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Managing the Desktop

The last item on the agenda for today is the Desktop. You can completely change the appearance of the Desktop in Windows XP. All of the options you'll need are in the Display Properties dialog box. Just right-click the Desktop and choose Properties from the context menu to display the Display Properties dialog box. The following sections will explain each of the tabs in detail.

Using Themes

Themes have been around for quite some time now. Under previous versions of Windows, they allowed you to change the wallpaper on your system, assign some new sounds, add a new screen saver, and generally make your system more attractive. Windows XP takes the process much further. You can now change the appearance of the system as a whole by switching themes.

Windows XP ships with two themes. The first is the Windows XP theme that you'll see when you first start Windows XP after installation. The second is called Windows Classic. It changes the display to look like Windows 2000. Of course, to obtain the full Windows 2000 effect, you also need to change the Start menu and customize Explorer. Still, by providing two interfaces with one operating system, Microsoft gives everyone an interface they can work with.

Desktop Configuration

The Desktop tab looks much the same as it has in previous versions of Windows. However, Windows XP packs a little more into this tab. Initially, you'll see the wallpaper options. You can place new wallpaper on the Desktop and stretch it to fit, if necessary.

The Customize Desktop button takes you to the Desktop Items dialog box. The General tab contains all of the options required to display and change Desktop icons such as My Computer, Recycle Bin, and My Documents.

The Web tab of this dialog contains all that remains of Active Desktop. This tab allows you to add or remove items from the Active Desktop. You can also add new content. Given the low profile of Active Desktop and the paltry number of settings, Microsoft has probably set this feature aside as a bad idea.

Screen Saver Settings

The Screen Saver tab contains a picture of your monitor at the top. This monitor contains a preview image of the screen saver that Windows XP will use. Click the Settings button, and you can change the characteristics of the screen saver. The Preview button allows you to see what the screen saver will look like in action.

Windows XP adds a new feature to this display. The Return to Welcome Screen option forces the current user to log off when the screen saver starts. You still see the screen saver, but when the screen saver deactivates, you need to log back into the system as normal.

The bottom of the dialog contains a Power button. Click it, and you'll see the Power Options Properties dialog box. We'll discuss this feature during Day 11.

Changing Windows Appearance

The Appearance tab allows you to adjust Windows XP features, such as the color of the toolbars and the test used to display information. However, there's a new twist to this display when working with Windows XP. You'll notice a Windows and Buttons drop-down list box near the middle of the dialog box. This list box contains two entries: Windows XP style and Classic Windows. This setting adjusts Windows XP between a Windows XP and a Windows 2000 appearance.

If you select the Classic Windows option, you can choose a basic color scheme and font size. If you want to change the particulars of the display, you need to click Advanced. This displays the familiar dialog that you've used in the past to adjust individual screen colors and fonts.

The Effects button allows you to add or remove special effects from the system. For example, Windows XP uses the fade effect for menus and tooltips by default. You can also add 3D effects and font smoothing.

Adjusting the Video Settings

The final tab, Settings, determines the hardware settings for your display. This tab allows you to change the number of colors that the monitor will display and the resolution. An odd change from previous versions of Windows is that you can no longer use 256 colors. Windows defaults to using 16-bit color and above. We'll discuss the advanced settings for this dialog box during Day 10.

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