Take Control of Your PC User Interface

Personal computers need to be personal. At least that's the theory behind an ever-growing range of tools designed to help people customize everything from their desktops to the way their folders look, to their icons.

The first thing most computer users want to change is the background image. Windows comes pre-installed with some nice images, but many want their own.

One service, John's Background Switcher, allows users to grab pictures from the computer or the Internet -- downloading images from Flickr, for example -- says Karsten Bunz of German computer magazine Chip.

Those pictures are then converted into a background slide show.

Other options allow changes to the actual functioning of the computer. Users of Windows 8 or 8.1 who miss the classic Start button and its full range of functions can get them back thanks to a variety of programs, says Andre Hessel of Computerbild, another magazine.

Options include Classic Shell, ViStart, Start Menu 8 or Power8.

Those who liked the Sidebars and Widgets of Vista and Windows 7 can also bring them back to their Windows 8 machine.

Bunz recommends 8GadgetPack, which can help return constant notices about new mail, the weather and CPU performance to the desktop.

Rainmeter also shows a lot of information and can change Windows' look. Bunz also recommends Outlook on the Desktop, which lets people keep their calendar and to-do list in the corner of the eye.

There are also a lot of tools out there to help declutter a desktop of files, shortcuts and start-up icons. Hesel points to Fences, which can set up multiple fields on a desktop where users can sort icons.

One field might be for text files, another for pictures and yet another for start-up icons, for example.

RocketDock also promises to help tidy up desktops and provide quick access to files.

It enhances Windows with a quick start-up dock,...

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