Classic theme on Windows 8

Windows 8 on ThinkPads
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IbmPad
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Classic theme on Windows 8

#1 Post by IbmPad » Sun Feb 02, 2014 9:39 am

Today I installed Windows 8 for the first time in a virtual machine to try it. The first thing that upset me, apart from the presence of the new "Metro" interface, is that the Classic theme is no more present (my eyes can't stand white backgrounds on screens so I need to customize the colors and I am used to the same theme for 8 years).

After some tinkering, I figured out that the classic theme can be restored for new processes by closing the handle to a shared memory section named "\Sessions\<Session ID>\Windows\ThemeSection" in the WinLogon process. I have written a quick and dirty program to automate the task at startup.

The dialog to customize colors and sizes is no more present so I used the one from Windows NT 5.0 Beta. The only problem I found is that the taskbar does not observe the color settings. You can see the result in these screenshots : default theme (77kb) and my theme (56kb) You can download the program here (72kb, only tested on Windows 8.1 x86). Copy the file ClassicTheme.exe to C:\Windows and run it to install. Run it again to uninstall. Warning: this program will create a service and replace the default shell with itself; if the installation goes wrong, the computer may not start anymore! You can run DESKN.CPL to customize the colors.

I don't plan on migrating to Windows 8, so I will not continue the tests, except if someone is interested.

EDIT: Don't try to use this program as it is not compatible with UAC! I will only make it UAC-compliant if there is demand.

EDIT 2: It should now work with UAC.
Last edited by IbmPad on Fri Apr 04, 2014 12:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Cur. : T61p (Win7 x64, C2D T9300 2.5GHz @ 950mV, 4GB RAM, QuadroFX 570m @ 900mV SXGA+ 15")
Prev. : T42p (Win 7 and XP, PM755 2.0GHz @ 700–1148mV, 1.5GB RAM, FireGL T2); T30 (Win 2000, P4M 1.8GHz, 256MB RAM, Radeon 7500); 390E (Win 3.11, Celeron 300MHz, 160MB RAM)
Please excuse my bad English.

Saucey
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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#2 Post by Saucey » Sun Feb 02, 2014 2:23 pm

Though I don't have a PC running Win8, I saved it anyways.
Nice work!
Incompitent(sp?) Electronic Recycler: caffeine addicted, techno blasting, ThinkPad hoarder.

Current: T430s, T431s, Pixel, MC207LL/A
Still around: X61T, A31p, T43p
Past: W700ds, X1C3, 701C, T60p

windows.nt.win32
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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#3 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:05 pm

Will this work fine if UAC is disabled? Also, does this break the Metro UI? I don't really mind if it does, but I'm just curious.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#4 Post by dogbarber » Thu Apr 03, 2014 5:55 pm

Windows 8.1 is exponentially better than 8. Windows 8.1 update 1 coming out soon will better it 10 fild again.
Nokia 920 Windows 8 phone
Dell Latitude E5500
Ideapad P500
Thinkpad R52
Thinkpad T61 ---> Intel 520 120G SSD, 1 Tb WD Blue Scorpion 12.5mm hard drive, Middleton BIOS, 4 Gigs Ram, Intel 6200 wireless N, T7700 processor.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#5 Post by kronflux » Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:07 am

IbmPad wrote:Today I installed Windows 8 for the first time in a virtual machine to try it. The first thing that upset me, apart from the presence of the new "Metro" interface, is that the Classic theme is no more present (my eyes can't stand white backgrounds on screens so I need to customize the colors and I am used to the same theme for 8 years).

After some tinkering, I figured out that the classic theme can be restored for new processes by closing the handle to a shared memory section named "\Sessions\<Session ID>\Windows\ThemeSection" in the WinLogon process. I have written a quick and dirty program to automate the task at startup.

The dialog to customize colors and sizes is no more present so I used the one from Windows NT 5.0 Beta. The only problem I found is that the taskbar does not observe the color settings. You can see the result in these screenshots : default theme (77kb) and my theme (56kb) You can download the program here (72kb, only tested on Windows 8.1 x86). Copy the file ClassicTheme.exe to C:\Windows and run it to install. Run it again to uninstall. Warning: this program will create a service and replace the default shell with itself; if the installation goes wrong, the computer may not start anymore! You can run DESKN.CPL to customize the colors.

I don't plan on migrating to Windows 8, so I will not continue the tests, except if someone is interested.

EDIT: Don't try to use this program as it is not compatible with UAC! I will only make it UAC-compliant if there is demand.
Is there any chance you could set this up to work with 64 bit OS's? (specifically I'm trying to use it with Windows Server 2012 R2, but so long as it will run on Windows 8.1 64-bit, it SHOULD work in the server, as they are basically the same OS.)

