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Working with Themes

Desktop themes are combinations of the visual and audio elements that set the appearance of menus, icons, backgrounds, screen savers, system sounds, and mouse pointers. Whenever you switch between themes or modify certain aspects of a theme, you set the user experience level and color scheme for your computer.

Choosing a Theme

In addition to any custom themes you create, several default themes are available. You can apply a default or saved theme by completing these steps:

  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop, and then click Personalize. Next, on the Personalization page, click Themes.
  2. In the main pane under Themes, click the Theme Settings link. This opens Control Panel.
  3. Use the Theme list to select the theme you want to use. If you want to use a saved theme from the Microsoft website, click Get More Themes Online and select the theme or themes to download and install.

As you've seen, you can switch to any available theme by simply selecting it on the Personalization page in Control Panel. The High Contrast themes are special themes that allow you to forego the pretty stuff to improve performance and readability. High Contrast themes use only the most basic elements and are designed for people with vision disabilities.

With all other themes, Windows automatically adjusts the accent color for graphics and window edges based on the colors used in the background image. The accent color can also be extended to Start, the taskbar, window links and more.

Setting the Accent Color

You can customize the way accent colors are used by following these steps:

  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop, and then click Personalize. Next, on the Personalization page, click Colors in the left column.
  2. To pick an accent color rather than have Windows pick the color, set Automatically Pick An Accent Color... to Off. You can then choose the accent color. Simply click the color to use.
  3. To extend the accent color to Start, the taskbar, window links and more, scroll down and then set Show Color On Start... to On.
By default, Start, taskbar and action center have transparent backgrounds, meaning you can see what's open behind them. I don't like this effect and always disable it so that these screen elements have a solid background. Disabling this feature has an added benefit: It reduces resource usage and can actually make your computer slightly more responsive. To disable transparent backgrounds, set Make Start, Taskbar... to Off. This options is also on the Colors panel under Settings → Personalization. If your device has an older processor or doesn't have a lot of physical memory, you also want to use the standard Windows theme rather than any of the fancy themes.

Configuring and Creating Your System Sounds

A sound scheme is a set of sounds that you use together. Windows 10 plays sounds in response to a wide variety of events, such as when you log on, when you open or close programs, and when you log off. Programs you install can have their own sounds as well. You manage all of these sounds collectively by using sound schemes.

Tip:
Want your computer to play a snippet from a particular song when you log on or log off? You can do this! When you're configuring sounds for your computer, Windows Logon and Windows Logoff are listed under program events. Simply use any sound editor to create a .wav snippet from the original song files and configure the resulting .wav files for each related event in the Program Events list.

You can configure your system to use an existing sound scheme by completing the following steps:

  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop, and then click Personalize. Next, on the Personalization page, click Themes in the left column.
  2. In the main pane, click the Advanced Sound Settings link to display the Sound dialog box with the Sounds tab selected.
  3. Use the Sound Scheme list to choose the sound scheme to use. Windows 10 has two standard sound schemes:
    • No Sounds, which turns off all program sounds except the Windows Startup sound played when you log on.
    • Windows Default, which is configured to use the standard Windows sounds.
      Note: Other sound schemes available typically depend on the edition of Windows 10 installed on your device, the device manufacturer, and the extras you've installed. Some of the available sound schemes you might see include Afternoon, Calligraphy, Characters, Cityscape, Delta, Festival, Garden, Heritage, Landscape, Quirky, Raga, Savanna, and Sonata.
  4. In the Program Events list, sounds are organized according to the program to which they relate and the related event that triggers the sound. To preview a sound for a particular event, select the event in the program list and then click Test.
  5. To change the sound for an event, select the event in the Program Events list and then use the Sounds list to choose an available sound. You can also click Browse to select other sounds available on the system. The sound files must be in Microsoft .wav format.
  6. If you changed the default sounds for a scheme and want to save the changes, click Save As, type a name for the scheme in the field provided, and then click OK.
  7. Save your sound settings by clicking OK.
Tip:
Want to access the Sound dialog box directly? In the Search box, type Mmsys.cpl, and then press Enter.

