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Configuring Windows Aero and Desktop Settings (part 3) - Configuring Other Windows Display Options

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Configuring Other Windows Display Options

In addition to the primary display-related settings you’ve covered thus far, Windows Vista includes several other options that enable users to change the appearance of their desktop. In this section, you’ll look at these settings and their effects.

Configuring Theme Settings

So far, you’ve looked at many different settings that can affect the overall look of Windows Vista. In some cases, you might want to tweak one or two settings manually, but what if you want to save a collection of settings so that you can use them again? That’s where Theme Settings come in. As shown in Figure 10, the Theme Settings dialog box enables you to select or save a theme.

Figure 10. Adjusting theme settings

The themes that are built in and included by default are Windows Vista (which reverts to the initial display that you see after you complete the installation process) and Windows Classic (which looks like earlier versions of the Windows platform). You can also click Browse to find additional theme files. These files have a default file extension of .theme and can be found on the Internet. Finally, after you have a collection of settings that you’d like to use later (or that you might want to share with others), you can click Save As to save your own .theme file. Using the Theme Settings dialog box is a good way to store and apply collections of visual settings.

Choosing a Desktop Background

A quick and easy way for a user to personalize his or her desktop settings is by changing the desktop background. Windows Vista ships with numerous wallpapers that have been professionally composed and optimized for viewing on computer displays. In addition, users can choose to use their own images as wallpapers. To access these options, in the Personalization Control Panel window, click Desktop Background. The available options are shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11. Choosing a desktop background

The Picture Location drop-down list defaults to Windows Wallpapers, which is the initial location of built-in backgrounds. Users can also select from other commonly used file locations, such as the user account’s pictures folder, or they can choose to use a solid color. To specify the location of a background file manually, click Browse. Some pictures are intended to fill all or part of the screen, whereas others are designed to be tiled. The picture position options at the bottom of the dialog box enable you to specify the most appropriate option: stretched to fit the whole screen, tiled, or centered.

Selecting a Color Scheme

Windows Vista includes several different color schemes that can alter the appearance of the user interface. If Windows Aero is enabled, the best method for changing color settings is through the Window Color And Appearance dialog box . If you’re not using Windows Aero, however, you can access the classic display settings in Window Color And Appearance by clicking Open Classic Appearance Properties For More Color Options. Figure 12 shows the available options.

Figure 12. Modifying Windows Appearance settings

The available color schemes include the following:

  • Windows Aero Assuming that the installed edition of Windows Vista supports the Windows Aero feature, this option enables features such as transparency within the user interface.

  • Windows Vista Basic This color scheme provides the basic look and feel of Windows Vista without the 3-D features of Windows Aero.

  • Windows Standard For users who prefer the look of versions of Windows released prior to Windows Vista, this color scheme provides window titles that use a fade effect.

  • Windows Classic The Classic color scheme is based on early versions of the Windows user interface.

  • High Contrast For some users who are visually impaired, increased contrast can help make windows and text more readable. Several different options are available, each of which provides a different set of high-contrast colors.

In addition to the basic color scheme options, users can also specify whether effects such as font smoothing, shadows under menus, and showing window contents while dragging are enabled. You access these settings by clicking Effects in the Appearance Settings dialog box. When running on older hardware, disabling some of these options might make the user interface more responsive.

Finally, for the most in-depth customization, in the Appearance Settings dialog box, users can click Advanced to specify the exact colors they want to use for each component of the user interface. As shown in Figure 13, you can specify details such as fonts for title bars and icon spacing. Users who have particular preferences for fonts and colors should be able to get the effect that they need using the many different user interface options.

Figure 13. Configuring Advanced Appearance settings

Working with Desktop Usability Enhancements

So far, you have focused on user interface enhancements and options that control the display of the desktop itself. Windows Vista also includes several features that can help make operating system users more productive. This is especially true for users who often have many different programs open at once.

Using Flip 3D

One of the most visually impressive features of the Windows Vista user interface is the Windows Flip 3D window navigation option. After Windows Aero is enabled, users can access Flip 3D by pressing the Windows key along with the Tab key. When users press these keys, a live view of each open window is presented at an angle so that they can see the contents of all windows at the same time. Windows that have actively changing contents (such as a video playing in Windows Media Player) are viewable in a “live” format.

Using Flip 3D should be intuitive to most users. Repeatedly pressing the Tab key while holding down the Windows key cycles through the programs in forward order. Holding down the Shift key in addition to the Windows key and then pressing the Tab key enables you to cycle through the programs in reverse order. Additionally, users can click any of the windows with the left mouse button to make that window active.

Enhancements to Alt+Tab

Many Windows users routinely use the Alt+Tab keystroke combination to switch between applications. In addition to the Flip 3D method of navigating among open applications, Windows Vista now presents a live preview of all open windows when you press the Alt+Tab keystroke combination. This makes it significantly easier for the user to determine which application or window he or she wants to select. For example, if multiple presentations are open in Microsoft PowerPoint, the live preview can show the contents of each open document.

Another useful enhancement is the ability to use the mouse to click one of the items in the Alt+Tab list of programs. This is particularly helpful when several programs are running concurrently, and you want to avoid pressing Tab multiple times to cycle through them all.

Using Live Taskbar Previews

For users who commonly run multiple programs, it can be helpful to get information about a running program quickly without actually switching the focus to it. For example, you might want to check on the progress of a file download or other long-running task quickly without moving away from your e-mail program, or you might have several different documents of a similar type open, and you want to switch to a particular one.

Live taskbar previews are a new feature in Windows Vista that enables the user simply to hover the mouse pointer over the title of an application in the Windows taskbar to see an immediate preview of the contents of the window. Because this is a “live” preview, the user can see any changes or progress as it’s occurring.

Other -----------------
- Configuring Windows Aero and Desktop Settings (part 2) - Working with Windows Aero & Troubleshooting Windows Aero
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- Improving System Performance (part 2)
- Improving System Performance (part 1) - Developing a Performance Optimization Approach & Managing Startup Programs
- Using the Windows Vista Performance Tools (part 2)
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- Using the Windows Vista Performance Tools (part 1)
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