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Introduction to Messenger Plus! Live Skinning
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O.P. Grin  Introduction to Messenger Plus! Live Skinning

So, now that you've unpacked Messenger Plus! Live 4.50, you've undoubtedly been playing around with its new features and are dying to get started with skinning.  This simple guide will go over the basics of skinning with you, for a more technical overview of skinning, please see the skinning documentation.

What is skinning?

Skinning is the customization of user interfaces.  In Messenger Plus! Live 4.50, Skinning is the ability to change the look and feel of Windows Live Messenger and Messenger Plus! Live.  Virtually every element of these two programs is changeable with the introduction of skinning in Messenger Plus! Live.

You should have a basic knowledge of XML before creating a skin.  Other than that, you don't need to have knowledge of resource file strutures of creating installers.  Messenger Plus! Live does it all for you.

How does it work?

Messenger Plus! Live stores basic skin info in a file (SkinInfo.xml).  This file contains information about the skin, restrictions, and resources to be modified.  Every time you load Windows Live Messenger, the SkinInfo.xml file is loaded and analyzed.  Any time a skin errors, it will generate a Trace Log for you.  The trace log is used by developers to locate the specific part of their skin where the error occured.  Below is an example of a trace file, highlighting the section where the error occured:
07/11/20 21:23:41| **** The trace has started ****
07/11/20 21:23:41| Skin: Test Skin
07/11/20 21:23:41| Messenger version: 8.5.1302.1018 (en-us)
07/11/20 21:23:41| Messenger Plus! version: 4.50.302
07/11/20 21:23:41| Last definition file loaded: 947
07/11/20 21:23:41| Last style sheet file loaded: 923
07/11/20 21:23:41| Last picture file loaded: 652
07/11/20 21:23:41| DUIParserFailure: parse error '/' 6

(For the more technical programming aspects of skins, check out the skinning documentation)

How do I install a skin?

Skin files are simply ZIP files that have been renamed to a PLSK file, which Plus! can recognize and automatically unzip/install for you.  Installing a skin is as easy as a double click.  Simply double click the PLSK file you downloaded from the skin database and/or other location, and select "Import".  It will now be available to you under the Messenger Plus! Live Skinning Options. NOTE: If the skin you install is not compatible with the version of Windows Live Messenger you're using, it will appear to be greyed out in preferences.  You must wait for a compatible version to be released OR use a compatible version of Windows Live Messenger.

How do I create a skin?

You can start off by reading the documentation which can be downloaded via Messenger Plus! Live.
In the Windows Live Messenger "Contact Window", Go to Plus! > Preferences > Customize > Skins > Documentation (Under Skin Developers at the bottom).

The file will be downloaded into <Messenger Plus! install directory>\WLM-Skins (Default C:\Program Files\Yuna Software\Messenger Plus!\WLM-Skins). File name is MPLSkinning.chm

Further information is given in the documentation.

Where can I get help for skinning?
If you have questions about skinning you can ask here (in the skinning sub forum) or on irc (#msgplus.skin on MsgPlus IRC server)

What else should I know?

  • Skinning in Messenger Plus! Live does not modify the MsnMsgr.exe, which is against the Microsoft TOS.
  • Skins do not require elevation to install in Windows Vista.
  • You can install more than one skin.
  • Should any skin cause problems with Windows Live Messenger, the Messenger Plus! Live Maintainence Wizard can repair most problems to restore your default Messenger experience.

There are many possibilities with this new skinning system.  Explore this section of the forums to discover all the possibilities and see what users are working on.

This post was edited on 04-01-2011 at 03:08 AM by Chrono.
12-05-2007 07:24 AM
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