2. Desktop properties 2

20/21 Opening – intro to this topic


From Classic to XP, and Back.

Nothing is set in stone with Windows XP, especially not the appearance. Chisel away at the surface, and you’ll find a quarry-load of goodies.

It’s a truism of using a program as complex as Windows XP that you won’t use most of it most of the time, despite our imprecations to the contrary. With all it’s convolutions and hidden programs, nine tenths of the functionality is below the waterline. And, just like an iceberg, these hidden depths can seem awfully threatening to the novice user. Most of us just wish for the stable olden days of Windows 98, 95 and even 3.11.

Well, Windows XP can’t take you as far back as Windows 3.11, but it can emulate Windows 98 (just about) with a selection of program toolbar changes, colour schemes and the removal of all those fancy 3D effects. You can alter everything from the colour of the Start Menu to the shape of your mouse, if you just take the time to find out how. Microsoft have included the option to restore almost any element to its previous low-resolution functions. For users with slower PCs this is very useful, as Windows XP’s multiple shadings and softenings may serve to bring out its sky-blue eyes, but also take up a lot of processing power. So we show you how to return your computer’s theme to classic mode, and how to save even more memory by returning all the desktop components to a classic style too.




Yes You Can

4xwhat you learn in this chapter

How to Change to Classic View

How to

time/mins on section

more info WWW + grab


Classic Windows

There’s no way to return to the good old days, but Windows XP can let you visit…

Though we all agree that Windows XP has all the charm of Sean Connery and the flexibility of Marcel Marceau, we have to admit that it has the same lust for power as Dr No. It can take a lot of power to run its smoothing, colour scheming and ghosting abilities, and some users, especially those with older or lower-powered computers may find unnecessary slow-down when browsing folders. Other PC-owners may wish to set-up multiple users for their family, and find that the simpler functions and appearance of XP classic may suit older users, or those used to the older versions of windows.

With this in mind, Microsoft have included the option to return Windows XP to its older styles and save processing power for more essential task than beautifying. You can access this option by browsing through the Display Properties / Appearance menu, and selecting Classic from the pull-down menu. As you can see from the preview window above the pull-down menu, Windows is instantly reduced to it’s pre-XP style.



If you want to take a break from customising your desktop visit this site for excellent advice on teas, and full biscuit reviews. You can even use the site as an inspiration for your latest theme, perhaps based on the classic beige/brown hobnob design.


You don’t lose a single function from the Desktop by changing it to Classic style; indeed, they’re all still in the same place as before. Only if you change the Start Menu to Classic mode will you find functions have moved, and, even then, they’re still easily accessible.



1. There are other ways of changing your desktop, without excessive fiddling, by using the ready-installed themes. The Luna theme is the new default with Windows XP. As you can see it involves rolling green fields under a blue sky, and plenty of soft focus and special effects

2. The Classic theme returns XP to the olden days, trying to replicate Windows 98 stylings as accurately as possible. Thankfully, it manages to maintain Windows XP’s stability and speed, and this cut-down version of XP can even give low-end processors a boost.

3. Other themes are available with the Microsoft Plus packs, discussed more fully in Chapter Eleven. Get a fish’s-eye view on the world by turning your computer into a virtual aquarium. The Plus! Aquarium desktop theme includes desktop images, a screen saver, specialized cursors and sounds, and Windows Media™ Player skins. You’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

23 Classical Gas

Customising classic mode may seem contradictory, but it’s a lot of fun.

Just because you’ve switched to Classic mode, doesn’t mean you have to stop customising. As with the normal Windows XP styling, Classic mode has its own sets of variables available for tweaking. After you select Windows Classic, you can change individual Windows elements, such as window borders, icons, and menus. Click the Appearance tab, and then click Advanced to make your changes. You’ll note that some elements have several different things you can change, from font styles to border colours. It’s best to stick with just three or four colours when customising, as distinguishing between the elements can get difficult with less, and many more means the interface starts looking more like a kaleidoscope or the ending of 2001: A Space Oddessey, rather than a user-friendly graphical aid. Also, keep the tooltip a different colour from the others, as this is the information highlight colour and needs to be easily distinguished. Similarly, ensure that Inactive Title Bar and Title Bar are set to different colours, but similar fonts, to indicate when a Window is selected for editing or not.

