Want to spruce up Internet software? Slip it some skin

So-called skins add a new look and feel to aging programs. They are nothing new; online
gamers have used skins for years. Developers caught on to them as a convenient way to
import and manage third-party features in an existing application. Skins can be an
interface to plug-in modules or software.


Because Internet software is evolving new plug-ins and features, skins likely will
become both a management tool and a way to differentiate products.


To see how a skin enhances a Web browser, visit www.neoplanet.com.
The 1.3M NeoPlanet browser add-on works with the browser engine in either Microsoft
Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator. You can choose from a dozen skin looks for
either browser. But NeoPlanet’s real power lies in its extras: directory buttons
along the right side, built-in links to the Snap search engine, an area that scrolls news
headlines and ads, and an auto-update feature.


Object Desktop from Stardock Systems Inc. of Livonia, Mich., has a set of components
that integrate with a Windows 9x or IBM OS/2, providing greater control over software
windows. The controls can create new skins for almost any type of software. Stardock
Systems carries the skins concept across an entire Microsoft Windows desktop environment.


Visit www.windowblinds.net  for tools to
put borders and background images in every open window.


Here are some other examples of Internet software for custom-designing a skin:


Shawn P. McCarthy designs search and navigation products for a Web search engine
provider. E-mail him at smccarthy@lycos.com.



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