Windows 7 – Flickr powered Themes

I have been meaning to write this post for a while, as soon as I heard Paul Thurott (@Thurrott on Twitter) discussing themes on the Windows Weekly Podcast with Leo Laporte. Windows 7 calls the Desktop style (Background, Screensaver, Sounds, Colour scheme) themes and these can be wrapped up into themepacks that can be saved and are transferrable between computers.  This is covered pretty comprehensively by Paul Thurrott here.

However there is a kind of a hidden feature in the Windows 7 beta that will hopefully be transparent in the UI in the RTM version, but it is Microsoft so who knows? Anyway this feature is the ability to set your background to be the contents of an RSS feed, and what would be nice here would be to squirt in a Flickr RSS feed (for a specific set, tag, group, etc.) and have these high quality pictures be your desktop background.

So first of all you need to realise that theme files are simply a text file with a .theme extension, and as such can be edited with a simple text editor, so notepad it is then. First we need to create one, Open the Control Panel – Appearance and Personalization – Personalization, halfway down the page you will see the option to save the theme:-


First of all make the changes to the Colors, sounds, Screensaver that you want to have in your theme, then click on ‘Save theme’ as highlighted above. This will simply give you a file save dialog box, so give the Theme file a suitable name and location (I just use the Documents Library in this case) then click save.


You then need to open this file in Notepad, so this easiest way is to enter ‘Notepad’ in the search box in the start menu and press enter. Navigate to the theeme file file in the document library where you saved it then drag the file into notepad (this saves you the hassle to do with accidentally resetting file associations for this file type). So you end up with a file like this:-


Notice the ‘DisplayName’ is the same name as you named the saved file, all we need to do here is add a few lines to feed the flickr RSS into here:-


Replace the RSS value with the flickr feed you wish to use, like I Said this could be the RSS feed of one of your tags,sets,collection, main photostream within your flickr photos. You can make the changes the save the file. You do need to be aware of a few things though:-

  • The photos need to have the high quality versions publically available in order to look good on the desktop, if not it will download the default size it shows which are not of a sufficient size for a desktop background and will look terrible.
  • The photos will actually download in the background so it could take some time depending on the number of photos in the stream
  • Obviously the higher the number of photos in the RSS feed, the more space it will take up.
  • The Interval shown above is measured in milliseconds and is the refresh interval of each photo on the desktop

To import the them file simply double-click on it, the theme will apply and the ‘Personalization Control Panel’ will open and you will see that next to the ‘Save theme’ we used earlier it will show the current theme is your theme name. The photos in the RSS will now begin to download, you can save this theme again at anytime so you have a copy of this saved theme.


~ by Phil on March 27, 2009.

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