Complete Guide for Windows Customization Terms and Resources

We here at AskVG share lots of Windows customization stuffs regularly. We post about Windows themes, skins, wallpapers, boot screens, login screens, icon packs, sound schemes, mouse cursors, transformation packs, etc.

Many times people are not aware of these things and they get confused. We receive many emails in which people ask us what is boot screen? What is start ORB? What is watermark? and the list goes on...

So today in this topic, we are going to describe all terms related to Windows customization and we hope it'll help you in easily understand these things.

So without wasting time, lets start the guide:

We'll define following terms in this article:

  • Boot Screen or Boot Skin or Startup Screen
  • Login Screen or Welcome Screen or Logon or LogonUI
  • Windows Branding or Logon Branding or Text Branding
  • Start ORB
  • User Picture or Userpic or Avatar
  • Superbar
  • Systray
  • Iconized
  • Context Menu
  • Watermark or Build Number Info
  • Shell
  • UI or GUI
  • Shellstyle or Common Tasks
  • UXtheme
  • Patcher
  • Dock
  • msstyles

Boot Screen or Boot Skin or Startup Screen

Boot screen is the first screen shown by Windows when you start your system. In Windows XP, it shows Windows XP logo with a progressbar. In Windows Vista, it shows only a progressbar. Microsoft tried to make it minimal. Windows 7 boot screen shows an animated Windows logo along with "Starting Windows" text written on screen.

Sometimes Boot screen is also called as Boot Skin, Boot Logo, Startup Screen or Startup Logo.

Login Screen or Welcome Screen or Logon or LogonUI

Login Screen is shown just after the Boot Screen. It contains user account list where you select your username and enter your password to log into Windows. When you don't set a password for your user account, it directly log you into Windows.

Login Screen is also called Welcome Screen, Logon Screen, Logon or LogonUI.

Windows Branding or Logon Branding or Text Branding

Windows Branding is actually a small logo or image which is shown at the bottom-center of login screen. It usually shows the Windows edition installed in your system. You can also see the same in About Windows dialog box.

Its also called Logon Branding or Text Branding.

Start ORB

Start ORB is a new name for good old Start button. Microsoft removed "Start" text from Start button in Windows Vista and replaced the classic Start button with a new round Windows logo which is known as Start ORB. Windows 7 contains a redesigned Start ORB similar to Windows Vista.

Start ORB just like Start button opens Start menu in Windows.

User Picture or Userpic or Avatar

User picture is shown at the top of Start menu. It opens User Accounts window when you click on it. User picture is also shown at Login screen.

User picture is also known as Userpic or User Avatar.


Superbar is a new name given to Taskbar in Windows 7. Windows 7 comes with a redesigned Taskbar which provides lots of new cool features like ability to pin items, jumplists, iconized program buttons, etc.

Because of these new features and increased height, we started to call it Superbar.



Systray is a short form of System Tray which is also known as System Notification Area. It is shown at the end of Taskbar and generally shows clock along with various program icons.



By default, Windows 7 Taskbar or Superbar shows only icons for running programs in their Taskbar buttons, this new feature is called Iconized Taskbar buttons.


Context Menu

Context Menu is the menu which appears when you right-click somewhere e.g. Desktop context menu, Explorer context menu, Taskbar context menu, etc.


Watermark or Build Number Info

Watermark is generally shown when you are using a trial version of Windows which is not activated. Its also shown when you use a testing version of Windows or Service Pack like Alpha, Beta or Milestone builds.

If Windows detects that you are using a pirated version of Windows and your product key is not genuine, it also starts showing the watermark.

There are also a few other cases when you might see watermark in Windows like Windows Test mode, etc.

Watermark is also known as Build Number Info and is shown at the bottom-right corner of Desktop.



Shell is a widely used term which is used to refer Explorer. Its actually a combined group of everything which you see on your screen like Desktop, Start Menu, Taskbar, Windows Explorer window, etc.



UI stands for User Interface and GUI stands for Graphical User Interface. UI or GUI means program interface. It defines how a program looks? If a program interface looks nice, we generally say its UI or GUI is great.

So whenever we use term "UI" or "GUI", we are talking about the interface. Like most of the times we use Metro UI or Ribbon UI terms in our articles.

Shellstyle or Common Tasks

Shellstyle or Common Tasks terms were widely used in days of Windows XP. Windows XP shows common tasks in left side of Windows Explorer. These common tasks and their look is defined by a system file named "Shellstyle.dll" which is present in Windows theme folder, that's why common tasks are also known as shellstyle.

