use different bitmaps/fonts for the normal/highlighted and the pressed states of each element: it can boost the ease of its use. Still, extremes should be avoided as usual ;)
      • Use offsets in bound boxes to position the text precisely.
      • Playing with Category offsets might be useful when making "overlapping" elements or when it is necessary to shift them a bit.
      • Icons are easy to position using horizontal offsets (setting vertical ones is possible only by adjusting bitmaps).
      • When using shadows for elements be twice as careful since overlapped transparent elements look poor. In order to apply overlapping shadows you'll have to render them on bitmaps though it's not an advanced technique.
      • Just have a look at the variety of panels created by Aston Theme designers if you're stuck and ran out of ideas.


    AMonitor is a basic resource meter plug-in for Aston. It can display the following information:

    • CPU usage

    • Memory load

    • Network load (in/out)

    Any of these data can be represented as a text, as an image (a frame list) or both. Graphical meters are frame lists, representing the required value as a set of intermediate images.

    Note, that the first frame in the frame list, used by AMonitor, always represents the smallest indicator's value.

    Skinning the plug-in is relatively simple: you have a background skin plus a set of meters you can use (leave the fields empty if you don't need a certain meter). Just place all the meters you need to the background and make sure they're positioned correctly.

    Note, that it's easier to place meters if you start with using stubs with a single frame, keep on with correct placing all the elements and only then perform replacing  stubs with the correct frame lists (don't forget to correct the number of frames!). This will save you a lot of time.

    And, finally, a few sample skins after known Aston designers:

    Amonitor skin
    AMonitor skin by Roman Osadchy ("Techno Dream" Theme): CPU and memory meters.

    Amonitor skin
    AMonitor skin by frozzen

    Amonitor skin
    AMonitor from SacRat's "Duality" (Memory and bandwidth meters)

    All these skins use frame lists for meters and the last two sometimes duplicate the info with the help of the text.


    Search is a brand new plug-in from Aston 1.9.2 package.
    It's only goal is to send a search query to a web browser i.e it's just a basic search module. It's most interesting feature is that the plug-in's window increases while you type the text in it so the quiery is human readable.

    Search skin
    Search plug-in from the "Makrom" Theme by DanilloOc.

    In order to make a skin you'll have to make just two graphical elements: the base skin the and search button.

    The base skin is basicly a 3PIC where the central tiled part is used for the search query text. In order for the plug-in to be displayed correctly you'll also have to set two additional values on the Misc. tab:

    • Min search area size: the minimal skin's width.
    • Max search area size: the maximal skin's width.

    Select the same values so setting the minimal width to 50 and the maximum to 100 is not cute. Just make sure that with the minimal width the plug-in looks ok (and even better, it can contain at least 10 characters) and with the maximal width it remains on the screen while containing about 30-40 symbols.

    The search button is positioned relative to the left-top pixel of the right 3PIC flank, so you'll most likely have to set the horizontal and the vertical offsets in order to position it.

    The search field also needs to be positioned. By default it has a white (not transparent!) background and 17 px height. You cannot change the background color but you can tweak the query font, so it looks more or less the way you'd like to have it.

    Other plug-ins

    There're some Aston plug-ins not mentioned here. They're mostly created by third-party developers but if you have read this chapter it should not be hard for you to make skins for them as well.

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