Windows 7 for me is still just a standin for XP. I use it on newer computers because modern software forces me to, not because I prefer it. It's the last acceptable version of Windows for me. If I ever build a new PC where Win7 is no longer usable, I expect it will run linux primarily and have Win10 for gaming only.
Historically I generally haven't liked the linux desktop experience either, but there's a huge difference in how much control you have with linux. There's multiple competing GUIs to pick from, and with enough effort, you can still claim ownership over any aspect of your computer with linux, unlike modern Windows which gives the keys to Microsoft and puts you in the back seat.
I never used the "themes" in XP, I turn that off and reconfigure a few other checkbox options and then XP feels almost the same as Win2k. While I used to prefer Win2k, in the end WinXP ended up being more useful because a lot of software dropped Win2k support long before XP. WinXP still has a larger memory footprint and maybe runs slower on something like a Pentium 3, but that difference stopped being significant on anything much newer.
I still find the control panel in Win7 difficult to navigate and it's hard to find things I can find easily in XP. Some useful functions are hidden and you have to find the path to some secret executable to make them appear.
Win7's default taskbar is awful IMO, it kind of blows my mind what they did with it and that apparently some people liked it. Anyway at least it's possible to fix it. Icon grouping can be turned off, and I eventually found a tutorial explaining all the steps you have to follow to recreate the quick launch bar. Not exactly user friendly but it can be done.
On my current everyday PC, I now run Linux Mint primarily. The biggest weakness with it is that it's 3D game performance sucks.