PC Plus HelpDesk - issue 208
|This month, Paul Grosse gives you more insight into
some of the topics dealt with in HelpDesk and HelpDesk
We look at:
- Curing Psychedelic Greys;
- Title Bar
- Theme File
- Making Your Own
- Distributing themes as tarballs
CURING PSYCHEDELIC GREYS
When increasing the
saturation of a photograph, any colours that are close to
grey force the graphics program to guess the hue. The
reason that these errors occur is that the images are
stored with only 8 bits per colour, ie values of 0 to 255
and the hue is effectively a vector derived from these.
Where the values for each colour are close to each
other, perhaps only a few apart, perhaps RGB values of
128,127,127 for example giving a hue of red, although the
original hue might have been more of an orange,
amplifying the hue will take the vector off in a
direction that it was not supposed to go. If, instead of
8 bits per pixel per colour, there were 16, the hue
vectors would be defined more accurately and these errors
would not occur so much.
Having said that, many digital pictures that are taken
in low light levels will have a lot of noise, thus
rendering useless any information in the least
significant bits. These bits are effectively only useful
in image editing where taking an image beyond the 8 bit
extremes and bringing it back again would effectively
posterised the colours of low saturation areas of the
In The GIMP, you can produce the effect of the upper
left portion of the above image by right-clicking on it
and selecting Image/ Colours/ Filter Pack..., selecting
Saturation in the Windows section and changing the
roughness. Unless you are looking specifically for this
type of effect, it is not desirable. This is how to work
If you right-click on
the image and select Image/ Colours/ Colourmap
Rotation... Click on Select all in the To and From panes
then in one of them, rotate the colour by at least 0.3
radians by dragging the arrows from within the circle.
Then click on the Misc tab.
Grap the small circle and drag it over to one side so
that any unsaturated colours contrast to the other
Then, in the What is
Grey? pane, increase the value until the lower image has
all of the appropriate grey areas coloured.
Once this has been
done, change the hue and saturation on the left, back to
zero so that the image below looks the way it did after
you rotated it.
Click on the Main tab and then set the From angle to
zero and click on select all again. This should restore
your image to the way it did before you rotated it.
If you increase the saturation using the Filter Pack
now, the greys will stay grey.
Ice Windows Manager
Window decorations can be broken down into two areas: the border
and the title bar. They are both configured in
the default.theme file.
The borders consist of
corners and the image that is tiled to make the edges. The corner
images have a portion that is visible which has a horizontal
portion that has the same height as the top and bottom, and a
vertical portion that has the same width as the left and right.
The area that cannot be seen is of no concern: some people make
it transparent and others fill it with a colour that contrasts.
These just make it easier to visualise it when you are building
up the images but it could contain other information if you
wanted it to or did not bother with it.
The height of the corner is defined in
the default.theme file and IceWM knows how much to have as the
border by the definition of the thickness of the edge. Similarly
for the vertical portions.
Note that, as in the image on the right, horizontal and
vertical values need not be equivalent. Also, the height of the
corner need not be the same as the height of the top plus the
height of the title bar.
Borders are defined as so:
Remember that there are also two sets: one for the Active and
one for the Inactive borders. If any single image is missing, the
borders will not load so here are the names of the files:
The title bar itself can be broken into two areas: the buttons
and the tiles.
Artistically speaking, the tiles need to convey a sense of
continuity between the buttons. On the SuperDisc, I have included
two demonstration themes which you can load onto your machine and
use as themes. To do this, follow the instructions in the
magazine. The files are HDXDemoCentre.tar.gz and
HDXDemoLeft.tar.gz. If you select these and open up a few
windows, you will be able to see how the tiles work as you
re-size the windows.
Also, if you open up the relevant default.theme file, you can
play around with the parameters, changing the values to see how
The buttons are twice the height of the title bar tile images,
having a normal and a pressed image - the normal one being above
the pressed. Make sure that you have not included any of the
border with these images. Ideally, they should all be the same
width but do not have to be. Also, it is a good idea to make the
Active and Inactive versions the same width or you are just
asking for trouble.
It is a good idea to use symbols that the users are likely to
understand for these so, unless you are embarking on a
planet-changing mission, subverting the whole computer user
population, stay with the known ones - have a look at existing
themes to see what others have done.
As all ways, there are Active and Inactive versions. A typical
filename would be menuButtonA.xpm
A default.theme file has the following elements:
ThemeAuthor="Paul Grosse <firstname.lastname@example.org>"
The TitleButtonsLeft and TitleButtonsRight variables let the
computer know where the buttons go in the default setup. The
letters are as follows:
Note that although all of the buttons have different file
names, some buttons have the same letter - this is because they
are not normally shown at the same time.