Windows Vista and 7 show common tasks at bottom of Windows Explorer and now known as Details Pane.

Sometimes people also use shellstyle term for Control Panel sidebar in Windows Vista and 7 which is also shown in Desktop Personalization, System Properties, etc.


Windows comes with some default themes like Luna, Olive Green and Silver in Windows XP, Windows Aero and Windows Basic themes in Windows Vista and 7.

If you want to use a 3rd party theme in Windows, it doesn't allow you because by default Windows doesn't allow its users to use custom themes.

Microsoft uses digital signature for default Windows themes and always puts some algorithm in a few system files to detect 3rd party themes. When it detects a custom theme which doesn't contain digital signature obviously, it doesn't apply it and applies Windows classic theme instead.

UXtheme.dll file is a system file which is responsible for this detection along with a few other system files in Windows Vista and 7.

Since the file name is UXtheme.dll, we always use UXtheme patching term when we talk about patching Windows to use custom 3rd party themes.


Patcher means a software which modifies one or more files to change some kind of behavior. When we talk about UXtheme Patcher, we refer to a tool which modifies UXtheme.dll file to remove the check for custom 3rd party themes.

There are many other patching utilities like watermark remover which modifies Windows files to remove watermark from Windows Desktop.

We also use patchers to remove ads shown in various instant messengers like Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, etc.


Dock is a special kind of toolbar which is shown on Windows Desktop. Docks are free software which allow you to put your favorite programs shortcuts in an organized way on Desktop.

There are many free docks available for Windows like Rocket Dock, RK Launcher, Object Dock, etc.



msstyles is actually a filetype in Windows which refers to a Visual Style. Visual Styles are widely confused with themes. To know more about them, visit following topic:

[Guide] What is the Difference between a Theme, Themepack, Skin, Visual Style and msstyles?

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Phew... That's all for now guys. We have tried to cover all terms related to Windows customization. If you think we missed a term or if you want to know about a specific term, please let us know in your comment...

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Posted in: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

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  • Great article Vishal. Its very helpful to read the content. And now i can try it on my own with help of this guide.Thanks.

  • VG

    ^^ Thanks. :)

  • hey vg I still have my doubts maybe I'm just unlucky or the universe won't let me fully install a theme.

    The thing is, I cannot replace the explorer.exe. explorerframe.dll nor the shell. Everytime that I try it says that file or folder has been opened by another program, I have already used that thing that makes you take ownership right-clicking a file but still doesn't work, I tried using unlocker and still nothing, what else can I do?

  • VG

    ^^ Once you take ownership of the file, rename it to some other name and then copy the new file in that folder. Restart your system and Windows will start using new file.

  • ohh I see, maybe that's why I'm failing, thanks I'll try that later when I finish some stuff (I don't wanna risk it xD)

    by the way vg, have you heard of a program called theme resource changer I haven't seen it in your blog or maybe I'm missing it, it works the same as the resource hacker but this way you don't have to do anything, the thing is I was browsing some themes when I found about that and found a theme that works with it, it seems like you just install the program then in the themes folder (windows\resources\themes) you place the theme, you know a theme has the .thm file and a folder, well inside of that folder you put 3 more folders (explorerframe.dll, shell32.dll and explorer.exe) and inside of those folders you put the theme files as PNG images.

    well thank you for your time and help and if you already knew about this, my apologizes

  • So I have two questions regarding themes.

    1. Is it possible for me to use Windows Vista themes on 7? What repercussions could happen if I applied a Vista visual style on my Win 7 system?

    2. How do I extract the start orb from an explorer file or other files? I realized that Win 7 visual styles no longer change the start button and I'm a bit iffy when it comes to changing the main explorer.exe file, plus the fact that start button icons I'm looking for (Longhorn start icons, particularly) are extremely hard to find on the web.

    Thanks in advance.

  • VG

    ^^ 1. No. Windows Vista themes are different than Windows 7. You'll get a broken Explorer if you try to apply them.

    2. You can extract images or other resources using Resource Hacker.

  • tell me what do i call d screen which comes up when m installing windows ? d place where i hv to select date time etc ... and what should i change to remove microsot coporation 'my computer'-properties

  • VG

    ^^ I think you are talking about the OOBE screen. To edit My Computer Properties window, you'll need to edit sysdm.cpl file.

  • sir,in windows 7 their is no file of string table shown in "reshacker" software.please give me suggestion what can i do?

  • VG

    ^^ Please check following:

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