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#6 Post by IbmPad » Fri Apr 04, 2014 12:25 pm

It should now work properly with UAC (the workaround I used is quick and dirty but it should work anyway...) ; please download the program again.
It does not break Metro applications and should work on x64 editions and with Server 2012 R2 as well. If it does not work, tell me and I will investigate.
Cur. : T61p (Win7 x64, C2D T9300 2.5GHz @ 950mV, 4GB RAM, QuadroFX 570m @ 900mV SXGA+ 15")
Prev. : T42p (Win 7 and XP, PM755 2.0GHz @ 700–1148mV, 1.5GB RAM, FireGL T2); T30 (Win 2000, P4M 1.8GHz, 256MB RAM, Radeon 7500); 390E (Win 3.11, Celeron 300MHz, 160MB RAM)
Please excuse my bad English.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#7 Post by kronflux » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:10 pm

strangely it still doesn't seem to work on Windows Server 2012 R2. I might install Windows 8.1 64-bit later on, and see if it works with that. Perhaps something is different in the server edition vs the desktop edition, but I wouldn't have thought so.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#8 Post by IbmPad » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:43 pm

Ok I will install Server 2012 R2 and test the program on it. I will update this post when I have a result.
EDIT: I updated the program to work on x64 editions (I forgot to add the KEY_WOW64_64KEY flag to RegOpenKeyEx in order to disable WOW64 registry redirection).
Cur. : T61p (Win7 x64, C2D T9300 2.5GHz @ 950mV, 4GB RAM, QuadroFX 570m @ 900mV SXGA+ 15")
Prev. : T42p (Win 7 and XP, PM755 2.0GHz @ 700–1148mV, 1.5GB RAM, FireGL T2); T30 (Win 2000, P4M 1.8GHz, 256MB RAM, Radeon 7500); 390E (Win 3.11, Celeron 300MHz, 160MB RAM)
Please excuse my bad English.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#9 Post by kronflux » Fri Apr 04, 2014 6:11 pm

IbmPad wrote:Ok I will install Server 2012 R2 and test the program on it. I will update this post when I have a result.
EDIT: I updated the program to work on x64 editions (I forgot to add the KEY_WOW64_64KEY flag to RegOpenKeyEx in order to disable WOW64 registry redirection).
awesome work! with a lot of tweaking and messing around, I've finally come up with this:
http://puu.sh/7Wcle.png
w00!

I will note, however, that when something lags the system and the processes become unresponsive, occasionally you'll get a flash of the window with the stupid windows 8 theme, but it goes right away when the process catches up.

windows.nt.win32
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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#10 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:21 pm

kronflux wrote: awesome work! with a lot of tweaking and messing around, I've finally come up with this:
http://puu.sh/7Wcle.png
w00!
That's great! I must ask though, how did you get your taskbar to use those colors? Mine is practically unusable with the colors it has now.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#11 Post by kronflux » Mon Apr 07, 2014 5:22 pm

for now, I have used the DESKN.CPL that was included to set my "Appearance" to "@themeui.dll,-854" and under Color and Appearance(under control panel) I have set Color Intensity to Full(all the way to the right), and Hue, Saturation and Brightness to None(all the way to the left)
This, unfortunately, leaves the start menu and "Peek" mouseover things black(which makes the peek thing unreadable)
I've also used StartIsBack to add proper start menu functionality back, and used it's button changer to set a copy of the old start button image.

I think I'm going to play with this more in the next few days, and see if I can get better results using ClassicShell or similar. Maybe even try porting over some of the Windows 7 resources for the classic theme.

windows.nt.win32
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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#12 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:44 pm

kronflux wrote:I think I'm going to play with this more in the next few days, and see if I can get better results using ClassicShell or similar. Maybe even try porting over some of the Windows 7 resources for the classic theme.
I'd be willing to help you with that if you'd like.

roytam1
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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#13 Post by roytam1 » Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:09 am

great, but the aero area goes transparent :roll:
http://i.imgur.com/5X9nAEf.png

Anixx
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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#14 Post by Anixx » Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:35 pm

Can you please remove the Windows version checker from this program so that I could test it under Win7? I hope it will allow me to get rid of tearing while still using the classic theme.

IbmPad
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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#15 Post by IbmPad » Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:16 am

Sorry, the program would be useless on Windows 7 since the mechanism is different; the memory mapping named "ThemeSection" (that this program closes) does not exist on Windows 7.
Cur. : T61p (Win7 x64, C2D T9300 2.5GHz @ 950mV, 4GB RAM, QuadroFX 570m @ 900mV SXGA+ 15")
Prev. : T42p (Win 7 and XP, PM755 2.0GHz @ 700–1148mV, 1.5GB RAM, FireGL T2); T30 (Win 2000, P4M 1.8GHz, 256MB RAM, Radeon 7500); 390E (Win 3.11, Celeron 300MHz, 160MB RAM)
Please excuse my bad English.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#16 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Sun Apr 13, 2014 2:56 pm

roytam1 wrote:great, but the aero area goes transparent :roll:
http://i.imgur.com/5X9nAEf.png
Oh yes, I get that problem a lot too with certain programs. I've also gotten problems with the title bar buttons (the maximize, minimize, restore, and close buttons). Here's an example of what I'm talking about:
Image

