Critique of Theming

The design of an application is compiled –integrated– from its every element. Changing the elements inside an application will destroy the design. Theming toolkits do not aid you –the application designer– to preserve the application’s visual integrity.

How –if at all– is it possible to theme an application, while keeping the initial design whole? The answer to this question is: All provided themes –for a given platform– are extremely similar. Possibly even very similar across different platforms.

The last pro theming argument then: helping people with visual impediments. Apple Inc.® has, with AQUA®, artfully demonstrated how to aid people with visual disabilities –by utilizing the computing power of modern graphics cards.

Why then is theming popular?

Vendors of Theming Toolkits

As seen with Linux® X11: theming gives an marketing advantage to the vendor. Other (smaller) toolkits in the same market are suppressed.

Smaller toolkits have to make an additional effort in order to catch-up with dominating theming toolkits. This is the essence for Tile.

The same market pressure applies, if the toolkit is provided by the Operational System vendor. Current Linux® distributors act also under this marketing logic.

Why do developers like to use theming?

Formal education is heavily set on linguistic and easy measurable / train-able skills. Art, and visual design is art, is entirely neglected. A developer uses language as his primary tool, and language is the anathema to design.

Programming Languages and visual design is blurred in the software field. »Every« program is only understandable by following the visual outline of the written code (the structure is visual design). The machine does not depend on this structure, but without it any program will become a unreadable cipher. The regrettable usage of braces as syntax elements is one, such example.

Theming is used as an excuse for disregarding the visual design of an application.

Why Computer Owner like theming?

I don’t have a proper answer for this question.

Every person, I observed, while they were using their computers, didn’t care or even knew that the used Operational System could be themed.

A lot of it may be based on people’s playfulness, of course. Perhaps, the pride of ownership: The excitement to express oneself by making one’s own property unique.

When this is the relevant reason, then any themed toolkit falls short in comparison to X Resource Database –and the original Tk option database. Only these customization techniques are really capable to make a Graphical User Interface unique.

No Theming engine under X11 should ignore the X Resource Database. Ignoring the X Resource Database equals breaking X11 itself.