Saturday, May 10, 2008

Make XP Look Like Vista

Despite Windows Vista being out for a while now, not everyone is ready or willing to make the big "switch" just yet. Some people are waiting for the time to buy a new PC, some are not upgrading because their hardware isn't up to it, and some well.....just don't want to. Well there's nothing wrong with wanting to stick with XP for a while, but maybe you would like to change the "look" of XP to more of a Vista "style".
The interest in making Windows XP look like Vista has been going on for a while, but I get asked to this day what are the best ways to change the desktop to look more like Vista. Some want just the visual style changed, and some want the entire look and feel of their desktop changed to reflect Vista.
In this article, we'll explain the quickest and safest way to change Windows XP to look more like Windows Vista.
Changing the Visual Style
For this you will need WindowBlinds 6. WindowBlinds 6 is available as a stand-alone application, or part of the Object Desktop suite of desktop enhancements. WindowBlinds is the best and safest way to change the complete look of Windows, whether it's to make it look like Vista, or any one of the thousands of skins available.
WindowBlinds 6
WindowBlinds 6 adds true glass effects including an optional blur which will give you the best results in your "transformation" from XP to Vista. It also has a "Vista-ize me" feature which sets the transparency and blurring to best resemble Windows Vista. Additionally, transparency is adjustable and you can set it to the desired levels yourself.
Vista-ize me" feature
There seems like a countless number of Vista skins are available for download, some even caught the attention of Microsoft and had to be removed. So for today's guide I am going to use a Vista skin that will give you the Vista "look" and takes advantage of WindowBlinds features. These are two of my personal favorites.
Jadaero 1.4
Mimic Vista v3
There are many different variations of Vista-inspired skins available. You just need to take a browse through sites like WinCustomize and find one that you like.
Now that the visual style is done, lets find a nice wallpaper. While there is not a definitive wallpaper for Vista, I'm going to use one that is popular and goes with the Vista theme.
Vista Ultimate Series
Vista Suite Wallpaper pack
Vista Media
Vista Aurora Wallpaper Suite

WindowBlinds has a built-in wallpaper changer that makes it easy to change your wallpaper, but you can also apply it like any other wallpaper. There is a huge gallery of wallpapers in the WinCustomize galleries, so you can browse there and find one that suits you best.
Changing the boot screen
While Windows Vista doesn't have much of a bootskin that doesn't mean you can't use one. Using the Bootskin (free) application you can change the boot screen in Windows XP. Here are a couple of my favorites to add to the Vista look, but you can find thousands more in the Bootskin gallery.
Vista Ultimate Boot
Real Vista Boot
Real Vista Changing the Bootskin
Changing the logon screen
Once you're past the boot screen you are probably facing a logon screen now, and that's just as easy to change as well. Download LogonStudio (free) for Windows XP, load up your favorite logon and your Vista transformation is one step closer to complete.
After you install LogonStudio, it's simply a matter of choosing from the list of logons you downloaded, and clicking "apply". Here are some logons I recommend, or search for Vista logons here.
Vista Reaction
Simple Vista dx revisited
Changing the Windows Logon
Changing the Icons
IconPackager gives you ability to change nearly all your Windows icons at once, and it is also easy to create your own icon packs. This is a great solution as you won't have to worry about changing individual icons, and there are hundreds of other icon packs available. I had a hard time finding an icon package that was close to what Vista really is, so I used one that I liked and thought fit well anyways.
Aero IconPackage
Apogee Icon Suite IconPackager
Adding a Sidebar
Thanks to DesktopX, adding your own Vista Sidebar is easy as a few clicks. One of my favorites is the Vista Sidebar by kennhk. He also makes some stand-alone widgets that fit perfectly with your Vista desktop also. Once you have DesktopX installed it's as simple as a couple of clicks and your sidebar will be up and running. It's also very easy to configure DesktopX objects to add or remove the components you want.
Vista Sidebar
We have gone over the ways you can easily change your default Windows XP desktop into a Vista-like experience. The skins and themes I used for this guide are just a small sample of the many Vista inspired skins that are out there. You don't have to make it exactly like Vista, you are free to pick and choose skins and make your desktop as personalized as you want.
This is the XP desktop that we have transformed into a great Vista looking desktop.
XP desktop now looks like Vista
If you need some more information on some of these programs work and how they change your desktop then I'd like to recommend reading the "Change Your Desktop Theme" articles. I would also recommend taking a look at Object Desktop, which includes many of the applications used to create our Vista desktop.