Are you bored with Windows' appearance? Fancy giving it a makeover? Well you can, these 15 downloads we've picked out will let you dress it up and tweak its appearance just about any way you want. Create a virtual 3D space or even add the Mac OS X dock to your PC.

Real Desktop Lite

To make your desktop look completely different, give this program a try. It turns your desktop into a 3D space and transforms your icons into virtual objects that you can move around and even throw across the desktop. You can rotate them in any way, and when you throw them against one another, they clink as they crash. You can even lift up your icons and twirl them around. The Recycle Bin becomes a 3D trash can, too.

Will this change the way you compute? No - but it's plenty of fun, and it's worth trying just for that. Although bear in mind you can’t use the program in conjunction with wallpaper.

Download Real Desktop Lite for free here

Real Desktop Lite

Real Desktop Lite


One of Mac OS X's best features is its Dock, an easily customisable bar of icons at the bottom or side of the screen that lets you run frequently used programs.

Inexplicably, a comparable feature is missing from Windows, absent even in Vista. Until now, that is. RocketDock lets you place a dock at the top, bottom, or side of your screen for quick access to your favourite apps and features. By default it has icons for several Windows features, including My Computer, Recycle Bin, Control Panel and others, but you can quickly add new icons by dragging and dropping them.

The extremely customisable program allows you to change the graphic quality and opacity of the icons, and offers a number of different styles. It's simple to use, it's free and it makes running often-used programs and features easier. Given that, it's hard to pass up.

Download RocketDock for free here


This program may be your best bet for revamping Windows' looks on a grand scale. Using it, you can apply "skins" to the entire operating system to make it appear just about any way you'd like.

You can use the skins built into the program, download others, and even make and customise your own. In addition to skinning almost every part of Windows, you can, for example, add buttons to title bars, skin the Windows Vista Sidebar, change the Start menu animation, alter the look of Windows' Start menu shutdown/lock buttons, and even skin Internet Explorer navigation arrows and tabs.

Since the program doesn't alter system files, you're not putting Windows at risk when you use it. Applying and configuring skins is easy, with a simple-to-follow visual interface guiding you through all the steps. And if you're an XP user who wants to make your PC environment look like Windows Vista, you can apply a skin that will do that for you too.

Download WindowBlinds shareware here for $20 (£10)



NEXT PAGE: Virtual 3D desktops and transparent Windows just like Vista

We've found 15 way to tweak and dress Windows appearance to suit you. These downloads will let you add everything from 3D desktops to a dock, just like Mac OS X.


One great way to dress up Windows is to give your machine virtual 3D desktops. Each desktop stands completely separate from the others, sports its own look and feel, and has its own applications running in it. DeskSpace lets you create four virtual desktops, and places each one on a side of a virtual 3D cube that you can rotate through space to switch among them.

After you run the program, you press Ctrl-Shift-Alt to put it into action. You can then create your desktops, and switch among them and rotate them in space. You can zoom in and out on the virtual cube, immediately switch to any desktop, shift over to any application on any virtual desktop, and even move windows between desktops. DeskSpace is more than a tool to increase your productivity - it's just plain fun.

Download DeskSpace here $20 (£10) for a 14-day trial


Are you a Windows XP user who covets Windows Vista's transparent windows? This nifty program gives users of XP and of Windows 2000 all the transparency features of Windows Vista - and more. Although in Vista only window borders are transparent, with TweakWindow you'll be able to make entire windows see-through.

You control the degree of transparency, between opaque (not transparent at all) and completely invisible. You do so, on a program-by-program basis, too, so you can make some program windows opaque while giving others varying degrees of transparency.

You can even turn windows into "ghosts" that stay on top of other windows and let you click through to other windows beneath. The utility also has a nifty "rollup" feature that lets you minimise an entire window into a floating title bar. You control all of this via icons that sit on top of individual windows.

Download TweakWindow shareware for $21 (£10.50) here



Crystal XP

Microsoft makes a big deal about Windows Vista's Aero environment, which includes transparent windows, but in truth that transparency effect is less than overwhelming. Only the window borders are transparent, not all windows have transparency, and you can't easily control the effect.

Crystal XP lets you make entire windows transparent and easily change the level of transparency as well. In addition, you can change the transparency for applications individually, something you can't normally do in Vista. And on top of that, the program has a nice extra, a display of your CPU usage (expressed as a percentage). Contrary to its name, this program works only in Windows Vista. It is still in beta, too, so if that seems risky to you, don't download.

Download Crystal XP for free here

Desktop Sidebar

Some Windows XP users might also wish they had Vista's nifty Sidebar, which displays assorted applets that can grab information from the Internet or show other information such as a clock or pictures from your PC. If that sounds like you, suffer Sidebar envy no longer.

This program looks and works much as Windows Vista's feature does, and it comes with many preinstalled applets, including a weather watcher, a clock, a performance monitor, a news grabber, a media player, and a quick-launch pad. From the developer's site you can download many more applets, plus different skins to change Desktop Sidebar's looks.

Desktop Sidebar works with both XP and Vista. Although there's no real reason to use it instead of Vista's built-in Sidebar, having the option is nice. After all, the program is free, so it may be worth a try even for Vista users.

Download Desktop Sidebar here for free

NEXT PAGE: More ways to tweak Windows including turning your desktop into a 3D world and access to deeply hidden Windows customisation features.

