Desktop themes in Windows 7: they are better and are easier to share

One of the things that has been a constant with Windows since Windows 95 is themes.  With each release, Microsoft has made theme support better and better.  Initially, in Windows 95, you had to purchase a third party tool or Microsoft’s Plus! pack to get a theme manager and, thus, an easy way to create, save and distribute your themes.  Vista made a big step forward, compared to XP, but Windows 7 made it even better.  With the Home Premium and up versions of 7, you can change pretty much every aspect of your desktop presentation.  You can control the colors, the transparency, background, sounds and the screensaver.  It provides you with an easy mechanism to package up your theme and share it with others. 

To share a theme:

  1. Right click an empty spot on your Windows 7 desktop and select Personalization (or open the control panel and type in ‘personalization’ in the search box and click ‘personalization’.
  2. Select the theme that you wish to share  (this will apply the theme.)
  3. Right click the theme and then select ‘Save theme for sharing’
  4. Type a name in the file name box and click Save.
  5. Upload or copy the theme where you wish to make it available.

Windows will, by default, save your theme to your My Documents folder.  Double clicking the theme will add it to your theme collection.

For more options and/or control over your desktop, I suggest Stardock Window Blinds.  Window Blinds is a comprehensive theme package for Windows.  The current version will work with Windows 7, but there is a beta version out that was designed to take advantage of Windows 7’s new features. You can buy a subscription to Object Desktop and get Windows Blinds as part of the package, which also gives you access to these beta builds.

WinCustomize is a web site devoted to customizing your Windows experience.  Here, you can find themes for Windows and all of the StarDock products, including Window Blinds.

Microsoft also has a Windows 7 customization site.  Here, you can download additional themes, wallpapers, desktop gadgets and sideshow gadgets (if you have a sideshow compatible device, that is.)

Windows 7 also has a few hidden themes.  To access them, open up an Explorer window and then click ‘Organize’, then ‘Folder and search options’.  Next, click View, then select ‘Show hidden files, folders and drives’.  Uncheck ‘Hide protected operating system files’. Click Apply, then OK.  Now, open up the Windows directory, then navigate to ‘Globalization’, ‘MCT’ and you will see several additional directories.  These contain sub directories for localizing Windows. One of the sub directories will be a ‘themes’ directory. Open that theme and double click the theme file. It will apply the theme and add it to your list of themes.  Do that for each theme you want to add.  When you are done, remember to hide your OS files again.  Keeping them hidden is just a good practice.  You can always un hide them later if you need them.  I have found that I rarely ever need to see them.  Keeps me from being dangerous, anyway.

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