Windows Ricing Reference

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Published: August 21, 2012
/wg/ - Windows Ricing Reference

By Syn !AthenaXcXo - Last updated 08/21/12
Everything in this guide is based on personal experience, but if you find something that needs to be corrected/added please let me know.

I will add pictures to some of the steps eventually, but keep in mind that I am a busy guy (read: I'm lazy). I think i removed all the "strong" language from this version but I might have missed a couple, so I apologize beforehand.

1. Docks

1.1 Rocket Dock:
Free as in "free beer"
Completely free dock application. It's mainly community drive, so all the plugins, icons, and anything you might need are created by the same people who use the application. While this might benefit you from the absolutely free stuff, you will find yourself stuck with useless crap most of the time. For instance, x64 systems are not officially supported; meaning that you might be able to get it to work, but it might crash unexpectedly at any point in time.
Rocketdock | DeviantArt | Customize.org

1.2 Object Dock:
Free version and a "Plus" version for $19.95
This is the dock alternative from StarDock, it offers some really decent features in comparison to RocketDock. Perhaps the most useful one is the ability to hide the taskbar completely. The dock itself is easy to customize, has several plugins, and the community behind the development of new tools is not 15 years old. In addition, some nice features included in the dock are the ability to have system tray items in the dock and completely hide the taskbar
DeviantArt | Wincustomize

1.3 Nexus Dock:
Free version and an "Ultimate" version for $24.95
Much like Object Dock, it offers a "free" version and a paid version which unlocks various features and things of that nature. Similar to Object Dock in terms of usability and features, but offers some extra features (like weather forecast) in the paid version.

1.4 Circle Dock:
Free as in "freedom"
It's a dock in the shape of a circle. There's not much to say about it.
Uses the same skins as ObjectDock and RocketDock, though they might crash

2. Explorer and Shell Replacement

2.1 Visual Styles
The best option you can take for desktop customization. Visual styles change the overall look of Windows, meaning that changes the taskbar, explorer, window frames, and everything you can think of. They are easy enough to set up, and there are plenty of guides on Youtube if my directions are a little confusing
I. Locate the visual style that you desire, download it, and extract it if necessary
II. Now the real thing begins. First, we have to patch some system files for Windows 7 to accept 3rd party themes. You can download some tools to do the work for you:
UxStyle | UXTheme Multipatcher | Universal Theme Patcher
III. Once your files are patched, restart your computer.
IV. Locate the folder containing your desired visual style. Inside should be a Windows Theme File and a folder with the name of the visual style. Copy both of them to:
V. Right click on your desktop and select "Personalize". Your new visual style should be under "Installed Themes", all there is left for you is to apply and close the window. Enjoy your new look.
VI. If you find that your visual style changed to the Windows Classic style, you may need to restart your computer and try applying the style again. If the problem persists, retry the whole process but choose a different patch tool.

Your new visual style might look really nice all around, but you may notice the navigation buttons (back and forward) look the same as the default Aero. There's a quick fix for that:
I. Inside the visual style folder that you downloaded should be a folder named "System Files" or something similar. What you are looking for is a file named explorerframe.dll (and shell32.dll if necessary).
II. Navigate to:
III. Take ownership of the files with the same name as the new files that you downloaded, granted you are the Admin of the computer you are using. You can Google how to do it, but it's a really redundant ant process, so I recommend that you download this file to add an automatic "take ownership" button to the right click menu
IV. Rename the old files, and copy the new files. Restart your computer and enjoy!

For XP users, you can browse through visual styles here

Vista users (why are you using Vista in the first place?) can browse here

A simple Google search will show you how to apply them. I'm not doing all the work for you.

