House of Mabel Design: RISC OS Desktop Themes
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RISC OS Desktop Themes

Although RISC OS allows you to load new toolbar sprites, icon sprites and change pinboard images, there's no program to handle themes...


The idea behind this project is to develop something similar to the Windows 95/98 themes and customisations - change the whole look of the desktop, and introduce sound effects on certain aspects.

Current status
Sunday 12th May 2002

Some work done on the program to interface to another new program called FadeBack, which generates faded backdrops (e.g. your pinboard fades from red at the top down to yellow at the bottom). This meant a lot of hacking around in the backdrop code, and I added an installer while I was at it.

Wednesday 6th February 2002

After a long hiatus I'm back on the case. Basically my programming skills were a little deficient with regards to adding the necessary polish to the suite. Specifically I needed code to go through all the cache directories and remove old backdrop sprites, and some way of showing the colours on the colour list menus; I couldn't do those before (leading to a 0.5GB backdrop cache!), but now I can, and I'll be implementing them in the very near future. There are some other bits and pieces to take care of too, like speed issues when returning from single tasking programs, getting sound fully working and so on which should be quite simple by comparison.

Earlier stuff
Currently there have been two working prototypes, which can be downloaded from the downloads section. There is a slight problem with some of the image conversion - I think there's a bug in RISC OS 3.70 that means 256 colour, non-palette sprites cause weird errors, and as I'm using ChangeFSI to convert images there's not much I can do about it at present. This should change if I can either get a better set of image conversion tools, or kludge it - either manually parse the thumbnail files and add a palette by brute force, or do another pass through something like InterGIF. The InterGIF idea isn't too crazy as it means I can also add support for Draw files as background images.

You can download some test files here - note that these are all beta status, even the themes themselves.

You'll need a decent, modern Boot sequence. It currently use Choices$Write to detect where to find it's own files, and where to find the Choices.Boot.Tasks and Choices.Boot.PreDesk directories. It also puts something in !Boot.Resources, I think it uses Boot$Path or Boot$Dir for that, but that's only for the new startup banner stuff so not an issue here. I'll write documentation for setting up your computer to fake this if, say, you have an A5000, although you should really be using a RiscPC to run this suite.

You must get the program (, and at least one of the themes. I suggest the Matrix or Clear ones as they're the most fully featured as yet (although I haven't included the sounds to keep the size down, considering they don't work yet; they only work in hi-res desktops, not mode 12, 15 etc.). There's a ReadMe file in the archive to let you know how to install the program. Basically, go to the themes directory (usually <choices$write>.Themes, which on a RISC OS 4.0x machine is ADFS::4.$.!Boot.Choices.Themes); themes go in the Data directory, so the Matrix theme would be ADFS::Trinity.$.!Boot.Choices.Themes.Data.Matrix on my hard drive.

Once it's installed run the configuration program (via the RISC OS 4 config window, or !ThemeConf directly - !Boot.Choices.Themes.!ThemeConf in RISC OS 4 type boot sequences), click on the Edit... icon to get to the editor window, select a theme and play around with it. Make sure the relevant section has a tick next to it or it won't be used (selecting from menus presupposes that you want to use that section and ticks it for you). Once you're happy with the setup click the OK button to set the theme (Make default makes the current setup the default for that particular theme so you can come back to it, rather than setting what the current look is). Once you've clicked OK the theme should automatically apply, or run !Boot.Choices.Themes.!ThemeDo to see the theme in action. Or your desktop crash. Whatever! :-)


email with the subject "SUBSCRIBE" and you'll be added to the mail list so I can let you know when a new version is released.

What the suite provides
Here's a list of some of the things already working in the program:
  • desktop backdrops:
    • fullscreen, centered, tiled or plain colour for all RISC OS 3+ machines
    • picked at random or name specific files
    • fullscreen can be scaled for a best fit
    • all can be converted to current screenmode
    • cache for converted images
    • thumbnail previews
    • most major filetypes supported - Sprite, JPEG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, PNG, Clear.
  • advanced colour picking - RISC OS colour picker, standard list, designer-defined list, lighten, darken etc.
  • desktop font handling - font, size and colour (where available) with on-the-fly preview.
  • support for individual sprite, pointer, tools and window tiles files
  • Palettes - random or named. With preview "thumbnail".
  • hourglass files (random or named).
  • Integrates into RISC OS 4 Configure program (it'll run from Apps if you don't have RISC OS 4).

Here's what's currently only partially working:

  • support for sound effects on common desktop effects - windows closing or being iconised, programs starting, drive icons clicked on. This shoud be done using either named or random sound files, and can have separate areas for startup, shutdown and desktop noise files. Currently partially working - a hardcoded example has been used to prove the concept, and the configuration program can detect file and set up the configuration file, it just needs the "do-er" to act on the configuration. Uses Rick Hudson's PlayIt module for support of WAV(e), DataVOX, AIFF, ARMovie, Audioworks, Armadeus and RawSound formats.
  • There's limited support for startup banners and even running programs on startup (so, for instance, you can load in extra support modules). There's no configuration option though, so I've only got it loading a Mac startup screen over the RISC OS startup banner when you've chosen the Mac theme.
  • colour grabber - pick a colour from anywhere on the desktop. Currently I have written code to do this but it has only been integrated into a test app, not the main suite, until I can be sure it's working properly. It can be downloaded from the downloads section, below.

Here's a list of features that I hope to add:

  • backdrops
    • support for Draw files
    • change when you change mode
  • linked random themes - e.g. if the program picks a palette called "blue", it also use the sprites and tools called "blue".
  • Tools for creating your own themes; for instance automatic converters from hi-res to lo-res sprites and tools. Webspace for supporting the project - - so that there's a place where the RISC OS community to add themes, rate them, comment on the project, and hopefully generally add to it (by adding code or otherwise).

Click on the thumbnails to see full-sized versions of the images.
Screenshot of a partially working version of the program

Screenshot of a partially working version of the program

Global options

Global options, in the Mac-alike 'Clear' theme

Clear style

Another, slightly better, working version of the program, in the 'Clear' style. This is the 'nude' tool style, you can also choose a new version which has proper legends on the window furniture so you can tell the close icon from the back icon using more than just the difference in colour.

Early Matrix 1   Early Matrix 2   Early Matrix 3

Test shots of the "Matrix" theme, used in the creation of the configuration program to figure out what was possible, and what needed to be included, to make a theme.

The first shot shows a theme with the palette, window tiles, backdrop and toolset in place; the second adds filer sprites and the desktop font; the last is a collection of drive icons, plus the new !Boot icon (a Nokia 7110 phone) and mouse pointer.

Giger theme   Justin's Blue Theme   Handheld Theme   Mac-style theme   Buffy

A collection of shots from themes in progress. The first is a Giger theme I designed many moons ago, and is available elsewhere on the site already.

The second is Justin Fletcher's blue theme which he donated early on in the project, and which I have modified to work in different "flavours" - Blueberry, Lime, Passionfruit, Raspberry and Tangerine. This'll hopefully form the basis of the "linked" random themes.

The third is a little silly - a two-colour theme based loosely on a Palm V display! Downgrade your desktop machine today!

The fourth is an original Apple Macintosh style theme, although as I didn't have a colour Mac at the time it's cobbled together from various screenshots. I think it looks okay though; I'll just need to change that desktop font...

And the last is a teaser (no main picture, just the thumbnail) of a Buffy theme; I wanted to work on some Windows icon converters and wanted something new to play with, so I started a Buffy theme; it also includes a new font from Harry Decker's font site ( which is based on the Buffy logo - cool!


Dark Angel

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