Terminology in Windows can be a quite confusing. What exactly is the difference between customization, options, personalization, preferences, properties, schemes, and settings. The Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines has some guidance, but it isn’t presented in a way that is easy to digest. The information is spread throughout the document.

Customization

Program options specifically related to UI configuration.

Options

Program options.

Personalization

A summary of commonly used customization settings. The key thing is it is related to the user’s personal identification with the program, as opposed to other options and properties which are not associated with a user’s personal identification.

Preferences

Don’t use (use options instead). Properties Attributes/settings related to a particular object. For example a file’s name, read-only status, or attributes that a user can’t directly change such as a file’s size. Usually properties define the state, value or appearance of an object.

Schemes

A named collection of visual settings. The guidelines are a little inconsistent here because they also refer to a Print Schema. I think the important thing about a schema is that is named.

Settings

Specific values that have been chosen. Settings are all over your application, but there is no group of ‘settings’. ‘Settings’ should never be used as a menu item, but might be used in a tool tip or descriptive text.

Theme

A named collection of settings across the system. The difference between a theme and a scheme seems to be scope. A theme is broader in scope than a scheme.