Tip – Be careful downloading other Tweaking tools. Some free tweaks include what is known as spyware; non-threatening software that reports back on a user’s activities to the software company that created it. Several popular companies include spyware in their products; for more information, visit http://www.spywareonline.org.

Tip – If one of your computer’s users has faltering eyesight, you can always up the font size a little. If you just click on the Font Size pull-down menu in the Appearance pane, you can select large and even larger sizes to help counteract myopia.

1. Classic mode has the advantage of coming with many more colour schemes than new look Windows XP. The plain Windows Standard mode is tasteful enough, and if you’re looking for more memory savings, you could enable the even-more cut-down Windows Classic theme.

2. Some of the colour schemes need a little explanation. Storm and the other (VGA) themes are much simpler and use a smalle range of colours than the curious Pumkpin, and the like.

3. Whereas the High Contrast Black and High Contrast White are meant for short-sighted or colour-blind users, to allow them to discern the edges of the windows and buttons more easily.


The new look

What does Windows XP new look have to offer over its older brethren.

New look Windows XP has several advantages over the older Classic Styles. Windows XP brings a brand-new visual style to your computer – friendly, fresh, and streamlined. You’ll notice cleaner lines, richer colors, smarter organization, and easier ways to get where you want to go and do what you want to do. The simplified Start menu automatically puts your most frequently-used programs in plain view, never more than one click away, the updated taskbar organizes files on the fly, and an automatic cleanup wizard keeps everything on the desktop neat. There’s also strong colour scheming and powerful design options throughout, and all of it’s easily customisable, with useful help files and walkthroughs in the tutorial section of the help directory to guide you through customising your PC.


Switching to Classic view loses you access to the quick links on the Start Menu, such as Internet Explorer or Outlook Express, so make sure you have shortcuts on your desktop for the ones you want to keep access to.


Changing the log-on screen colour.

It’s simple enough to change every colour but this one.

1. If you want to change the Windows XP log-on background colour, you’ll have to try your hand at a bit of registry editing. Click Start, and then select Run. Type Regedit, and a new window should open.

2 Navigate in the folder structure to HKEY USERS . DEFAULTControl PanelColours and doubleclick background. The default value is 0 78 152, that is Red 0, Green 78, Blue 152. Experiment, but remember changes will only take effect when you log off.

3. You can change this now to your chosen RGB value. RGB values vary from 0 to 255 (as Windows is based on a 256 colour palette) but you can create your own custom colours if you so desire.


XP Thematics

Risk life and limb by changing XP’s colour schemes.


When you’ve created a theme you’re happy with, having messed about with all the other elements, switch back to the theme tab, and click Save As. That way, if you ever have nostalgia for one of your old creations, you can simply load it up again.


Theme your folders by setting up a personalised folder, then selecting the View menu, and choosing ‘Apply to all folders.’ This will make all your folder look and behave the same as your current one.

Although you may like the overall look and feel of a theme, there may be one or two aspects you’d like to change. The settings under the Appearance tab enable you to do this. Most themes have their own rang eof colour schemes, for example the Windows XP theme has the default olive green, blue and silver. Switch to Windows Classic style and you’ll have over twenty to choose from. The same applies to any themes you may hav downloaded – each one will have its own range of colour schemes that you can try. More personalisation options are at your disposal by clicking on the Effects and Advanced buttons.

26 appearance > font styles [done –

Changing your fonts is easy. Just go into the Advanced tab, and select the page element you wish to customise. Remember when changing fonts that they may be of different sizes, and that this may impact on just how you can realistically alter them. Windows XP comes with a spectacular selection of fonts for you to use in your applications. But you won’t ever be limited by this choice, because whenever a new piece of software is installed on your PC it will add its own fonts to your Fonts folder too. Even after you’ve finished using such a program and unisntalled it from your system the fonts it brought with it are likely to remain. This is because each is, in fac, a file in its won right. Go into Control Panel and double-click on Fonts to open the folder. Then double-click on any font to check out its style with the numerical and textual preview. One item you’re sure to find useufl is the similarity button. Click on this and then select a font name from the drop-down box and your list of fonts will be rearranged and displayed in order of similarity. If you want to see all your fonts toether and compare several at a time, then use Microsoft Word, which is great for previewing all the different styles.



There’s more to fonts than meets the eye. At the microsoft typography website you’ll find out more about creating own fonts, along with copyright and licensing issues.

