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NoelC

Craving an updated UI experience? Re-skin Windows 8.1.

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One of the things I've been doing with the Win 10 previews on my test systems is to apply Big Muscle's Aero Glass program and update the theme atlas to give a polished, attractive desktop look and feel.

 

Even though I have found no reason to want Windows 10, all this updating of appearances got me craving a better look and feel for my main Win 8.1 desktop.  Nothing stops us from re-theming Windows 8.1, and frankly if the newest OS doesn't give anything attractive or functional, why not stay with what works, and update the existing desktop to deliver a more delightful experience?

 

I give you...  Windows 8.1 with Big Muscle's Aero Glass, the Aero7 theme by DaMonkeyOnCrack (facilitated by Big Muscle's UxThemeSignatureBypass DLLs), my theme atlas updates, Classic Shell, Folder Options X, and some other tweaks, yielding an elegant, modern look with controls that have visual styles on an OS that works reliably, still has a rational control panel, has a rational Windows Update management process, and is perfectly stable.

 

ThemedDesktop.png

 

You can find the components here:

 

Big Muscle's Aero Glass and UxThemeSignatureBypass software: 

http://www.glass8.eu/

 

DaMonkeyOnCrack's Aero7 V2 theme: 

http://damonkeyoncrack.deviantart.com/art/Aero7-V2-for-Windows-8-8-1-10-TP-build-9879-429412929

 

Classic Shell:

http://www.classicshell.net/

 

Folder Options X:

http://free-sk.t-com.hr/T800/software/FolderOptions.htm

 

My updated Theme Atlas for Aero7:

http://Noel.ProDigitalSoftware.com/ForumPosts/Win81/ThemeAtlasForAero7.png

 

-Noel

Edited by NoelC

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That makes Windows look much better, I can not stand the theme in W8 & W10 drives me mad! I will have to try it once I get a VM up and running.

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I wouldn't mind some visual UI fixes, but can't be bothered to start working on figuring the skin elements.

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Having used this theme for a few days now, I can really say having the visual styles back on the buttons, scroll bar thumbs, etc. is really, REALLY a nice improvement over that stupid flat, lifeless Modern BS you get with WIndows.

 

-Noel

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I've used the Aero8 theme since it was made and it indeed makes 8/8.1 look much better. The single-color neon colors are simply disgusting on desktop.

Material Design is flat yet it actually looks much better than anything MS did. Whenever I see WP with those huge ugly letters and single colored backgrounds I cringe. Such bad design.

Edited by Blackbird256

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Out of curiosity what build of Windows are you using? I will be using Build 10130.

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The image shown above is Windows 8.1, build 9600 (it's in the screen grab).  The point of this thread is NOT to have to upgrade to Win 10 to get an updated user experience.

 

When I do test Win 10 right now I'm on 10130.  With Big Muscle's latest test build of Aero Glass you can do full translucency and theme atlas replacement there, but the Aero7 full theme (and probably most others available online) don't work properly.  I'm sure that'll change in time.

 

-Noel

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I give you...  Windows 8.1 with Big Muscle's Aero Glass, the Aero7 theme by DaMonkeyOnCrack (facilitated by Big Muscle's UxThemeSignatureBypass DLLs), my theme atlas updates, Classic Shell, Folder Options X, and some other tweaks, yielding an elegant, modern look with controls that have visual styles on an OS that works reliably, still has a rational control panel, has a rational Windows Update management process, and is perfectly stable.

 

[...]

 

You can find the components here:

 

Big Muscle's Aero Glass and UxThemeSignatureBypass software: 

http://www.glass8.eu/

 

DaMonkeyOnCrack's Aero7 V2 theme: 

http://damonkeyoncrack.deviantart.com/art/Aero7-V2-for-Windows-8-8-1-10-TP-build-9879-429412929

 

Classic Shell:

http://www.classicshell.net/

 

Folder Options X:

http://free-sk.t-com.hr/T800/software/FolderOptions.htm

 

My updated Theme Atlas for Aero7:

http://Noel.ProDigitalSoftware.com/ForumPosts/Win81/ThemeAtlasForAero7.png

 

-Noel

 

Beautiful. :thumbup

 

And thanks for putting all the components together in one post.

 

Do you know if there is a comprehensive guide "under one roof" to putting all of these together? For example, which ones (if any) should be installed before others, potential stumbling blocks to watch out for, and such like.

 

--JorgeA

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Well, I admit I did them piecemeal, solving each deficiency as I saw it arise.  You might think the Aero7 theme installation should be first but actually that was the last thing I did, which restored my button visual styles.  Then I made a theme atlas that made the caption buttons look more modern (I was never that big a fan of the specifics of the Win 7 Aero Glass look).

 

I'd suggest something along these lines...

 

  • Install Classic Shell and go through all the config options (there are a lot).
  • Get Aero Glass working, and make sure you can use the Aero Glass GUI config tool.
  • Install the UxThemeSignatureBypass DLLs and get that working (to restore properly colored captions on ribbon-enabled windows.
  • Invoke the Aero7 theme.
  • Override the theme atlas.

 

One thing I did was test it all in a VM before going "live" with it on my main workstation.  There's no substitute for doing it yourself and seeing what crops up in an environment where you can just throw it all away and start over if need be.

 

Don't forget to look in my book.  Stuff like Vista Shortcut Manager, Folder Options X, Quero toolbar, and a bunch of others are listed in there.  That reminds me, I should write up the Aero7 stuff...

