Taming the Windows 7 interface – turn on or off the Aero features and gain control over the user interface

Yep, another Windows 7 post.  This time, I wanted to share some ways to ‘tame’ the user interface.  Realizing that not everyone likes or wants all of the eye candy and graphical features of the Aero interface in Windows 7, I thought I would share a few things you can set from one handy dialog and show some somewhat dramatic results by changing one of them.

System Properties, Visual Options To begin, click the Start Orb and then right click on ‘COMPUTER’ and select properties.  Select the ADVANCED TAB and then click SETTINGS.  You should not be on the Visual Effects tab of the Performance Options dialog.

From here, select CUSTOM to turn on or off the eye candy.  Personally, I like the effects, so I leave them all on, but there are a few that seem to annoy many people and Microsoft made it easy to disable them.  Oddly enough, one of them that I’ve heard people say was useless or somewhat annoying was Aero Peek.  I’m not sure why this is, I find it pretty useful.  At any rate, un check the Enable Aero Peek and you will turn it off. Window Shadows

Another feature I’ve heard many complain that was introduced with Vista are the shadows under windows.  There was no easy way to turn it off in Vista, but in 7, you can simply un-check the box.  The difference is amazing and now I am not sure which way I prefer it.  I will have to try it both ways for a few days.  I like the depth that the shadows seem to give, but I also like the clean lines of the overlapping windows. 

Other features you can control here are font smoothing, control animations, minimize and maximize window animations, No Shadows the way menus slide in or out, shadows under labels or the mouse pointer and you can disable part of the theme engine here by un-checking the ‘Use Visual Styles on Windows and Buttons’. 

Of course, the easiest way to turn most of this stuff off is to use the now extremely dated ‘Classic’ theme.  Sigh.  Why is this still here?  To each, their own, I suppose.

Win 7 Classic Theme

In Classic, you still have the window docking feature, but not Aero Shake or Aero Peek.  Task bar thumbnails are text only.  Transparency is gone in most places and the end result is an odd Windows 7 Aero Basic Thememixture of Windows 2000 style controls mixed with Vista / Windows 7 style controls.  It’s really odd and looks like an early attempt at skinning Windows.  Sort of works, mostly doesn’t. I think if you want bare basics, the Aero Basic theme looks nicer.

Finally, if you want to go all out and have more control over the appearance of your desktop, you should check out Stardock’s Object Desktop.  This suite of applets lets you skin the entire interface so you can make Windows look like ANYTHING you want, from a MAC OS X desktop, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, OS/2, Amiga, Star Trek themes, Simpsons, etc.  There is also Object Dock which gives you a Mac OS style dock, the Sound Packager which you can use to replace your system sounds and an icon manager.  There are other apps in the suite.  Go to Stardock and check it out.  Some of the apps are free, others are only in the suite and there are demo versions for most of the ‘biggie’ apps.

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