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Accessible Aero Windows 7

By robodesign
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40 Comments
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Hello, guys!

I am a happy Windows 7 x64 user since 1st of January 2010. Since day one, I wasn't happy about the default aero theme, because it is too transparent and the titlebars texts are not visible on dark wallpapers and such. So, last week I thought of doing something different. Here's a windows aero theme done by me, based on the default Aero theme. I just changed what I thought it lacks contrast.

Don't forget to carefully read the installation instructions included in the ZIP, to avoid any unpleasing results.

For comparative screenshots, go here, on my blog: [link]


So, here it's what this theme features:
* considerably less transparent glass, a dark glass
* white text title bars with black glows, so they are readable irrespective of the background of the window
* increased contrast in the title bars for the Basic mode, when not using Aero and I also adjusted the caption buttons accordingly by enhancing the contrast between the glyphs and the buttons.
* a much darker taskbar in Basic mode, making the clock and popup titles of the applications running, much more readable
* a darker Start menu in Basic mode
* increased contrast for the Alt-Tab application switcher in Basic mode
* added a strong white glow to Alt-Tab app switcher to make the the title visible
* made text fields slightly more visible
* defined a clear difference between active and inactive text fields, making the borders thicker
* a more visible highlighting color for menus, popups menus, while trying to maintain the default look
* file column headers in Explorer or other applications, are enhanced as well; more visible and a more clear border between them
* changed the gray color of tooltips to black for increased readability
* added dark glow to application titles in task bar and in the thumbnails to avoid situations when the titles are unreadable
* made the address bar, search field and the whole breadcrumb much more readable; brighter background and darker texts
* more visible separator in unlocked taskbar and other types of separators or window resize grippers
* bigger close button in taskbar pop-up thumbnails
* made the taskbar icons less wide, more ergonomic, both in Basic and Aero modes
* made more visible the MDI window buttons: close, minimize and restore/maximize
* restyled the whole taskbar to my personal taste

By now, it is clear what is my main purpose with this theme: readability, accesibility, hence the title. So, it is not about eye-candy, fancy designs, or not even originality.

Feel free to give me suggestions on how to improve it. I hope you guys find it useful.
Published:
© 2010 - 2021 robodesign
Comments40
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ashyraccoon's avatar
I'm still using this, every single day, so excellent work is all I can say.
robodesign's avatar
THANKS A LOT! I am really glad to hear this. I am using it too every single day since I made it ;).

I hope it will work in Windows 8 ;)
DoctorMikeReddy's avatar
Could you make window top menu bar buttons bigger? Particularly the close, minimise and resize window buttons.
robodesign's avatar
Thanks for your interest in this theme. Unfortunately, I have no time to update the theme and to implement suggestions from various users. I suggest you to increase the DPI in Windows.
Macma's avatar
Salut, j'ai pas bien compris comment on installe le thème , si tu peux m'aider stp ? J'adorais l'utiliser
Hey Marius, I've got just a small point to mention. I've got your theme installed on my laptop and desktop :D, and am wondering whether you see that little artifact when your cursor is hovering over the minimize/maximize button at the top right of a window? It happens only when it's glowing, and only affects those two buttons.
robodesign's avatar
Hello!

Thanks for using my theme.

Yes, I am aware of that tiny bug, but I do not know what causes it. But, I find it really minor and I did not bother with it.

Best regards,
Marius
thanks for this theme. i've been using it for a long time. but can u pls make the active window on taskbar even more readable? i want to recognize which is active even when i'm not staring at it
i have no suggestion on how to make it more readable. but do know the problem:
there's a "nice" bright round face on top left of each task button, making the button looks more "white", and active button is marked by "white" it's not easy to distinct them
robodesign's avatar
Hello!
Thanks for using my theme.

With all due respect, I am unable to fully comprehend what you'd like. Please be more specific. You may also provide visual samples to make your case.