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#17 Post by IbmPad » Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:17 pm

I am sorry but I won't be able to help you further... I installed Windows 8 on a VM just to test it and discovered this process by chance, but unfortunately it seems it is not a viable solution eventually...
Cur. : T61p (Win7 x64, C2D T9300 2.5GHz @ 950mV, 4GB RAM, QuadroFX 570m @ 900mV SXGA+ 15")
Prev. : T42p (Win 7 and XP, PM755 2.0GHz @ 700–1148mV, 1.5GB RAM, FireGL T2); T30 (Win 2000, P4M 1.8GHz, 256MB RAM, Radeon 7500); 390E (Win 3.11, Celeron 300MHz, 160MB RAM)
Please excuse my bad English.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#18 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Sun Apr 13, 2014 6:00 pm

Well thank you for all of your help, IbmPad. I'll keep looking for fixes for some of these issues.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#19 Post by Anixx » Sun Apr 13, 2014 6:15 pm

Can anybody please clarify, am I correct to say that the desktop compositing continues to work after starting this program, so there is no tearing etc?

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#20 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Tue Apr 15, 2014 3:46 pm

Anixx wrote:Can anybody please clarify, am I correct to say that the desktop compositing continues to work after starting this program, so there is no tearing etc?
A lot of desktop compositing features (such as fading in/out of opening and closing windows, and even transparency on some windows) do seem to work, although some of them may look buggy (like window transparency).

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#21 Post by Anixx » Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:55 pm


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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#22 Post by roytam1 » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:17 am

Anixx wrote:Another way I found:

http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=383450
this kills DWM completely, which cause bigger problems such as IE not working.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#23 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:39 am

Yeah, I have tried the 'killing DWM' method, but I have always had major problems with that. I don't care too much about IE not working, but you will also need to find a lot of replacements for system files that are dependent on DWM. I personally think that the method in this thread seems to work a lot better, and it's much safer.

By the way, there are some desktop compositing features that can be disabled, such as the fading animation of opening and closing windows. Just go into your Advanced System Properties, and uncheck 'Animate windows when maximizing and minimizing' and that should turn that feature off. As for some windows being transparent and for some windows having buggy/no title bar buttons, I'm currently trying to find a fix for those problems.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#24 Post by Anixx » Fri Apr 18, 2014 2:13 pm

Agreed. Additionally logically this method will allow to get rid of the tearing, which is a major problem when using the Classic theme. If you find a way to fix the remaining issues I will possibly upgrade to Win8 from Win7.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#25 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Fri Apr 18, 2014 2:33 pm

Ok, so here's a list of issues I've found so far:

-Some windows being transparent
-Title bar button in some windows not being visible, or appearing very buggy
-Some Control Panel items breaking
-Task Manager breaking (I'd recommend Process Explorer as an alternative, or maybe the Windows 7 Task Manager if anyone can get that to work)
-The Taskbar using improper boarder colors (depending on your settings, it may look differently)
-Opening/closing windows using the Aero fade effect (can be fixed by disabling animations of maximizing and minimizing windows)
-A few metro controls not being functional or visible

If I missed anything or you find a bug/problem, let me know. It seems like some of these problems are caused because Windows 8/8.1 thinks that Aero is always enabled, so will treat windows as such. I think if we can get Windows to think that it's using the classic theme, a lot of these problems would be fixed. I also thought of trying to look into some of Control Panel's UI to fix some of the broken items there.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#26 Post by Anixx » Sun Apr 20, 2014 3:20 pm

I wonder, is there a way to enable DWM on Windows 7 without enabling the themes?

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#27 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:58 pm

Well I have noticed DWM.exe running on Windows 7 computers using the classic theme, but it doesn't really seem to do anything. I guess desktop composition features with Windows 7's classic theme would theoretically be possible, seeing as how Windows 8 is capable of it. I'm not sure though, but I would guess you would have to make Windows think it's using aero when it's really using the classic theme, which ironically is the opposite of what I'm trying to do with Windows 8. But that might mean if I find out how to make Windows 8 realize it's actually using the classic theme, I might possibly have an idea of how to do the opposite with Windows 7. I don't know yet though, and Windows 8 and Windows 7 are two completely different operating systems.

By the way, I myself was kind of wondering about DWM without themes on Windows 7 after seeing how Windows 8 uses it even with the classic theme, so it's funny you should mention that.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#28 Post by Anixx » Tue Apr 22, 2014 10:46 pm

What about forcing Windows Explorer and other problematic applications to use the Classic theme with Windows Compatibility Administrator?

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#29 Post by windows.nt.win32 » Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:07 am

That might work, I'll try that when I get the chance. I also want to figure out how to fix the broken Control Panel items that fail to load.

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Re: Classic theme on Windows 8

#30 Post by Anixx » Thu Apr 24, 2014 2:43 pm

In Windows Compatibility Administrator there is a setting to force an application to use the Classic theme ("disable themes") and to use the XP-like file picker dialog. It would be great if it were possible to make these settings system-wide rather than per-application.

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