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Changing the Look of Your Desktop

One of the first things that most users want to personalize is the look of the Windows desktop. Read on to learn how.

Personalizing the Desktop Theme

In Windows 7, desktop backgrounds, window colors, sounds, and screensavers are organized together into themes. Windows 7 includes a number of these preconfigured themes—and you can create your own, as well.

To choose a preexisting theme, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and click Personalize from the pop-up menu.
  2. When the Personalization window appears, as shown in Figure 4.2, click the new style you want to apply.

To create a new theme, start by applying the background, colors, sounds, and screensaver you want. Your choices now appear in the Personalization window as an Unsaved Theme. Right-click this theme in the window and select Save Theme. When prompted, give the theme a name and click the Save button. This new theme now appears in the Personalization window for you to select in the future.

Personalizing the Desktop Background

You don’t have to change the entire theme to personalize Windows. Windows 7 lets you change each element of the theme individually, starting with the desktop background.

Windows 7 offers a wide selection of pictures you can use for your desktop background; you can also opt to have a plain-colored background, or choose any other picture on your PC. All you have to do is follow these steps:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and click Personalize from the pop-up menu.
  2. When the Personalization window appears, click Desktop Background.
  3. This opens the Desktop Background window, shown in Figure 4.3. Click the Picture Location list and select what kind of background you want—Windows Desktop Backgrounds, Pictures Library, Top Rated Photos, or Solid Colors.
  4. Scroll through the list of options until you find the background you want. Select the background by clicking it; this automatically applies the background to your desktop.
  5. To determine how the picture fills your desktop, click the Picture Position list and select Fill, Fit, Stretch, Tile, or Center.
  6. Click Save Changes.

Creating a Desktop Slideshow

Prior to Windows 7, you could only select one picture for the desktop background. Windows 7, however, lets you have multiple desktop backgrounds displayed one after another in a desktop slideshow. It’s a great way to view all your favorite photos—without having to manually switch backgrounds.

To create a desktop slideshow, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and click Personalize from the pop-up menu.
  2. When the Personalization window appears, click Desktop Background.
  3. From the Desktop Background window, click the Picture Location list and select what kind of background you want.
  4. Hold down the Ctrl key and click the background images you want to include in the slideshow.
  5. To determine how long each background displays, select a value from the Change Picture Every list.
  6. To display background images in a random order, click the Shuffle option.
  7. Click Save Changes.

The result is an ever-changing desktop background—great for displaying all your favorite images.

Changing the Color Scheme

The Windows 7 interface is called Aero, and it’s a nice combination of translucent (see-through) colors. You can change the color scheme, however, as well as the level of translucency used in windows and other onscreen elements.

To change the color and translucency in Windows 7, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and click Personalize from the pop-up menu.
  2. When the Personalization window appears, click Window Color.
  3. When the Window Color and Appearance window appears, as shown in Figure 4.4, click the color scheme you want. Alternatively, you can click the Show Color Mixer button to fine-tune the selected hue, saturation, and brightness.
  4. To make the onscreen windows more transparent, move the Color Intensity slider to the left. To make the windows more solid, move the slider to the right.
  5. Click Save Changes.

Changing the Desktop Size

You can also configure your computer’s display so that the desktop is larger or smaller than normal. A larger desktop lets you view more things onscreen at the same time—even though each item is smaller than before. A smaller desktop displays fewer items, but they’re larger. (This is great if your eyesight is less than perfect.)

Changing the size of the desktop is accomplished by changing Windows’ screen resolution. You do this by following these steps:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and click Screen Resolution from the pop-up menu.
  2. When the Screen Resolution window appears, as shown in Figure 4.5, click the Resolution button.
  3. Move the slider to the top to set a higher resolution (and display more items on the desktop); move it to the bottom to set a lower resolution.
  4. Click OK to apply your changes.

Choosing a Screen Saver

Screen savers display moving designs on your computer screen when you haven’t typed or moved the mouse for a while. This prevents static images from burning into your screen—and provides some small degree of entertainment if you’re bored at your desk.

To activate one of the screensavers included with Windows 7, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and click Personalize from the pop-up menu.
  2. When the Personalization window appears, click Screen Saver.
  3. When the Screen Saver Settings dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 4.6, select a screensaver from the Screen Saver drop-down list. (You can preview any selected screensaver by clicking the Preview button.)
  4. Click the Settings button to configure that screensaver’s specific settings (if available).
  5. Click OK when you’re done.

Adding Desktop Gadgets

Windows 7 lets you add a variety of gadgets to the desktop. These gadgets, like the ones shown in Figure 4.7, are actually small utility applications that perform a single simple function. For example, the Clock gadget displays the current time, the Weather gadget reports the current weather conditions and forecast for your area, and so on.

To add gadgets to your desktop, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop; then select Gadgets from the pop-up menu.
  2. When the Gadgets window appears, as shown in Figure 4.8, double-click the gadget you wish to add.
  3. To view a larger selection of gadgets, click Get More Gadgets Online.

Once you’ve added a gadget to the desktop, you can position it anywhere you want by clicking and dragging the gadget with your mouse. To remove a gadget from your desktop, hover over the gadget and then click the X.

Some gadgets have options for how they’re displayed. For example, you can enter your own location into the Weather gadget to display your local weather conditions and forecast. To configure the options for a gadget, right-click it and select Options.

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