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Windows 7: Trouble saving customized desktop backgrounds theme

21 Sep 2012   #1
DaveR

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit SP 1
 
 
Trouble saving customized desktop backgrounds theme

I like to change my desktop background pictures with the changing seasons. I'm trying to save four themes (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer), with the only difference among the themes being the desktop backgrounds (a set of 6 or so pictures that will cycle every 20 minutes). I've chosen the pictures and set other options on the Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization > Desktop Background page.

The changes I make there are applied when I click Save Changes and go back to the Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization page. However, since I want to be able to access these themes every year, I click Save Theme, and then I'm not quite sure what happens. Sometimes a theme with the name I picked to save with appears in the list, sometimes not. Even if it does, if I right-click it and select Delete theme, the information given about the theme always shows a date modified in 2010, even though I've just now saved it.

This feature has always been a little mysterious to me, but lately it seems to be less functional than ever. I've located the place where Windows seems to store the themes (C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes), but even there I don't necessarily see what I expect to see. For instance, I just selected a group of pictures and saved it as a theme. This theme's name does not appear in the list in Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization, but it does appear in C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes. The .theme file's properties there so a created and accessed date of today, but again a date modified in 2010. What the what??

I'm not interested in patches or installing theme customizers. I just want to do this simple thing with desktop backgrounds. Is it possible that some bit of data has gotten "stuck" somewhere and is causing Windows to misinterpret existing customized themes? Where could I look? I'm willing to peek into the Registry if necessary.

Thanks for any advice!


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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21 Sep 2012   #2
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

You have to save the theme.


Attached Images
 
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Sep 2012   #3
DaveR

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit SP 1
 
 

Thanks. However, I have no "Unsaved Theme" showing. I can't remember the last time I did (if ever). I do have two themes labeled "My current theme." Both of them show a desktop background that is not in fact part of the current theme. One of them is highlighted, as in your screenshot, and if I right-click over it I do get that little dialog. But I don't see any point saving this theme if it's not in fact going to contain the right pictures.

Below is a screenshot of what I have in Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization. The highlighted "My current theme" shows a picture that is not actually included among the pictures currently cycling as my desktop background.

FWIW, here's the list of files in C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes:
Name________________________Size________Modified
Autumn.theme_________________3.89 KB_____11/29/2010 12:22:01 PM
Custom.theme_________________3.89 KB_____11/29/2010 12:22:01 PM
My current theme (2).theme_____3.90 KB_____9/24/2010 4:43:27 PM
Nature (change @ 6hrs).theme___5.81 KB_____7/18/2010 4:23:31 PM
oem.theme____________________1.88 KB_____7/18/2010 11:06:13 AM
Spring (2).theme_______________3.90 KB_____3/3/2011 1:13:31 PM
Summer.theme_________________3.90 KB_____9/24/2010 4:43:27 PM
Winter.theme__________________3.92 KB_____Today 4:57:42 AM

Note that this list is not at all identical to what appears in the screenshot. Also note the modified dates. I've actually tried to save themes under a couple of names today, but I don't think Winter was one of them.


Attached Thumbnails
-theme-customization.jpg  
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21 Sep 2012   #4
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

As far as I can see from your screenshot, the seasonal themes are already saved. What happens if you click on e.g. Spring.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Sep 2012   #5
DaveR

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit SP 1
 
 

Yes, some of the seasonal themes are saved, with a certain set of pictures. But if I want to change the pictures, or create a new theme (Summer, for instance), the problems I described occur. Windows will not allow me to save a new set of pictures under a new theme name.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Sep 2012   #6
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

1. Delete the doubles - e.g. 'My current theme'.
2. If you want to change pics in an existing theme, change them in the corresponding folder.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Sep 2012   #7
DaveR

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit SP 1
 
 

I appreciate your persistence. Here's the most recent story: Focusing on the two "Autumn" themes, and working with a folder two levels underneath My Pictures where I have gathered 16 autumn-related pictures, I select the first theme in the Personalization dialog. Problem 1: I try to delete the second "Autumn" theme by right-clicking it and selecting Delete theme. I get the confirmation dialog (which tells me this theme is called Autumn.theme) and click Yes. But nothing seems to happen: the theme is still displayed.

At any rate, with the first Autumn theme selected, I click on Desktop Background at the bottom left, and am taken to the Desktop Background selection dialog. I browse to the folder I'm using, select 6 or 8 of the 16 pictures, set them to change every 10 seconds shuffled, and click Save changes. This set of background pics immediately begins to display and cycle as it should. Back in the Personalization dialog I right-click the currently selected Autumn theme and select Save theme; when the dialog appears, I name it Autumn again. But this apparently does not work, because (a) the pic displayed as the icon for this theme (in the My Themes list and in the Desktop Background link) remains a picture that is no longer one of the 6 or 8 selected pictures; and (b) when I select another theme, which is then activated, and then reselect the Autumn theme, it is not configured as I just supposedly saved it -- there is only one picture (the one shown for the icon, which I had not selected), and therefore of course there is no cycling. Interestingly, in C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes there is now no Autumn.theme file.

Finally, I've discovered that neither saves nor deletions take effect in the My Themes list in the Personalization dialog (or in the Themes folder) until I click Desktop Background, go to that dialog, and return (whether or not I do anything in the dialog, whether I click Save changes or Cancel). After that, a deleted theme will be gone; and a second copy of Autumn will appear, supposedly the one I'd saved. But it still hasn't got the configuration that I selected and supposedly saved. If I try to right-click either of these Autumn themes and delete it, I learn from the confirmation dialogs that one of them is really called Custom.theme and the other is called Autumn.theme. Both of these files also appear in the C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes folder, the former showing created and accessed dates of 9/20/2011 and a modified date of 11/29/10, and the latter showing created and accessed dates of today and a modified date of 11/29/10.

I'm sorry for the length of all this, but I'm trying to give enough detail to make the situation clear. I've been using Windows since Windows 95, and I'm not a novice, but this has me stumped. It is a very, very minor part of what a computer should do; and I can always modify a theme, which modifications will take effect immediately, and just not try to save it. But if we're going to have this capability, why shouldn't it work right?

One further question: should I really expect C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes to correspond to the Personalization dialog in Control Panel? If not, where would I look to find the actual themes? Thanks again for your help and persistence. And I do apologize for violating your motto about keeping it simple. I just don't seem to be able to!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Sep 2012   #8
DaveR

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit SP 1
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
2. If you want to change pics in an existing theme, change them in the corresponding folder.
I realize that I haven't really tried this, mainly because I'm not sure I understand it. Do you mean in the folder on disk where the pics are stored? When I create the theme I should just browse to that folder in the Desktop Background dialog and then select all? And then move pics in and out of that folder and Windows will pick up the changes?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Sep 2012   #9
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

I am kind of stumped too. I would clear everything in C:\Users\{username}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes and start anew.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Sep 2012   #10
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by DaveR View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
2. If you want to change pics in an existing theme, change them in the corresponding folder.
I realize that I haven't really tried this, mainly because I'm not sure I understand it. Do you mean in the folder on disk where the pics are stored? When I create the theme I should just browse to that folder in the Desktop Background dialog and then select all? And then move pics in and out of that folder and Windows will pick up the changes?
Yes, you make a folder of all the pics you want in the theme and then you browse to the folder (see pic) and use that folder. Later when you want to add/delete any pics, you do it in that folder.


Attached Thumbnails
-2012-09-21_2340.png  
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 Trouble saving customized desktop backgrounds theme




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