RISC OS desktop themes

A theme manager for RISC OS

Published , updated by Richard GoodwinFiled under Software

RISC OS allows you to load new toolbar sprites, icon sprites and change pinboard images, but there wasn't a program to set these up in the OS - so I created one.

It was an attempt at a Windows-like config program that also added sound effects by listening for system calls.  It compliements some of the work done on the Voyager Internet Suite themes.

Add in some font and palette handling, and a way of processing backdrops so they work on any desktop resolution or colour depth, then integrate it into the RISC OS boot sequence, and job done.

Current status

Well it was working in RISC OS 4, back in 2002, but later versions of RISC OS did things to the boot structure that dissuaded me from continuing.  However I do have it running on a Raspberry Pi and under emulation with a bit of digging.

Last update: Sunday 12th May 2002

Some work done on the program to interface to another new program called FadeBack, which generates faded backdrops (e.g. your pinboard fades from red at the top down to yellow at the bottom). This meant a lot of hacking around in the backdrop code, and I added an installer while I was at it.


You can download some test files here - note that these are all beta status, even the themes themselves.

You'll need a decent, modern Boot sequence. It currently use Choices$Write to detect where to find it's own files, and where to find the Choices.Boot.Tasks and Choices.Boot.PreDesk directories. It also puts something in !Boot.Resources, I think it uses Boot$Path or Boot$Dir for that, but that's only for the new startup banner stuff so not an issue here. I'll write documentation for setting up your computer to fake this if, say, you have an A5000, although you should really be using a RiscPC to run this suite.


You must get the program (programs6.zip), and at least one of the themes. I suggest the Matrix or Clear ones as they're the most fully featured as yet (although I haven't included the sounds to keep the size down, considering they don't work yet; they only work in hi-res desktops, not mode 12, 15 etc.). There's a ReadMe file in the archive to let you know how to install the program. Basically, go to the themes directory (usually <choices$write>.Themes, which on a RISC OS 4.0x machine is ADFS::4.$.!Boot.Choices.Themes); themes go in the Data directory, so the Matrix theme would be ADFS::Trinity.$.!Boot.Choices.Themes.Data.Matrix on my hard drive.

Once it's installed run the configuration program (via the RISC OS 4 config window, or !ThemeConf directly - !Boot.Choices.Themes.!ThemeConf in RISC OS 4 type boot sequences), click on the Edit... icon to get to the editor window, select a theme and play around with it. Make sure the relevant section has a tick next to it or it won't be used (selecting from menus presupposes that you want to use that section and ticks it for you). Once you're happy with the setup click the OK button to set the theme (Make default makes the current setup the default for that particular theme so you can come back to it, rather than setting what the current look is). Once you've clicked OK the theme should automatically apply, or run !Boot.Choices.Themes.!ThemeDo to see the theme in action. Or your desktop crash. Whatever! :-)


The current version of the software is:

Additional files

I've recovered these from a backup. Some themes are more complete than others, so you may need to restart after changing themes otherwise you might have the textures, colours, fonts etc. from a previous theme.

What the suite provides

Here's a list of some of the things already working in the program:

  • desktop backdrops:
    • fullscreen, centered, tiled or plain colour for all RISC OS 3+ machines
    • picked at random or name specific files
    • fullscreen can be scaled for a best fit
    • all can be converted to current screenmode
    • cache for converted images
    • thumbnail previews
    • most major filetypes supported - Sprite, JPEG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, PNG, Clear.
  • advanced colour picking - RISC OS colour picker, standard list, designer-defined list, lighten, darken etc.
  • desktop font handling - font, size and colour (where available) with on-the-fly preview.
  • support for individual sprite, pointer, tools and window tiles files
  • Palettes - random or named. With preview "thumbnail".
  • hourglass files (random or named).
  • Integrates into RISC OS 4 Configure program (it'll run from Apps if you don't have RISC OS 4).


Test shots of the "Matrix" theme, used in the creation of the configuration program to figure out what was possible, and what needed to be included, to make a theme.

The first shot shows a theme with the palette, window tiles, backdrop and toolset in place; the second adds filer sprites and the desktop font; the last is a collection of drive icons, plus the new !Boot icon (a Nokia 7110 phone) and mouse pointer.

A collection of shots from themes in progress. The first is a Giger theme I designed many moons ago.

The second is Justin Fletcher's blue theme which he donated early on in the project, and which I have modified to work in different "flavours" - Blueberry, Lime, Passionfruit, Raspberry and Tangerine.

The third is a little silly - a two-colour theme based loosely on a Palm V display! Downgrade your desktop machine today!

The fourth is an original Apple Macintosh style theme, although as I didn't have a colour Mac at the time it's cobbled together from various screenshots. I think it looks okay though; I'll just need to change that desktop font...

And here's a teaser (no main picture, just the thumbnail) of a Buffy theme; I wanted to work on some Windows icon converters and wanted something new to play with, so I started a Buffy theme; it also includes a new font from Harry Decker's font site which is based on the Buffy logo - cool!