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computer customizationWhat does it mean to customize your computer? Does it mean to have the coolest looking desktop? Well, that’s part of it, but not completely. First off, you want your desktop to be functional. Not just “cool looking.” That said, customizing your desktop does have a key role in personalizing your computer. And also, since the desktop is a primary location for where we do our work, it tends to also be the home of many computer customization tools.

In this article we will take a look at some of the best and most functional tools to help you personalize your computer. Again, you don’t necessarily have to follow what other users do, but use the tools to make your system your own – that is a truly personalized computer.

Your Personal Computer, Mac Style

The dock on the Mac is one of the most envied features of Windows users. And perhaps you already knew that there are tools for Windows that can mimic this feature. If not, your mind will be opened to awesome new capabilities on your Windows computer.

RocketDock

RocketDock is not an uncommon topic here on MakeUseOf. It’s been featured in several articles, including my own How To Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once & For All How To Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once & For All Your desktop is a mess. Admit it. Just like a desk with papers all over, a messy computer desktop is far from productive. Plus, it just doesn’t look nice. If you’re having issues finding the... Read More , and rightfully so – it’s an awesome program. So why would you want to use RocketDock if you have never tried it before?

Well, besides being open to trying new things, it can really help clean up your desktop and keep things organized with the addition of Stack Docklet. Stack Docklet is a small add-on of sorts that allows you to “open” folders directly from RocketDock. In essence, you aren’t really opening the folder itself (although you can by clicking the arrow at the bottom), but creating a shortcut for it to appear in the form of a “stack.”

computer customization

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It is best described through an image. There are a lot of customizations of RocketDock including the themes of the icons and the dock itself, but I feel the Stack Docklet is one of the most useful changes. In my opinion, RocketDock wouldn’t be the same without it.’

It’s also worth mentioning that RocketDock isn’t the only dock for Windows Docks - The 6 Best Friends of your Windows Taskbar Docks - The 6 Best Friends of your Windows Taskbar Read More . ObjectDock is another free and very popular dock that I would recommend looking into.

Organize Your Desktop Icons

We’ve all seen that desktop that looked like every shortcut imaginable was on it. Let’s obliterate that image from our mind now and imagine a neatly organized desktop, customized by us.

Fences

computer customization software

Fences Turn Your Windows Desktop From Cluttered To Useful For Free With Fences Turn Your Windows Desktop From Cluttered To Useful For Free With Fences I'd like to start this post with a small request: Hit Win+D for me. I'll wait here. Go ahead, do it. Okay, done? What did you see? Was it a hot mess of cluttered icons... Read More is the application that can do this for you. It works by organizing shortcuts based on type into clusters on your desktop. And with one click they all can “disappear.” It’s a pretty nifty little application and many MakeUseOf readers have already found it useful for their PC customization.

Launch Applications With Style

When using a dock, usually you’re limited a bit by the size. And you don’t want to overload it with every single application because that may not look very good. So how do you quickly access everything else that isn’t on your dock or being organized with Fences?

Launchy

computer customization software

Aptly named, Launchy allows you to find and launch any program with a quick keyboard key stroke. It’s a fairly simple application, but still has several customization options.

Additional Desktop “Add-Ons”

There are two other programs that I recommend trying for even more customization for your computer. The level of function varies between them somewhat and they certainly aren’t equals. However I feel they provide a decent level of variance depending on your ambition to customize.

Rainlendar

computer customization software

Rainlendar provides you with several options such as a calendar, to do list, clock and weather. These all seem basic, but combined with theming, it can add a nice touch to a clean desktop and provide you with some additional functionality as well.

Rainmeter

customize your computer

Rainmeter has many more extensive features and can be customized more than you could imagine. I’ve dabbled with it, but I know even what I have done hasn’t been to its full capability. Ryan wrote a great article covering it Customize Your Windows 7 Desktop With Emerge, Enigma & Rainmeter Customize Your Windows 7 Desktop With Emerge, Enigma & Rainmeter Having followed the progression of the Windows operating system, I can comfortably say that Windows 7 is probably the most well polished version of this constantly evolving operating system. With that said, watching cool new... Read More , combined with Emerge Desktop. This is probably one of the biggest computer customizations you can make. If you have the time and patience, I encourage you to try Rainmeter. You will be customizing late into the night, but come 5.00AM, your desktop will look phenomenal.

Here’s an example of one of mine a couple years back.

customize your computer

Samurize is another similar program Dress Up Your Windows Sidebar with Samurize Dress Up Your Windows Sidebar with Samurize Read More , but with settings that seem a little bit more difficult to configure than Rainmeter.

