Hey guys, in case you're new to Custom Windows Themes, here is some information that you might find useful and a guide explaining how to install and use a custom theme. If you're in a hurry, jump ahead to the HOW-TO GUIDE below.
The first thing you have to understand is that Custom Windows themes only apply to Win32/classic apps that inherit the classic Windows UI.
However, custom Windows themes don't apply to UWP/modern apps (like the Settings panel, Calculator, Windows Mail, Calendar, etc.) and apps that have a skinning system of their own like for example Winamp (a media player that uses its own skins) or the Microsoft Office apps (that have their own custom user interface).
USING STARDOCK CURTAINS (Windows 10 only)
For Windows 10, Stardock has created an app called Curtains that has the ability to style the titlebar and caption buttons of UWP/modern apps.
For this reason I've created matching Curtains styles for each and every one of my Windows 10 themes, which you can find in the Matching Extras section of the included README file. Also, each Curtains theme includes detailed instructions on how to install and how to use it.
USING DARK THEMES
If you're into Dark Themes, then you have to understand that these come in two flavors: Dark Mode compatible themes and Forced Dark Themes. The first category only applies the dark UI to Windows Explorer and other Dark Mode compatible apps, while the second category is trying to force the dark UI on most of the Windows UI elements. Most of my Dark Themes are in the Dark Mode compatible category and I'll explain why. The old Windows UI was never meant to be dark in the first place so most classic apps make use of the Windows UI in this way. Thus by using a Forced Dark Theme some apps can become challenging to use. Here are a few examples: older versions of Microsoft Office will get a dark background in the writing section; some apps will get dark menus with dark text making it impossible to read; some websites will have dark background text fields with black text making them very hard to use.
Nonetheless, to please the fans, a few of my Windows 11 themes have Night variants which are basically Forced Dark Themes but as I mentioned above, they have some issues that can’t be fixed so you’ll just have to get used to them if you want to use such themes.
Please feel free to check out the Matching Extras section in the README file of each theme where you’ll find recommended links to further customize your Windows using custom Mouse Cursors, Wallpapers, Firefox themes, and so on, but first, make sure to read the Guide below before you embark on your Custo Adventure!
My Windows Themes have the following compatibility:
- Windows 11 Themes are compatible with: Windows 11 v.23H2
- Windows 10 Themes are compatible with: Windows 10 v.1903->22H2
- Windows Scaling: all my themes support Windows scaling up to 250%
NOTE: please don't use Windows 10 themes on Windows 11 because they don't work properly. I'm doing my best to bring back some of my old themes to Windows 11, but this is a time-consuming process so please be patient.
- create a Restore Point using System Restore (safety first).
- patch Windows so you can use 3rd party themes by installing UltraUXThemePatcher. This app has to patch two DLL files located at "C:\Windows\System32" so make sure you run the installer as admin and follow the on-screen instructions. After you restart Windows run the patcher again to check if all the files are properly patched. It should look like this ↓
If the files are not patched, then take ownership of the unpatched DLLs using this Context Menu Registry Hack. After this is done, run the patcher again as admin, and now you should be good to go!
If the UltraUXThemePatcher still doesn't manage to patch the required files, try the SecureUxTheme Patcher.
- (Windows 11 only) install MicaForEveryone and set the Backdrop Type to None in both the "Global Rule" and "explorer". This brings back the flat color to the Titlebar by disabling the "Mica effect".
- (Windows 11 only) install StartAllBack (not free) or Explorer Patcher (free) to bring back the old File Explorer UI, the classic Taskbar and the classic Start Menu. To get the same results as the theme previews, I recommend using the following Explorer settings for StartAllBack ↓
- install OldNewExplorer and enable only the following settings:
✔ Use classical drive grouping in This PC
✔ Use libraries; hide folders from This PC
✔ Use command bar instead of Ribbon
✔ Hide caption text in File Explorer windows
✔ Hide caption icon in File Explorer windows
✔ Hide Up (go to parent folder) button
✔ Enable glass on navigation bar (ONLY FOR Simplify Dark Blue and Dark Purple Windows 10 themes)
- unpack the ZIP file and copy the content of the Theme folder to "C:\Windows\Resources\Themes\". It should look something like this ↓
- apply the desired theme: right click on the desktop > Personalize > Themes > Change theme > Click on the theme you would like to use.
- apply the registry settings by double clicking the relevant .REG file in the Window Metrics folder. These are some registry values that make the theme look right (details like the scrollbar width, window frame padding, etc.). You can always revert back the changes by running the default windows metrics values .reg file included.
- OPTIONAL: get a cleaner address bar: first, download 7TSP GUI 2019 Edition by devillnside and my 7tsp Iconless Address Bar Patch. Unpack the 7TSP GUI 2019 Edition by devillnside, then click on Add A Custom Pack & select the 7tsp_iconless_address_bar_patch.zip file, then click on Start Patching and wait for the process to finish. What this does is basically replacing the Dropdown and Refresh icons in the Explorer address bar with blank icons. So, the buttons are still there but you just can't see them. It should look like the screenshot below.
- OPTIONAL: fix the Control Panel and Winver for Night themes: some of my Windows 11 Themes include a folder called 7tsp Extras for the Control Panel and Winver. Inside this folder, you'll find a zip file that you need to install using 7TSP GUI 2019 Edition by devillnside to force the control panel and the winver screen fit to the Night (forced dark) themes because some parts of the UI can't be changed by the themes so a couple of Windows files have to be patched. If you want to revert back the changes, just install the 7tsp_windows_11_original_extras.zip file from the same folder.
- restart Windows and... enjoy!
- browser titlebar and caption buttons fix (this only works on Windows 11; there is no fix for Windows 10)
- Google Chrome: enter chrome://flags/#windows11-mica-titlebar into the address bar and set the flag to Enabled, then Relaunch Chrome to apply the changes.
- Microsoft Edge: unfortunately, Edge doesn't have the same #windows11-mica-titlebar flag, so the only way to get the custom caption buttons back is by using the old shortcut method. So, the Edge shortcut becomes something like: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft\Edge\Application\msedge.exe" --enable-features=Windows11MicaTitlebar
- for both browsers: in MicaForEveryone add a new Process Rule for each browser (for Chrome Process Name: chrome | for Edge Process Name: msedge) and set the > Backdrop Type to Default or Mica.
- OPTIONAL (Windows 10 only): style UWP apps: use the available Curtains Styles (check the Matching Extras section above) to theme the titlebar and caption buttons (min, max, close) of UWP/modern apps (like the Settings panel, Calculator or other apps from the Microsoft Store).
- OPTIONAL: narrow vertical taskbar: use 7+ Taskbar Tweaker. Right click on the tray icon>advanced settings and set the no_width_limit = 1. In order to use &+ Taskbar Tweaker in Windows 11 you will have to enable the classic tasbar either by using StartAllBack or Explorer Patcher.
- NOTE: before major Windows updates please switch to the default Windows theme and uninstall the UltraUXThemePatcher. After the Windows Update is completed, download and install the latest version of the patcher, but first make sure it's compatible with the new Windows version. Then, after restart, try applying the themes you used before and see if they work without any issues. I usually let people know if my themes work with the latest Windows Update or if I have to update them as well.