skin (computing)
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In
computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computer, computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes, and development of both computer hardware , hardware and software. ...
, a skin (also known as visual styles in
Windows XP Windows XP is a major release of Microsoft's Windows NT operating system. It was release to manufacturing, released to manufacturing on August 24, 2001, and later to retail on October 25, 2001. It is a direct upgrade to its predecessors, Wind ...
) is a custom graphical appearance preset package achieved by the use of a
graphical user interface The GUI ( "UI" by itself is still usually pronounced . or ), graphical user interface, is a form of user interface that allows User (computing), users to Human–computer interaction, interact with electronic devices through graphical icon (comp ...
(GUI) that can be applied to specific
computer software Software is a set of computer programs and associated software documentation, documentation and data (computing), data. This is in contrast to Computer hardware, hardware, from which the system is built and which actually performs the work. ...
,
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), schedule tasks for ef ...
, and
website A website (also written as a web site) is a collection of web pages and related content that is identified by a common domain name and published on at least one web server. Examples of notable websites are Google Search, Google, Facebook, Amaz ...
s to suit the purpose, topic, or tastes of different users. As such, a skin can completely change the
look and feel In software design, the look and feel of a graphical user interface comprises aspects of its design, including elements such as colors, shapes, layout, and typefaces (the "look"), as well as the behavior of dynamic elements such as buttons, boxes ...
and navigation interface of a piece of
application software An application program (software application, or application, or app for short) is a computer program designed to carry out a specific task other than one relating to the operation of the computer itself, typically to be used by end user, end-user ...
or operating system. Software that is capable of having a skin applied is referred to as being skinnable, and the process of writing or applying such a skin is known as skinning. Applying a skin changes a piece of software's
look and feel In software design, the look and feel of a graphical user interface comprises aspects of its design, including elements such as colors, shapes, layout, and typefaces (the "look"), as well as the behavior of dynamic elements such as buttons, boxes ...
—some skins merely make the program more aesthetically pleasing, but others can rearrange elements of the interface, potentially making the program easier to use.


Common skinnable applications

The most popular skins are for
instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat allowing real-time text transmission over the Internet or another computer network. Messages are typically transmitted between two or more parties, when each user inputs text and trigge ...
clients, media center, and media player software, such as Trillian and Winamp, due to the association with fun that such programs try to encourage.


Standard interface

Some platforms support changing the standard interface, including most using the
X Window System The X Window System (X11, or simply X) is a windowing system for bitmap displays, common on Unix-like operating systems. X provides the basic framework for a GUI environment: drawing and moving windows on the display device and interacting wit ...
. For those that do not, programs can add the functionality, like WindowBlinds for
Microsoft Windows Windows is a group of several proprietary graphical operating system families developed and marketed by Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporatio ...
and ShapeShifter for
macOS macOS (; previously OS X and originally Mac OS X) is a Unix operating system developed and marketed by Apple Inc. since 2001. It is the primary operating system for Apple's Mac (computer), Mac computers. Within the market of ...
.


Model–view–controller

Skinning is typically implemented with a
model–view–controller Model–view–controller (MVC) is a software architectural pattern commonly used for developing user interface In the industrial design field of human–computer interaction, a user interface (UI) is the space where interactions between h ...
architecture, which allows for a flexible structure in which the interface is independent from and indirectly linked to application functionality, so the GUI can be easily customized. This allows the user to select or design a different skin at will, and also allows for more deep changes in the position and function of the interface elements.


Pros and cons

The benefit of skinning in user interfaces is disputed. While some find it useful or pleasant to be able to change the appearance of software, a changed appearance can complicate
technical support Technical support (abbreviated as tech support) is a call centre type customer service provided by companies to advise and assist registered users with issues concerning their technical products. Traditionally done on the phone, technical support ...
and training. A user interface that has been extensively customized by one person may appear completely unfamiliar to another who knows the software under a different appearance. Some
usability Usability can be described as the capacity of a system to provide a condition for its users to perform the tasks safely, effectively, and efficiently while enjoying the experience. In software engineering, usability is the degree to which a soft ...
practitioners feel that this flexibility requires interaction design expertise that users might not have.