More Tools For Customization

Like I said in the beginning, customizing isn’t all about your desktop. There are tools (and more tools 3 More Tools to Customize the Right Click Menu (Windows) 3 More Tools to Customize the Right Click Menu (Windows) Read More ) for customizing your right-click menu 7 Awesome Tools To Enhance Your Right-Click Menu [Windows] 7 Awesome Tools To Enhance Your Right-Click Menu [Windows] The Windows right-click menu is a feature that we may often take for granted, but it can really make our lives easier. Advanced users probably don’t use it that much, having learned all the necessary... Read More , adjusting notifications 5 Distracting Desktop Notifications & How To Turn Them Off [Windows] 5 Distracting Desktop Notifications & How To Turn Them Off [Windows] When you are working on a computer, it takes a fair bit of will power to resist the attempt to multitask. But even if you manage to restrain yourself, many programs manage to throw in... Read More and changing the appearance of windows and toolbars 5 Programs To Customize The Appearance of Windows & Toolbars [Windows] 5 Programs To Customize The Appearance of Windows & Toolbars [Windows] Even in the latest version of Windows, Microsoft manages to (probably intentionally) leave out many thoughtful customization preferences when it comes to personalizing your visual experience. I'm not the type of guy who goes nuts... Read More .

One customization that I like is adding sticky notes to your screen.

customize your computer

But that seems a little inefficient, so instead I use a program like PNotes PNotes - Fast, Lightweight, Open-Source Sticky Notes Program For Your Desktop/USB Flash Drive [Windows] PNotes - Fast, Lightweight, Open-Source Sticky Notes Program For Your Desktop/USB Flash Drive [Windows] Read More or Hott Notes Bring Sticky Notes To Your Deskop With Hott Notes [Windows] Bring Sticky Notes To Your Deskop With Hott Notes [Windows] Through the use of sticky notes, I feel like I've been able to just about double my daily productivity. Being able to have physical reminders that nagged for certain tasks to be completed was a... Read More .

Conclusion – The Final Touches

With all of these tools, you are almost set up to have your computer completely personalized to your liking. There’s one thing missing though – themes, skins and wallpaper. We, at MakeUseOf, have actually shared some of our very own wallpaper. From Us To You: 6 Beautiful, Original Wallpapers By MakeUseOf Authors From Us To You: 6 Beautiful, Original Wallpapers By MakeUseOf Authors Every now and then, I write a wallpaper column. I usually pick a theme and go scour the Web in search of talented artists who have created beautiful wallpapers around that theme. And one of... Read More For themes and skins, there are some great sites to scan through 7 Websites For Desktop Customization: Download Free Themes & Skins 7 Websites For Desktop Customization: Download Free Themes & Skins Read More . I’ll be honest, you’ll spend more time theming than anything else, so be careful with your time and be sure not to let it eat up too much of your time – I speak from experience. Nonetheless, it’s quite fun to find that perfect look.

Below is my current desktop. It’s simple, and not nearly as fancy as previous ones, but less heavy on resources, yet still functional.

computer customization

The wallpaper a photo of a Red Panda taken by me, the dock is rocket dock with the theme “simple dark” and Lucid icons; with Rainlendar on the side.

Image Credits: Sketch Of Laptop On White Background [Text Not Apart Of Original] via Shutterstock, Desktop Customized With Rainmeter via Flickr, Yellow Notes On A Laptop Screen via Shutterstock

  1. Mark
    May 3, 2015 at 5:17 am

    What theme did you use for rainmeter?

  2. harley
    March 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    I spend a lot of time customizing my desktop. I have 2 monitors, one larger which I use for browsing which has Rocketdock with all my shortcuts, the smaller monitor has a simple calendar, recycle bin, start menu, taskbar and a sticky note. I have Rainmeter installed but am not using it right now, I found I didn't look at it at all.

  3. Giggity Goebbels
    December 30, 2012 at 12:29 am

    What a bout the bing desktop that everyone hates lol

  4. Giggity Goebbels
    December 30, 2012 at 12:28 am

    I really rather just use windows 7 defaults.this is messing the desktop up truly speaking

  5. tyson granger
    December 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    That surely helps makes every task easily searchable!

  6. Rahul Yadav
    December 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    coloolllllllllllllllllll

  7. yarasa GR67
    December 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Nice tools, but i don't know if are really necessary...

  8. Tentilly
    November 14, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Okay good list. But missing best one? Splinter? I before used to use Rocketdock plus Fences but Splinter does better work for me. Much more customize with Splinter.

