The video also shows the desktop in animated action, so it's worth watching at least a few seconds.
What You Need:
- Rainmeter, for overlay management [Free]
- Rainmeter/Win7 Skyrim theme by Axerron [Free]
- (Optional) StarDock's DeskScapes, for animated backgrounds [Commercial after 30 days]
- (Optional) Looping Sovengarde background [Free]
- The Skyrim mouse pointer kit
Rainmeter is the enabler for everything: It's what adds, when combined with Axerron's theme, the "Skyrim UI" functionality. DeskScapes is cool, but is only free for 30 days, after which it costs a hefty $20. Honestly, it's not worth it unless you're animating your desktop on a regular basis. Play with it for this tutorial, then revert it to a simple Skyrim screenshot if you don't want to pay. The mouse pointers are easy -- just apply them (as described below) to your mouse to replace the default system pointers.
1. Installation & Prep
The first step is a simple one: Install Rainmeter. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Launch Rainmeter once it's installed. You should see that your desktop now has some widgets on the right side and a slightly obnoxious "welcome" menu in the center. That's fine -- right-click on any of the objects that you want to ruthlessly murder and click "Unload Skin." That'll send it off for an Italian ride to the country.
There's some pretty cool stuff with the default theme, but let's jump straight into Skyrim...
2. Configuring the Skyrim / Windows Theme
Assuming you've downloaded Axerron's UI kit, now's time to extract that somewhere static and load it up into Rainmeter. Double-click on "TES_V_Skyrim_Suite_v2.rmskin" in the subdirectory.
You should be prompted with an installation dialog box. Do it. Everyone else is.
Once it's installed, we have to enable it. Launch Rainmeter proper (the full program), make sure you're still on the Skins tab. You can collapse the default theme, just go straight to "TES V - Skyrim v2."
With the folder expanded, you'll see a whole slew of optional widgets to enable. Don't get too crazy, there is a performance hit as more are enabled. My personal favorites are: CPU (text above), RAM (text above), Launcher (the actual text "UI"), and Vertical Sidebar. The last two are the important ones.
Expand each subdirectory for the widget you want, click on the .ini indicator, and click on "Load" in the top right area. You can also change the positioning (for better layering) and load order (for conflicts and layering).
Need direction? Just do Launcher, Vertical Sidebar, and CPU/RAM for now. PC up time is fun from a nerdy/stats perspective. Line up the Launcher on top of the vertical sidebar.
3. Customize the UI
The UI is effectively your replacement for icons. Sure, you can still have icons, but they're somewhat unsightly (Seriously, who uses the desktop, anyway? It's just a landfill). Middle-click on one of the words for the floating Launcher.
Ack! A text file! In the words of WhiteRa, "we build a base and then defense it." Time to start building. Scroll down to the very bottom (ctrl+end works nicely), then locate these:
And so on. Change the name to whatever you like. Change the path to the path of the program (within "quotes") or to a URL. To grab the path to your program, you can right-click and go to Properties of a shortcut.
To change the color of different observational bars (CPU/RAM), middle-click on one of the widgets and locate its respective section of the .ini file. It should look something like this for the CPU: CPUBarColor=#ROOTCONFIGPATH#Resources\skyrim_bar_magicka.png
Change "_magicka" to "_health" or "_stamina" or "_level" to change the color to Skyrim's respective bar colors.
Drag the bars around wherever you like - that's the easy part.
4. Create an Animated Win7 Background / Wallpaper
This is an optional step. If you installed DeskScapes, launch it now. DO IT NOW! Auuaugh!
Locate that Sovengarde file you downloaded. Double-click it, it should load into DeskScapes automatically. Switch to DeskScapes, right-click the Sovengarde animation, then "Apply" it to the desktop.
5. Customize the Mouse
Another easy part. Extract that mouse kit somewhere that won't move (a static directory). It's probably best to put it in a Windows subdirectory. Do the following:
- Open Control Panel
- Open "Mouse" settings
- Go to Pointer
- Click "Browse" for each pointer, select its new Skyrim replacement.
- Simple! Apply and hit OK, you're done.
Remember, you can apply this to almost anything. Not a fan of Skyrim? Fine (jerk), try to find some Red Alert or Unreal themes instead. Or whatever kids are playing these days.
As always, give me a shout in the comments if you need help. Our forums are open to custom requests (we're always happy to help you figure out a cool project!) and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe on YouTube for regular updates and cool hardware / software projects.