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Appearance and Themes December 13, 2001

There are three locations where you can change the look of Windows XP to the Windows 9x Classic view. The first is the general look and feel of the desktop. The second is the Start Menu. And the third is the Control Panel.

ps: clicking an image will get you the full size version.

Appearance and Themes

Go to Start button -> Control Panel -> Appearance and Themes -> Display.

Selecting Display from Appearance and Themes will open the Display Properties page. Users who have upgraded from Windows 9x and Windows 2000 will find little has changed. One tab was added, Themes, and the Web tab has been removed. The Background tab has been renamed the Desktop tab. The Effects tab has now been moved to the Appearance tab. The final tab is Settings.

The Display Properties page is where you can control the way your Windows appears. You can select a theme (The default Display setting is with the Windows XP theme selected.) You can setup a screen saver, adjust the power settings for your monitor and system standby, change the colors of the windows and text, change the fonts to be used for windows, buttons, icon text, etc. (If you are not using a theme.) You can also change screen resolution and color quality.


The important point that needs to be made is that themes have little flexibility. Some items can be changed but not all. Which part? Don't know.

One of the choices under themes is Windows Classic. Windows Classic isn't really a theme and it's only here to make it easier for you to find. Select Windows Classic from the Windows and buttons drop-down list. You can also select the Windows Classic look from the Appearance tab.

Changing the look and feel of your desktop is no different than when you where in Windows 98 or Windows 2000. OK it is a little different. When you go to the properties for the desktop you will see a different set of tabs. They are: Themes (new), Desktop (previously named the Background tab,) Screen Saver, Appearance, and Settings.

appearance1.gif (22773 bytes)

The default theme is Windows XP. What else would it be? You can change some parts of this theme but not all. What part of a theme that can be changed is unknown to Windows Assistance. I use the change it and see what happens method. It takes longer but it seems to work. I have changed the background to none and applied a color of my choice. This was done from the Desktop tab.

When you're done customizing your user interface click the Save As button and save your settings using a unique name.


Display Properties showing Desktop page. Customize Desktop Change Icon
Desktop Tab Customize Desktop Change Icon

From the Desktop tab you can change the Background of your desktop. Either use a Background file or select a Color. You can also Browse you computer to fine a background file. Position allows you to Stretch, Tile or Center a Background file.

From the Customize Desktop button you can add/remove certain shortcuts from the desktop; change icons for specific shortcuts; and enable the Desktop Cleanup Wizard

Screen Saver

One new option from the Screen Saver tab for Windows 9x users is the ability to display the Welcome screen when you resume (Needed Active Desktop in Windows 9X and who knew how to do this or ever wanted to.) This means that the user must provide their password before getting back into the system. What Windows Assistance hasn't figured out is a way activate Screen Saver through some command. We would like that.

Screen Saver Power Options

The problem with Screen Saver is that it uses resources. Screen Saver doesn't save anything. What it will do is pound the heck out of your disk drive when it is in Screen Saver mode. Watch the disk light on your computer. It also slightly decreases processing power for background operations. So, in general, Windows Assistance doesn't use Screen Savers. That said read how Windows Assistance has decided to use Screen Saver for local security.

Screen Saver as Security

Windows Assistance uses Screen Saver to protect the system from illegal access and to save power.

To do this Windows Assistance uses blank Screen Saver and enables On resume, enable Welcome Screen.

Then we went to Power Options->Advanced tab and checked Prompt for password when computer resumes from standby.

These two options will put the system at the Welcome screen whenever someone wakes up the system.

The final trick is to use the Windows key + L (Switch user or lock computer) to put the system at the Welcome screen whenever you leave the system but you are not ready to sign-off.

Using these three schemes you can pretty much protect your computer when you leave it.

Now if we can only get users to apply good passwords.


Power Schemes tab allows you select from Always On, Home/Office Desk, and Portable/Laptop. Now set the delay time. Even with Always On the you can set delays.

You have more options. Note under the Advanced tab you can prompt for Password when the computer resumes from standby.

note: You need Administrative rights in order to change any of the Power Options.


Display Properties showing Appearance page. Display Properties showing Advanced Appearance page.
Appearance Effects Advanced Appearance

The Appearance tab has been changed. To make detailed changes to the appearance you need to click the Advanced button. If you want the Windows Classic style then you need to select it from the Windows and buttons drop-down list. Then go to the Advanced page to customize your user interface.


The Effects properties page allows you to enable/disable several visual effects. this is where you can enable Clear Type. Windows Assistance saw a degradation of font clarity when Clear Type was enabled.

Advanced Appearance

Note that the Advanced Appearance tab warns that some items can't be changed unless you are using the Windows Classic theme(?). If you are using the Windows XP theme you can make the changes and they will appear on the Advanced Appearance page but not on the desktop. Whatever.

note: Windows Classic is not a theme. It is the basic User Interface (UI.) All those themes sit on top of the Basic Windows User Interface.

Fonts: If the fonts are to small for you then this is where you can change the font size. There're several items that have a font listed. From the Items drop-down list select each item and make your font changes if a font is associated with the item.

When you are through go to the Themes tab and save your settings using the Save As button.


Display Properties showing Settings page. Display Properties showing Advanced Settings page.
Settings Advanced Settings

From the Settings tab the user can select the Screen Resolution, and Color Quality. From the Advanced button the user can update information for the Video controller and the Monitor.

Each user can change the Screen Resolution and Color Quality to fit their needs. If changes need to be made from the Advanced tab the user must have Administrator rights.

Settings Advanced

From the Settings Advanced page a user can set the display DPI (Dots per Inch.) The default is 96dpi. If you have trouble viewing information on the screen this setting can be changed. If it's just the fonts that are giving you problems then go to the Appearance tab->Advanced button and change the font settings.