[Jump forward to the 2011 NXE theme template]

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XBOX360Vitriol on the internet flies only as fast and furious as fingers can scrabble on a keyboard whenever Microsoft updates the Xbox 360’s dashboard now known as New Xbox Experience (NXE). I see two repeated occurrences:

  1. Gamers reminisce about the virtues of the previous version and
  2. Gamers protest vociferously about the lack of space devoted to theme background images in the upgraded version.

In the first instance, it’s just human nature to make comparisons to whatever it was that we have grown comfortable with. In 2008 we get an earful regarding the arrival of Mii-like avatars; now in 2010 we get blinded by the overall white color scheme. Cue Dana Carvey’s crabby old man routine: “That’s the way it was and we liked it!!!” Well, we just have to deal with the NXEs we’re given because public backlash won’t reverse things the way it did with New Coke formula and The Gap logo.

In the second instance, complaints about the dashboard’s layout bears some merit because themes previously bought from the Marketplace might not fit correctly with the new placement of elements. With the dashboard having been optimized for new Kinect motion control, the cool perspective scaling of the channel pages have been flattened, thus affecting viewable background real estate (which I guesstimate to be up to another 10% lost). That persistent fuzzy floor covering the lower half is another issue…

Wallpaper template for Xbox 360's 2010 NXE.

Single-click to see the 2011 NXE layout.

Gamers want the most bang for the buck when purchasing themes. For the more creative (if not frugal) gamers, designing one’s own background is the best option. Based on some screen captures of the current NXE, I derived a template (click the pic above) to help gamers plot the optimum visible area above the main channel pages. Wallpaper templates on the web for the previous dashboard are not too different and still useable, but I just wanted this to be more accurate. I recommend some landscape or general design rather than a singular person or object, otherwise you would have to bother with shrinking the subject’s head to fit recognizably in the top area (but then again, that’s what this template is for).


I’ve discovered that resourceful gamers (also known as modders) are able to compile multi-page themes using software such as Modio 3.0 (which I’ll leave for you to search for yourself, but YouTube has good pointers and tutorials) that includes a ‘theme creator.’ With that ability available, I decided to make additional template images you can download. Premium themes with individual images behind your friends’ avatars are still out of reach (at least to me, so don’t ask).

Themes consist of four pages, all visible in the My Xbox channel:

  1. ‘main,’ which everyone knows generally as the dashboard and friend avatar line-up
  2. ‘game library’
  3. ‘media library’ which includes video, pics and music
  4. ‘system settings’
Library menu template for XBox 360's 2010 NXE.

Library menu template for XBox 360's 2010 NXE.

When you design your backgrounds, it’s probably best to name them that way so you can keep track of which goes where.
My ‘library’ template above applies to the Games Library menu, where you’ll get to see the right half of the background with the panes moved fully to the left. If you use Zune to access your Video Library then the ‘library’ format might not be available to you, in which case you should depend on the ‘settings’ template below to make the rest of your backgrounds. Just play around with the My Xbox channel beforehand to plan how your intended backgrounds will (or will not) appear. Best of luck!

Settings menu template for XBox 360's 2010 NXE.

Settings menu template for XBox 360's 2010 NXE.