Using Desktop Themes

by Barry Dysert
(last updated April 13, 2015)

A theme is a set of attributes that determines the look and feel of Windows. The visual and auditory characteristics of various Windows elements, like menus, icons, wallpaper, etc., can all be changed and this combination of characteristics is saved as a theme.

There are a couple of ways you can get to the Themes display. The quickest is to right-click on an empty spot on the desktop and select Personalize from the Context menu. Another way is to go to Start | Control Panel | Change the Theme (which is under the "Appearance and Personalization" category).

Regardless of which way you get there, Windows displays the Themes dialog box. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Themes dialog box.

By clicking on a theme, the system immediately resets according to that theme's characteristics and you will see (and possibly hear) the difference.

There are four basic elements that comprise a theme. As can be seen in the Themes dialog box, these elements are:

  • Desktop Background
  • Window Color
  • Sounds
  • Screen Saver

Clicking on these links in the dialog box takes you other dialog boxes where you can modify the particular details of that element. For example, clicking the Desktop Background link takes you to a dialog box that allows you to change the background. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Desktop Background dialog box.

Here, you can change your wallpaper and, if the theme you've chosen supports a slide show, you can tell the system how often to change the picture.

Clicking the Window Color link in the Themes dialog box takes you to a dialog box where you can change colors. Here, you can change the color of your window borders, Start menu, and the Taskbar. You can also tell the system to enable or disable transparency (which allows you to partially see through the borders of overlapping windows) and indicate how intense you want your colors to be. Clicking Save Changes puts the modified color scheme into effect. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. The Window Color and Appearance dialog box.

Clicking the "Sounds" link in the Themes dialog box takes you to a dialog box where you can modify what sounds Windows plays for different events. When you are satisfied with your settings (you can hear the selected sound by clicking the Test button), clicking Save As saves the settings as a new sound scheme and OK dismisses the dialog box. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4. The Sound dialog box.

Clicking the "Screen Saver" link in the Themes dialog box takes you to a dialog box that allows you to modify the screen saver used by the theme. Here, you can select what screen saver you want to be displayed upon a given number of minutes of inactivity. If you want to see what the screen saver will look like, click the Preview button. (See Figure 5.)

Figure 5. The Screen Saver Settings dialog box.

Some screen savers have additional settings you can access by clicking the Settings button. For example, a Photos screen saver may have additional settings to allow you to specify what folder contains the pictures to be used and also control a possible slide show of the pictures.

The Screen Saver Settings dialog box also lets you indicate whether the system will prompt the user with login information, thus applying password protection to an idle system. Clicking OK saves your settings and dismisses the dialog box.

 This tip (10110) applies to Windows 7.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

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