2.2 WindowBlinds:
Free trial and a full version for $19.95
StarDock's take on Windows customization. Much like visual styles, the main goal of WindowBlinds is to fully customize the default appearance of Windows. However, where the two tools are really different is in the community and compatibility with other programs. WindowBlinds is made for and maintained by 13 year old wannabe 1337 H4X0R5, as you can see it in the quality of the styles produced. Much like visual styles, WindowBlinds themes are easy to edit and apply. Just purchase the full version, install and apply.
Wincustomize | DeviantArt | customize.org

2.3 BBlean:
Free as in "freedom"
BBlean is BlackBox's shell replacement tool that is light on resources (and heavy on glitches) compared to explorer. bb4win and its spinoffs (BBlean and the like) make a pretty good shell replacement, but were more of a viable option in XP than they are today, seeing as how they don't support things like Jump Lists and taskbar previews. Personal configuration is somewhat simple, and if you look on Pastebin you are sure to find something that fits your needs.
Boxshots|  DeviantArt | Customize.org

2.4 Litestep:
Free as in "freedom"
Another shell/interface replacement for Windows, much like BBlean. The main difference between Litestep and BBlean is that Litestep is a bit more complicated to setup and in my personal experience I've found it to be much buggier than BBlean. Some people have found Litestep to be outdated and stagnated as fuck and have complained that it hasn't really worked properly in years.
DeviantArt | Customize.org


The main reason why you are reading this is because you want some rice. You want that big clock sitting in your desktop, along with your CPU/GPU temps, some odd calendar, and some crappy news feed right on your desktop.  Again, please don't overdo it. Only use what you really need and nothing more.

3.1 Rainmeter:
Free as in "free beer"
The program is a simple tool to display information, but idiots and plebes abuse the power and use it to display the most redundant and useless bits of information. Installing new skins is simple, as most come as a .rmskn file (the icon resembles a green water drop) that you just click and run. There's also the option that the skin comes as a bunch of documents and pictures inside a folder; all you have to do in that scenario is move that folder to Documents\Rainmeter\Skins and refresh the program.
One big problem you will run into constantly is the need to change your plugins since Rainmeter is still developing. In the worst case scenario, all you would have to do is replace the old plugin and edit the skin to match the new plugin. In addition you might be required to have some program running in the background to get the necessary information for your skin to work. The perfect example would be CPU and GPU temps. Most skins are outdated and use CoreTempPlugin.dll to get their info, but Rainmeter does not support the plugin anymore, so you have to update it. Rainmeter comes with an alternative in the newer versions; all that is left for you to do is edit the skin:
I. First, you will need to get Core Temp, the program that gathers the info, and have it running in the background
II. Now, right click on the skin that you wish to update and click on "Edit Skin"
III. It will open up a text document, which is the skin configuration file
IV. Press Ctrl+F and search for CoreTempPlugin.dll, which should be under "Plugins"
V. Once you locate it, rename that to CoreTemp.dll
VI. Save and close the document. Right click on the skin and refresh the skin. The temperatures should be working now.
DeviantArt | Customize.org

3.2 Samurize:
Free as in "free beer"
Samurize is a simple alternative to Rainmeter that comes with a great skin editor. Unlike Rainmeter, Samurize hasn't been updated in a long time, and lacks official support for Windows 7, and some of the plugins haven't been updated (foobar2k, for example). If all you need are really simple skins to match your needs, Samurize is much easier to handle than Rainmeter.
DeviantArt | Customize.org

4. Icons

4.1 Dock Icons
Most of the icons are free
There's not much to say for dock icons since most of them come self-installing packs, or as single items that you have to change yourself. The process is not very complicated, and it's similar across all dock programs. All you have to do is right click on the pinned program and click on Properties, and select the new icon.
DeviantArt | Customize.org | Rocketdock | And pretty much any kind of .png can be used as an icon

4.2 Changing icons manually
Free as long as you are willing to do the work
This is tedious and long way of changing your icons if you chose to keep your taskbar. Keep in mind that unlike dock icons, your files have to be in .ico format to work. The process is not complicated, but it's rather time consuming and annoying if you have more than a couple of icons to change.
I. First, create a shortcut to the program that you want
II. Right click on the new shortcut, and click on "Properties"
III. In the menu that pops up, click on "Change Icon…"
IV. Click on browse and locate your desired icon
V. Apply and exit the menu
VI. Click on the shortcut and drag it to the taskbar. A little box should pop up saying "Pin to Taskbar"
VII. Release the shortcut and it should be pinned to the taskbar, with your delicious new icon.