 

-Noel

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Thanks, Noel, this will be a huge help! :yes:

 

The theme atlas part is the concept I'm least famiiar with from that sequence of steps. Time to read up on it.

 

This could grow to be a very popular thread come July 29 as people start getting surprised with their shiny dull new UI.

 

--JorgeA

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The image shown above is Windows 8.1, build 9600 (it's in the screen grab).  The point of this thread is NOT to have to upgrade to Win 10 to get an updated user experience.

 

When I do test Win 10 right now I'm on 10130.  With Big Muscle's latest test build of Aero Glass you can do full translucency and theme atlas replacement there, but the Aero7 full theme (and probably most others available online) don't work properly.  I'm sure that'll change in time.

 

-Noel

10130 is the build that I just happened to grab of MS. I see the about windows app in your screen grab now, I was so focused on looking for a water mark in the bottom right hand corner I just over looked it.

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One of the things I've been doing with the Win 10 previews on my test systems is to apply Big Muscle's Aero Glass program and update the theme atlas to give a polished, attractive desktop look and feel.

 

Even though I have found no reason to want Windows 10, all this updating of appearances got me craving a better look and feel for my main Win 8.1 desktop.  Nothing stops us from re-theming Windows 8.1, and frankly if the newest OS doesn't give anything attractive or functional, why not stay with what works, and update the existing desktop to deliver a more delightful experience?

 

I give you...  Windows 8.1 with Big Muscle's Aero Glass, the Aero7 theme by DaMonkeyOnCrack (facilitated by Big Muscle's UxThemeSignatureBypass DLLs), my theme atlas updates, Classic Shell, Folder Options X, and some other tweaks, yielding an elegant, modern look with controls that have visual styles on an OS that works reliably, still has a rational control panel, has a rational Windows Update management process, and is perfectly stable.

 

ThemedDesktop.png

 

You can find the components here:

 

Big Muscle's Aero Glass and UxThemeSignatureBypass software: 

http://www.glass8.eu/

 

DaMonkeyOnCrack's Aero7 V2 theme: 

http://damonkeyoncrack.deviantart.com/art/Aero7-V2-for-Windows-8-8-1-10-TP-build-9879-429412929

 

Classic Shell:

http://www.classicshell.net/

 

Folder Options X:

http://free-sk.t-com.hr/T800/software/FolderOptions.htm

 

My updated Theme Atlas for Aero7:

http://Noel.ProDigitalSoftware.com/ForumPosts/Win81/ThemeAtlasForAero7.png

 

-Noel

Hello -Noel I need files reg InstalSignatureBypass and PNG AeroGlassReflectionImage.png, RoundedCornersWin81.png

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The InstallSignatureBypass file is just a .reg file I created for convenience, and it may be system-specific depending on whether you have anything else in the AppInit_DLLs value.  Here's what mine contains.

 

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows]
"AppInit_DLLs"="C:\\AeroGlass\\UxThemeSignatureBypass64.dll"
"LoadAppInit_DLLs"=dword:00000001
"RequireSignedAppInit_DLLs"=dword:00000000


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows]
"AppInit_DLLs"="C:\\AeroGlass\\UxThemeSignatureBypass32.dll"
"LoadAppInit_DLLs"=dword:00000001
"RequireSignedAppInit_DLLs"=dword:00000000

 

I believe Big Muscle provides an AeroGlassReflectionImage.png with one of his packages; in any case I don't use it at all (the "Glass reflection image" box is unchecked in my setup in the Aero Glass configuration GUI tool).  It's just in that folder because that's where I happened to unzip the contents of Big Muscle's .7z file.

 

I provided a link to the theme atlas that matches the Aero7 theme in the first post above.  The RoundedCornersWin81.png file is a leftover from before I used the Aero7 theme and isn't used to achieve what you see in my screen grab.

 

-Noel

Edited by NoelC

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Hi NoelC!

Some really nice work here! I use classic shell for most of my customers with Windows 8....they are all so grateful to get away from the crap from Microsoft.

bookie32

Edited by bookie32
  • Upvote 1

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One thing I've added in addition to what's documented above...

 

Sphinx Windows Firewall Control

 

This is a firewall control / management package that uses the Windows Filtering Platform under the covers.  With it I've reconfigured so that my outgoing firewall policy is "deny by default", and I've built up a whitelist of programs/services and addresses that are allowed, to achieve:

 

  • A quiet, private system that doesn't allow unwanted or unexpected communications.
  • A system that runs all the programs I want and allows them to communicate as needed.
  • Only a small level of ongoing maintenance effort to support this policy.

 

I bought the Network/Cloud edition so I could control all my systems (Win 7, 8.1, and 10) from one central panel.

 

The rules set took some time to develop, but I've got it pretty refined and things are pretty well nailed down now.  The software presents a configurable logging and management interface, so you can see as much or as little as you want, and you can develop your own Zones (in the more expensive versions of the product) so you can be very precise.

 

I've observed Sphinx Firewall Control blocking my Windows 8.1 system from attempting communications not only with Microsoft's servers in Redmond, but also with various Content Delivery Networks such as Edgecast and Acamai, and even now and then with some servers in countries I most certainly don't want to be communicating with!

 

I can still pass an SFC check and do a successful Windows Update on demand.

 

-Noel

Edited by NoelC

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