Changing Display Appearance

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Now let me tell you about some fun stuff. When you buy a new computer, it comes loaded with Windows. When you run Windows in your computer, you will see that it has a color scheme. The desktop has a color. The tittle bar of the active window has a color, the tittle bar of the inactive window has a color, and so forth. Everything you see in your computer has a set pattern. All the icons have the same size. The name of the icons appear always with a particular font style and size, the font of all messages are uniform and follows a particular font style and size, and so forth. Everything looks very organized and has a scheme.

The good news is all of these can be changed to fit your taste. I personally find Windows scheme quite pleasant and acceptable. But, since Windows gives the option of changing things, some people do take advantage of it and change them according to their taste.

To get an idea of how different the same thing might look like, first quickly scroll down to the bottom of this page. On your way, you will see four pictures of the same dialog box but having four different color schemes. After taking a quick look at the pictures, please come back here. I am going to tell you how you can change the color scheme of your display.

Right-click on an empty spot on your desktop. A small menu will appear. On that menu, click on Properties. Display Properties dialog box will appear as shown in Picture 1 below.

Display Properties dialog box. Contents under appearance.
Picture 1
Display Properties dialog box.
Scheme being changed from Brick to Desert.

Display Properties dialog box has several tabs. First click on Appearance. You will notice under this tab, Windows is giving you opportunities to change Scheme, Item, and Font. I prefer to change the whole scheme rather than invidual items. The scheme changes the color and font of a group of things together such as the desktop, active titlebar, inactive titlebar etc. Click on the downward pointing arrow on the right side of Scheme box. Several options will open up. Click on any option. That option will jump up in the Scheme box and a sample of what things will look like under that option will be shown in the big box over Scheme. In Picture 1, my current choice is Brick. The upper big box is showing a sampling of the scheme called Brick. Also notice that I am going to try Desert next. When happy with the selection, just click the box labeled Apply on the bottom. Your display's whole scheme will be changed in a matter of moments.

Now look at Picture 2 below.

Display Properties dialog box. Contents under appearance.
Picture 2
Display Properties dialog box.
Going to change size and color of icon.

In this picture, notice I am looking at a sample of Desert scheme. Now I have decided to change the size and color of my icons. As I said, I am not in favor of changing individual items, but I know some elderly people are not happy with the size of their icons. That is why in this example I am showing how and where icon sizes (and colors) can be changed. You have to specify your preferred size and color(s) of icon on the boxes on the right side of Item box (where you came to change icon). As you can see from the above picture, many other individual items can be changed here. You have to click on the item name, then specify the size and color(s) of that item.

Please note that icons can be changed (different picture) from the Effects tab of the Display Properties dialog box. Also, under this same tab, you will find an option for large icons (fixed size). Look under Visual effects. Just click once to put a checkmark and click OK. Please look it up yourself. It is not difficult at all to understand.

Similarly, from this Appearance tab, you can change your display's font style, size, color etc. Play with these if you like.

Many people change their desktop color by going into Item under this Appearance tab of the Display Properties dialog box. It is very easy to do. But more people, instead of changing their desktop color, put wallpaper on their desktop. I am going to tell you how in a moment.

A more severe way of changing the appearance and whole theme of your desktop is by clicking on Start, pointing to Settings, clicking on Control Panel, and then double clicking on Desktop Themes. Once there, click on the downward pointing arrow on the right side of the Theme box. A list will reveal numerous choices. Click on any. On the empty box under Theme, a sample of what the desktop will look like will appear. I like the Dangerous Creatures and the Underwater themes the best. Each of these themes comes with appearance and effects. Your desktop may look like a jungle, complete with matching jungle sounds for example. For each of your actions, such as pointing and clicking you will hear a (scary) sound. All you have to do is make your selection and click the Apply button. These themes changes everything. What the themes include are listed on a panel on the right hand side of the window. They include wallpaper, mouse pointer, screensaver, icons, fonts, sound events etc. to name a few. You must try it just for fun. But the themes are a little intense. You may not want to stick with them for long.

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Most most people decorate their desktop by covering it with wallpaper. A very easy thing to do. You bring up Display Properties dialog box and click on the Background tab. Since that is the first tab it will be open automatically when you first bring up that dialog box. Look at Picture 3 below.