Best regards,
Marius
thanks for your reading my note, and sorry for my bad English
as i'm not an artist nor designer i don't know how to design it in a way i like and also pretty instead of making it ugly

what i want is, make "active" taskbar button more accessible even more the current one. more visual distinction tweak to the "active" taskbar button
by "active" i mean the button that is highlighted for focused window

for example, change button to "golden" or "blue" when it's active. it will improve accessibility but it's ugly. i guess you can make it accessible and pretty at the same time :)
ashyraccoon's avatar
What? I can actually read titlebar text, now, no matter how low I set the color intensity? Impossible!
I like this a lot so far. =) Thank you for making it.
robodesign's avatar
Hehe, exactly my point!

Glad you like it. Thanks for the message.
Installed your theme. Love it so far. My biggest reason for needing it was the column headers/separators were nearly invisible.

In Windows Explorer when looking at a drive contents, the font size is a bit small for my 22" monitor. How can I keep your theme but increase the font size in Windows Explorer only?
robodesign's avatar
Thank you for installing my theme and I am really content to hear you like it :).

To increase font sizes on screen you have two options:
1. increase the dpi from Desktop right-click > Screen resolution and there are some links which get you to this;
2. increase font size at Personalize > Window colours > Advanced, where you can change font sizes like in Windows 95/98 and XP/2000.

These are not explanations in detail, but should give you a hint where to look for and what to do.

Keep in mind that you cannot specifically modify only the font sizes used in Windows Explorer. Both ways for increasing font sizes suggested here will affect all aplications which use the provided Windows APIs for interface rendition.

Hope this helps.

Best of luck and best regards,
Marius
Hey. I love your theme. It's pretty much the reason that tipped me to start using windows 7 for my home pc.

Of course, There are still some slight (very slight only!) issues. Not sure if you've noticed, but I've found that when I transferred files from my pc to phone using the onboard bluetooth, the text was still the same old hard-to-read black on black. It's a minor issue though, since for the most part things are immensely more readable.

Office 2010 bugs me a little though. The text at the top when I start any office application doesn't have that distinctive black glow that you have for the other windows. Sure, the glass is already a smoked black, but when I drag my window around the screen at times, readability drops due to the lack of the black glow. In fact, it's still the same old white glow. Small issue, but I think it's worth a mention anyway.

And I'm not sure if it's only me, but despite the huge improvement of your taskbar over the default, there is an annoying amount of shine/reflection/glow that sometimes interferes with the white text. Wonder if anything can be done about that? :D

Haha anyway those are small issues that I can easily live with, considering the horror that windows 7 used to look like. Thanks for all the hard work!
robodesign's avatar
Hello!

I am glad and thankful to read your message. I am happy to know you like it.

About the transfer of the files from PC to phone via bluetooth. I am not aware of this issue. Maybe you can show me a screenshot.

I know about the Office 2010 titlebar glow issue, same here. But, it's not something I can fix, as far as I know.

You can provide me a screenshot of what you mean specifically in regards to the taskbar.

Yeap, you are definitely right: the original aero theme is crap, unreadable.

Best regards,
Marius
Hey Marius!

Glad to see that you've replied.

I've taken a picture of the bluetooth window for you: [link]

There's another issue that I've chanced across recently. Another picture: [link]

See that when I mouse over the view settings, the text transforms to white completely? Now, I'm not sure if it's just my own end that's causing this since I'm using Classic Shell. But could you just check?

But it's another small problem anyway. Haha. Windows 7 looks much better with your theme than left on default, and it's really so sad that of all things, someone had to get their hands dirty to meddle with the settings for windows rather than microsoft providing us the option to change these settings by default. Tsk tsk microsoft.

Regards,
Ash
robodesign's avatar
Hello again!

Thanks for the screen shots.

The glitches you've shown, unfortunately, cannot be fixed, as far as I know.

I am aware of that issue with the hover state, that is caused by the fact I fixed another issue. The whole story behind that is a lot too complicated to explain it here.

I wasn't 100% content either of the theme I made, upon release, because I was very limited in doing it. I was aware of all the main small glitches. It just fixes the major problems of the default aero theme, the ones which are present everywhere. I think that the issues fixed outweigh by far the small glitches it introduces ;).