  9. Walter Askew
    November 12, 2012 at 2:12 am

    Great Information, lots of things for me to try. Fences is no longer free, but it was worth the 10.00. Thanks for the info.

  10. LeRoy
    November 10, 2012 at 4:25 am

    Like all of ur ideas, but the whole idea behind a sticky Note is a quick jot-down with Pen & note...Crawler desktop notes is just that easy...No frills, bell or whistles...

  11. Shiva Kunwar
    November 10, 2012 at 3:54 am

    I always thought of making my computer look even more classy and stylish after installing Object dock. Thanks to Make Use OF team, for such a wonderful article with such great applications and softwares.

  12. Anonymous
    November 10, 2012 at 3:49 am

    Try dextop it's amazing

  13. tamm
    November 9, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    I choose "nothing". In Windows 7 I create a folder called "a" in my second partition. I fill it full of shortcuts to the applications I use. I right click on the taskbar, go to Toolbars, and select new toolbars. Windows pops up with 'Choose a folder', and I select "a". It creates a (very small) location on the taskbar that, when clicked, scrolls up with all the shortcuts. Very simple and elegant, an leaves the desktop clear for the backgrounds I run as a slideshow.

  14. Anonymous
    November 9, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I love an organized desktop. Fences is great because it prevents my icons from shifting around against my will. It's really great.

  15. Adrian Rea
    November 8, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Nice article, there are many customisations that can make windows look different. I am just going to play devil's advocate as the title suggested changing your computer to look cool and functional. If you have the nerve or the intrigue, why not change OS? Sorry Windows fans but I feel that a great customisation is to use something like Ubuntu Linux with Compiz to make effects like this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9gXq1GyKpw
    Or other customisations such as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWI2EaYdQIg&feature=fvwrel most of which are available by default

  16. Vivek Kumar
    November 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Gr8 article, Rainmeter and fences are nice tools for personalization.

  17. mike
    November 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    why don't you tell us what themes/skins you have shown us here??????????

    • Vivek Kumar
      November 8, 2012 at 9:17 pm

      i concur would like to know the themes shown here.

  18. Gravity Dead
    November 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    haha I am addicted to this customizing stuff
    but the sad part is I 'often' end up downloading some virus and then *BAM* restore, everything back to the original windows, wait a month or two and then start again :p

  19. Nikhil Chandak
    November 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    great ways to customize !!
    I have tried some of them ..
    gonna try the others

  20. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    November 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Sorry, forgot you've already included Fences.
    By the way, if you don't like Launchy, EnsoWords is worth trying.

  21. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    November 8, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I love customizing my computer. My friends, especially the not tech-savvy ones always ask me to 'prettify' their computers.
    I'm familiar with all apps you mentioned, though I don't use Rainlendar or Rainmeter.Rocketdock is great but Nexus has more effects (if you have more RAM to spare), I changed between the two every few months
    My makeover includes changing the whole iconset, tweaking aero, changing the soundset (old videogames chip and tunes work great), changing the logon screen, start orb, grabbing a nice visual style from Deviantart, etc.To keep my screen from clutter, I autohide the dock and the taskbar.
    You might want to take a look at these, a list of lesser known softwares but nice additions to your arsenal:
    Winlaunch or Vipad
    Vishal Gupta's Aerotuner and Task Pane changer
    SKwire's Lucidity
    Frank's Context Menu Image changer(32-bit only)
    Start Orb Changer or ViOrb
    Overlap Wallpaper
    7stack or Standalone Stacks
    Very popular one: Fences. Too bad the 2.0 isn't free anymore.
    I combine several programs to create a new desktop every few months.

  22. Alan Wade
    November 8, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Great article!
    I am heavily into customizing and tweaking my system. I have tried a couple of your suggestions and am going to try a couple of the rest.
    My favorites that I keep falling back on (albeit not free) are Windowblinds and IconPackager. One thing I just cannot get past is having loads of gadgets and icons on my desktop, there isnt one icon on mine and although I love trying new suggestions for customizing, I dont like my desktop cluttered.

  23. Anonymous
    November 8, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Thanks dude, awesome stuff this one...was already using fences and stardock, now using railendar...thanks dude.

  24. Erlis Dhima
    November 8, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I've used some of this customization tools.
    But about the article, I would say only: Wow! Just great! XD

  25. Michael L
    November 8, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I have been using Rainmeter for quite some time. Now I prefer my desktop clean and I use only the windows 8 tiles.

