The Windows XP graphical user interface (GUI) provides a number of possibilities for customization. These possibilities range from the very simple to the complex. Simple modifications such as the arrangement of icons on the desktop or the selection of applications that appear on the Start menu can quickly be realized by even the novice user. You can even take this customization further by selecting new icons for the desktop or changing the background image on the desktop.
A slightly more complex customization (although Windows XP makes this easy to do) of the Windows interface is the placing of a custom image on the Windows XP logon screen, as shown in Figure 1.1.
Figure 1.1. You can personalize the Windows interface.
The customization of the logon screen also affects the Windows Start menu. Your name and the custom picture also appear at the top of the Start menu (we talk about logon screens in Chapter 13, "Changing XP Logon Screens and Boot Screens").
Windows XP has a number of built-in tools (such as the capability to select new icons for the desktop or change the logon picture) for personalizing the desktop environment (we discuss many of these possibilities in Chapter 2, "Basic Windows XP Interface Modifications"). The use of these built-in tools can allow you to create a customized and personalized version of the interface. For example, you can quickly create your own themes (collections of different custom GUI elements, discussed in more detail later in this chapter) such as the theme shown in Figure 1.2.
Figure 1.2. A theme can be quickly built using tools provided by Windows XP.
However, the possibilities for the personalization and customization of Windows XP do not stop with the theme. You can take the customization even further and create a truly unique look for the Windows interface. These radical customizations (or skins) can produce a Windows environment like the one shown in Figure 1.3.
Figure 1.3. Windows XP provides an environment that can be radically customized.
You will find throughout the course of this book that radical changes to the interface require additional software; we will look at examples of these various software add-ons in subsequent chapters. So, why is it that Windows XP provides an environment that allows such radical modification? A good way to answer this question is to quickly look at the evolution of the Windows interface from Windows 3x to Windows XP and then examine the particular characteristics of Windows XP that provide us with such a rich environment for personalization and modification.