ObjectDock Plus for Beginners

Building Your First Dock Theme

By on December 27, 2004 1:45:17 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums


Join Date 01/2003
This was originally written by me and published on and I am republishing it here for reference for folks that may not frequent that site.

This mini-tutorial was written to help you build a basic dock theme that you will be able to easily skin and maintain. Designed for your specific computing needs. The first part is mostly informational stuff to help familiarize you with docks themselves. The second part is the steps involved in building your first basic tabbed dock.

Types of Docks
There are two basic types of docks that you can use. Non-tabbed docks, also called Zoomer docks, because you can set the images on the dock to react to your mouse by "zooming" or increasing in size. This type of dock is the same dock that is found in the free version of ObjectDock and is similar to freeware docking program "Yz Dock". The other type of dock and the one that this article will focus on is the tabbed dock.The tabbed dock is a new type of dock, only available in ObjectDock Plus, that allows you to essentially have multiple docks in one location through the use of tabs and it can hide itself, like a drawer, and take up very little desktop space.

Dock Themes
Dock themes are preconfigured dock settings that may include multiple docks. Themes define dock location, dock appearance (backgrounds and tabs) and dock content (docklets and shortcuts). Preconfigured themes can be downloaded from the WinCustomize ObjectDock Library but you will find, based on your unique computing needs, that you will be much happier building your own dock themes. They are very easy to create and is the best way to get yourself familiar with the ObjectDock Properties dialog. Also, once you have built your basic dock theme, you will find it easier to swap out backgrounds and icon images and to maintain than it is to add docklets and shortcuts to your favorite programs and folders everytime you load a new preconfigured theme.

Tabbed docks are basically a bunch of individual docks called Collections. Each Collection consists of a background image and tab and content. Using the ObjectDock Properties dialog you can define the appearance of each collection, you can add and remove collections and you can move them up and down or left to right, depending on the orientation of the dock. This all happens on the fly, so you can see the changes happen on your dock as you are making them.

Parts is Parts
If you go to the folder where ObjectDock is installed, usually C:\Program Files\ObjectDock, you will find five folders: Themes which we already know are the configuration settings for our dock setups; Images which is a repository of icon images, usually in the form of a *png graphic file, which can be used to change the appearance of the program and folder shortcuts on our docks; Backgrounds which will have sub-folders for each of the different background and tab skins available for us to use for the actual dock itself; Docklets which will have sub-folders containing different "mini-apps" that runs right on the dock itself; and finally Running Indicators which are small images used in conjunction with Zoomer docks to show which applications are currently running. The reason you will want to be familiar with this folder, is because unlike preconfigured themes, which automatically install themselves, you will have to manually place in specific folders the different parts used to build your docks. For tabbed docks, the only folders you need to concern yourself with are the Images, Backgrounds and Docklets folders.

Within the Images folder are the graphic images or icons that represent the shortcuts to folders and programs. These images can be traditional *ico files that XP uses to represent shortcuts or *png files which use alpha-blending and are a better quality image than an icon file. This folder is here to help you organize those images, though currently when you open the Choose Image dialog, all images within this folder, even if you have them organized into subfolders, are all shown at once when select this folder.

Within the Backgrounds folder there are sub-folders containing the parts that make up the backgrounds and tabs for your docks. If you open up one of the sub-folders you will see a few images files (*png's) and a configuration file (background*ini). Whenever you acquire a new background or if you are graphically inclined and decide to make your own, this folder is where you will store all of your backgrounds. This tutorial will not go into how to configure background skins themselves, but for those so inclined, there is an ObjectDock Skinning Readme in this folder which explains how to do so.

A couple of important point about dock backgrounds. Some tabbed dock backgrounds use a different set of commands in their script called tags and may possibly crash a Zoomer dock if you select one of them for the background, so it's best not to choose one for a zoomer dock, not only for that reason, but well, it just may not look correct either. The other point is that if you choose to use a background designed without tabs, you get the basic tabs that come with ObjectDock Plus, this will work just fine, just may not look too pretty. When selecting style for your tabbed dock or one of it's collections, you will note that the program has sorted the choices between backgrounds with tabs first and secondly backgrounds without custom tabs.

Within the docklets folders are "mini-apps", the very same ones that AveDesk can use on your desktop. They are also similar to DesktopX widgets, with the exception that they are docked and run from the dock. Everything from calendars, clocks and weather to system stats docklets are located in this folder for use by ObjectDock Plus.

