Sometime after the launch of XP, somewhere in Redmond, someone on the Microsoft design team was in the progress of developing something for Media Center. It was believed to be too powerful for public consumption and forever archived in the servers at 1 Microsoft Way. Now 3 years later, a young man by the name of W3bbo saw light of this unheard of theme, and travelled far and wide to uncover its mysteries.
Devoted Channel9 member W3bbo spotted an interesting theme on one of the “people_ready” television commercials airing in the United States. After some dedicated searching, he finally uncovered this mystery XP theme by Microsoft. W3bbo writes:
“During Royale’s development (the XP Media Center theme), the graphic artists also produced a black version of the skin, sans the overused “glass” effect. The result is an aesthetic black skin named “Royale Noir”, it even works with Office 2003.
Since the skin was never released (or reached final adjustments) there are a few issues with it: some of the colors don’t meet the overall “feel” (they’re too purple-ish compared to the greys of the bitmaps) and the inactive titlebars are a little too dark.
You’ll find it’s been signed by Microsoft and doesn’t require a custom UxTheme.dll in case there are any doubts as to its authenticity.
If you already have Royale installed, you’ll need to remove it as both of these skins share the same name.
This skin has not been released to anyone outside Microsoft, until now.”
Without a doubt, XP Media Center’s Royale theme was a huge improvement over Luna (the default theme). It updated the cliché bevelled look-and-feel if XP to a contemporary glossy style, while keeping similar color schemes and layouts. In my opinion, it was the most usable non-standard XP theme available. I absolutely love it.
Royale Noir is an almost exact copy of Royale except with a dark purplish tint. If Royale was day, Royale Noir is night. No doubt about it, this is a ‘dark’ theme. If you’re the sort of person who likes bright and vivid colors, you can use the standard Royale theme included in the archive below.
As W3bbo pointed out, there are a few issues with this theme due to its incompleteness. The most obvious being, the “Start” buttons hover and active states are unchanged from Royale, inconsistent with the purple tint surrounding. However, there is even a color scheme for Office 2003 so it will not default to the blue Luna colors.
Looking at it from the big picture, Royale Noir is a welcomed alternative to the extremely small collection of verified-by-Microsoft XP themes. However being incomplete, it is not recommended for the general consumers (although, you wont have any problems). Enthusiasts are welcomed to try it to stand out from the crowd, but even still, you’ll feel right at home with the familiar Luna/Royale style.
Extract files to “c:\windows\resources\themes\”, this will create folder named “Royale”. Double click “luna.msstyles” within the “Royale” folder. Select “Noir” from color scheme. This theme includes the standard Royale theme that was released with Windows Media Center.
I take no credit for this amazing find. W3bbo did an amazing job uncovering this mystery XP theme, hats off to him!
EDIT 12/10/06: Microsoft has released a Zune theme that is pretty similar, you can download it from them here.