Websites

Many websites are skinnable, particularly those that provide
social Social organisms, including human(s), live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary or not. Etymology The word "social" derives from ...
capabilities. Some sites provide skins that make primarily cosmetic changes, while some—such as H2G2—offer skins that make major changes to page layout. As with standalone software interfaces, this is facilitated by the underlying technology of the website—
XML Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a markup language and file format for storing, transmitting, and reconstructing arbitrary data. It defines a set of rules for encoding electronic document, documents in a format that is both Human-readable med ...
and
XSLT XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) is a language originally designed for transforming XML documents into other XML documents, or other formats such as HTML The HyperText Markup Language or HTML is the standard markup la ...
, for instance, facilitate major changes of layout, while CSS can easily produce different visual styles.


Video gaming

In
video games Video games, also known as computer games, are electronic games that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, or motion sensing device to gener ...
, the term "skin" is similarly used to refer to an in-game character or cosmetic options for a player's character and other in-game items, which can range from different color schemes, to more elaborate designs and costumes. Skins are often awarded as unlockable content for completing specific in-game goals or milestones. Skins can sometimes include historical incarnations of the player character (such as Insomniac Games' ''
Spider-Man Spider-Man is a superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, he first appearance, first appeared in the anthology comic book ''Amazing Fantasy'' #15 (August ...
'', which includes unlockable skins based on
Spider-Man Spider-Man is a superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, he first appearance, first appeared in the anthology comic book ''Amazing Fantasy'' #15 (August ...
's past comic book and film appearances), as well as crossovers with other video games (such as '' Final Fantasy XIII-2'' offering a costume based on Ezio Auditore from the '' Assassin's Creed'' franchise, and '' Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'' offering costume items based on other video game characters for its customizable Mii Fighter characters). '' Fortnite Battle Royale'' has similarly featured extensive uses of licensed properties as the basis for skins, also including non-gaming properties such as comic book characters, the
National Football League The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football Sports league, league that consists of 32 teams, divided equally between the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). The NFL is o ...
, and musicians. Skins are sometimes distributed as part of downloadable content, and as pre-order incentives for newly-released games. In the 2010s, skins were increasingly deemed a virtual good as part of monetization strategies, especially within free-to-play games and those otherwise treated as a service. Via microtransactions commonly known as "
loot box In video games, a loot box (also called a loot crate or prize crate) is a consumable virtual item which can be redeemed to receive a randomised selection of further virtual items, or Loot (video gaming), loot, ranging from simple customization ...
es", a player can earn a random selection of in-game items, which may include skins and other cosmetic items of varying rarity. While often defended as being similar in practice to
booster pack In collectible card games, digital collectible card games and miniature wargaming, collectible miniature wargames, a booster pack is a sealed package of cards or figurines, designed to add to a player's collection. A box of multiple booster packs i ...
s for
collectible card game A collectible card game (CCG), also called a trading card game (TCG) among other names, is a type of card game that mixes strategy game, strategic deck building elements with features of trading cards, introduced with ''Magic: The Gathering'' in ...
s, researchers have deemed loot boxes to be "psychologically akin to gambling", and their inclusion in full-priced games have faced criticism from players for being an anti-consumer practice. They have largely been supplanted by " battle passes", which are collections of in-game challenges and goals that unlock reward tiers over a short- or long-term period. Via the
Steam Steam is a substance containing water in the gas phase, and sometimes also an aerosol of liquid water droplets, or air. This may occur due to evaporation or due to boiling, where heat is applied until water reaches the enthalpy of vaporization. ...
platform, '' Counter-Strike: Global Offensive'' and '' Team Fortress 2'' also allow players to trade these items, which has led to communities devoted to bartering them for real-world money, as well as
gambling Gambling (also known as betting or gaming) is the wagering of something of Value (economics), value ("the stakes") on a Event (probability theory), random event with the intent of winning something else of value, where instances of strategy (ga ...
.


See also

* Theme (computing) *
Computer wallpaper A wallpaper or background (also known as a desktop background, desktop picture or desktop image on computers) is a digital image (photo, drawing etc.) used as a decorative background of a graphical user interface on the screen of a computer, smart ...
*
Look and feel In software design, the look and feel of a graphical user interface comprises aspects of its design, including elements such as colors, shapes, layout, and typefaces (the "look"), as well as the behavior of dynamic elements such as buttons, boxes ...
* User interface engineering *
Industrial design Industrial design is a process of design applied to physical Product (business), products that are to be manufactured by mass production. It is the creative act of determining and defining a product's form and features, which takes place in advan ...
* Windows Aero * Windows XP visual styles


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Skin (Computing) Graphical user interfaces Software add-ons