Whichever way you look at it, Windows 8 has been a controversial release. The latest version of Microsoft’s domestic operating system has built in touch and no Start button on the Desktop view, something that has led many to avoid it (although it can be undone). This is a shame as beyond the Start screen and Charms bar, things run pretty much as they always did. One area in which Windows 8’s Desktop isn’t quite the same as Windows 7, however, is in the selection of themes.
By default in Windows 7, the various Aero features (Aero Glass, window animations, Peek, Snap, Aero Shake to minimize other windows, and the Flip 3D open programs viewer) are activated and form part of a pleasing user experience. Microsoft has claimed that they’ve moved on from Aero, but this simply isn’t true. There are various features in Windows 8 that either have their roots in Aero or are actual Aero legacy features. Some features have gone, but others remain.
Restoring The Aero Lite Theme
The most obvious Aero omission is the lack of a theme in Windows 8. Just a handful of themes are included, none of which have the same sharp look and border transparency as Aero.
However, you can restore the old Aero Lite theme designed for low-end systems by following the steps detailed in our list of the The Top 5 Cool Hidden Features In Windows 8. It takes just a couple of steps, and although this doesn’t restore transparency it does revive some old buttons from Aero.
Get Windows Transparency In Windows 8
If it is the transparency that you’re looking for, however, this can be achieved with WinaeroGlass, a third party tool that you can download from Winaero.com.
This tool is currently in beta, so although it can be used, the UI requires some work. To use it, unzip the contents of the downloaded file and run WinaeroGlass.exe.
At present the utility doesn’t offer blur, only complete transparency of the window borders in the Desktop view, but the developer of the tool is promising some blur soon. Due to the lack of a GUI, you will need to restart or log off Windows 8 in order to disable WinaeroGlass.
Why Aero Hasn’t Completely Gone
It’s fair to say that there is some confusion as to what Aero aspects remain and what have been removed from Windows 8, especially as early releases of the OS retained the transparency and blur so admired in Windows 7 (despite occasionally failing).
So, here’s a list detailing which Aero elements can still be found in Windows 8.
- Aero Peek: the various features of this tool are now called Peek, and include mousing over a taskbar thumbnail and using the button in the bottom-right corner of the taskbar. If this isn’t active by default, right-click the taskbar, select Properties, check the Use Peek to preview the desktop… option and click OK to confirm.
- Aero Snap: as in Windows 7, this works by dragging the window to the top of the display, at which point it will “snap” out and maximize to full-screen.
- Animations: seen when you open and close windows, or minimize/maximize and restore, the “zoom from taskbar” animations are still present.
- Aero Shake: Perhaps my favorite Aero feature (and certainly the most-used), this works by left-clicking the top of a window and “shaking”. The result is that the other open applications should all minimize.
The perception that Aero has “gone” has been pushed by Microsoft, but given the reaction against Windows 8 from many quarters this seems like a strange tactic. However, there is no need to worry – apart from the issue of window transparency, the vast majority of what we once knew as Aero is still a part of Windows.
Have you come across any other tools that restore the Aero transparency features to Windows 8? If so, please share them below!