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Customizing the Windows Ribbons Screen Saver with Registry Tweaks

When you edit the Registry, you can customize Vista to work the way you want it to (within Microsoft's parameters anyway). It's best to start with something fairly simple to learn the process before you try to tackle a huge tweak. But once you learn how to edit the Registry in Windows Vista, a whole new world awaits.

A favorite quick Vista Registry tweak is changing the look of the Ribbons screen saver that comes with Vista. Nothing earth shattering, but it’s a fun way to kick around in the Vista sanctum sanctorum.

When Vista shipped, several of the screen savers had options that just didn’t make it into the final cut — the programmers built the options into the screen saver programs, but they didn't have enough time to complete a user interface that we could all use. You can edit the Registry to hook into those screen saver settings.

The Ribbons screen saver has two settings that you can change. NumRibbons is the maximum number of ribbons shown on the screen (in hexadecimal). RibbonWidth is the maximum width of the ribbons, expressed in a very weird way. (For the techies in the crowd, it’s a floating point representation of an integer value, stored in a DWORD.)

1

Set a system restore point.

You could edit the Registry without making a system restore point, but it's safer to set one in case anything goes wrong.

2

Choose Start, type regedit, and press Enter.

The Registry Editor appears.

3

On the left side, double-click down the tree until you get to HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Screensavers\Ribbons.

Your screen should look like the one in this figure.

4

Click once on Ribbons, on the left, and then choose File→Export. Give your .reg backup file a name (say, Original Ribbons screensaver settings), pick a good location for it, and click Save.

The best place to put the .reg file for easy access is the desktop. You'll know pretty quickly whether you are happy with the changes, and then you can move the file from your desktop for long-term storage or simple delete it.

5

On the right, right-click in the big empty area and choose New→DWORD (32-bit) Value.

Regedit creates a new DWORD value and waits for you to type a new name.

6

Immediately type NumRibbons.

If you accidentally click somewhere else, click once on New Value #1 and press the F2 key so you can change the name.

7

Press Enter twice.

Regedit brings up an Edit DWORD (32-bit) Value dialog box.

8

Make sure the Hexadecimal option is selected, and then type 100 in the Value Data box. Then click OK.

Regedit shows you the new value’s name and data. The 100 will modify the screen saver to show 256 thin ribbons instead of the 3–5 that it traditionally shows.

9

Repeat Steps 5 through 8 and create a new DWORD value with the name RibbonWidth and the value 3c23d70a.

Regedit should look like this figure. At this point, you’re done with Regedit. Vista’s screen saver program doesn’t require you to log off and log back on again — much less reboot (which is necessary to get some Registry changes to “take”). So, for the moment, leave Regedit open.

10

Right-click any empty place on the desktop, choose Properties, click the Screen Saver icon, and then choose the Ribbons screen saver from the drop-down Screen Saver box.

Take a look at your new Ribbons screen saver. What do you think?

11

Before you rest on your rusting laurels, close the Screen Saver Settings dialog box.

Don’t worry. It’s easy to bring it back.

12

Go back into Regedit. Change the NumRibbons setting to 50 and RibbonWidth settings 3ded9a8a. Go back and look at your new Ribbons screen saver.

These settings will change the screen saver to show 128 chubby ribbons.

13

Go back into Regedit. Change the NumRibbons setting to 4 and RibbonWidth settings to 3flec78a. Go back and look at your new Ribbons screen saver.

These settings will change the screen saver to show 4 ribbons in need of a diet.

14

Experiment — change the Registry data again and see what you can get Ribbons to do. When you’re happy with your new screen saver, click OK in the Screen Saver Settings dialog box and close the Registry Editor.

All sorts of fun awaits in the Registry — if you’re careful.

If you ever change your mind and you want to bring back your old Ribbon settings, double-click the .reg file you created in Step 4, and that Registry key is restored to its old values.

If that isn’t enough excitement for you, try making the Mystify screen saver cool by changing HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Screensavers\Mystify\NumLines to DWORD hex 15, or maybe DWORD 6.

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