Skin Problems & Issues With Yahoo! Messenger (Part 2)
In our Yahoo! Messenger Skins series we touched on some of the issues and problems associated with using and designing skins for Yahoo! Messenger. Here we dig up a few of the bigger problems that can occur although for some users these will not be a problem (Those that do not use the features effected).
The Webcam Window
The webcam window (both viewing and transmitting) is the worst Yahoo! Messenger window we could find. Even with some of the standard skins or with skins that make only colour changes are effected with a small draw error when first opened. The image below shows the window control buttons displayed as standard windows buttons:
This is nothing serious as it happens only when first opened and will disappear as soon as the window loses focus and so is re-drawn. W
hat it does show is the possible implementation of the skin system used. When a window is busy performing a CPU intensive task it can sometimes be unable to update it's window when asked by the operating system to do so, When this happens the system default buttons and window frame will be drawn. (You can sometimes see this if Yahoo! Messenger crashes or freezes where the window will turn white and the same default windows and buttons are drawn). the correct webcam window is shown below:
When you use a skin a little out of the ordinary with border widths larger or smaller than the standard skins you get to see bigger problems... To demonstrate this we will go to the extreme with our WackyB-Cow skin. First off we can see the familiar draw error with the standard buttons, we can also see part of the window drawn by the white line under the buttons:
The problems unfortunately don't stop there.. as you can see from the screen shot below: The webcam window, 'Broadcast', 'Pause' buttons and the status text are all offset with some of these items hidden altogether.
The odd thing about this webcam shifting is that it only appears to calculate this offset once. What this means is if you then change skins you can end up with even stranger looking results. What this does mean thou is you can work around this problem by first opening your webcam with a default sized skin before switching back to your creatively sized skin ;) Every time you open your webcam now it will look correct (until you re-start Y!M ):
File Send Window
The problems don't stop at the webcam window.. in fact they get a little worse depending on what features you use on Y! Messenger. The file send window (and receive when you select where to save the file) can be effected by your skin choice, sticking with our cow skin we can see an extreme example of this below:
Unlike the webcam window where the contents were shifted off to the side, here the contents are correctly aligned with the top left position; Unfortunately the contents are being drawn as if the window border sizes were standard.
Lets start again with a simpler skin, Our T-Shirt skin has larger borders on each side and a slightly wider top and bottom borders. The file send box is cut short in both the width and height:
My theory was that the file browse window was making some assumptions..
- First it correctly asks for the window width.. Yahoo tells it the total new width (including the extra width cause by the T-shirt sleeves)
- Next it asks for the left and top border widths to correctly position itself with the top left corner
- Unfortunately it then makes it's width and height based only on the window size returned
- It sets its width to the window width returned minus the standard border widths for the left and right border (to allow it to fit correctly in the space)
- It does the same with the height. (obtains the window height and subtracts the standard title and bottom border heights)
The standard file browse window looks something like this:
Comparing the two you can see that the 'Open' and 'Cancel' buttons are hidden along with half of the 'Files of type:' dropdown list. A section of the files list is also missing; It's this list box that we are going to use to compare the cut off point.
Taking the same file list window in both the standard skin and our T-Shirt skin, we can superimpose the two on top of each other and align the window contents to match up on all visible parts:
What the numbers mean...
|| = Left border width of T-Shirt skin
|| = Right border width of T-shirt skin
|| = Left border width of standard skin
|| = Right border width of standard skin
|| = Total border width of T-Shirt skin
|| = Total border width of standard skin
|| = Difference between total border width of T-Shirt skin and the standard skin
I've added some lines and figures to indicate the different widths of the various borders on the two images. Adding the border widths of the two images comes to 101 for the T-shirt skin and 15 for the standard skin. When we subtract the the standard from the T-shirt we get the difference and it's this difference of 86 that is cut off from the window. So making either side bigger will have the same effect of clipping the window if the total width of left and right borders is greater than 15.
As with the menu issue, you can get round small offsets by using the cursor keys to select and double click the file name to accept. If you don't use the file send/receive then this wont be a problem for you.
There may be other window errors that I've missed as I don't use every feature of Yahoo! messenger, if you find any others let me know on our forums :)
WindowBlinds is a commercial product from Stardock that lets you customise the look of window. It basically does the same for all applications and windows as Yahoo! Skins does for Yahoo! Messenger windows. It allows you to skin all your applications windows. You can find out more about WindowBlinds [here...]
There have been a number of problems in using WindowBlinds with Yahoo! Messenger over the years. Most of the problems occur when you are not using the most up to date versions of both Yahoo! Messenger and WindowBlinds.
You can read about some of the various problems and solutions when using WindowBlinds with Y!M and some other windows customization tools (Utilities that alter the way windows look or add additional buttons to the tile etc) in a detailed article bee wrote about the subject here...
As new versions of Y! Messenger are released there can incompatibility issues with the built-in Skin system used by Yahoo. One possible solution to avoid having to disable WindowBlinds is to rename the skinning component in Yahoo! Messenger. I've not been able to check if this works as the version of WindowBlinds I download was compatible with the version of Yahoo! Messenger I had installed. If you have having problems like those listed [here...] you might like to give it a try (let me know if it works or not on our forums). The default location of the file you need to rename is:
You will possibly have to close down Yahoo! Messenger when you rename the file (E.g. to 'YbSkin2.dllOLD').
It would be great if Yahoo! were to fix these issues in a future release, maybe they could sell the idea of custom skins to advertisers like they do with IMVironments. It's possible to fix some of the issues by creating a 3rd party utility, but if you take that step then you may as well disable skins in Yahoo! Messenger and use an alternate such as WindowBlinds. Who knows for how long the current messenger for PC will be developed after the release of the Vista version? I think their current skin system in messenger is one of the best, compare this to the skin options in MSN and ICQ etc.. there is so much potential there and yet it just falls short in a number of areas. They have done all the hard work in getting this far... why not finish off the job :)
MORE ARTICLES FROM THIS SERIES:
- Yahoo! Messenger Skins
- Installing Yahoo! Messenger Skins
- Making Yahoo! Messenger Skins
- Skin Making Hints, Tips and Tricks
- Skin Problems & Issues with Yahoo! Messenger
- Yahoo! Messenger Skin History <--Next
- Yahoo! Messenger Skin Reference Table
- Yahoo! Messenger v8 .xml file
- Yahoo! Messenger Pink .xml file
- Our Yahoo! Messenger Skins (Downloads)