Software

Colorize the Windows 10 inactive title bar with this handy HTA

You can customize the color of the active title bar in Windows 10, but you have to hack the registry to colorize the inactive title bar--unless you take advantage of this easy-to-use HTML app.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/Gladys_Glez

When Microsoft first released Windows 10, the only color for the title bar was white. Not only was that frustrating for the mere fact that we've been able to change the color of title bars ever since Windows 3.x, but having only white title bars made it difficult to distinguish between active and inactive windows.

However, as I described in the article Windows 10's white title bars may soon be history with the return of the Windows Insider Program, which published in August 2015, Microsoft was at that time touting the return of title bar colors in Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10525.

In November 2015, Microsoft released a substantial update to the Windows 10 operating system, which, among other things, included the capability to set the color of the active title bar. I described the new feature in the article The Windows 10 November Update: A look at the smaller details. Being able to once again set the color of active title bars made it easier to distinguish between active and inactive windows—but it would have been nice to set the color of inactive title bars as in the past.

I recently learned that you can indeed set the color of inactive title bars using registry hacks. While the registry hacks work perfectly, I wasn't satisfied. So coming fresh off the revival of my HTML applications (HTAs) for changing Windows 10 screen savers, I decided to create a new HTA for setting the color of the inactive title bar.

SEE: Windows 10: The smart person's guide (Updated)

The download

You can download the HTA here. The package contains three files:

  • InactiveColor.txt
  • ColorPalette.png
  • Readme.txt

To ensure a safe download that won't raise the ire of your AV program, I changed the file extension for the HTA to txt. To run this file, you'll have to rename the extension back to hta. The HTA relies on the ColorPalette.png file, so make sure both files are in the same folder when you run the HTA.

Caveat

Before you can use the Inactive Title Bar Color Settings HTA, you must set an active title bar from the Colors tab of the Personalization setting screen. When you do, Windows 10 populates the appropriate registry key with the ancillary settings required to set the inactive title bar color. If you do not first set an active title bar color, the Inactive Title Bar Color Settings HTA will not work.

Setting the inactive title bar color

When you set the color of the active title bar from the Colors tab of the Personalization setting screen, you simply click on a tile in a color palette, as shown in Figure A. Replicating that type of UI in an HTA proved to be tricky, so I had to settle for a different approach. I was able to incorporate that same color palette; however, you must select the color from a scrolling list box.

Figure A

Figure A
You set the color of the active window title bar by clicking the color tile in the palette.

To configure the inactive title bar color, double-click the InactiveColor.hta file and you'll see the main screen, shown in Figure B. Each tile in the color palette has a number assigned to it, and just like the palette on the Colors tab of the Personalization setting screen, there are 48 color tiles.

Figure B

Figure B
The HTA lets you set the color of the inactive title bar by selecting a number in the scrolling list box.

The adjacent scrolling list box shows all the row numbers. To choose a color for the inactive title bar, note the row number assigned to the color tile you want, select that number in the list box, and click OK. A prompt will appear in the foreground, thus making the initial HTA window inactive. You'll see the new inactive color choice, as shown in Figure C. As you can see in this example, I selected R74, which is a bright green, and the initial HTA window is now inactive and displaying that color.

Figure C

Figure C
When you click OK, the main window will become inactive, giving you a look at your color selection.

If you like your new color choice, click Yes. Both the prompt and the main HTA window will close and the inactive title bar color will be enabled. If you don't like the color, click No and you'll be returned to the main HTA window, where you can select another color.

If you decide you want to return the inactive title bar back to its original color, white, just click the Reset button.

More Windows 10 tips and tricks

What's your take?

Have you ever wanted to change the color of the Windows 10 inactive title bar—or do you find that kind of tweak unimportant? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Greg Shultz

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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