2.5 Icons and Themes
You can make Windows XP into your digital alter ego by choosing your own icons, adding a screen saver, or picking a desktop theme. Read on for hints on giving Windows XP a dash of individuality .
2.5.1 Turning Your Photos into a Screen Saver
You may not be a star on the big screen but you can be the star of your computer screen, or more precisely, your screen saver. Simply create a screen saver using your own digital photos or pictures you've scanned.
First, put all the photos you want to display on your screen saver in Documents and Settings [Your Account Name ] My Documents My Pictures.
Right-click the desktop and choose Properties Screensaver (Figure 2-21). From the drop-down list, select My Pictures Slideshow. In the preview screen, your photo slideshow begins to play.
Click the Settings button if you want to change the size of the pictures, how long each photo should display, and whether to use transition effects between pictures ‚ say, fading to black after the last shot of your triumphant bike race finish. (Hey, no one needs to know you came in 837th place.) When you're done, click OK until you get back to the desktop. Your screen saver is ready to go.
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Figure 2-21. When you choose a folder to be the launching pad for your customized screen saver, Windows turns all the pictures in that folder into a slideshow. If you want to create several screen savers, with different pictures for each, save the photos for each screen saver in separate folders within My Pictures. Then designate each folder as a screen saver's launching pad.
2.5.2 Using Themes To Dress Up Your PC
Themes control just about every aspect of how Windows XP looks and sounds, including its background wallpaper, colors, icons, cursors , sounds, fonts, screen savers, and the style of its buttons and windows. Think of it as your computer's personality type, or rather, your personality expressed through your PC.
Say you're a Star Wars fan: You can get a Star Wars theme with scenes from the movie as your background and screen saver, audio outtakes of Darth Vader for your system sounds, and fonts with a Star Wars look. Figure 2-22 shows you another option.
The only problem is that Windows XP comes with just two personalities: the basic Windows XP theme (which some people call "Luna" because that was its code name during Windows XP's development) and Windows Classic, a more stolid-looking theme based on older versions of Windows, which uses rectangular windows and solid colors.
Two themes isn't exactly a whole lot to choose from. But if you want to find more, there are literally thousands of themes you can download for free from many Internet sites, as explained later in this hint.
To change your current theme, right-click the desktop and choose Properties Themes. Choose the theme you want to use from the shortcut menu, as shown in Figure 2-23, and then click OK. Like a teenager in a school lunchroom, Windows XP instantly takes on a new personality.
188.8.131.52 Where to find more themes
You can find themes easily online. People with too much time on their hands have created their own themes based on a personal passion or hobby and offered them free to fellow obsessives. Companies distribute themes as a way to market products. And movies and TV shows make them available to fans.
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Figure 2-22. Ooh la la! Turn your PC into a celebration of Paris with the free Chagall-Paris theme, which you can find on http://www.topthemes.com. Not only does it turn your wallpaper into a Chagall painting, but it turns the cursor into one of Chagall's flying men, and plays Parisian music for system events. You can find hundreds of other themes online as well.
Popular theme sites include: http://www.topthemes.com, http://cinemadesktopthemes.com, http://www.themeworld.com, http://www.screensandthemes.com, http://www.themesunlimited.com, and the Themes section of http://www. tucows .com. Movie- related sites are also good places to find themes.
Warning: Some of the themes people create and post online could violate copyright laws by incorporating characters , sounds, or photos they don't have permission to use. Use them at your own risk.
Depending on the theme you download, you may have to go through different steps to install it. As a general rule, all you have to do is install the theme in the right folder: My Computer C: Windows Resources Themes. Typically, when you download a theme XP automatically installs it in that directory as a file with the extension .theme. All the associated art files, sound files, icon files, wallpaper files, and cursor files come in a subfolder. (If it doesn't install this way, check the download's accompanying files ‚ like the Read Me file ‚ for information on how to install it.)
Once you've installed the new theme, just choose it as outlined earlier in this hint. Voila! You've now made your desktop your own.
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Figure 2-23. If you choose "More themes online" from the shortcut menu, Microsoft sends you to a Web page suggesting you buy Microsoft Plus! for Windows XP. But shop around first, as there are thousands of themes available for free online.
Tip: A shareware program called Window Blinds lets you change your wallpaper, icons, and other facets of the Windows XP interface. See Sidebar 2-3.
2.5.3 Creating Your Own Theme
Even though there are thousands of themes available online, you may find nothing more interesting than the one some guy in Philadelphia created to reflect his obsession with skateboarding. No problem ‚ you can build your own. Here's how:
First, customize your desktop . Right-click the desktop, choose Properties to open the Display Properties dialog box, and then adjust the following:
To swap in a new background, click the Desktop tab, choose one from the Background list, and then click OK.
To choose a new screensaver, click the Screen Saver tab, choose a new one from the menu, and then click OK.
You can pick new button styles, colors, and font size all from the Appearance tab. When you've got it all lined up, click OK.
To change the way your colors appear, click the Settings tab, pick a color quality from the menu, and then click OK. The settings tab is also the place to change your screen resolution. Move the Screen resolution slider to the left for a lower resolution, or to the right for greater resolution. Click OK when you're done.
Customize your mouse pointers by typing main.cpl from the Run box and pressing Enter.
The Mouse Properties dialog box appears, allowing you to choose a preset pointer scheme, or select individual pointers.
Note: An individual pointer is the pointer you see when you use your mouse. A pointer scheme includes a variety of pointers ‚ one for when Windows is working (usually a spinning hourglass), one when you move your mouse across the screen, and so on.
You can also create your own customized cursors, using a program such as Microangelo or CursorXP.
Customize your sounds by typing mmsys.cpl from the Run box and pressing Enter. The Sounds and Audio Devices properties dialog box appears.
Click the Sounds tab, and choose a preset sounds scheme, or select individual sounds for different system and program events ‚ for example, when you shut down Windows. You can even record your own sounds and use those. For details on how to do that, see Section 1.2.3.
When you're finished customizing, go to the Themes tab of the Display Properties dialog box by right-clicking the desktop, choosing Properties, and then clicking the Themes tab. Then choose Save As, and save the theme to My Computer C: Windows Resources Themes.
Note: When saving themes, you don't have to save them in your My Documents folder. You can save them in any folder you want, but you'll have to remember where you saved them, or else there will be no way to call them up again.
Choose a descriptive name for the theme, so it's easy to remember when you want to use it. You can now use the theme as any other, as outlined earlier in this hint.
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Making Your Own Cursors and Icons
If you're not wild about the cursors and icons Windows XP includes, don't settle ‚ you can easily make your own using downloadable software.
A good program to help design your own icons is Microangelo, from http://www.microangelo.us. You can create animated icons as well as regular icons, in both the standard 32-pixel and large 48-pixel sizes. Even if you're not an artist, you can use the program to edit existing icons, shown below. You can also use this program to create cursors.
As you make changes in the main part of the Microangelo screen, on the left, you can see how they take effect in the Preview window. You can also add many kinds of special effects to your icons with the Paint Modifiers tool.
Microangelo is shareware and free to try, but if you continue using it, its creators ask you to pay $54.95.
If you want to make your own cursors, another option is CursorXP Free from http://www.windowblinds.net . It includes a host of free cursors and a variety of tools for customizing them, like changing their visual effects. It's free, as the name implies, but if you want a more powerful version, try CursorXP Plus from the same site, which costs $10. The Plus version lets you create cursor trails (ghost images of your cursor's track across the screen) and play with other special effects, like making your cursor appear transparent or change colors as it moves.