One of the nice things that Microsoft did with Vista was implement a better theme engine. For Windows 7, they did even better and, unlike with Vista, they are actually supporting it with brand new desktop themes released on an ongoing basis and you don’t have to buy anything to get them. The Personalization page that hangs from the Windows site on Microsoft.com features a slew of very nicely done themes and also has instructions for packaging your own themes (which has been covered previously here on HalfByte.) Four new themes were recently released including a new Bing theme and a NASA theme. The NASA theme features some stunning photos taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.
The site also features a nice collection of wallpaper, some great desktop gadgets and, surprisingly, a few side show gadgets as well. The desktop gadgets can be used in Vista’s side bar and on the Windows 7 desktop. A very crafty person can also use the Windows 7 themes in Vista and Windows XP, though you won’t have the auto wallpaper slideshow feature in either Vista or XP. Windows XP users can download a free wallpaper changer directly from Microsoft. It is a powertoy and is not officially supported. Strangely, though, it requires validation before you can download. Go grab it here.
One of my favorite desktop gadgets is the multi-core CPU monitor. This lets you know how much each core is being utilized as well as memory usage. It can handle up to 16 cores. Grab it here. Other gadgets include include a Google search and a Bing search gadget, a shutdown control gadget and some very small games like Sudoku. It is nice to see the gadget gallery finally get some quality widgets.
If you don’t mind spending a few pennies, Stardock has a complete theme engine called WindowBlinds which will skin pretty much every aspect of the GUI and there are tons of themes to choose from. If you want your Windows machine to look like a Mac, there’s a theme for that. If you want to show off your NFL team pride, there are themes for many teams. There are themes for video games (go on, show off your love of anything Mario and Nintendo, it’s OK) TV shows and movies and lots more. Stardock also has a very robust gadget engine of their own. For $49 a year, you can subscribe to the Object Desktop and have access to just about all of the company’s products as well as alpha and beta releases of those products. Stardock games are not included, but they have a Steam like offering as well.