Microsoft

Unlocking the Ribbons and Mystify screen savers' hidden settings in Vista

Greg Shultz introduces you to the Ribbons and Mystify screen savers in Vista, unveils the HTML application that allows you to unlock the magic, and shows you how to tweak them to your liking.

In a recent edition of the Windows Vista Report, Unlocking The Bubbles Screen Saver's Hidden Settings In Vista, I explained how I discovered that several of Vista's screen savers do indeed have customizable configuration settings, but that Microsoft never implemented them before the release of the operating system. I then showed you how to use an HTML application (HTA) that I created to automate the operation of editing the registry in order to enable and alter the Bubbles screen saver's settings.

Due to the popularity of that application, I created two more HTAs for automating the configuration of the Ribbons and Mystify screen savers. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I will describe their settings, then introduce you to the HTAs and show you how you can use them to tweak the Ribbons and Mystify screen savers.

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 (Figure A). In the Mystify screen saver, the lines multiply as they move across the screen (Figure B).

Figure A

Figure A

The Ribbons screen saver displays a few dancing lines that appear momentarily and then fade away.

Figure B

Figure B

The Mystify screen saver displays a couple of lines that multiply as they dance over the screen and then fade away.

The hidden settings

The Ribbons and Mystify screen savers each have two settings that you can use to manipulate the display, changing the number and width of the lines in either screen saver. These settings correspond to keys that that you can add to the Vista registry at HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Screensavers\Ribbons and HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Screensavers\Mystify.

Ribbons

  • The NumRibbons registry key allows you to alter the number of lines or ribbons on the screen. The number of ribbons can range anywhere between 1 and 100.
  • The RibbonWidth registry key allows you to alter the width of the ribbons on the screen. Six settings range from thinnest to thickest, from a value of 1000000000 (thinnest) to 1050000000 (thickest). While nine values actually exist, values above 1050000000 render the display too distorted.

Mystify

  • The NumLines registry key allows you to alter the number of lines on the screen. The number of lines can range anywhere between 1 and 100.
  • The LineWidth registry key allows you to alter the width of the lines that appear on the screen. Six settings here range from thinnest (1000000000) to thickest (1080000000). Again, nine values actually exist, but the difference between several of them was so negligible, I omitted three.

The HTAs

As you may know, an HTA, or HTML Application, is an application that you can create using a combination of HTML, Windows Script Host, and VBScript or Jscript. The Ribbons and Mystify Settings HTAs use Windows Script Host and VBScript to create the interface and automate registry editing. Furthermore, since HTAs are trusted applications that run via Internet Explorer, there isn't a UAC associated with running them.

After you download the Ribbons and Mystify settings package, you can extract the files and copy them to any folder you want. Then, simply double-click the HTA file. When you double-click Ribbons.hta, the main screen will appear (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

The Ribbons Screen Saver Settings HTA incorporates a couple of new features.

I've added a couple of extra features to this dialog box that make it different from the Bubbles Settings HTA I created earlier. First, I decided to use a gradient background to spice it up a bit. I also added a Preview button that allows you to more easily see what the screen saver looks like.

When you click the Number Of Ribbons drop-down, 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, 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. If you move your mouse or press a key, the screen saver will disengage, returning you to the Ribbons Screen Saver Settings dialog box. This makes it very easy for you to experiment with a wide variety of settings.

If you click OK, the Ribbons Screen Saver Settings dialog box will close and the setting you choose will enable the next time the screen saver kicks in. Now, if at a later date, you decide that you want to alter the setting but can't remember which settings you selected last time, you can click one of the Get Current Value buttons to bring up a dialog box like the ones shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Figure D

When you click the Get Current Value buttons, these dialog boxes will remind you what settings are currently in effect.
If you wish to return the Ribbons screen saver to its default configuration, just click the Reset button. If the default settings are already enabled and you click on one the Get Current Value buttons, a dialog box like the one shown in Figure E will appear.

Figure E

Figure E

This dialog box will let you know whether the default settings are enabled.
When you double-click the Mystify.hta, the Mystify Screen Saver Settings screen (Figure F) will appear. This dialog box looks and works almost identically to the Ribbons Screen Saver Settings HTA.

Figure F

Figure F

The Mystify Screen Saver Settings HTA allows you to alter the screen saver's display configuration.

More fun with screen savers

While both the Ribbons Screen Saver Settings and the Mystify Screen Saver Settings HTA feature only two settings each, you'll be surprised at the number of interesting display combinations that you can come up with once you begin tinkering. Please drop by the discussion area and let us know what you think of these HTAs. Have fun!

Get Vista tips in your mailbox!

Delivered each Friday, TechRepublic's Windows Vista Report newsletter features tips, news, and scuttlebutt on Vista development, as well as a look at new features in the latest version of the Windows OS. Automatically sign up today!

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.

14 comments
billted
billted

This is really cool. Thanks! But is there any way to play with the colours of the ribbons? I always wished I could customise the screen saver for Christmas by making it red and green only.

Bagmaster50
Bagmaster50

Too bad this doesn't work for the same screen savers when ported over to Windows XP.

merciers2
merciers2

I can't get vista to let me change the file association from .txt to .hta just by renaming it:-(

Leee
Leee

What do you think of the Ribbons and Mystify screen savers' HTML Applications?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Chances are good that you're file extension is .hta.txt Go to Tools|Folder Options,select the View tab, and clear the Hide File Extensions checkbox. You will then be able to see the file extension and properley rename it.

techrepublic
techrepublic

It is in the advanced folders settings. If you'd rather not do that, use run to open a command window and do it there.

Nebo
Nebo

I think tips like this are great. They encourage people to learn more about their computers and become more relaxed with their use. Isn't that what it's all about?

bigtaz
bigtaz

after i save as HTA where do i put it to run as a screen saver. Instead of open HTA then run, as i have tried to place in windows system/system32. it does not show up on screen saver list.

kmadison
kmadison

Looks like someone has too much time on their hands, BUT it most def helps the rest of us if we want to use this. Many thanks to Greg for using his precious time to make these. Too bad though, I don't even have the time to download the HTA's and install to make my windows "prettier". By the way, on my plasma, these type of "screensavers" still burn my screen in. Got a HTA for "blank"? That's what I use!

WoW > Work
WoW > Work

"I don't even have the time to download the HTA's and install to make my windows "prettier"." Yet you have time to waste telling someone they're wasting their time with a tip? You fail at the internet.

Hey_Joe
Hey_Joe

I agree that exploration can lead to interesting discoveries but while this article is "interesting", it has the productive value of a reality TV show. Is TechRepublic this desperate for stories? If this is a featured column, SOMEONE should monitor the content a little closer. This is pure fluff and frankly a waste of time better spent "exploring" other aspects of any OS.

techrepublic
techrepublic

...the fact that people who engage in exploration are almost always twice as productive as people who plug away every day using only the basic set of tools placed in front of them.