Ever fancied turning your Windows desktop into a 3D world? Or offering up your idle desktop up for scientific research? Well with these 15 downloads you can do all of these and much more. Go on, give Windows a makeover.

Vista Start Menu SE

The Windows Start menu is a mildly useful tool for running programs and accomplishing other tasks. But what if you want something more? This program, which despite its name works with both Windows Vista and XP, puts all of your programs and important folders within easy reach so that you can launch them quickly. It also gives you fast access to turning the machine off, rebooting, logging off, and switching users.

Since it's customisable, you can change the size of the menu, for example, as well as decide which power-management buttons (Switch, Logout, Stand By, Reboot, Hibernate, and Turn Off) to display. You can also position the power management buttons at the top or bottom of the screen.

Download Vista Start Menu for free here

3DNA Desktop

Turn your PC into an immersive, 3D world with this program, which replaces your normal desktop with a 3D view that makes navigating your PC, organising files and folders, and launching programs more fun.

After you install the application, you find yourself in a kind of virtual, 3D loft. You walk around it to interact with your computer. Want to create or play back media? Walk over to a media centre and click a microphone to launch a sound recorder, or click a stereo to launch your media player. Want to surf the web? Head over to the appropriate area and launch your browser; you can see multiple websites running simultaneously on the browser wall.

The environment has similar areas for launching applications. You can even walk upstairs on to the deck to play a game of hoops, look at the daytime sky, and watch birds flying above. Plenty of other 3D worlds apart from the loft are available for download, as well. The program works only with Windows XP, not Vista.

Download a shareware version of 3DNA Desktop for $30 (£15) here

3DNA desktop

AusLogics Visual Styler

If you're looking for a simple, visually appealing way to dress up your PC, AusLogics Visual Styler is worth the download, as it gives you instant access to many deeply hidden Windows customisation features and adds some twists of its own. For example, with it you can adjust your icons' resolution, their size, the space between them and whether they should have a shortcut arrow.

You can also determine which desktop icons to use for Internet Explorer, the Recycle Bin, drives, folders and so on. The application's wallpaper changer will swap out the background image every time your PC starts, too. The program has an abundance of features, including one that lets you easily download and use wallpapers from the Internet. Though AusLogics Visual Styler won't let you change Windows to the same degree that an app such as 3DNA Desktop does, it's still a good bet if you want to tweak common Windows elements.

Download AusLogics Visual Styler (including a free 15-day trial) here for $25 (£12.50)

NEXT PAGE: Continue your Windows customisation with Vista4Experts and MagicTweak

Bored with Window’s appearance? Give it a makeover with these 15 downloads.


Ignore this program's name, because if you're a true Vista expert, you don't need it. On the other hand, if you're like most people and you don't know how to disable User Account Control, customise the menu power button, or disable and enable the Aero environment, you want this tool.

Via a simple interface, you can customise many Vista features, changing (among other things) the behaviour of Windows Updates, User Account Control, the power button, and Internet Explorer. Nothing big or dramatic here, but the program is free and it lets you make adjustments without having to dig through menus and dialog boxes, so it's worth a try.

Download a free version of Vista4Experts here


MagicTweak gives you countless ways to rework Windows to your heart's content. Change the icons for various system features, such as folders, drives, documents, disks and more. Create a custom desktop shortcut arrow. Alter the appearance and functionality of Windows Explorer. Optimise your network connection. Hide menus and customise the Start menu. Adjust Windows' security. That's just the beginning.

Dedicated system tweakers should grab this program - it's among the most comprehensive utilities you'll find anywhere.

Download a 15-day trial of MagicTweak here for $40 (£20)




Here's a chance to dress up your PC and do some good for science as well. This screensaver uses your system's idle cycles to perform processing for various research projects, including those to control malaria, search for extraterrestrial life, help with medical research and many others.

As your PC goes about its work, it shows exactly what it's doing, in the form of charts, graphs and data rotating in space. Will you understand the charts and graphs? Most likely not, but they're certainly cool-looking, and you get the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping scientific progress.

Download a free version of BOINC here

NEXT PAGE: Get Microangelo on the case

Bored with Window’s appearance? Give it a makeover with these 15 downloads.

Microangelo Toolset 6.0

What do you spend the most time looking at on your desktop? The icons of course. Wouldn't it be nice to edit them, or better yet, create icons of your own? That's exactly what this program can do for you -and you don't have to be the next Michelangelo to use it. You can create icons in any size and any colour format, including the 256-by-256-pixel icons that Windows Vista favours.

Paint tools, drawing tools, and icon-creation tools make the task easy. Particularly useful is the program's ability to import a graphic and then automatically convert it into an icon, permitting you to clean it up if necessary. You also get an icon manager, an icon browser and an icon animator.

Download a 21-day trial of Microangelo Toolset 6 here for $50 (25)

Microangelo Toolset 6.0

Microangelo Toolset 6.0

Real World Cursor

Replacing Windows' default pointers with your own designs - static or animated - is a lot easier than you might think, thanks to this free program. You can edit existing pointers or create new ones from scratch. In addition, you can import any image into the program, which then creates a pointer from it.

The application includes all the tools you'll need, and has several useful tutorials. It even has links to an online library where you can download free icons and complete icon sets that you can use as-is or edit.

Download Real World Cursor here for free