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Complete Guide for Windows Customization

Vishal Gupta

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1. What is a Theme/Visual Style? Are both same or is there any difference between them?

=> NO! Visual Style & Theme are not same. But many people use these words in same manner. Actually Visual Style has extension .msstyles, while a theme has extension .theme. You can find Visual Styles in Appearance tab of Display Properties:


While Theme are presented in Themes tab:


Visual Style is the main file, which skins all parts of windows, like border, titlebar, buttons, etc. And a theme file stores all settings, like icons, wallpaper, etc along with the visual style.

2. When I opened Display Properties, I got only 3 Visual Styles, Blue, Olive Green and silver. How can I get more?

=> I have released a few good themes for Windows XP and Vista, you can take a look at them here:

Windows XP Themes

Windows Vista Themes

Windows 7 Themes

3. I downloaded some Visual Styles, but none of them working on my computer. Am I missing something?

=> Windows doesnot allow custom 3rd party themes to be used. So you have to patch a file uxtheme.dll to allow 3rd party themes. You can do it manually as well as automatically. You can use "UXTheme Patcher", which does the job automatically:

Download UXTheme Patcher

Just run the tool and then copy/paste your downloaded theme into "%windir%\Resources\Themes" folder, now you can enjoy 3rd party themes on your computer.

4. I have also heard about WindowBlinds and Style XP softwares. Why these software are used, Can you explain something about them?

=> These 2 softwares are also used to customize the windows look. Style XP patches the uxtheme.dll file and loads the visual style, you have selected. Its good software for non-techie persons because you donot have to worry about patching the uxtheme.dll file. This software doest it automatically. But the disadvantage is that its not free.

You can download it from here.

WindowBlinds uses its own format of visual styles, so you can get better themes, which can have customized borders, special affects, like transparency. But its also not free.

WindowBlinds is a program that that enables Windows users to completely change the look and feel of the Windows user interface. Users customize Windows by using visual styles (skins) created for WindowBlinds. With these skins, WindowBlinds can change the look of Title bars, borders, Task bar, Start button, Start menu, Progress animations, Toolbar icons, Explorer Views, and virtually every other part of Windows!

WindowBlinds is the only program that can customize the GUI of Windows XP without having to alter system DLLs. You can learn more about WindowBlinds here.

5. From where can I download WindowBlinds themes?

=> Following is a list of a few other sites, which provide WindowBlinds themes:




6. Can I edit my downloaded .msstyles file?

=> YES! You can use StyleBuilder to edit the visual styles. Also you can use Resource Hacker for this purpose, but it requires some expertise.

7. Can I use .msstyles files in WindowBlinds?

=> YES! You can convert them into WindowBlinds format using SkinStudio software.

Edited by Vishal Gupta
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