Customization reaches new heights in Windows 7. New themes, backgrounds, gadgets, mouse pointers, user images, and more give you more ways than ever to change how your PC looks and works. Most of the customization options can be reached just by right–clicking on your desktop and selecting the Personalize option, but there are plenty of other places to look for options that make Windows 7 your own.
Change window border glass color
Vista had transparent window borders in multiple colors too, but Windows 7 also lets you set their intensity, transparency, hue, saturation, and brightness.
Change the theme
Windows 7’s default theme is perfectly pleasant, but the Personalization dialog offers some pretty captivating options. Among them: architecture, cartoon characters, landscapes, nature, and art scenes. Microsoft commissioned some gifted artists to create many of these, so check them out. If you’re feeling patriotic you can choose the U.S. sights theme, and Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom also get their own as online downloads. I’m sure we’ll see more as the OS becomes more widespread. And, of course, to make the desktop your very own, you can still set your own photos as the wallpaper or screensaver. For all of this, just right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize.
Change your account picture
From the User Accounts control panel, choose one of the 36 included images or browse your own pictures for your representation in user-icon form.
Change the system sounds
If you’re sick of the standard old Windows error and other sounds, try switching to “Afternoon,” which uses gentle guitar notes; “Raga,” with its South Asian sitar sounds; or “Sonata,” with its classical instruments. Changing your theme also changes your sounds, but you can also mix and match so that it fits your idiosyncratic tastes
Add a toolbar to the taskbar
When you right-click the taskbar, click Toolbars, and you’ll be able to add search bar links and more to the toolbar. Some apps you’ve installed, such as iTunes, can add their own toolbars as well. With that media player, you’ll see a player control bar, which lets you go back and forward in your playlist and adjust the volume. A maximize button closes the toolbar and opens the iTunes app. The Links toolbar is also useful for getting you to frequently visited sites. Personally, I’m not sure about the usefulness Desktop toolbar, since the desktop is right in front of you and can be revealed by clicking on the lower right corner of the screen.
Move the taskbar
Vista and XP let you move the taskbar, too, and users of those operating systems who preferred the taskbar reside on the sides or top of the screen can easily drag it to any of those locations.
Customize the Start Menu
Right-click on the Start button, and choose Properties, then Customize. From here you can decide whether to display things like Computer, Games, Music, Control Panel, Documents, and more. You can also decide whether these should offer a menu when clicked; for example, the Control Panel button can pop out a menu of all the icons within the actual Control Panel. One option I highly recommend here is Recent Items, which shows you what you’ve accessed lately.
Change the power button action
With Vista, a lot of people were confused by the Power button, which by default put the PC in Sleep mode rather than shut it down (not that that’s always a bad idea). In Windows 7, the default has been restored to actually powering down the PC. But you can change it to sleep, switch user, log off, lock, or restart from either the Start Menu tab on the taskbar or the Start Menu Properties dialog, which you can open by right-clicking the taskbar and choosing Properties.
Pin your frequently used folders to the taskbar
This works a little differently from pinning an app. You have to right-click the Windows Explorer default pinned icon to see your pinned folder—your new folder doesn’t get its own icon.
Use the gadgets
Gadgets don’t appear by default as they did in the Vista Sidebar, and now they can be placed anywhere on the desktop, including being snapped to the right side. There are just a few gadgets included with the OS (you go online to find more) but those few are useful: weather, headlines, clock, calendar, and CPU and Memory usage. Any Vista gadgets you find should work as well. You can easily customize your gadgets by right-clicking anywhere on the desktop and choosing Gadgets.
Tone down Notifications
Or pump them up. I always want to see everything, so in the Notification Area Icons control panel I check the Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar” check box. But many will want to tone it down, choosing “Hide icon and notifications” for some services and apps.
Change the tray and icons
Windows 7 by default hides many of the system tray icons, which you have to hit an up arrow to reveal. I prefer seeing all of them, especially since some apps install system tray icons that I otherwise might not know about, and from which I can easily perform functions of the app. To get to the setting, right-click on the taskbar, choose Properties, then click the Customize button under Notifications. This lists all tray icons, and at the bottom is the check box to show everything.
Tone down User Account Control
This was a pain point for a good many Vista users. Now you have options ranging from “always notify me when programs try to install software or make changes to system settings” to never doing so. You can even tell it not to do that disconcerting dimming of the desktop.
Make the display bigger with Magnifier
You can make the whole screen bigger, use a lens, or a portion of the screen to show a magnified view. If you’d rather just set a larger screen size, you can also do that from the Display control panel.
Set up a HomeGroup
When you designate your Internet connection as Home, you get the option to make all PCs connected to the same router members of a HomeGroup. This means they can share files and stream media to each other. When you create a HomeGroup, you get a password to enter into any other machines you want to join the HomeGroup.
Set up your Libraries
Libraries are basically folders that can draw their contents from multiple folders, whether on the same machine, an external drive, or a networked PC. Each library folder has a little link stating the number of locations it draws its contents from; just click this to add more locations.
Change your mouse cursor
You can choose large, extra large in Aero, black, inverted, or standard styles. The Aero style is slickly designed, but you may want something that more stands out better against a given background. Note, too, that you can speed up and slow down the mouse cursor, have it snap to the default option in a dialog box, or show it with animated circles when you hit the Ctrl key.
Change your screensaver
Windows still doesn’t offer many screensavers, and the threat of monitor burn-in is pretty much gone with today’s displays. But you can still customize the resting mode of your PC with these, and any Vista screensavers will work too. You can get to the option from the lower-right icon in the Personalization control panel, and you can download more screensavers from sites like WinCustomize.com.
Let your PC recognize your voice
This was one of Vista’s most underappreciated yet excellent features—speech recognition. It lets you give your fingers a rest, and does a pretty impressive job of controlling system and app operations, and taking dictation.
Change Autoplay options
When you plug in a device or disc, the AutoPlay dialog pops up automatically, offering a number of actions you can perform with what you’ve inserted, such as running an app or viewing files in a folder. Go to Control Panel’s Hardware and Sound Panel, and you can specify exactly what actions you want AutoPlay to offer.
Pin Your Device to the Taskbar
Some devices—such as cameras, smartphones, and printers—give you a customized experience using Windows 7’s Device Stage feature. You can actually pin this photo-realistic representation of a piece of hardware to the taskbar just like an icon for an app. Theoretically, you can plug a supported device in to the PC and its Device Stage will appear on the taskbar as a icon you can pin. It will also appear in Control Panel’s Devices and Printers page