Microsoft announced last week that the final testing build for Windows 10 has shipped for 2016 as the Windows team gets ready for some well deserved downtime over the holidays.

While the team has decided to take a break for now that does not mean we are not able to see some new additions to Windows 10 that are pre-cursors to features likely to arrive in 2017.

One case in point is that over the past week multiple sites reported the appearance of several Windows themes in the Windows Store.

I dug into the Windows Store to research this piece of news and discovered there are actually 13 themes currently listed in the Personalization category. A closer look at each listing provides a few key pieces of information that leads me to believe there will be a new way to use themes in the Creators Update that is expected in March 2017.

Let's take a closer look at those tidbits:

  1. "This app is an extension for: another product in the store" - Just like extensions for Microsoft Edge, it sounds like new themes for Windows 10 are going to be curated through the Windows Store. This makes sense as the infrastructure is in place to host and distribute these to Windows 10 users in the same manner they get apps and Edge extensions.
  2. "To see your themes go to Settings > Personalization > Themes." - This points directly to the personalization settings in the Windows Settings app which is slowly picking up all of the functionality from the legacy Control Panel. As of today it still points to the legacy Windows Theme interface and obviously needs additional work to integrate the handling of themes.
  3. "This title is powered by great new features in the free Windows Insider program." - The Creators update, aka Redstone 2, the next major Feature Update for Windows 10 is currently being tested in the Windows Insider program and sits at Build 14986. Note: According to the Windows Store entry for each listed theme, you must be running at least Windows 10 Build 14951 to use these features.

So with that information it certainly appears that Microsoft is looking towards the Creators Update as the version of Windows 10 that will finally incorporate themes into the Windows 10 modern settings app instead of the legacy Control Panel.

The appearance of these themes ahead of time but without any formal announcement means they are most likely not ready for prime time. This of course bears out since you must manually activate the themes in order to use them in Windows 10 Redstone 2.

Ultimately, once they are fully integrated, I expect these themes to install and activate in a similar manner to Microsoft Edge extensions.

In the mean time you can still download them from the Windows Store and I will show you below how to use the themes.

Step 1: Install the themes from the Windows Store.

Windows 10 Theme Store Listing

Just select the Get button in the store listing to download and install the theme. Repeat this process for each theme you want to have access to on your system.

Note: Links to all 13 themes are available in our accompanying Windows 10 Themes in the Windows Store Gallery.

Step 2: Install each Themepack in Windows 10

Windows App Listing Folder on Windows 10

Using File Explorer browse to C:\Program Files\WindowsApps and then sort the folder listing by clicking on the Date Modified column header.

Since the themes were the most recent apps installed this will place them all at the top of the directory listing.

You will notice the names look a little cryptic but the theme names should be in the title as you can see above.

Step 3: Open the theme folder and install the theme

Windows 10 Theme Directory Listing Themepack

Once you have opened the themes folder as described in Step 2 above, just open each installed themes folder one by one and then open up the Theme sub-folder.

In this folder you should see a single file that will have the themes name with a .themepack file extension.

Select this file to begin the installation process of the theme.

Windows Themes Legacy Control Panel

Once installed the legacy Windows Themes Control Panel app will open up to show the theme.

Just repeat this process until you have selected the Themepack file for each theme you want to install in Windows 10.

Windows 10 Legacy Theme Control Panel App

Eventually you will see all of the themes listed in the legacy Windows Theme applet. You will need to continue using this for changing themes until the functionality arrives in the Windows Settings app.

I did notice that there is a difference in Windows Settings>Personalization>Background when you choose to use one of these themes.

Here is the normal appearance of that settings page in Windows 10:

Windows Settings Personalization Background

After activating one of the Windows 10 themes from the Windows Store that page now looks like this:

Windows 10 Theme Settings

See that DesktopBackground item listed under slideshow? That would appear to be a link to the folder with all of the themes backgrounds in it however, it can not be selected for right now. Seems like a placeholder for future functionality with this feature.

in the interim, if you want to see all of the images included in these themes you can do so by using File Explorer and browsing to

C:\Users\YourUserName\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes

Windows 10 Themes Background Storage Folders

Each one of these folders hold the background images for their themes.

Windows 10 Theme Background Folder

It will be interesting to see how Microsoft will continue to integrate this feature into the Creators Update testing builds once we get back to testing in 2017.

But, wait...there's probably more so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+.