Microsoft

Unlock missing screen saver configuration settings in Windows 7

Greg Shultz describes his HTML applications, which allow you to tweak the Bubbles, Ribbons, and Mystify screen savers.

The HTML applications and the PDF version of this blog post are available in this TechRepublic download.

When Microsoft launched Windows Vista, I was excited to see several new, native screen savers in the operating system. However, I was really bummed out when I clicked the Settings button in the Screen Saver Settings dialog box and encountered an error message. I quickly discovered that none of the new screen savers provided any configuration settings with which you could customize the display.

Since the settings were in the registry, I always figured that Microsoft would release a patch via Windows Update that would provide a GUI that would make the settings available. While that may have been the intention, Microsoft always had more important things to patch in Vista.

When Windows 7 came onto the scene, I discovered that there were fewer screen savers, but I really expected to be able to click the Settings button in the Screen Saver Settings dialog box and see a GUI that would allow me to customize the display of the Bubbles, Ribbons, or Mystify screen savers. However, I encountered the message shown in Figure A.

Figure A

In Windows 7, there are no settings that you can configure to customize the display of the Bubbles, Ribbons, or Mystify screen savers.

Therefore, I sat down over the weekend and dug out the three HTML applications (HTA) that I created in the Vista time frame and refreshed them to provide a simple user interface for configuring Windows 7's screen savers.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll describe my HTML applications and show you how to use them to tweak the Bubbles, Ribbons, and Mystify screen savers.

The Bubbles screen saver

As you know, the Bubbles screen saver provides a very pleasing display of transparent bubbles that gently float across your desktop. As they do, the bubbles change colors and can be rather entertaining as they bump into the edge of the screen and bounce in the opposite direction. However, that's not all they can do.

To configure the Bubbles screen saver, just double-click the Bubbles.hta file and you'll see the main screen, as shown in Figure B. As you can see, there are four settings that you can use to manipulate the appearance of the Bubbles screen saver.

Figure B

The Bubbles Screen Saver Settings HTA allows you to alter the screen saver's display configuration.
  • In the Surface Style section, you can select either Transparent bubbles or Solid bubbles. (The Transparent option is the same as the screen saver's default configuration.)
  • In the Background section, you can select either a Transparent background or a Black background. (The Transparent option is the same as the screen saver's default configuration.)
  • In the Shadows section, you can either enable or disable shadows. Keep in mind that if you choose a Black background, you won't see shadows at all. (The Shadows option is the same as the screen saver's default configuration.)
  • In the Size section, you can choose between Small, Medium, Large, and Huge bubbles. Keep in mind that if you select the Small option, your screen will eventually fill up with hundreds of small bubbles. On the other hand, if you select Huge, there may be as few as two bubbles on the screen. Now, if you have multiple monitors, the Huge option will display more bubbles because there is more screen real estate to accommodate them. (The Large option is the same as the screen saver's default configuration.)
Once you make some selections, you can click the Preview button to see what the screen saver looks like. For example, Figure C shows the Bubbles Screen Saver configured with small, solid bubbles on a black background.

Figure C

The Bubbles Screen Saver is now configured with small, solid bubbles on a black background.

If you move your mouse or press a key, the screen saver will disengage and you'll return to the Bubbles Screen Saver Settings dialog box. This makes it very easy for you to experiment with a wide variety of settings.

If you wish to return the Bubbles screen saver to its original configuration, just click the Reset button. If you are satisfied with the configuration, just click the OK button. When you do, the Bubbles Screen Saver Settings dialog box will close and the settings you chose will be enabled the next time the screen saver kicks in.

The Ribbons and Mystify screen savers

Both the Ribbons and Mystify screen savers essentially display a set of colorful lines that streak and curve across the screen. In the case of the Ribbons screen saver, you get several single, wide lines. In the Mystify screen saver, the lines multiply as they move across the screen.

The Ribbons and Mystify screen savers each have two settings that you can use to manipulate the appearance of the display. In both, you can change the number and width of the lines used in the screen saver.

To configure the Ribbons screen saver, just double-click the Ribbons.hta file. When you do, you'll see the main screen, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The Ribbons Screen Saver Settings HTA makes it easy to alter the screen saver display.

When you click the Number of Ribbons drop-down menu, you can select any one of the following numbers: 2, 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100. When you click the Width of Ribbons drop-down menu, you can select any one of the following settings: Thinnest, Thinner, Thin, Thick, Thicker, and Thickest.

Once you make your selections, you can click the Preview button to instantly test the screen saver with those choices. For example, Figure E shows the Ribbons Screen Saver configured with 60 of the thinnest lines.

Figure E

The Ribbons Screen Saver is now configured with 60 of the thinnest lines.

When you are satisfied with your configuration, just click OK, and the Ribbons Screen Saver Settings dialog box will close and the settings you chose will be enabled the next time the screen saver kicks in. Now, if at a later date, you decide that you want to alter the settings but can't remember what settings you selected last time, you can click one of the Get Current Value buttons and you'll see a dialog box showing the current setting.

If you wish to return the Ribbons screen saver to its default configuration, just click the Reset button.

When you double-click the Mystify.hta, you'll see the screen, as shown in Figure F. As you can see, this looks and works just like the Ribbons Screen Saver Settings HTA.

Figure F

The Mystify Screen Saver Settings HTA allows you to alter the screen saver's display configuration.
Once you make your selections, you can click the Preview button to instantly test the screen saver with those choices. For example, Figure G shows the Mystify Screen Saver configured with 20 thick lines.

Figure G

The Mystify Screen Saver is now configured with 20 thick lines.

Downloading the Screen Saver Settings Package

You can download the Screen Saver Settings Package for Windows 7 as part of the TechRepublic Download associated with this document. After you download the package (SS-Settings.zip), you can extract the three files (Bubbles.hta, Ribbons.hta, and Mystify.hta) and copy them to any folder you want. Then, just double-click an .hta file. When you do, you'll see the main screen and can configure the screen saver as described earlier.

What's your take?

Will you use these HTAs to configure your screen savers in Windows 7? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

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.

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