Although Windows has included visual styles (also known as MSStyles) since Windows XP, they only support official themes digitally signed by Microsoft – which are few and far in between. Bypassing this built in limitation and enabling support for third-party themes in Windows XP was easy. It only involved patching a single dll file (uxtheme.dll). However, things got much more complicated in Windows Vista and Windows Seven. What was initially just a matter of modifying a few bytes of code in a single file now became a matter of patching multiple files spread across the system. This often created security and stability issue and degraded system performance. This prompted Rafael Rivera – the Windows Guru and the guy behind the original UxTheme patches to envision a solution that won’t involve patching multiple system files. The result of the labour of Rafael and his friend Max is UxStyle.
At the moment, UxStyleis still in its infancy. In its current form it is just a driver that employs kernel level access to enable support for third-party themes in Windows XP, Vista and Seven. It doesn’t include any theme manager or theme installer. You would still have to use the interface provided by Microsoft for applying your themes and visual styles. However, in upcoming beta releases Rafael does plan to provide a fully functional UI for applying themes. The GUI version is expected to be provided under UxStyle Premium package. It won’t be free and would also feature live/automatic updates. The UxStyle Core (containing necessary code for enabling third-party themes) will however be provided for free.
If you are the adventurous type go ahead give UxStyle a try. But as Rafael warns, it may blow up your system, so don’t forget to backup and take other necessary precautions. It did run and work as expected on my system (Windows Seven RC), however that doesn’t guarantee that it would work on your machine. Final build of UxStyle is expected towards the year end and I would advice waiting for it if your system has critical data.
Download UxStyle (217 KB)
UxStyle Release Information
Version reviewed : Ux Style Core – June 19th Release
Platforms Supported : Windows XP, Vista and Seven (x32 and x64)
License : Core – Freeware, Premium – To be paid : Pricing undisclosed