I obsess over my OS X menubar, it is always visible on my main monitor so I always want it just right. And I refuse to turn on that quirky “Translucent menu bar” setting in my Desktop & Screen Saver preference panel because it’s hard to run a custom Apple logo when you do. But did you know that you can have the best of both worlds? A custom menu bar that is semi-transparent? And once you get the hang of it, you’re ready to try all kinds of new looks on your desktop. Here’s how you too can get started theming.
Above is a screen shot of how I am keeping my Snow Leopard menubar these days. This is the menubar graphic we’ll be using in today’s example. It’s just a simple, minimalist style gradient I created in Photoshop in just a few minutes that gives me a semi-transparent menubar (about 20% transparency) even with the Translucent menu bar setting turned off. It has a little extra detail giving it a sort of rounded effect with a slight lip at the bottom. And best of all it let’s your oh-so-special background show through. The wallpaper in this screen shot is Black Leather Apple by the great Adam Betts if you’re interested.
First of all I do not recommend that anyone actually do any of this, it is all very theoretical and unsupported by your friendly Apple store representative. And if you have never tried to apply a theme on Leopard (and maybe even Snow Leopard, it’s been a while), you have to prep your system by disabling the core UI with a special Terminal command. With all of that out of the way, you will most certainly want to make a back-up copy of your original system resources and keep a rescue disc or your original install disc on hand for this. In this example we are changing your sArtFile.bin located at System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/CoreUI.framework/Resources/. Make a backup copy of that file and use it to get back to the original if you want. Now go out and get yourself a copy of ThemePark from the team over at Geekspiff. Below is a peek at how ThemePark looks. It’s a free download currently in version 4.1. If you like it and use it a lot you may want to consider donating a buck or two, it’s a great tool that they work diligently to keep up-to-date. I expect they are already checking for any changes that will come with the 10.6.5 update we’re all sure to get soon via Software Update.
Now you’re ready to open your ThemePark app and then open your sArtFile.bin resource for editing with the middle button. You’re almost done. Scroll down to the resource labeled 116 (you will see each image resource has an index number in the lower right hand part of the browser window). To change your menubar all you have to do right-click the image and edit it in Photoshop. But it’s even easier that that. If you are not up for some Photoshop action, you can simply drag-and-drop a new image onto the small preview window in the lower left hand part of the screen or in the browser window itself on top of the right resource. I have attached the graphic I made for you to try this. You will find it linked below. Don’t worry if you don’t see it, it’s a tiny 1 pixel wide by 21 pixels high PNG file. Copy the little graphic I’ve linked below and try dropping it on 116. Now close the sArtFile.bin and it will prompt you to Save. Doing so will actually change your file. Now apply the change in ThemePark with the button and log out/log back in. Sometimes my ThemePark makes me apply twice so that I get two consecutive confirmation windows before it will actually change anything. I recommend applying your changes more than once and making sure you get a confirmation message each time. If all of this works, you should have a very different looking menubar now. If not then you probably blew your whole system to smithereens and you are cursing my name and scrambling for your Snow Leopard install disc. Go back and try again, make sure you have disabled your core UI and that you are dropping the PNG on the right resource.
And finally, here’s the menubar graphic file you can use for this exercise. –> <– That’s it right there! You can right-click and save this PNG or you can simply download it here (right-click and Save As this linked image).
This tutorial assumes you have at least a basic familiarity with OS X and theming but once you get the hang of this first step then you are ready to go crazy and theme everything. If you have any questions about which resource changes what interface elements then you can refer to one of the handy cheat sheets you will find around the web or check out the extensive Snow Leopard resource guide over on the MTF. That’s it for tonight but stay tuned right here to the iconpaper.org blog, we’ve heard all of your feedback and are hard at work on more OS X modding tips and tricks.