Customizing Your Mouse Pointers

A pointer scheme is a set of mouse pointers that you use together. The three types of mouse pointers you see the most are the Normal Select pointer, the Text Select pointer, and the Link Select pointer. You can configure the appearance of these and other types of mouse pointers and manage them collectively by using pointer schemes.

The available pointer schemes include:

  • (None): This doesn't turn mouse pointers off. Instead, it uses nondescript pointers.
  • Windows Black: Inverts the pointer colors so that black backgrounds are used instead of white backgrounds. Also comes in large and extra-large options.
  • Windows Standard: The standard pointers used with Windows Standard settings. Also comes in large and extra-large options.
  • Magnified: Gives the standard pointers a bold edge so they are easier to see.
  • Windows Inverted: Inverts the pointer colors so that black backgrounds are used and gives them bold edges so they are easier to see. Also comes in large and extra-large options.

You can configure your system to use an existing pointer scheme by completing the following steps:

  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop, and then click Personalize. Next, on the Personalization page, click Themes in the left column.
  2. In the main pane, click the Mouse Pointer Settings link to display the Mouse Properties dialog box with the Pointers tab selected.
    Note: Drop shadows for pointers are disabled by default, which is generally a good thing as it makes the pointer look clearer on the screen. If you like the drop shadow effect, however, you can enable them by selecting Enable Pointer Shadow.
  3. Use the Scheme list to choose the pointer scheme to use.
  4. In the Customize list, pointers are organized according to their type. To change a pointer, select the pointer and then click Browse. This opens the Browse dialog box with the Cursors folder selected. Choose the cursor pointer to use, and then click Open.
  5. If you changed the default pointers for a scheme and want to save the changes, click Save As, type a name for the scheme in the field provided, and then click OK.
  6. Save your pointer settings by clicking OK.
Tip:
To manage mouse settings as well as pointers, In the Search box, type Main.cpl, and then press Enter. You can now configure mouse buttons, pointers, scrolling, and more.

Saving Your Custom Themes and Creating Theme Packs

So far you have tuned and tweaked window colors, backgrounds, sounds, pointers, and screen savers. Now you'll want to save your settings as a unified theme so you can be sure that you can use it again and again. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop, and then click Personalize. Next, on the Personalization page, click Themes.
  2. In the main pane under Themes, click the Theme Settings link. This opens Control Panel.
  3. On the Personalization page, under the My Themes heading, you'll see Unsaved Theme. Right-click this theme, and then click Save Theme. Or simply click the Save Theme link with this theme selected.
  4. In the Save Theme As dialog box, enter a name for your custom theme and then click Save. Theme definition files end with the .theme file extension.
  5. Unless deleted in the future, the custom theme will appear as a My Themes option. You'll then be able to load the theme simply by clicking it.

A theme you save in this way will only be available to you. That's because the theme is saved in your user profile (%UserProfile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes). If you want to be able to share a theme with others, you must create a theme pack by following these steps:

  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop, and then click Personalize. Next, on the Personalization page, click Themes.
  2. In the main pane under Themes, click the Theme Settings link. This opens Control Panel.
  3. On the Personalization page, under the My Themes heading, you'll see Unsaved Theme. Right-click this theme, and then click Save Theme For Sharing.
  4. In the Save Theme Pack As dialog box, enter a name for your custom theme pack and then click Save. Theme pack definition files end with the .themepack file extension and are saved in your Documents folder by default. Saved theme packs can be several megabytes in size.
  5. Copy the theme pack to a folder accessible to the person you are sharing with. Have the person double-click the theme pack file to load it as a theme and save it to his or her own My Themes list.
Tip:
You might be wondering how you delete a custom theme that you no longer want. Well, to do this, select a different theme, right-click the theme you no longer want in the My Themes list, and then click Delete Theme.

More: Windows 10 Tutorials