New fonts

Download and install free fonts from the internet

If there’s anything the internet supplies well, it’s Windows extras. Fonts are no differnet, and 1001 free fonts is just one of hundreds of websites offering fonts that are free to download and use. All fonts are listed alphabetically, so just click on the A-Z listing to access more. Most of the fonts you download will be compressed in a single folder – a zip folder. Having downloaded this (and virus-scanned it preferably), Right-click on it, and select Extract All. Once you’ve saved the contents to a safe location, go to the Fonts icon in Control Panel, click on File > Install New Font, and browse to the location of the font file.


c – Use the recommended installation technique with any new fonts.


Special Effects

Clicking on the Appearance menu then on Effects brings up the Effects window. From here you can bring Windows closer to your ideal set-up, with just a few clicks. If you click on the Transition selector, this give you the option to specify the animation for the tooltips and the other menu options. Scroll effect means that your menus will slide you smoothly, though rapidly, from their berths on the toolbars, while Fade effect means they’ll appear slowly in place. Deselecting the bullet, means hey’ll just appear, which will save a little memory (though the cumulative effeect from deselecting all can be quite impressive.) Smoothing the edges of the screen fonts is he next option; Clearype is notable here, improving the readability of fonts on flatscreen LCD monitors and laptop screens; Standard smoothing is useful for normal CRT screens. If you’ve low memory, try avoiding ‘Use large icons’; it’s only really useful for the extremely short-sighted. Again ‘Show shadows under menus.’ ‘Show window contents while dragging’ gives menus a three-dimensional look, useful for prettifying your computer, but just more memory-munching elements; both are quite handy turned off.


Tired of closing Windows one by one, just to get at a desktop icon? Press the Windows/Start key and D together to minimise all windows.


Another useful accessibility tool is the Magnifier. This handy software plug-in, turns the top inch or two of the screen into a larger preview of the area that you’re currently focussing on. You can specify it to follow the mouse cursor as it moves around the screem, the text-editing cursor, or the keyboard focus. For image-previewing purposes, it’s also quite useful, as it means you don’t need to zoom into a particular spot of the image, and then abck out again, though it doesn’t increase the resolution like a proper image manipulation program would.


Advanced Appearance

Hints and tips for pushing your appearance customisation just that little bit further

So you’ve tweaked your PC’s looks ‘til kingdom come, and you’re still not tired of beautifying it? If you go into the Display > Appearance > Advanced menu, you’ll see that you can tweak the colour of all the individual elements of the Windows XP structure.


If you want to increase the size of text on your screen to make it more readable, use Font size on the Appearance tab in Display Properties.


1. If you want to increase of decrease the size of objects on your screen, perhaps because you’ve increased the resolution. open Display in the Control Panel. On the Settings tab, click Advanced.

2. On the General tab, in the DPI setting list, click the dots per inch (dpi) setting you want to use. Higher Dpi settings mean larger elements on the screen

3. If you choose Other in the DPI setting list, you can set custom options in the Custom DPI Setting dialog box either by selecting one of the percentage options in the drop-down list or by clicking on the ruler and dragging the pointer to specify a setting. Restart your computer when prompted.


Hardware Heaven

You don’t need to stop at customising your on-screen appearance

Once you’ve got your The official Microsoft Keyboard and mice are reason enough to look. Most of the sets don’t need drivers to work, running straight off the bat. Those that do required drivers come with easy-to-install cds that should just auto-run when placed in the cd-drive.


Case-modding has become increasingly popular recently. This consists of building coloured lights, paint jobs and interesting case shapes around your PC, in a sort of sub-Habitat décor style. Of course, there are many different types of ‘mods’ you can use, from the simple task of clipping a neon case fan into your PC, to cutting holes in the side, splashing UV paint over the less damageable areas of your components, and filling it with blacklight tubes. Other more useful, less appearance-based, modifications include watercooling, heat pumps and air-cooling.



go to WinCustomize for oodles of goodies, from simple skinning programs that alter the look of Windows XP, to advanced multiple desktop programs, that enable you to spread your workload over several virtual screens.



There are few harder things in life than introducing yourself, especially in print where mellifluous nuance can turn to indulgent wankery. So. I am definitely a 'writer'. You could also call me an 'artist'. I could probably put the words 'designer' and 'consultant' here too, but they feel crass.

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