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Skinning Documentation for Windows Live Messenger

How can I create my own skins for Windows Live Messenger?

Here, users will find details steps by steps to create a skin for Messenger Plus! for WIndows Live Messenger.

Create a Skin

Whether you are a total beginner wanting to know how to make your first skin, or you are a master skinner from the old MSN days, this page is the best place to start to make a Messenger Plus! Skin. Anybody can make a basic skin for Windows Live Messenger with Messenger Plus!, all you need is the will to put some time into it. Remember to send us your finished skins if you want other people to use them.


Beginners

Messenger Plus! for Windows Live Messenger, has implemented an Easy Skin-Creator tool that will help you create a basic skin without hassle. As simple as 1, 2, 3 easy steps and no need to know anything about programming!

We have also implemented a Skin Editor or Designer tool that will help you edit a current skin or create a brand new skin from scratch right there on your Messenger Plus! for Windows Live Messenger


Advanced Users

Make sure you read the official documentation first, especially the Getting Started section. The other resources listed below will then make your life as a skinner easier. If you read the documentation and still have questions, the nice people on the forum will help you.

Have questions? Need help with skins?


Share it with the world

Creating the most incredible skin in the world is nice but being the only one to see it isn't. The official skins database is the first place most Messenger Plus! users go to while searching for new skins and this section of the web site receives more than a hundred thousand visitors each and every day because of that.

How to submit a skin?


Official Skinning Documentation

The official skinning documentation is written by Patchou, it can be downloaded here or from inside Messenger Plus!. The CHM help file guides you trough everything you need to know to make a skin, it is the most important document for everybody who wants to make a Messenger Skin with Messenger Plus!. This file is only available in English.

NOTICE for Internet Explorer 7 users: You may need to access the properties of the file and click "unlock" to see the content of the documentation properly. This is a problem caused by Internet Explorer security. You can also access the documentation directly from the preferences of Messenger Plus! where this problem doesn't happen.


User created tutorials

These tutorials are written by other skinners, they offer additional help to the official documentation. The subject and depth of each tutorial varies, but they are all made to make you understand skinning better, definitely check them out.


Testing your Windows with the MP! Interface Tester

Complex windows created with XML data can quickly become difficult to visualize and testing your windows in Messenger itself can sometimes cause additional complications and unnecessary delays. For those reasons, a special tool called "Interface Tester" is provided with the scripting API to help developers preview their creations quickly and without hassle.

The software can be downloaded and run from any directory and Messenger Plus! needs to be properly installed on the system (Messenger does not need to run). "Interface Tester" will be able to preview any file that is located in a sub-directory of the Messenger Plus!'s "Scripts" directory or in the "Interface" directory (for those interested in skinning Messenger Plus! itself).

In addition to displaying your windows on screen, "Interface Tester" is also capable of validating your XML files if the schema file is copied in the same directory and if MSXML 5.0 or above is installed on your system (you can get MSXML at microsoft.com). It is highly recommended that you do not redistribute any file that does not validate against the most current version of the Interface Windows' Schema File. If a file is considered to be invalid, "Interface Tester" will refuse to load it and will display an error message explaining the problem.

Download "Messenger Plus! - Interface Tester"

Note that this software is provided as-is as a development tool only. It is not meant for general public use and must not be redistributed without direct authorization.


Useful Software

The applications below can be very handy when creating skins. It's not necessary to use them (you can use any kind of text and graphics editor you want to make skins), but several experienced skinners use these tools to make their life easier.

  • AptDiff, by Brother Technology
    A Visual text / binary files comparison and merging utility for Windows, useful when updating your skin for a new Messenger version.
  • Open Live, by Will "Willz" Ingles
    Open Live is a special version of Windows Live Messenger 8.5 that has been edited to make a skinners life a lot easier. Learn by example from this skin.
  • Resource Hacker, by Angus Johnson
    View and extract resources from Messenger's library.
  • SkinTools, by vikke
    A small simple Messenger Plus! script to help you out when skinning.
  • XMLSpy, by Altova
    Very good XML editor capable of perfectly rendering XML Schema files (you will need the professional version which is available as a free trial).

External Resources

Additional help and skins may be found at these addresses:

  • Official Skins Forum
    Where a lot of skinners come to discuss what they made and offer help.
  • Design Evolved
    Created by and for skinners. Home of talented skinner Willz.
  • MPskins.net
    Skinning resources. Read the official documentation online.