If I will find ways to fix all those glitches, I will release an updated version.

Best regards,
Marius
Oh yes, your theme though still having a few loose ends, is tremendously better than the default Aero theme. I tried switching back to the old aero theme for fun just earlier today, and it completely turned me off, even when their black text was on a bright background. Your white text just stands out much more.

Thanks for answering all my inquiries, and a two thumbs up for your theme!

Regards,
Ash
robodesign's avatar
Thank you!

I hope one day I will update it, if it would still be of interest, that is, no new windows version :).

Best regards,
Marius
Thanks for this theme. I've been looking for something to make the Windows Explorer column headers solid, and so far this is the only theme I've found that tries to do it.
Where did you achieve that bit? Somewhere in the registry?
robodesign's avatar
Thanks for appreciating my theme.
Nope. I just edited the default theme. It's not a registry hack.
ok Robodesign, thanks for your reply.

I'm not a designer but do you know of a good tutorial showing what to adjust to affect different areas of the UI? I assume however it is not an easy project for a novice like me, and I could end up in a complete mess of non-aligned text and backgrounds etc.

Since I moved to Windows 7 a few weeks ago I really am not happy with how it looks, and taming/adjusting it for my preferences seems very difficult if not impossible. It makes me yearn for Vista (Basic theme) which I came from, and I didn't like that very much over XP!

I've tried various themes from this site including XP based looks but they either don't quite work for me or I don't like them enough to justify using them.
Your theme is certainly the most suitable and functional 'base' for me out of those I have found and tried.

My 'ideal' theme would not have any of the Aero / smoke / textures / transparency / glass / animations and would just be solid colours everywhere. And of course nice prominent column headings in Explorer in Details view!

Along with using the available UI adjustments in Windows, Windows 7 Basic goes some way in that direction, whilst Windows Classic goes too far the other way.

I appreciate you may not want to give specific personal service, and this long reply may not be suitable on your page here, but any advice or help will be gratefully appreciated!

Many thanks,
Lee
UK
robodesign's avatar
Hello, Lee!

> I'm not a designer but do you know of a good tutorial showing what to
> adjust to affect different areas of the UI? I assume however it is not
> an easy project for a novice like me, and I could end up in a complete
> mess of non-aligned text and backgrounds etc.

It is not very hard to edit a Windows 7 Aero theme. You need Ave's
Vista Style Builder. But, it is cumbersome and a time wasting process.
I had a hard time doing it ;).

> Since I moved to Windows 7 a few weeks ago I really am not happy with
> how it looks, and taming/adjusting it for my preferences seems very
> difficult if not impossible. It makes me yearn for Vista (Basic theme)
> which I came from, and I didn't like that very much over XP!

I like the Windows 7 Aero default theme, but it lacked some contrast
for me. I fixed it as I deemed it necesary, while trying to not lead myself
astray from the original flavour, thus keeping it usable for years.

> I've tried various themes from this site including XP based looks but
> they either don't quite work for me or I don't like them enough to
> justify using them. Your theme is certainly the most suitable and
> functional 'base' for me out of those I have found and tried.

I am glad my default Aero theme seems to be the most functional for you.
I hope you'll use it ;).

> My 'ideal' theme would not have any of the Aero / smoke / textures /
> transparency / glass / animations and would just be solid colours
> everywhere. And of course nice prominent column headings in Explorer in
> Details view!

You can disable animations in Windows. Just go to My Computer > Advanced,
adjust for best performance. Then re-enable what you want: aero or not.

> Along with using the available UI adjustments in Windows, Windows 7
> Basic goes some way in that direction, whilst Windows Classic goes too
> far the other way.

Have you tried my theme with Aero turned off? I made quite many
adjustments for the Basic version as well.

> I appreciate you may not want to give specific personal service, and
> this long reply may not be suitable on your page here, but any advice or
> help will be gratefully appreciated!

No problem. Your message is welcome. I am glad you replied.
I am not sure with and how to help you. You can give me a PM with what
you want to ask.

Best regards,
Marius
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