Saturday, November 21, 2009

Messing with Windows 7 Themes

Using, making, and sharing Windows 7 themes has gotten very simple.

Though I still grab specific images for my desktop wallpaper, I have to confess, the standard sets of Microsoft-provided themes for Windows 7 are very nice.  I particularly like the scenic ones.

However it was a drag having the images rotating on my desktop a bit limited. By default the stock themes only contain five to seven wallpapers.  If I wanted to rotate to additional ones I had to switch to a different theme set.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have, say, just one theme with all the landscape/scenic themes?  But how?


Get your Theme Material

First I had to get the source material by downloading or identifying all the themes with wallpapers I wanted to use.

  • Extract 5 Hidden Windows 7 International Themes (AU, CA, GB, US, ZA) – ITechnobuzz .  Offers that there are some additional “hidden” themes in the “…MCT folder with Path = “C:\Windows\Globalization\MCT” consists of 5 Hidden International Themes of Australia , Canada, United Kingdom, United States and South Africa.”
  • [How To] Add More Wallpapers to Existing Themes in Windows 7 - Windows 7 hacker post informs us that “…the default theme configuration files that come with Windows 7 are all located in c:\windows\resources\themes folder. You can find 6 of them there after you first installed Windows 7.  But all wallpaper files are not saved in the same folder. Instead, you can find them in c:\windows\web\wallpaper folder, in each organized subfolder.”
  • Personalization Gallery - Windows 7 themes, wallpapers, and gadgets - Microsoft Windows site has some wonderful commercial and scenic themes you can download.  I took a lot of of my scenic ones from these beautiful locations.  Download as many as you need, but I chose to “Save As” rather than download/install them.
  • my 7 themes . net – Additional collections of pre-packaged Windows 7 themes. I found just a few more here I downloaded as well.


OK.  Next I made a folder on my desktop so it would be easy to navigate to.  I simply named it “Wallpapers”.

I also made a 2nd folder on my desktop called “Extracted Themes”.

Into the “Wallpapers” folder I just copied the accessible desktop wallpaper files from the c:\windows\web\wallpaper subfolders that I wanted.

Next I copied the various filename.theme files from the various locations where I had downloaded or located them (as noted above) into the “Extracted Themes” folder.

Now, we need to get into those theme packs to extract the wallpaper files.

Method One:  If you already have 7-Zip handy, you can use it to de-compress the filename.theme files you have directly with no fuss.

Method Two: If you don’t have it or don’t want to, just rename the file extension for each of the themepacks to .cab

That turns them back into their true format as a Microsoft “Cabinet” file format.  Then you can just use Windows 7’s own ability to open/extract them.

So once you have them all extracted, copy the appropriate wallpaper files you find within into the “Wallpapers” folder you made.

When you are all done, you should have quite a few desktop image files in the Wallpaper folder.

Move it and Set it

To tuck the “Wallpapers” folder away, I simply moved it to my user “Pictures” folder for safekeeping.  You can put it anywhere that makes sense to you.

Then I right-clicked on the desktop and selected “Personalize”

I clicked on the “Desktop Background” item at the bottom of that window.

I clicked on the “Browse” button to go to my Pictures\Wallpaper folder location and selected it.

I then verified the images I wanted to include as well as tweaked the rotation time and set them to “shuffle”

I saved the settings.

My super-duper scenic rotating wallpaper image theme was now ready to go!

(Note, you could easily add any additional images to this folder as well; these could be your own personal photos, other images downloaded from the net, whatever.  You don’t have to stick with just these theme wallpapers.)

Additional Diving

For more tips and background on Windows themes and the format that drives them, you might find these posts good reference material.

--Claus V.

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