One of the fun things you can do with your computer is customize its look...make
it a reflection of your personality!
But there are useful reasons why you might want to add a little extra customization
to your computer, too. Not long ago a user asked if there was a way to change
the size of the cursors, because, being vision impaired, he wanted to make the
pointers a bit larger so they were easier to see.
The answer is, sure! You just need to go into the Mouse settings
which you'll find in your Control Panel. Depending on your
system, you can get to the Control Panel by clicking through
Start/Settings/Control Panel or Start/Control Panel.
There you'll find a dialog box that will allow you to change what symbol represents
various types of cursors in Windows. If you've downloaded themes or additional
cursors, you may have a large list, as you can see in the image below.
Experiment with some of the choices on your system. Especially if your eyes
have trouble seeing your current cursors. Chances are that you'll find something
that's easier on your eyes.
You can search the Internet and find lots of additional desktop themes and
cursors that you can download.
Over the years, I've accumulated quite a collection of cursors, many of them
silly and animated. Sure, they can make computing a bit difficult,
but they are good for a laugh. I have everything from animated fish tanks to
dogs that run and smash into walls!
As a little present to those of you reading this article, I've zipped up all
my cursors and tossed them on MouseTrax which you can download by clicking this
Once downloaded, you'll need to unzip the file to retrieve all the cursors.
Then you can use the pointer dialog shown above and browse to that directory
to find the appropriate one you want to use.
You can also easily change an icon. Say you have a shortcut to a document on
your desktop. But the default icon looks just like all the other default document
icons and this document is something special. You'd like to make this one look
more distinct so you can easily find it amongst the tons of other icons you
have on your desktop (if you're anything like me).
To change an icon, right click it and choose Properties. There
you'll see a Change Icon button. Click it to open the program's
EXE file, which will contain additional icons for the program. You can then
choose a different icon so you can distinguish this shortcut from that one,
as shown in the image below.
Program EXE files contain these icons, but so do many DLL files. DLLs are Dynamic
Link Libraries...programmer's files. They help run programs. And a little tip
here is that if you click the Browse button for the Icon File location, you
can go into Windows/System32 directory and there you will find
the Shell32.dll and Moricons.dll that contain
a whole pile of additional icons from which to choose, as you can see in the
However, do realize that the files in your System32 directory are IMPORTANT
system files. So don't mess around in there too much and certainly never delete
or rename any of those files! But many files on your system will contain additional
Cursor and Icon Tools
There are lots of software programs out there that will allow you to do various
icon manipulation and creation. I found one in particular that I like. It's
called Icon Forge
by Cursor Arts (www.cursorarts.com).
It's an inexpensive, yet fun and powerful program that let's you create icons,
animate icons, extract icons from EXE or DLL files and lots more. I haven't
had time to nose around the program (or RTFM) to discover all that the program
can do yet. But I do plan to play with it more when I have a little time.
But I particularly liked the program because I was able to quickly use it when
I found the download demo version at their site. At the time, I was upgrading
my web site and wanted to add a custom icon to the web site so that when folks
save MouseTrax.com to their favorites list, my icon will help them more easily
find it again in the list. Because rather than the default Internet Explorer
icon, my shortcut will display my MT icon to represent MouseTrax!
I just needed to design something in the program, as you can see in the image
below. (Okay, so I'm no artist...give me a break, those icons are extremely
Then I add the following code to my home page, in the header of the page:
<link rel="SHORTCUT ICON" href="MTrax.ico">
And now when a user saves my site, they'll easily find it because it stands
out, as you can see below.
Note! If you've saved MouseTrax to your shortcuts, but don't
see the icon, it probably means you saved that shortcut before I added
the icon. Delete the old favorite link and add it again. Then, when you reopen
your browser, the link should appear.
If you have more artistic skills than I do, you can even create your own animated
icons with Icon Forge.
If you're a developer, you can use this program to compile an EXE file that
includes your program icons.
Another fun feature you can use is the ActivIcon dialog to allow you to easily
change any icon in your system. When you open it, it compiles a list of all
the icons on your system.
And although the last thing I need is yet another graphics program, the version
I have came with cool photo editor software—Image Forge. So if all you
have to modify your images is Paint, this will give you a nice alternative.
Go forth and have fun customizing your system. Just be careful...and don't
screw it up! <wink>