5 Programs to Customize the Appearance of Windows and Toolbars

Craig Snyder 01-07-2012

customize windowsEven 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 over features like Metro and Aero. Even so, certain enhancements provide levels of functionality that are past that of just, “Oh, this looks nice.”


1 Hour Software, a compilation by Skrommel over at DonationCoder, offers a lot of solutions to these possibilities that Windows has left out. Let me stress that most of these pieces of software were coded in the XP and Vista days. While most that I’ve run have been completely compatible with Windows 7, many of those that offer visual tweaks require that you use the Windows Classic theme.

Let’s look through a few of these little gems and see how they change the experience.


The concept behind Ghoster is shockingly simple and effective. Ghoster is an extremely lightweight program that docks in your system tray and will dim every window but the active one.

customize windows

I used Ghoster while watching a movie just last night. I don’t watch movies in fullscreen because I’m a busy guy and every now and then, an important email or IM will roll in. Ghoster made is very easy for me to focus on the movie, while still being able to see if other windows are flashing, if I get any notifications, etc. For a program that simply dims windows, it makes things look very elegant.


Ghoster also comes with a slew of settings you can configure by right-clicking on the tray icon.


FadingTaskbar helps dim a certain element of your screen, much like Ghoster. This tool is exclusive to the taskbar.

customize windows toolbar

Again, for those of us trying to focus on certain parts of our monitor, a busy taskbar may get a little distracting. With FadingTaskbar, you’re able to customize transparency levels, taskbar hiding, and fade in/out preferences. This application has given me some trouble on Windows 7 and Vista, so I really only recommend it for XP.



TransOther is much like Ghoster, but will make inactive windows transparent rather than dim.

customize windows toolbar

In my own opinion, this is a bit of an eyesore and has a little too much going on for me. I’m sure there are those out there who can find a perfectly applicable use, though. Again, transparency settings can be configured by simply right-clicking the tray icon.


Even more distracting than TransOther may be ColorTaskbar. Using ColorTaskbar, your taskbar will fade through a spectrum of colors.


customize windows toolbar

Here you see pink, and just seconds later it’s blue.

customize windows appearance

This is another tool that I only recommend running on XP. I’ve seen it throw some problems with Vista and 7.



DimScreen is plain and simple. Running this program will place the icon in your taskbar and immediately dim your screen 50%. From there, you can right-click and configure the level of dimming and set other settings.

customize windows

This one is very useful for those of us with sensitive eyes. It can really act as a replacement for F.lux or similar programs.

If you’re interested in more awesome, homebrewed applications like these, check out this post which outlines three of the headlining entries to’s NANY 2012 competition. All are lightweight and very purposeful, like the five listed here. If you’ve any questions or comments regarding any of these, just drop me a comment!

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  1. Anonymous
    November 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Using the "Aura" Auto-colorization for windows is a good one too.

  2. Dwayne Nicholson
    September 13, 2012 at 4:49 am

    Don't forget TuneUp Utilities

  3. Suman Mitra
    August 1, 2012 at 5:39 am

    TransOther really comes in handy while multitasking ...

  4. April Alboc
    July 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    I really like fiddling around with customization. Thanks!

  5. druv vb
    July 2, 2012 at 9:29 am

    F.lux is a real saver. Good for using at night.
    DimScreen seems interesting. Going to try it.

    • musicphann
      July 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Can't recommend F.lux enough. Just remember to shut it off if you do any color sensitive graphics or video work.

  6. Joel Lee
    July 2, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Whoa. Ghoster looks really cool. Just downloaded it and I'm going to give it a try. :D

  7. Kenice Noel
    July 2, 2012 at 12:31 am


  8. Ben
    July 1, 2012 at 11:35 am

    My only beef is the Windows Classic theme.

  9. Sebastian Hadinata
    July 1, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Nice collection of tools.. Might come in handy for those who like to customize their windows visual styles / appearance.

  10. Nice
    July 1, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Using win7 in classic mode (no aero)

    - winflip3d to see those darn windows flipping
    - 3d color changer 4 to tune that old blue and gray combination
    - hidetaskbar, by now everybody should now many shortcuts, so the taskbar is really useless
    - the great: launchy, typing gets you anywhere

    wish there was something to hide the horrible and useless title bars