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Making the Windows 7 Desktop Your Own

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 6/1/2011

Windows 7 is a great operating system, but there are some ways in which you can tweak it to make it your own. This guide covers four popular and simple ways to change how Win 7 looks and functions.

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    Windows 7 is a nice operating system right out of the box. It is arguably the best operating system which Microsoft has ever made, and it certainly puts Windows Vista to shame. Most users will find that Windows 7's defaults are fine for their needs, and won't need to perform too many tweaks.

    However, some users will want to squeeze every ounce of performance and quality from Windows 7 possible. Users who demand the best experience are well advised to try the tweaks below. These Windows 7 tweaks can help improve your overall experience when using Microsoft's latest operating system.

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    Windows 7 Tweak #1: Calibrate Text

    Windows 7 Tweaks The way Windows 7 handles text is different from previous versions of Windows, and you can tweak Windows 7's text by using the Cleartype calibration utility. This is a utility included within Windows 7 by default. It can be started by typing "cttune" into your Windows Search field. This will begin a calibration utility which lets you tweak text settings.

    The ClearType calibration utility will take you through a series of tests which are meant to ensure that the text which you have displayed is of the best quality possible. You will need to calibrate for each individual monitor connected to your computer, but this can all be done at once through the same utility. The ClearType calibration utility will display a series of text panels which are similar to what an eye doctor might show you when testing your eye sight. The calibration utility will ask you to pick which panel looks clearest. This will be repeated several times until the best text is found.

    Another way to tweak text in Windows 7 is by right-clicking on your Desktop and then clicking the Screen Resolution option. At the bottom of the menu there is a selection which says Make text and other items larger or smaller. Click on this to find the text size calibration utility. You have three choices - 100%, 125% and 150% size. While the default of 100% should normally be fine, if you're using a high-resolution monitor, particularly a large one you sit some distance from, or you perfer larger print for vision and eye strain reasons, you may be more comfortable with the 125% or 150% settings.

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    Windows 7 Tweak #2: Control UAC

    Tips and Tweaks for Windows 7 User account control was a major gripe of those using Windows Vista. It was an important security feature, but because many users found it annoying they simply tweaked it by turning it off, which meant that the security advantage was lost.

    Windows 7 has User Account Control as well, but its default setting is less aggressive than that of Windows Vista. You can tweak the UAC by typing "uac" in the Windows Search field. This will open the UAC menu.

    There are four settings available for UAC. The default setting is three-fourths of the way up on the slider, and it only notifies you when programs try to make changes to your computer. The highest setting will also notify you when you make changes to Windows 7 settings. This is more annoying, but also more secure, because devious malware can sometimes trick Windows into thinking the user is making changes in order to disguise themselves.

    There are also two lower settings. The two-fourths setting is a fairly minor change. It notifies you the same as the three-fourths setting, but your desktop won't be dimmed, which means you might miss the notification. Finally there is the lowest setting, which simply turns UAC off entirely. This isn't recommended for security reasons, but some users may be willing to take the risk.

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    Windows 7 Tweak #3: Tweak the Taskbar

    The Windows 7 taskbar is, in my opinion, very good. It provides clear information about what is running and it does so in a manner which is functional but also modern and aesthetically pleasing. However, there are ways to tweak the taskbar if you don't feel that the new Windows 7 taskbar is exactly what you want.

    Windows 7 Taskbar Tweaks Open the taskbar properties by right-clicking on the taskbar and clicking Properties. On the Taskbar tab you'll have a few options.

    Use Small Icons is fairly self explanatory. It will make the icons on the taskbar smaller and also reduce the overall vertical height of the taskbar. This is a good way for those who have smaller or older, lower-resolution displays, to get some screen real-estate back.

    The Taskbar Buttons drop-down box lets you change how buttons display. Setting it to Combine when taskbar is full will cause buttons to appear seperatly when you have mutliple applications open unless you have so many open that you fill the entire taskbar. They buttons will also have a text description associated with them again.The Never Combine option will not revert to the default button format even when numerous windows are open.

    You can also add Toolbars from Internet Explorer to your taskbar if you choose. This is accomplished in the Toolbar tab in the properties menu. When you open the Toolbars section you'll see a list of the toolbars which are installed and available. Clicking the check-box for a toolbar will make it show up on the taskbar.

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    Windows 7 Tweak #4: Tweak Aero Settings

    Windows 7 Aero Tweaks When you install Windows 7 you will be introduced to a basic Windows 7 Aero color scheme. This scheme is fine, but it is possible to tweak Windows Aero so that it has the exact appearance that you desire.

    Right-click anywhere on your desktop and then click on the Personalization option. This will open the Personalization menu. If you're interested in some basic changes, you can make use of the Aero Themes which are listed here. You'll find basic themes including Architecture, Scenes and Nature. Each theme will change the colors of Aero and also give you a selection of background wallpapers.

    If you want to change specific settings, you can use the icons at the bottom of the screen. Desktop Background is fairly self-explanatory - you can use this to change the background for your desktop. Windows Color is the option which you can use to change your Windows Aero theme color. You can either choose one of the sixteen pre-selected colors, or you can choose to mix your own color. You can also set the degree of tranparency in the Aero effect, of choose to turn it off entirley if it is bothering you.