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February 21, 2014

Windows themes: a masquerade for your desktop

Mardi Gras is less than two weeks away, and in many parts of the world folks are putting the finishing touches on gorgeous costumes and parade floats, to be unveiled at the big event on March 4. In fact, Carnival has already begun in some cities. You may not be able to make it to Venice or Rio to take part in two weeks of fabulous party mayhem, but at least your Windows PC can get dressed in its festival best, with the Masquerade theme.


There are times when nature adorns itself in brilliant colors, too. Our new Community Showcase: Dramatic Skies theme includes beautiful examples from 19 photographers, including Mohammadreza Rezania, Justin Long, Emilee Ligons, and Prasong Mahachitsattaya. One of my favorites is this stunning morning sky captured by Rajathilak Natarajan.


The drama is manmade in the new Community Showcase: Cityscapes theme, which features urban skylines and architectural details from cities around the world. London, Paris, Wellington, Manhattan, and Moscow are among the places celebrated in this set from 20 different photographers, including Jeff Niemoeller, Olga Górka, Krag Anderson, and Zhang Tianyi. I love the reflected facades in this photo of Ghent by Ruben Ottink.


The new Community Showcase: Rural Landscapes theme explores landscapes farther away from urban centers, where life moves at a slower pace. Rustic cabins, remote farmhouses, beach huts, and quiet lakeshore docks appear in this set from 18 different photographers, including Liza Rodriguez, Cyndi Easterly, Geoffrey Baker, and Tudor ApMadoc. I especially like this view of the last rays of golden light slanting across the Malvern Hills, by Jason Wickens.


Our next new theme gets even farther away from signs of human habitation. Community Showcase: Natural Landscapes celebrates pristine parkland, rivers, mountains, meadows, and deserts in images by 19 photographers, including Robbie Aspeling, Ana Sanchez, Charlotte Doyle, and Sylvia Cook. The set begins with this gorgeous forest landscape captured by Anthony Hanna.


The vivid colors and infinite variety of the plant kingdom are on display in Community Showcase: Flora, a collection featuring the works of 21 photographers, including Andrew Hagen, Karen Bees, Wen Ming, and Pravin Ghag. The rich red tones pop off the screen in this gorgeous poppy macro, by Louise Nadeau.


The insect world is also full of color and grace – at least, it is if you’re looking at the kinds of bugs in our new Community Showcase: Insects theme. Less appealing creepy-crawlies did not get an invitation to this party. Instead, our community of contributors – including Jade Richards, Duncan Lawler, Kamran Shafiq, and Laura Utge – recorded moments in the busy lives of bees, butterflies, and ladybugs. There is even a gorgeous iridescent beetle, photographed by Nandakishore Kartha.


Butterflies also flutter through the work of photographer Chris Chung in his new theme, Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden. It’s the third in his series of themes showcasing the beautiful parks of Hong Kong.


Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas, is on display in a lovely new theme by Amy Alderman. Her narrow depth of field gives many of the images in this set a painterly effect.


The last new theme in today’s roundup is a virtual tour of New Zealand’s North Island, from the sparkling lights of Auckland to the crashing waves at Mercer Cliffs, as captured by photographer Brian Lai.


We also publish new wallpapers on a regular basis, just in case you have an older version of Windows that can’t use themes, or you prefer to use a single image (perhaps on your lock screen or Windows Phone). Here are a few of the newest ones:


I hope you’ll keep checking back on the Personalization Gallery for more new themes and wallpapers to beautify your Windows PC or Windows Phone.