Making your own
Design the Active first
Using your favourite drawing package, create a largish, blank
new image. Draw on it a rectangle of the border thickness you
would like and then, if you want a different top and bottom
border thickenss to the left and right, either cut and paste the
existing ones or draw thicker lines.
Next, draw your title bar and then, with a magic select tool
of some sort, select the whole of the borders and title bar and
make it look the way that you want, taking into account that you
will have various parts of it being tiled and eaten up in various
Once you have your tile
background made, put on it the area for buttons and the title, if
they are going to be different. One way that I found useful was
to make a small background with the left and right edges and then
duplicate this with the size cut down to make the buttons. Then,
draw the button symbols (menu, sticky, minimise, restore,
maximise and close) and then, duplicate the part of the menu
buttons minus the border, to a space nearby. Generate another set
just above it and then differentiate the two so that you know
that the upper set is for normal and the lower set is for
pressed. An easy way of doing this is to use a drop shadow so
select all of the button shapes at once and then use the
Script-Fu drop shadow or whatever you want for whichever graphics
package you are using. Doing this will give you the buttons in
their 'ready to cut out' form for later.
Then the Inactive
Next, we need to create the inactive set. The easiest way of
doing this is to alter the colours as changing the sizes will
lead to inconsistencies. However, we must remember to make sure
that the icons in the pressed versions stays the same colour as
the active version of the buttons.
To do this, copy the entire image that you have created into a
spare bit of the image and then highlight the whole of the
inactive part. Then, deselect the areas we want to leave alone.
With this done, you can now change the saturation, luminosity,
gamma or whatever you want and you can see what it will look like
before you settle on a fixed idea. Here, I have changed the hue
to make it a little bluer and decreased the saturation thus
giving a steely grey appearance. Next, you have to start chopping
up the image.
Chopping it up
It is best to work logically otherwise there are so many
images that you will miss one out. Start off by creating a
directory that you have permissions to - create one on your
desktop for instance. Then start on the borders.
Using the select tool, highlight the corners of the border
image and then hold down [Ctrl]+[C] to copy it into the
clipboard, then right click, Edit/ Paste as New and that will
appear as a new image. Do this with all eight (remember that
there are active and inactive versions) and save them as .xpm
files using the correct names. Ignore the transparency. I find it
useful to have a list of the names and tick them off as I do
them. That way, none get left out. Next, do the edges.
If you right-click on an image and select Image/ Canvas
Size..., you will see the dimensions of the image. You can use
these values in the default.theme file. For a corner image,
determine the CornerSize values and with the top and left border
images, determine the BorderSize values.
Next, do the same with the buttons, using the image pairs that
you have created. Next, you have to create the JLSPTMBR and Q
images for a centred title bar or just the LPTMBR images for a
left justified title bar. The height of these, which is half the
height of the button images is the value entered in
Last of all, you can state what colours you want the title
text to be and if you want to use a drop-shadow.
If the drop-shadow is darker, the letters will appear to stand
out. If it is lighter, the letters will appear to be indented or
engraved. For the letters themselves, if you want to choose a
colour that goes with the image you have worked on, you can see
the hex values for it by using The GIMP. Select the colour picker
tool (the eyedropper) and click on the image. The colour you have
chosen will appear in the Colour Picker window along with the hex
triplet. As you move the mouse around, you can see the value
vary. Use this in the Colour values part of the default.theme
To install your theme, simply copy to the destination you want
(for all or just yourself as described in the magazine) and
Control Centre will see it.
Open up a copy of Konqueror and point it at your theme
directory. In the tree on the left, right-click on the directory
that the theme directory is in (not the theme directory itself)
and on the menu, select 'Open Terminal Here'. Say, for argument's
sake that you have named your folder 'MyTheme'.
In the terminal, type...
tar czvf MyTheme.tar.gz MyTheme
This will create a tarball of your theme.
The options are as follows:
- c create a new archive
- z filter the archive through gzip
- v verbose - list the files processed
- f use archive file
Note that the default zipped folder in Windows XP Home will
not open tar.gz files but WinZip will.
The tarballs that are produced by this can be copied around
and posted on the Internet. To install a tarballed file, follow
the instructions in the magazine.
On the SuperDisc, I have included the two demo themes as
tarballs and in addition, I have included the themes:
BrassAndTinplate and HelpDesk also as tarballs. For those who
would like to investigate making a theme, I have included a
bitmap file of the theme discussed above (DemoTheme.bmp) for you
to play around with.
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