The first thing that you need to understand about using BuildSkin is the application's interface. Starting it for the first time, you're kind of overwhelmed by all of the stuff on the screen. Don't sweat it too much because it is not as difficult as it seems.
It might not be obvious at this point but there are three areas within the application, these are:
- Preview Area: The top portion of the application window, where it says "No Preview", is the preview area where you can see the results of your art and programming efforts.
- Program Menu: Although it doesn't look like a normal program menu that you would see in your standard Windows application, the far right column is exactly that.
- Skin Properties: The top half of this column is where you provide some basic skin information to BuildSkin in order to use it's features.
- Help: The bottom half provides information normally found on a program's Help menu. It includes copyright info, a link to the webpage and program options (not currently working - can be manually entered via text editor).
- XML Code Selection: The remaining portion of the screen (the bottom left), is where you will be doing the majority of your work within BuildSkin. These are a series of drop-boxes / combo-boxes, grouped by interface element type (interface elements, Panels, NPC Dialogs, etc), where the names of various XML programming code file names are listed.
These different areas of the screen can be seen quite easily if you run the application in a full screen / maximized window. The different areas will actually pull farther apart from each other - making the parts more obvious.
The Program Menu
Lets take a closer look at the Program Menu portion of the interface. This will be the very first portion of the program that you will use when creating your own skins.
Name: This drop-box contains a listing of all skins that you've used BuildSkin to work on. Since this is the first time you're using the program there are no skins listed yet. Although you can enter any name you want it should be noted that a unique name of 25 characters or less is mandatory for each skin you wish to create. While you can enter a longer name in the SkinDefinition.XML file, the LotRO client will only display 25 characters within the Options>UI Settings>Misc>Current User Skin field. Similar skins, with long names that differ only at the end, may get shortened in a way that does not allow telling them apart. For instance:
Full Name Displayed Name
WonderSkin Light WonderSkin Light
WonderSkin Light Extended WonderSkin Light Extended
WonderSkin Light Extended Green WonderSkin Light Extended
WonderSkin Heavy WonderSkin Heavy
WonderSkin Heavy Extended WonderSkin Heavy Extended
WonderSkin Heavy Extended Green WonderSkin Heavy Extended
So be careful when naming your skins, particularly skin suites with multiple options, sizes, etc.
Screen Resolution: This drop-box contains several standard monitor screen sizes - the exact same sizes you find your graphics card supporting. LotRO has several default resolutions and if the skin you're building has a resolution dependent component, then this is the manner in which to limit your work to that resolution only. Leaving this field blank means your work is resolution independent. Optional.
Toolbar Base Width: The toolbar within LotRO is placed at the bottom center of the game - whether in windowed or full screen mode. However, internally this is accomplished by specifically setting the screen resolution size and performing a simple calculation. Optional.
Load: Pressing this button will load (or re-load if previously saved) a skin into BuildSkin. Use caution with this button as their is no warning message - you could lose any unsaved work if you accidentally click on this button. A unique skin name, entered in the Name field, is mandatory.
Build/Update: This button saves the various skin elements specified in the XML Code Selection portion of the program into a "SkinDefinition.XML" and "SkinDefinition.Buildskin" files within a folder with the skin's name. These files are saved on your hard drive into C:\Users\<username>\Documents\The Lord of the Rings Online\UI\Skins\BuildSkin\<skin name>. Again, there is no warning so if you make an error and click this button any previous version will be overwritten.
Edit Manually: This button, in conjunction with the Program Options settings (explained below), will load your preferred XML Editor program and pass the SkinDefinition.XML file to be loaded.
Delete: This button, once clicked, immediately destroys the entire skin listed in the Name field. The skin's folder and all material within is immediately deleted without sending a copy to the Recycle Bin. Thus accidentally clicking this button leads to irrevocable data loss. You've been warned.
The Help Menu
Immediately below the Program Menu, this portion of the program isn't used frequently, but it does contain some vital information.
BuildSkin on LotROInterface: This line of text is an internet URL link which, when clicked on, will load the BuildSkin page on the LotROInterface.com website in your browser.
About / Copyright Info: These lines of text provide some basic information regarding the program. Strangely, there is no version number shown so you can determine which version of BuildSkin you're running.
Program Options: Although not currently working, this function should allow users to establish their preferred program settings when implemented in a future version. These settings can be entered manually through any text editor within the file "BuildSkin.conf". This file contains a variable on each line in a specific order, as shown below:
- Path to text editor: This line contains a full file path to your preferred text editor. If you do not explicitly set this, it should default to Window's Notepad location. For example: C:\Windows\Notepad.exe
- Most recently selected skin: This line contains the last used skin name, as set in the Name field when the program was last closed, is kept here to automatically appear when BuildSkin is next used.
- Available resolutions: For resolution dependent skins, this is a comma separated listing - without spaces - of all available resolutions. This must contain any valid game resolution including both the x and y max values. For example: 800x600,1024x768,1152x768,1280x720
- Available toolbar widths: For resolution dependent skins, this is a comma separated listing - without spaces - of all available widths (x co-ordinate) only. For example: 800,1024,1152,1280
- Use explicit defaults?: This line only contains the word "True" or "False" (without quotes) to indicate ...UNKNOWN...
- Auto-load last skin on startup?: This line only contains the word "True" or "False" (without quotes) to indicate whether the last skin used is automatically loaded when BuildSkin is next started.