4.3 IconPackager:
Free trial version and full version for $9.95 (as listed on their website)
IconPackager is the one click solution to changing every single icon, as long as you can find a complete icon set. There's nowhere to get lost, all you have to do is purchase the software, install it, run it, find a set that you like, apply the theme and you are done. Relatively speaking, this is the best thing to come out of StarDock, and one of the cheapest from their store.
Wincustomize | DeviantArt | You can also make your own sets, as long as they are in .ico format

4.4 7conifier:
Free as in "free beer"
It's a free alternative to IconPackager, but will only change the icons in your taskbar, start menu, and explorer, as long as they are executable files and you have the appropriate icons within the pack. Making new packs is easy, just click on Package > Create > From Selection > Choose the icons that you want to change > in the dialogue box that appears change the icons one by one. When you are done, save all the changes and apply the icon pack. It automatically creates a backup in case you want to return to your previous set. You can grab a bunch of icons from these to create new packages

4.5 Resource Hacker:
Free as in "freedom"
Sometimes, when you change the icons in your taskbar and such a glitch occurs where you have your new icon pinned but the program decides to launch another window with the default icon. If you have been there, which tends to happen a lot with programs like Skype, Firefox, and JDownloader, you would know how frustrating it is attempt to correct that error. All you have to do is launch Resource Hacker, open up the program, and change the icon that appears in Icon submenu. Resource Hacker has many uses, but for the time being, we only need to change icons; it's up to you play with it if you wish to.

4.6 Mr. Ragnarok's Icon Packs:
Free as in "free beer"
The installers do exactly what the name implies: Install icons. The guy has a huge variety of icons, and they are free for grabs. The icon packs have instructions attached, and there's always the comment section if you want to read about the common problems users encountered.

5. Miscellaneous Tools and Important Junk
Now that you have a new theme, some decent icons, and tasteless rice on your desktop, it is time to move on to some other things that you might want to change before you show off your desktop.

5.1 Start Orb
You have two options: Changing the orb or getting rid of it altogether

I. Start Button Changer:
Free as in "free beer"
You can't go wrong with this one, all you have to do is run the program as an administrator and select the start orb you desire. Apply and you are done. You can browse through them here
Or make your own, following this guide

II. Start Killer:
Free as in "free beer"
As the name implies, the program gets rid of the space reserved in your taskbar for your start orb. You can still access your start menu through your Windows Key or Ctrl+Esc if you need to. A simple alternative is to have a transparent orb if you want to keep something to click when opening your start menu.

5.2 Center your icons
I. First, create a blank folder wherever you want.
II. Now, unlock your taskbar and create a new toolbar. The target for said toolbar should be the blank folder that you created
III. Right click the toolbar, and deselect "Show Title" and "Show Text"
IV. Now grab the little bar on the left of the toolbar and drag it all the way to the left, past the icons.
V. Do the same thing with the icons, but instead of going left drag them to the right.
VI. Try to leave them as centered as possible, but remember that once you lock your taskbar once again the icons will displace a little to the left.
VII. Once you are satisfied with the position of your icons, lock your taskbar. Enjoy!

A common problem you might run into if you are using a visual style with a thin taskbar (like Appows Haze/Dusk) is that once you center your icons a little extra space appears right underneath the icons. Luckily, there's a way to glitch it that space out:
I. First unlock your taskbar
II. Move the taskbar to the top of the screen
III. Grab the edge of it, and extend it to 2 rows.
IV. Move the taskbar back to the bottom, keeping the 2 rows
V. Once again grab the edge of the taskbar, but now reduce the height to a single row.
VI. The space underneath the icons should be glitches out, so all that is left for you to do is lock the taskbar. Enjoy!
Sadly you will have to perform this every time you restart your computer since it is not a permanent fix to the problem.

5.3 Windows Style Builder:
Non-free software for $22.50
Style builder is the main tool used to create custom visual styles. It has a simple interface and everything is organized in a logical manner. I recommend you purchase it if you want to mess around with your visual style.

5.4 Fences:
Free version and a "Pro" version for $19.95
A rule of thumb to having a bitching desktop is to get rid of all the desktop icons; but if you are the kind of guy that uses the desktop as a download folder or you like to keep a bunch of shortcuts no matter what, Fences is your friend. With a simple double-click everything is hidden, and double-click brings everything back. Remember that Fences is always running in the background.

