Customising Vista: Have it your way
Sep 29, 2007, 6:59 GMT
Washington - Let's face it: If you're a PC user, sooner or later you'll have to switch to Windows Vista. Microsoft routinely drops support for older operating systems, and Windows XP's days are numbered.
Vista will ultimately be the only option for many. But that doesn't mean you have to go to Vista cold-turkey.
You can install the operating system and set it up to work the way you want it to - even making it look like the operating system you're used to. All it takes is a little time and a bit of know-how.
--- Replace the Start menu
The Vista Start menu offers plenty of nifty features - including an integrated Search box that takes you quickly to what you're looking for. But it's also significantly different from XP's Start menu. If the differences result in your being less productive rather than more, you can switch back to a Start menu that looks very much like XP's.
Right-click Vista's Start orb, and select Properties from the resulting pop-up menu. The Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box will appear, and from there you can click the option for 'Classic Start Menu.' Click Apply, and then OK. XP's 'classic' Start menu is very similar to XP Start menu, and you'll find there the familiar Programs submenu, along with most of the other Start menu features with which you're familiar.
--- Speed up the interface
Windows Vista is all about the semi-transparent, glassy Aero interface. But Aero can slow your PC down. If you miss the old days of snappy performance under XP - or if your Vista PC tells you that the Aero interface is pushing your hardware to the limit - you can ditch Aero and still have the other niceties that Vista offers.
Aero is implemented as a 'colour scheme' in Vista. So to get rid of Aero, you'll have to change the default colour scheme to Windows Vista Basic. You can change your colour scheme by opening the Control Panel, clicking Appearance and Personalisation, and then choosing Customise Colours under the first category, Personalisation.
In the resulting Window Colour and Appearance dialog box, click the 'Open classic appearance properties' link. An XP-style dialog box named Appearance Settings will open. From there, select the Windows Vista Basic colour scheme, and click OK. While you're in this dialog box, you may also wish to investigate the other colour schemes available, which include 'Windows Standard' and 'Windows Classic' - themes that will make Vista look like XP and earlier versions of Windows.
--- Customise folders
Windows Vista offers more ways to display your files in folders than any previous version of Windows. You can specify exactly which type of files a particular folder contains so that Windows Explorer will display the files properly - using thumbnails for images and videos, for instance, or preview views for documents.
No matter how you like your data displayed, you can use a new individual folder properties dialog box to tell Vista to get it right. Right-click any folder within Vista's Explorer or other folder view, and click Properties. In the resulting Properties dialog box, select the Customise tab. Use the controls in the dialog box to specify which the template you wish to use - documents, pictures and videos, music details, or music icons - to display the data in the folder.
--- Use TweakVI
Users of Windows XP and earlier Windows operating systems had an invaluable tool in Tweak UI, which was created by some Microsoft developers to allow users to access customisation settings that otherwise were unavailable without direct editing of the complicated registry file. Tweak UI is not supported under Vista. But there's an alternative in TweakVI, created by TotalIdea Software (http://www.totalidea.com/content/tweakvi/tweakvi-index.html).
TweakVI comes in two versions: one paid and one free. The free version offers plenty of ways to customise how Vista looks, acts, and operates. There are literally dozens of ways you can use TweakVI. You can customise the Start menu, determine which icons show up on the desktop, control mouse and media player behaviour, and change the way Internet Explorer works. The paid version gives you a number of system optimisation options, some of them automated.
--- Skin Vista
As snazzy as the new Vista interface may be to some, it might not be right for you. The good news is that you can pretty much have Vista your way by changing the entire look and feel of the operating system.
First, you can use Vista itself to change plenty of elements of the interface - and then save your changes as your own theme. Or you can get more adventurous and call upon the help of a third-party tool such as WindowBlinds (http://www.stardock.com/products/windowblinds), which gives you complete control over almost every visual aspect of Windows. The product is available in a free trial version. More WindowBlinds skins are available at WinCustomize (http://www.wincustomize.com).© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur