If you were using the Windows operating system in the Windows 95 and Windows 98 time frame, then you remember the Microsoft Plus! and the Microsoft Plus! 98 products. While these products contained a variety of add-ons, such as games and additional utilities, the primary feature in these packages were the desktop features which allowed you to change the look and feel of Windows by selecting various themes, which included wallpapers, color schemes, screen savers, and sounds.
Over the years, Microsoft has released a myriad of themes from their Microsoft Download page. And while there have been a lot of them, they were released sporadically and hidden among lots of other downloads. Fortunately, Microsoft recently modernized its delivery system, called it the Personalization Gallery, and created a centralized location for a huge collection of Windows Themes and Desktop Backgrounds, thus making it easy for you to customize your Windows 7 or Windows 8 system. Here's how it works.
Get personalTo get started, just point your browser to the Personalization Gallery. When you arrive, you'll discover that there are separate areas for the Windows Themes and Desktop Backgrounds, as shown in Figure A. The Windows Themes packs are only designed for Windows 7 and Windows 8 while the Desktop Backgrounds can be used in all versions of Windows.
There are two separate areas-one for the Windows Themes and one for the Desktop Backgrounds.
Windows ThemesWhen you click the See all themes link, you'll see a page that displays a huge list of theme categories as well as the newest themes available, as shown in Figure B. Just select a category and you'll see a host of themes. When you see one that interests you, just click the Details button to get more information.
There are plenty of categories to choose from.
As you'll discover, the majority of the themes contain a number of desktop backgrounds as well as a window color. However others are more elaborate themes that include extras such as sounds or an RSS feed that automatically adds new backgrounds on a regular basis. If you have dual monitor setup, you'll be interested in the panoramic themes.For example, I selected the Aqua Dynamic theme in the From the community category and then clicked Details to access the page shown in Figure C. I discovered that this theme comes with 18 images and an RSS feed.
When you click the Details button, you'll get more information about the theme.After looking it over, I clicked the Download theme button, selected the Open button from Internet Explorer's prompt, and clicked Open button in the Security Warning dialog box. Now, because this theme comes with an RSS feed, I encountered a prompt to subscribe to the RSS feed, as shown in Figure D.
If a theme contains and RSS feed, you'll be prompted to accept the automatic downloads.After I clicked Download Attachments, the Aqua Dynamic theme was immediately added to the Personalization window, as shown in Figure E, and was all set to go.
Once downloaded, the theme will immediately be set for use in the Personalization tool.
All I had to do was close the Personalization window. I then exposed the new desktop backgrounds and the new window color.
Desktop backgroundsIf you select See all desktop backgrounds link, you'll see a page that displays a list of background categories as well as the newest backgrounds available, as shown in Figure F.
Desktop backgrounds will work in all versions of Windows.Just select a category and you'll see a host of backgrounds. When you see one that interests you, just click it and it will instantly fill the browser screen. To download the background, just right click on the image and select the Set as background command, as shown in Figure G.
To install the background you have opened, just select the Set as background command from the context menu.
When you do, you'll find that the background has immediately been applied to your desktop. Enjoy!
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.