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Update to the Skin Generator Service

The first release of our Skin Generator tool was quite successful, and the feedback we got from everyone was very valuable. We've worked on taking that feedback into consideration in our continuing refinement of this tool. While development of this is certainly not done (there's a lot more cool stuff we are working on adding!), we would like to roll out our next major update to this tool. In this update you'll find the following new features and enhancements.

Page reorganization
We started to realize as we were planning out some of the things we'd like to do, that the system may require many more options. With the old way of showing all of the options on the left all the time, it soon became clear that adding more future options there would stretch that area down even further, and would soon get overwhelming. What we decided to go with for cleaning this area up was to organize the various settings into categories, and place them in an 'accordion' style menu:

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You can click on each section of this menu to expand that section and collapse the rest, so that your overall menu area stays relatively small, and you only get presented with the options relevant to the type of settings you are changing. Another neat little feature you might note on the 'Pick Colors' menu is that each option there has a reset button to the right of the color picker. If you are fiddling with the colors and you get them just so out of whack that you can't make them look right anymore, do a quick reset to send that color back to the default.

You'll also notice that the Preview button is gone. The Preview window on the right will now automatically update as you make changes. Pick a different color from one of the color choosers and the Preview updates instantly to reflect that change. The same also applies to the settings on the 'Choose Options' menu.

More Views
Being able to preview the skin you're making on just a few standard views is nice, but it's also helpful to be able to see how that skin looks on other pages of IP.Board and the various applications. In this new update we've added several new views to the list:

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Like the color pickers, changes here are automatic: pick a different view from the list and the Preview will update to show that new page. In addition, you can even choose new versions of the applications the skin will be used for on the 'Select Applications' menu and the changes will be relected there. You can see this in things like the IP.Downloads file view since it appears different in the most recent versions of this application.

Support for the Community Projects
We've added in support for the skin exporting the correct info for the Community Projects: IP.Tracker, IP.Shoutbox & IP.Links. Simply select which version of each of these that you need for your skin and the export that is built will contain the appropriate templates/CSS/images all recolored based on your selected options.

Branding options
This new version includes a couple new features dealing with branding your forum. First, in the 'Choose Options' menu, you are presented with a setting that lets you remove the default IP.Board logo. This is useful if you want to remove that logo entirely, to replace it with your own. In addition, the download will include a blank version of the logo, recolored based on your color choices. This blank logo is just like the standard logo that would be recolored and included in the images folder, but doesn't have the default IP.Board logo text on it. You can use this file to put your own text, or image, or anything else you need on it.

Extensibility improvements
Lastly, and least exciting from an end user perspective, we've done a lot of improvements on making various elements of this system more extensible. Previously, doing things like adding new colors or settings would require an awful lot of coding to add the item into the settings menus and to get the source code to find and deal with those inputs. Improvements have been made to move all color settings, applications, views, and other options into XML files. Those files get read to build the page, and then used again to build the preview and the download. This means that additions to the system can be made quickly, with minimal additional coding.

All told, we feel these enhancements make this system a lot easier to use, and give us a lot of flexibility to further improve the system. As always, we welcome what feedback you have, so let us know what else you'd like to see this tool do in future updates. :)

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[quote name='Wolfie' date='04 May 2010 - 03:33 PM']
Sounds wonderful.. So how come we have to jump through hoops to get to the thing? :blink:

Go to the Resources tab at the top of every page, and then click on Skin Generator. :blink:

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Could you make this work as an IPB extension so you can browse it with the skin? Not permanently, but so you can get a feel for things without having to add different views?

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[quote name='Luke' date='04 May 2010 - 11:43 PM']
Could you make this work as an IPB extension so you can browse it with the skin? Not permanently, but so you can get a feel for things without having to add different views?

That would be very cool, I don't know how feasible it would be. Right now, nothing is really saved that could be reused, the preview is rewritten dynamically from a static HTML page for each view. To make it work as an extension of this site, I'd have to be saving the actual recolored images and CSS files somewhere, and that could end up being a lot of space that needs used.

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Great tool. It is still a bit too limited , PLEASE devote resources to improving this tool. Its great work so far. Just needs some more customization and I'm not talking about anything super fancy. Just the color changing of more specific elements.

I know this tool won't replace skin designers, but it will (eventually) get us out of the tedium of having to change the color scheme bit by bit , by hand.

Please keep at it.

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Don't worry, the Skin Generator is definitely not 'done' by any stretch. There's a lot we want to do with adding more color pickers, but we need to find the best way to give lots of options to make very customized skins without making the UI too confusing for novices too.

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