5.5 Tiling WMs
If you are unfamiliar with these, there's a high chance that you don't need one, but they are just a tool to manage your workspace and increase productivity through the extensive use of your keyboard. To the average user, setup and usage of a tiling WM can be pretty intimidating, utilize them only if you know what you are doing or you really want to try something new.
Free as in "freedom"
A free tiling window manager which is light in resources. Like any GNU/Linux tiling WM, bug.n is customized to fit your needs since that's the way it's meant to be used.
Free as in "freedom"
A derivate of bug.n which, according to the devs, is much more customizable.

5.6 Desktop Coral:
Free as in "free beer"
"I have this really cool Rainmeter skin and I want to keep it visible at all times, but it gets covered with windows" seems to be a common occurrence. People from /w/ using that system-combo skin, I'm looking at you. A quick fix for that would be desktop coral, a tool that reserves blank space at any side of the screen. Software runs in the background, but uses very little resources.

5.7 Dexpot:
Free as in "free beer"
Dexpot provides simple virtual desktops to "increase productivity".

5.8 CD ArtDisplay:
Free as in "free beer"
Have you ever wanted to display the "now playing" information on your desktop without looking like a huge piece of crap while also wasting resources for some flashy stuff that you will never be able to look at? Well, CD ArtDisplay is here to fulfill those needs. Honestly, why would you want some controls on your desktop when they will be covered when you open up any window? For that matter, rice up your media player so it doesn't become an eyesore and look at that instead.
CDArtDisplay | DeviantArt

5.9 Launchy:
Free as in "freedom"
As the name implies, Launchy is a utility to launch any program, document, or file with just a couple of keystrokes. It is customizable to hell and back to fit your needs (meaning which keystrokes do what and that sort of thing) and many people prefer it over the start menu search. It is particularly useful if you are have a tiling window manager or a shell replacement.
Launchy | DeviantArt

5.10 JaSMiN 3D Color Changer:
Free Trial
3DCC changes the colour of everything if you are using the Windows Classic theme. It's easy enough to configure and there are plenty of skins available

5.11 Minibin:
Free as in "free beer"
A tiny recycle bin that hides in your system tray for those people who "need" their bin and are too lazy to pin it in their explorer jumplist
© 2012 - 2019 heysynergy
Posted it here since the pastebin is a bit plain to look at
anonymous's avatar
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Ladnverzipplnogip's avatar
" "I have this really cool Rainmeter skin and I want to keep it visible at all times, but it gets covered with windows" seems to be a common occurrence. People from /w/ using that system-combo skin, I'm looking at you."
Getting noticed by Senpai *^*
anggaFSP's avatar
can i ask..?
i'm using windows 7 ultimate :)
and i never have problems using 3rd party themes BUT i wanna using classic themes
so i applying classic themes on personalize :) but the nav button is became default again..!!
but when i applying my previous VS (visual styles) it back to 3rd party

soo..what should i do to change nav button when using classic VS???
Demonessyume's avatar
I was looking for this guide last year around early November, I hadnt seen it posted in a while and it wasn't coming up on searches for pastebin - never thought to look here for it. As you probably already saw I started a similar reference as a result thats currently on pastebin and sourced your guide here right near the top. You go into a lot more detail about visual style installation and docks, and I wanted to let you know I appreciate the effort that goes into every guide and reference about windows customization. Its something I've always wanted to be able to do and having some help and recommendations, even as simple as this, has been a huge help. Thanks.
heysynergy's avatar
The pastebin version has been around for a while, this one is fairly recent and I only created it because people where bitching over the other one being "too hard to read". I like your guide, it goes into the newer trends that have taken over the likes of /w/ and /wg/. I'm glad somebody appreciates it (mostly the time and effort that took to test every single thing in there), and I'm always open to suggestions to what I should add to it. See you in the next desktop thread
Schylige's avatar
SchyligeHobbyist Filmographer
Note, I meant for getting rid of the space for Appows Dusk.
Schylige's avatar
SchyligeHobbyist Filmographer
How do you extend it to two rows for centering it? I don't see an option or any ways to do it.
heysynergy's avatar
Just grab the edge of your taskbar and drag it.
LavaandMagma's avatar
LavaandMagmaStudent General Artist
Snowolf69's avatar
Absolutely epic!
My uber endorse!
lsy199011's avatar
lsy199011Hobbyist Photographer
I'd never think my win7 could be that fantastic before,thanks for reference u've written, that's awesome!(&sorry for my poor english)
heatul's avatar
Good job synnie buns
anonymous's avatar
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