I have installed Ubuntu on my school laptop to try testing an alternative desktop environment. Furthermore I have spend quite some time trying to customize it in order to fit it to my liking so I thought, shouldn’t I try the same with my Windows 7 computer?
So it is time for regedit again. (I wouldn’t brother with a disclaimer, if something goes wrong, just do a clean reinstall of Windows. Works every time.)
For some of these tweaks you need to set your permissions before you are allowed to change the key. To do this, right-click the key and select permissions and make the necessary changes. (See the “Hiding Homegroup, Favorites…” article for details.)
Changing the login screen image
I have grown a little tired of the default screen, while it is pretty it doesn’t quite match my wallpaper. Changing this was actually pretty easy. In win7 MS makes it possible to change this for OEM versions, so you can just do the same yourself. First the feature need to be enabled, so go to the registry key:
Create a new dword and call it “OEMBackground” if it does not exits already and set the value to “1” (true).
Now open the folder located at:
(%windir% directs to your windows folder btw.) Create the “info” and “backgrounds” folders yourself if they do not exist already. Now you just need to place your image in this folder and call it “backgroundDefault.jpg”. All articles I have read says the file size should be kept below 256KB.
Customizing Windows Explorer
The file browser is a crucial part of your OS and sometime you might spend a lot of time in, so optimizing your work flow here greatly effects your total experience.
Setting a default folder
When you open Explorer it shows your Libraries, however I never use them so it is pretty much useless. You can easily change this to another folder by changing the shortcut you access it with (the icon in the taskbar is a shortcut too). You will need to change every shortcut you access Explorer with though.
In the “Target” field under the “Shortcut” tab it normally says “%windir%explorer.exe”. You can add the path to your folder as a parameter and it will open that folder next time you start it. I wanted my D drive to show so I changed it to: “%windir%explorer.exe D:”.
You can also point to special folders by using their CLSID. You can read more about that in this article: Command Line Switches to Display Special Objects or Folders When Opening Windows Explorer
Hiding Favorites, Libraries, Homegroup or Network from the navigation plane
I never use the Homegroup and Libraries folders, but they take up a lot of space and the Computer folder usually ends up getting buried, requiring me to scroll down. Here is an article which explains how to hide/unhide them (except libraries): Hiding Homegroup, Favorites, and Network from Windows 7 Explorer view
To hide Libraries, you should do the same as with the others, just with this key instead:
Value when shown: b080010d
Value when hidden: b090010d
The changes will take effect when explorer.exe has been restarted, you can do this (as suggested) by rebooting, but a quicker solution is to open the task manager, kill explorer.exe and then start it again by using “New Task”.
64 bit editions
In Windows 64-bit the entries will not be hidden in Open or Save dialogs. In order to hide it from these dialogs too you will have to repeat the modifications in:
Adding entires to Favorites
You can add the current folder by right-clicking on Favorites and click “Add current location to Favorites”. However you can also do it manually by adding links in your Links folder, located at “%USERPROFILE%Links”.
Notice that you can place links not only to folders, but also to files and applications if you want. Additionally, drag-and-drop still work on applications, so if you for example place a shortcut to a Hex viewer application, you can just drag a file into that link and it will open it.
My current setup
Disabling “Minimize on shake” mouse gesture
This gesture is quite annoying for me as I’m using a high-dpi mouse which have a tendency to shake a little bit when I move it with high speed and then stop it abruptly. I don’t take much notice of it myself, but it is sometimes enough to trigger that gesture. (Which I can’t figure out how to trigger again, leaving me to restore all windows manually…)
This article explains the process of disabling it, and you don’t even need to use the registry to do it: How to Disable Aero Shake in Windows 7?
Workspaces in Linux certainly is a nice feature and is quite nicely implemented too. So I have looked for similar solutions for Windows 7, but there isn’t quite anything which is done as well as it is on Linux.
I have just installed Dexpot 1.6, as this appeared to be one of the better implementations out there. (Notice that 1.6 is in beta. As I use 2 monitors, I need the multi-monitor support added in 1.6 (I think).)
I have just installed it so can’t say much about it yet, but it seems to work and have all the functionality wanted. (You need to enable much of it manually though.) Appears a bit sluggish and not as fancy compared to Linux though.
You can download it at their website: http://dexpot.de/
I will continue with customizing Windows Explorer, more precisely file-handling. That is the default application certain file-types should open with, the icon, the right-click menu of those and templates for creating new files. I know quite a bit about it already, but I want to try custom thumbnail generation and such first.