If you've been dying to give your Windows XP machine a Windows Vista makeover without the pain of upgrading, WindowBlinds' latest offering will probably seem like a gift from the interface fashion gods. Or, if you're into pain and you'd like to cover up that snazzy Vista interface with an XP look, you can do that, too.

Heck, you can even add a flaming-spewing, animated dragon if your desktop skin is crying out for some orc-love.

WindowBlinds 6 lets you choose from several preloaded themes, can install more, and gives you control over most aspects of your interface. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

WindowBlinds offers a generally compelling way to add some panache to your Windows XP or Windows Vista. It skins your graphic interface, offering a number of preconfigured themes that range in styles and change the entire look of your desktop. You also have the ability to make some serious tweaks to each theme, should it be close to what you want, but just Not Quite Right. No matter what skin you choose, though, it's doubtful you'll have any complaints with the appearance of the polished, attractive themes.

Almost as important as the available themes is the fact that WindowBlinds can install your choice without restarting your computer. When it comes to making fine-tuning tweaks to colors and font, constantly being forced to reboot could make the process take so long that Microsoft might come out with an upgrade for Vista before you're done.

One interface features a medieval theme, including a flame-breathing animated dragon in your Start Menu. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

To assist in the process, the WindowBlinds publisher has made the program blur your screen except for its logo while it updates your UI, minimizing any confusion about why your machine isn't responding. Especially on slower machines, this can be invaluable in avoiding assuming that your PC has crashed.

You also choose from several toolbar icon sets to match your skin of choice and tweak settings such as the size of the taskbar. WindowBlinds gets high marks for performance: skins loaded seamlessly after about 30 to 60 seconds. However, the program takes up its fair share of system resources, and load times will depend on your system hardware, as always.

The blurred-out screen indicates that WindowBlinds is processing your changes. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

To make more than cosmetic changes, though, you'll have to install the publisher's SkinStudio. However, the latest version of WindowBlinds scans your root My Pictures folder and lets you select your own wallpaper. Make sure that image you want is in the main folder and not a subdirectory, otherwise it won't find it.

Anything that can help liven up the Windows experience for both novices and those advanced users who've got better things to do than hack their system files to splash some rounded menu edges on the UI is a good thing. For the sake of making your screen look significantly less like 2002, WindowBlinds is definitely fashion-forward.

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