the update of the summer is here! Itís been a while but Messenger Plus! Live is now reliable enough to be left alone without the need of too many updates, nobody likes bloatware. Scripts and skins are still being added every week so if you like ever-changing things, you know you have the right add-on
. Nevertheless, Messenger Plus! Live 4.70
can now be downloaded
and features a couple of interesting new things, including one in particular: auto-updates for all your scripts and skins!
Most of us will download a skin or a script once and will never bother to check for updates later-on. For that reason, the many improvements that are then added by the developers are never seen by most the people who use their work. Fortunately, it is now a thing of the past as the new Messenger Plus! searches for updates of all its components
in the official database and will notify you when needed. The new auto-update feature is designed to be as non-intrusive as possible so donít worry, youíll never be forced to install anything if for some reason you like your Messenger the way it already is
. If youíre a script or a skin developer, please review the excellent FAQ made by MenthiX
on the forum to make sure your users can benefit completely from this new feature.
Now, letís talk about skins: some time ago, I talked about a contestÖ time for less talk and more action! Similar to the scripting contest that happened two years ago, this yearís Skinning Contest
is opened to all the skin developers ready to face this challenge: to be the best skinner this world has ever seen!Ö well, maybe not the "world" but at least the Messenger community. And be sure my friends that the prizes are worth it, but first, here is how itís going to work: starting today, you have 5 weeks to create the most outstanding skin imaginable. The deadline is September 14th at 23:59:59
, Greenwich Mean Time. To participate, all you need to do is submit a skin
to the official database (the contest is open worldwide), updates of existing skins are accepted. All the skins will be tested in the current most popular version of Messenger, Windows Live Messenger 8.5 (no need to make them work in the outdated Messenger 9 Beta from last winter).
Creating a skin requires a certain degree of technical skills. You need to be able to create appealing graphics as well as do some basic coding (in XML, a syntax similar to HTML). Fortunately, a lot of help is already available, whether it is on this site
, on the forum
or on specialized sites such as Design Evolved
. Of course, you need to start with the official documentation
and once youíve been through it, take a look at the "Useful Software" part of this siteís skinning section to have the tools of the best skinner in town. The process of creating new skins can be very simple and get very complicated depending on what you want to do and what you want to see. This is a trial and error process but if you persist long enough, your creations will be admired by thousands if not millions of people. And for the next 5 weeks, you have a couple of extra reasons to do itÖ
Not 1 but 7 Wacom Tablets
will be distributed to the winners of this contest. Your skin(s) will be judged and placed into three different categories: originality (something never done before), deformity (shaped windows), and functionality (improved user interface). The first prize for each category is an excellent Cintiq 12WX
(check out the video on their site), a 12.1" TFT screen that acts like a second monitor for your computer and lets you draw directly on the pictures you want to edit with incredible precision. The second prize for each category is a very respectable Intuos3 6*8
with 1,024 pressure levels and professional software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements. And finally, the creator of the one best skin, all categories considered, will get rewarded for his efforts with a magnificent Cintiq 20WXS
. This dream-come-true for any graphic designer features a 20.1" wide screen with a resolution of 1680*1050, has 14 customizable hard keys, 2 touch strips, a special rotating stand so that you can use the tablet like a big sheet of paper, anti-glare and friction coating to simulate the texture of paper and a wide viewing angle. Nothing can compare to this tablet and itís the most recent and best model offered by the entire Wacom company. Youíll find all the information you need about those three gems on Wacomís web site but for the 20WSX, youíll want to take a look at the video in the 21UX section as none exists for the latest model yet.
I hope these prizes will get you going, weíll now be waiting for your skins! Remember to try to submit your work early-on to ensure that all the basic requirements are met. Only the final version
of your skin will be considered for the contest and thanks to the new auto-update feature, you can freely distribute previews of your work if you want. Note that this will also help guarantee that youíre recognized as being the first one distributing this particular skin with this particular idea to avoid possible rip-offs. If needed, more information will be posted about this contest on the forum so stay alert! And finally, if youíre not a skin developer and youíre wondering "thatís sweet but what about me?", well, you can already be glad to know that your Messenger will truly look like never before once this contest is over. Secondly, I promise to be back with another contest thatís more user-centered with lots of other cool prizes to win, probably by the end of the year
Take care everyone and enjoy the last bits of summer while it lasts. Good luck for the contest!