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Spiff up your menus with MooO TransparentMenu

Add colors and transparency to system menus with this free tool.

MooO TransparentMenu is a free utility that lets you make your Windows menus semitransparent and change their color scheme. Why would you want to do that? Well, as the developer points out, sometimes it just looks better. Transparency is one of the cooler Aero features in Windows because it lets you see what's behind a window without obscuring its content. Applying it to context menus in Windows is a great idea; TransparentMenu makes it happen.

TransparentMenu's installer let us choose whether to create a desktop icon or start menu shortcut, but the program's main interface is its system tray icon. Right-clicking this icon let us turn the feature on and off, set Menu Transparency percentages, choose Menu Skins, change the interface language, and set the program to start on bootup.

The default transparency is 10 percent, a good choice for the default Windows menu scheme since it keeps the menu legible yet still lets you see what lies beneath. We increased the transparency to 25 percent. That looked a bit airy, at least until we clicked Menu Skins and randomly selected Black Palette 1. This changed the menu background color to black with a white font for active menu items and inactive items in gray, with selections in red. The transparency level was perfect for the black background, and we were reluctant to try any of the 20-something other themes or change the transparency since we liked the effect so much, but we also tried Black Palette 2 and 3, which offered yellow and green selection colors.

With so much competition for attention on the desktop and start menu, we have a high bar for system customization utilities, which need to prove their worth. But TransparentMenu doesn't make drastic changes, it really just makes built-in Windows configuration settings easy to access and change. It adds a genuine improvement to system menus, too.

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