Dock Building
The very first time you run ObjectDock Plus, the default theme opens up. It contains two docks, one tabbed and one zoomer. If you right-click on either dock, you can choose Dock Properties to open up the ObjectDock Properties dialog. From here click on the My Docks button to choose what type and how many docks you want to use on your desktop. Since I only use tabbed docks, I'll click on the My Docks button and from there delete that Zoomer dock. Add or remove as many docks and types of docks as you see fit. As you become more familiar with this program and how you want to make it work for you, you'll change your basic dock layout. Once you've got your number and type of docks set close the My Docks dialog. The ObjectDock Properties dialog will still be open and from here choose the General section and save your theme. Call it something like Basic or Template. This theme will be the theme that you will always use to adjust your collections and dock contents. While in the ObjectDock Properties, go to each sections and check out the different ways you can change the position and appearance of your docks. After making changes that you want, like adjusting Icon size for example, go back to the general section and save your theme again.

Adding Collections
The Tabs & Styles section is were you will do most of your dock configurating. When you select this section you'll be presented with Collections and Tabs which shows all the collections that are present on your dock and Tab's Appearance which right now shows nothing until your selection one of the collections. Your goal for now is to create, delete, rename and organize your collections. You can use the default ones that come with ObjectDock or you can delete them all, except one and start from scratch. Once you have your dock configured with the collections you want, go back to the General section and save it. Later on we'll come back to this section to skin our dock.

Adding Content
There are two types of content, docklets and shortcuts. To add a docklet to one of your collections or tabs, select that tab. From here right-click on the dock, and choose Add Entry. Listed here are all the docklets that are available, along with other entries for your docks. If for some reason you add an entry you don't want, just left-click hold and drag the entry off your dock onto your desktop and it will disappear. You can also use the Docklets and Items section of the ObjectDock Properties dialog to add docklets, but this is much easier and quicker.

To add a shortcut you can use the Add Entry menu item and this will open up the Dock Entry Properties for that particular shortcut. From here you have to name the shortcut, locate the item your creating a shortcut to, change the image, etc. This is too tedious, because there is an easier way to add a shortcut. Go to the the item you want to add whether it is in your Start Menu, My Documents or anywhere on your computer, then drag and drop it right on your dock and you are done. If for some reason the image for the shortcut you just created is a big blue questionmark, not to worry, I'm going to show you how to change the images next. If you add a shortcut you no longer want, drag it off the dock onto your desktop and it's gone. If you put a shortcut under the wrong tab, drag it over the right tab and that collection will open up for you to drop your shortcut.

Just remember, to save your basic or template theme often while you are adding content. If for some reason the dock crashes, when you open it back up, you won't have to go back and re-add your content all over again.

Content Images
Just about every shortcut or object on your dock can have its image customized. It's very simple. Right-click on the object and choose Dock Entry Properties This time everything is already filled in for you, just click on the Change Image button, pick or browse for an image to use, hit okay and your object is now showing your new image. Continue to do this until you have all your objects looking the way you want. Once again save your basic theme often.

Skinning the Dock
Whether you use one of the included skins, one you find on the internet or one you build yourself, I recommend that you save your skinned dock with a unique name different from your basic or template dock name. To skin your dock collections, open up the ObjectDock Properties and go to the Tabs & Styles section. Choose one of your collections to bring up the Tab's Appearance section and pick your style (background and tab). You can also colorize your tabs from here as well. If you want to use the same style for all your collections click on the Apply this style to all tabs button. You'll see the changes you make on the fly. Once skinned, save your dock theme with a unique name and you are done.

Final Notes and Links
When you shut down your computer, ObjectDock Plus will save your settings when it closes. On some computers that shut down very fast, ObjectDock won't have enough time to save all your setting and the next time you run it, your dock might look messed up. To avoid this if this happens on your computer, manually close the dock before you shut down your computer. If you forget, no problem, just reload the theme you saved before and all will be fine.

For additional help, you can post a message in the WinCustomize ObjectDock Support Section
WinCustomize's ObjectDock Libary is here
My ObjectDock Tabbed Backgrounds are available here

Have fun and thanks for taking the time to read this long-winded tutorial.
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December 27, 2004 2:23:42 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums
Nice work Stephen!
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