I am running Windows 7 with Aero enabled and everything about my theme unchanged. I have tried various ways of adjusting colors and translucency, but I can't seem to find a way to make the active window's titlebar more distinctive (compared with the inactive windows).

I don't mind registry or manual theme hacking (if someone can explain what I need to do), but I can't go downloading arbitrary software on to my machine.

Here is a screenshot of two windows, the one on the left being the active window: Screenshot


  • 1
    I've been looking for a solution that doesn't need additional software for quite a while now. Instead I've retrained myself to check if the close button background is red, which helps, sometimes.
    – peth
    Mar 22 '12 at 15:30

Title bar colors simply don't exist in Aero. Nor are they an indicator for the focus state of an application.

In Aero, there is no distinct title bar. There is just the window chrome, which is the background for the whole window. Now, there is only a single color to be defined that is applied to the whole window.

Focus state of an application is communicated through drop shadows on the window and the colorization of the chrome elements.

If you think the effect is too subtle, you can only adjust it through this slider: enter image description here

If that's all still too boring for you, maybe something like Aura is for you.

  • 2
    Fine, window chrome color, whatever it's called. But the chrome color does change between when a window is focused and not, but it doesn't change enough to make it distinctive/noticeable. With 2-3 large high-res monitors, it is very easy to lose track of which windows is focused, and having to click on a window every time is time consuming and distracting. Mar 22 '12 at 17:20
  • Which is why I showed you in my answer how to approach the problem. If you find that this is not sufficient for you, then you might have to disable Aero and look into the basic themes that provide you with higher contrast options. Mar 22 '12 at 17:28
  • 1
    You can always just alt-tab twice like I so often did. xD ... More on-topic, with your basic options I think as @Oliver said, there's nothing but trying a flashier basic colour so it's a bit more obvious when it's dimmed. If you're not a Windows 8 hater, I could also suggest getting a Windows 8-like theme for Windows 7. In Windows 8, an inactive window is a lot more obvious: active = colourful ; inactive = grey. (Pink is facultative.) Search for "Windows 8 theme for Windows 7" if you're interested.
    – Ariane
    Jul 11 '13 at 5:17
  • Forgot the screenshot. i.imgur.com/9SmdUtm.png
    – Ariane
    Jul 11 '13 at 5:23

I know precisely what you are talking about and it is incredible how similar the contrast between active and inactive is. I spent a lot of time hacking aero.msstyles to fix this UI issue because I found it so annoying.

I've posted my solution here.

In addition to increasing the contrast, I made the active taskbar item appear indented, because this is another place where active and inactive is too difficult to see at a glance.

Hope you enjoy it!

  • 2
    Unfortunately, that site requires an account to download attachments. I'd like to try one of the solutions from there, but am not willing to provide any personal data just for a simple download. Is it possible to have those "themes" (the "Glutton" one looks promising) downloadable via a non-barred site?
    – Izzy
    Jan 29 '14 at 15:38
  • It would be great if you could post the steps you followed to create the file, so that the same changes could be applied to other themes, or other editions or versions of Windows. Mar 31 '14 at 14:01

Same thing on Windows 8. Here is the solution for 7:

Active and inactive windows too similar in Aero


Have you tried changing the advanced settings of "Change Window Glass Colors?"

I changed color 1/2 to white, now the inactive window is obviously different

I changed color 1 & 2 to white, now the inactive window is obviously different, you can try playing with these colors.

  • 4
    That doesn't affect the Aero titlebar colors. Mar 22 '12 at 15:13
  • ...but it's the only workaround. goodbye aero :-/
    – gcb
    Apr 19 '13 at 0:12
  • also, you can click the border, increase the size, and select a nice color. almost feels like a solid CDE window manager :)
    – gcb
    Apr 19 '13 at 0:13

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