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The Windows 7 Aero interface looks great, but after looking at it for months it gets boring. So I was wondering - is it possible to create advanced skins for Windows 7 that use full Aero capabilities but are redesigned from ground up, including common controls, animations, effects, etc? Windows XP allowed that, although only with a patched uxtheme.dll.

Or do you have to implement a custom shell for that?

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Here's the kicker:

Windows XP allowed that, although only with a patched uxtheme.dll

That doesn't mean that Windows 7 won't have this feature, but it does mean it won't inherit anything from Windows XP written to do this, because the feature you're thinking of was a hack created outside of microsoft.

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Well, in that regard Windows XP doesn't support advanced skinning. – May 17 '10 at 3:26
that's my point - this is not something that's supported. – Joel Coehoorn May 17 '10 at 18:14

Yes, download the app from the following site (it allows you to use custom themes WITHOUT needing to patch! :) , meaning no need for taking ownership, updating the system file cache or anything like that).

Click the button that says "Play with the bits" to download the installer, and install it (no reboot required!).
Next, find a library to download custom themes. Personally, my favorite is here:

If you were doing this in XP, then installing the themes is exactly the same... just copy the theme files into C:\Windows\Resources\Themes as you did on XP.

Enjoy the beauty!

Two of my favorite themes: (based on the Office 2010 interface)

While you're at it, here is another great program which compliments custom themes nicely, to change your start button image: . And someplace to start for new orb images: .


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"Without needing to patch" is a bit misleading. The program you install silently patches your system at runtime. :) The only real difference is you don't have to restart after installing it, at the cost of having it run in the background. – Sasha Chedygov Aug 3 '10 at 2:51
Well, it doesn't actually replace ("patch") the system files, which is what would normally require the restart (and also, technically, "breaks" Windows). It does, yes, install a driver/service which runs in the background. At a footprint of only 460KB and 0% CPU usage this shouldn't be a concern for even the lowest-end home computers still in use today. But yes, you're right it does run a background service. – eidylon Aug 3 '10 at 17:23
No, I'm not saying it'll slow down your system or anything like that, I'm just saying that it's a bit misleading to say it doesn't affect your system at all. :) Regardless, it's a very cool idea. – Sasha Chedygov Dec 16 '10 at 23:20

A search for "windows 7 aero themes" showed up several sites:

to list but two (which actually point to the same theme).

I haven't checked these out (I'm not running Windows 7 on this machine), so I don't know whether they fulfil you criteria completely.

However, this site describes how to download some more from Microsoft:

  1. Right click any blank space in your desktop and then select 'Personalize'.
  2. At the right side just a little above 'Aero Themes (7)' line, find 'Get more themes online' and click it.
  3. You will be redirected to the Windows 7 personalization page.
  4. Scroll in the middle and you will find downloadable Slide Show Themes.
  5. Just click the 'Download' button to get your preferred theme which will automatically install as a theme pack file.
  6. Click to begin download and installation.
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Windows XP technically didn't allow this--the fact that you had to patch uxtheme.dll means it wasn't a feature built into Windows. Windows 7 is the same, nothing has changed--you can still patch your system and use custom themes. The only difference is Windows 7 has Aero, which allows for much cooler styles than XP ever did.

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