If you use and adore the Avant Browser for all its practical, workhorse features, perhaps it’s time to have some fun with the web-surfing software by adding free custom skins to boot. Although the most recent release of this Internet Explorer alternative comes with an array of 20 different pre-loaded skins, including the exquisitely named Xito, Whidbey, and Zezio, what if you want your Avant Browser to look a little crazier? Or what if you want to brand it with logos from your favorite website – say, Associated Content? For the geeky Avant lovers (like me) who insist on personalizing the browser’s look, custom skins can be created with the Avant Browser Skin Maker, which – like Avant itself – is available for free on www.download.com.
When you download the Avant Browser Skin Maker, you will get a ZIP file which includes the executable file. By launching it, you’ll open something that resembles the actual Avant Browser itself, except that you’ll be able to click on various components and customize as you go along with a constant preview. Start by selecting one of the “visual styles,” which are really just the pre-loaded skins, and then consider customizing the following:
(To help illustrate, I’ve added some screen shots showing my new AC-branded Avant browser.)
1. Top Background. This is where all the usual toolbars (address, links, etc.) are located, unless you move them. To add a top background on custom skins, simply select the appropriate .BMP file on your PC and choose whether you want it tiled or stretched – not unlike changing your desktop wallpaper. The image must be a bitmap, so convert if needed. You may also need to edit the dimensions and background of the image to look proportioned without rendering the toolbars hard to read. On my custom skin sample, the top background is mostly white (for readability), with the orange “Get Published, Get Paid” logo in the upper right corner.
2. Bottom Background. This is the space at the very bottom of Avant Browser, where the status bar is located. I’d recommend either using an abstract background or a very small square image (24 x 24 will work when tiled) if including this area in custom skins. On my sample, this is the strip of miniature AC logos running across the bottom.
3. Font Colors. There are two font colors you can change using the standard palette. There’s the toolbar font color (for changing the color of words like “File” and “Edit” and “Address.” The font color on the active web page tab is also available for personalization with custom skins.
4. Buttons! All the wonderful browser buttons can also be changed for custom skins if you so desire. In the Avant Browser Skin Maker, just click on the button and select the .BMP file you want to use. Most likely, you’ll need to resize. Large toolbar buttons must be 24 by 24, and small toolbar buttons must be 16 by 16. For the sake of illustration, I changed the little house for my homepage to an AC logo. You’ll see it just to the right of the blue refresh button in my sample.
When you’re done fiddling with any custom skins you’ve created, save them to the Skins folder. This is located wherever you placed the original Avant Browser program (not the skin maker) on your PC. Then you’re ready to publish! Simply go to the Tools menu in Avant Browser, select Skins, and then select one of the new custom skins you’ve added, which should be at the bottom of the list. Your skin will now appear live, and then it’s time to change the sizes and locations of the toolbars for final tweaking.
While you can only do so much to personalize the appearance of a functional browser, creating custom skins for Avant is easy (though admittedly not quite as intuitive as using the browser itself).