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New skins for Swing applications

Posted by kirillcool on February 6, 2007 at 12:06 AM PST

I wouldn't be the first to admit it, but my programming skills are much better than my designing / color-matching skills. The ever merciless community won't let me forget this (and i thank you for it). Apparently, people just don't like happy jelly buttons (sigh). And as much as i would like to concentrate on even happier jelly buttons, this is not what my users want (based on the comments on this blog and on the sample applications attached to the bug reports).

The leading third party look-and-feels have one thing in common - they all provide toned-down appearance that targets business applications. Even the names branded by the marketing are very suggestive. Synthetica calls itself "The Enterprise look and feel", Alloy is a "truly professional" and JGoodies Looks is "high-fidelity, precise and elegant". As one can't argue with success (i tried in vain for over a year), and since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, i had to curb my taste for acid saturated colors and join the party.

This continues in the next version of Substance look and feel (code-named Japan) with four new skins that target business applications.

The first is Business Blue Steel which follows the design of Blue Ice Synthetica theme:

The second is Business Black Steel which follows the design of Black Moon Synthetica theme:

The last two are based on the latest products from Microsoft and Apple camp (is it a coincidence that both design giants have chosen a strikingly similar skinning for their major product releases?) Microsoft's Expression Blend (free Beta download) and Apple's Aperture (free trial download) both sport the same dark-grayish UI that doesn't draw the attention away from the main work canvas (see sample Blend screenshot and sample Aperture screenshot). This isn't actually the first time that i tried to create a dark skin, but i really like these two.

The first is Raven Graphite:

and the second is Raven Graphite Glass (note that the button gradients and the header gradient are "glassier" and the foreground color is whiter):

One last thing is the introduction of a new client property called SubstanceLookAndFeel.USE_THEMED_DEFAULT_ICONS which renders all button icons of inactive (non-selected, non-pressed, non-rollover, non-armed) buttons in theme colors. This setting plays especially good with the last two themes ( i actually borrowed the idea from Expression Blend), since you can have a lot of icon buttons on your toolbars and they still wouldn't distract the user from what he's doing.

For the comparison, here is a screenshot without this setting:

Now, the same application with this setting turned on:

The same application when the mouse is over the "Paste" toolbar button (third from the left):

If you want to play with the latest development drop, head over to the download section and try out the new skins. You're more than welcome to leave comments.