  26. Douglas Mutay
    November 8, 2012 at 9:44 am

    These are very good! will definitevely try one or two of them and see. i hope they won't mess up my windows ;-)

  27. Anonymous
    November 8, 2012 at 9:38 am

    i think one such similar post was already written by you in which you told about launchy and rocket dock but i'm not 100% sure.

  28. ha14
    November 8, 2012 at 8:53 am
  29. Chaos Emperor
    November 8, 2012 at 7:53 am

    I love rocket dog and rainmeter

  30. Chaos Emperor
    November 8, 2012 at 7:52 am

    rainmeter sure looks great

  31. Terafall
    November 8, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I don't know why but I prefer Xwidget than Rainmeter

  32. druv vb
    November 8, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Thats a nice article. I tried RocketDock some years ago. But was causing issues with fullscreen applications and games too often. AquaDock and YzDock are also good and very lightweight. Good for old laptops / PCs.
    But since then I moved to RK Launcher. Its light on resources and memory. Doesn't interfere with games and apps. And most of the plugins from RocketDock, ObjectDock and YzDock work well with it. And I also use the Stack Docket in RK Launcher.
    For searches, its Windows 7 Start Menu search for programs and Everything for files and folders. And to keep my desktop clean, I have only 2 icons. My Computer and Recycle Bin.

  33. Jon Smith
    November 8, 2012 at 5:28 am

    oh cool, I really want to try rainmeter

  34. Baibhav Bista
    November 8, 2012 at 5:23 am

    RocketDock is very very good

  35. Guest
    November 8, 2012 at 4:58 am

    I nominate the open-source app Classic Shell (classicshell.sourceforge.net) to this list. Not everyone appreciates the new Start menu in Windows 7 or some of the "missing" features in 7's Explorer and IE9 familiar to users of older Windows editions. Classic Shell replaces the "new" Start menu and the "new" Explorer and IE9 interface with the old-school setup. I mostly use the Classic Start menu feature since I prefer the Windows Classic look, something I know I'd miss in W8 which is why I'm sticking with 7.

    For external customization, if you've got the cash check out Computer Choppers. You can actually get a laptop decked out with Swarovski crystals and keys made from pearl. Prices start in the range of "most-people-will-never-afford-this" to "GDP of Earth." :-)

    • Aaron Couch
      March 4, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      Classic Shell is really awesome. Thanks for the suggestion. I just recently installed in on my Windows 8 PC and really like the added functions. Thanks for commenting!

  36. Márcio Guerra
    November 8, 2012 at 4:04 am

    Nice one! I'll try to try it, if it makes any sense, eheheh!

    Márcio Guerra

  37. john
    November 8, 2012 at 3:33 am

    rainlendar, launchy and autohotkey... why more... I'd love to stop seeing those useless titlebars though... haven't found how to really remove them

  38. Roystan Ang
    November 8, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Wow! Thanks for the tips
    Stardock Objectdock is not in the list?

    • Aaron Couch
      March 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      I just included one dock and RocketDock made the cut. Objectdock is certainly another great free option though! Thanks for commenting!

  39. Boni Oloff
    November 8, 2012 at 3:24 am

    I try to make my system as clear and clean as possible, because of slow spec..
    If it is to much load unused application, like interface modification, it can be slowed down a little. So i think it is better to make the Windows 7 as clean as possible.

  40. Yang Yang Li
    November 8, 2012 at 2:53 am

    Great article with very useful software suggestions! I will keep this page in reference in case I ever decide to go all out and make my desktop unrecognizable as a Windows desktop. Right now I have a minimal desktop with icons at %300 size. 2-inch tall icons FTW!

  41. Brandon Clark
    November 8, 2012 at 2:42 am

    I like having only rocketdock on my desktop, with autohide on.
    I tried rainmeter for awhile, but I found it was just clutter on my desktop that I never bothered to read most of the time. it's fun to play with all the different themes/skins/etc that you can find on places like Deviantart, but that's about it.. novelty ran out pretty quick when the only time I look at my desktop is to launch another application. Anything by Stardock is worth checking out if you want to customize pretty much everything in windows.

  42. Anonymous
    November 8, 2012 at 2:32 am

    i've already used most of the customization tools shown here, it's hard for me to find the balance between simple and functional or complex and hard to use, my desktop is most of the time with apps so i chose finally to use Rainmeter with a pair of widgets just for an enhanced time, date and search tools, a nice background, and shortcuts to my most used folders.

    Anyways, it's always nice to see all this info grouped up, so i can reread it and others can learn to customize their computers.

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