Display Properties dialog box. Background tab.
Picture 3
Display Properties dialog box.
Background tab open.

First of all notice that I have changed my display scheme again. This one is called Slate. Now you can see that in this dialog box, a number of wallpaper selections are available. Click on any to see the sample above. The above illustration shows how Straw Mat will look like. If you find any that you like, click on Apply. But before that you have to select on the Display box located just above the Apply button either Tile or Centered. Centered is a good choice for large pictures, but remember it uses up more memory of your system. There is a third option available there that says Stretch. If you are using a picture that is big but not big enough to fill the screen, you can choose Stretch. Windows will stretch the picture for you to fill the screen. Slight stretching is OK, but too much stretching might distort the picture. For smaller pictures or patterns, Tile option is best. Windows will repeat the picture many times to fill the screen. This option uses less memory. (No wallpaper uses zero memory)!

If you have pictures stored in you computer's hard drive, you can use any of them as wallpaper, if you like. To do that, click on the Browse button and navigate through all your files on your hard drive, and click on the one you want to use as wallpaper.

You can use any picture from the Internet as your wallpaper. Just right-click on the picture. A small menu will appear. Click on Send to wallpaper on that menu. Windows will immediately place that picture on your desktop as wallpaper.

So far I have given you many tips for changing the appearance of your display. Another "cool" thing people do to make their computers attractive and interesting is instal screensavers. In the old days when the technology was not so good, monitors often developed a faint outline of the frequently used programs when the programs were allowed to stay idle over long periods of time, such as people gone on lunch break or left for the day without turning off the computer. To prevent etch marks develop on the monitor, people started using screensavers. Today's monitors are much better made and they will probably not get burnt-in, but people still use screensavers because they are fun.

You can install screensaver in your computer from the same Display Properties dialog box. Look at the same dialog box below with another color scheme named Lilac (Picture 4):

Display Properties dialog box. Screensaver tab.
Picture 4
Display Properties dialog box.
Screensaver tab open.

By now, I am sure, you have figured out that you can choose from a number of options from a box that will appear when you click on the arrow next to the screensaver name box. Clicking on any will bring that name on the top and the sample will be immediately displayed above. (In Picture 4, the dialog box is showing me the sample of Travel, and I am now going to try Scrolling Marquee). Before clicking Apply on the screensaver of your choice, you may want to click on Settings to customize the screensaver further. There you should also specify the Wait time in minutes. If you type in 5, the screensaver will go into action after 5 minutes of inactivity. Clicking on the Preview button will show the screensaver on the fullscreen for a few seconds. It will then disappear, and you will be returned to the dialog box. Click Apply when you make the final choice and specify the settings. Then, if you are done with changing the appearance of your display, click on OK to make the Display Properties dialog box go away. (Screensavers become visible when the computer has not been used for a specified period of time, and they disappear as soon as the mouse is moved or a key on the keyboard is pressed. You knew that, didn't you?)

Summary: Those who want to change the complete desktop theme including wallpaper, icons, fonts, mouse pointer, screensaver, sound effects etc. (not just the color scheme) should use Desktop Theme in the Control Panel. Those who want to change the complete color scheme of the desktop, should use Display Properties dialog box, go to Appearance, then choose a scheme under Scheme. Want to change just one or two (or more) items like desktop color, titlebar color, icon etc.? Use Item under the same Appearance tab. For changing fonts use Fonts under Appearance. To apply or remove wallpaper, use the Background tab in the Display Properties dialog box. To apply or remove screensaver, use the Screen Saver tab.

An important note:

You may be tempted to download from the Internet beautiful looking screensavers for FREE. Think twice before doing that. Freeware available from the Internet often (not always) contain spyware.

Quick Quiz:
How would you use that beautiful picture that you have saved in your computer's hard drive as your desktop wallpaper?

Answer: Under the Background tab in the Display Properties dialog box, under wallpaper, click on the button that says Browse. This will open up another window showing all your hard drive's contents. Negotiate through these, locate the file and click on it, then click on Open. That will close that window and you will return to your original wallpaper window. You will notice that the name of your picture file got written in the Wallpaper box, it is already highlighted, and a miniature version of your picture is visible above. Choose Center for large pictures, Tile for small pictures. Now click Apply, then click OK to close the Display Properties dialog box. :-)

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