Published on November 11, 2004 By d3adz0mbie In OS Customization
Disclaimer: I don't claim to know everything. Stardock is a very successful and generous company that offers a variety of creative software to Windows users. The following is just my opinions and musings as to things Stardock could do to improve it's software lines. Take these entries for what they are... the ramblings of a guy looking for blog points.

Windowblinds. Years ago Stardock changed the face of OS customization with this program. It allowed any user, any novice to completely transform their Windows system from the nasty, outdated gray look of Windows98 to something modern, something almost beautiful. In a word, this software has been revolutionary. So revolutionary in fact, that MicroSoft included their own skin system in WindowsXP. How many software companies do you know that have caused MicroSoft to change the brand look of their most popular product?
So if it's so great, what could possibly be wrong with it? Like DesktopX, Windowblinds is also on cNets top ten enhancement downloads list. It's been in the top ten for years. Pretty good right? Well, yeah, but for me, Windowblinds could do better. Let me throw some ideas your way, and you can tell me what you think:

1.) First, it needs to move forward in functionality. Just a little. Why can't I move my Start button to the left side of my taskbar with Windowblinds? Can menus be moved to the bottom? To the vertical sides? Hidden in an added menu button? Like I said, just a little. Overall Windowblinds does wonders for improved control of your Windows system.

2.) Transparency. Frogboy saw this coming when he read the word Windowblinds. I cannot advocate implementing the full range of border transparency into Windowblinds enough. This is the future of the user interface. We MUST have this! Smooth corners, see-through borders, even windows that mimic glass panes that darken when brought to focus are things we need on Windows today. The arguement here, by certain people within Stardock, is the potential performance hit Windowblinds will take from all the eye candy. My solution? Release Windowblinds X (experimental), outside of the standard Windowblinds development map. Slap great big stickers across it saying that because of its experimental nature, the performance hit might be too much for some systems.
I've done a few comparisons running multiple semi-transparent windows on applications that allowed full skinning of their interface (the Nexplorer file browser is an example). Overall, performance took a hit when running multiple windows in large stacks. However, the performance hit was less that the Konfabulator widget system everyone has been oogling the past few days.
Word is, Windowblinds could do transparency much better, much faster, and far more efficient than anything Nexplorer could offer. And to me, thats very acceptable.
Because software has to keep up with the hardware. The future has to be met head on. Windowblinds will either wither, stuck in its current state of opaque chromatics or move forward into the future. Be the leader Stardock! Take us into that shiny glass future!

3.) Why aren't there magazine ads in CPU magazine and Maximum PC about Windowblinds? Do these companies have their own custom WB skins? I'm just asking here, I have no idea myself. Just thoughts... I'm a marketing junkie.

4.) Last, but not least, address the performance issue once and for all. We know Windowblinds is faster than msstyles (Windows built in skinning system), but some people just don't get it. Draw them a picture thats easy to understand. Literally, like an instruction book "How we made Windows skinning faster than MicroSoft". Draw pictures. Use speedy looking arrows, and maybe a cute cartoon guide through the amazing journey of Windowblinds increased performance. If someone wants to rant, dragging Windowblinds down, point them to that and be done with the conversation. If they can't understand a cartoon, then who's going to listen to them anyway?

So thats it, Windowblinds is pretty killer software that Stardock has done a great job with. The more I looked for issues with Windowblinds, the more things I found it did right. Mostly this was me ranting about semi-transparency, hopefully to get some response from the community. I know Stardock is looking into some of these issues already. Voice your support, your encouragement, and remember, if you'd like to see any of these things... Stardock listens to you!

And Frogboy... I guess this wasn't much more than that one little thing I've been bugging you about.
Comments (Page 1)
on Nov 11, 2004
Great post....again.
on Nov 11, 2004
Windowblinds was, for me, that first hit of crack into OS customization, that got me hooked and pulled in for the "harder" stuff.

I love it. It is one of the best bits of software I have ever used. I am amazed at the number of people who don't seem to realize that you simple don't have to look at the miserable Windows gray, or the nauseating blue of XP. There is beauty to be had! WB was the program that convinced me to become a Stardock customer in the first place. I can't compute without it. That being said, you raise some good points.

1) That would be great. I love the skins that change the location of the buttons, etc (like Airlock). Taking things to this next level, if possible, could really be revolutionary. It is also a sign of just how sick us OS customization fans are--we want to tweak everything!

2) Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Am I making myself clear? Just to be safe, yes, yes, yes, yes.

3) I would love to see the word spreading for WB as well.

4) It blows my mind to see, just earlier this week, some morans over on Neowin (for example) spouting the old and tired line about the themes service and uxtheme.dll hack being faster than WB. Folks who say that immediately lose all credibility when it comes to computers in my mind.

Good article. Anymore on the way?
on Nov 11, 2004
Yes, after I get finished with this spot of emergency work I have (I just got kicked in the nuts for forgetting to add a site ID#), Stardock Outsider, part.3 is on the way. I've been thinking about this one for a few months now, knowing Konfabulator was on the way: Marketing.
I know I've touched on this in parts 1 & 2, but this will probably be the most in-depth article yet.
on Nov 11, 2004
Quoting an email:
"Put this on the drawings, by the way this is the email you read. So you need to be kicked in the nuts for messing it up...."

My reply (quote):
"Ouch! Not the nuts!
BTW, what is a SUP? Thought he meant "Wha'SUP?"

At which point I received a phone call a few minutes later. This is what I hear...
Client: "Yeah, I read the email and I don't know what a SUP is either. I've decided this guy is a *******r, so don't worry about it."
Me: "Ok, groovy. You know I never make a mistake. I knew it was somebody elses fault."
Client: "Yeah, he's just trying to bust our*****. Guess he's off my Christmas list."

True story. The life and times of dealing with construction contractors.
on Nov 11, 2004
Nice job DZ
on Nov 11, 2004
Some excellent suggustions here. An "O by the way" the blind I am presently using (K-TEKsteel) as a built in switch that puts the that speicific window into a transparency mode (nice).

Something else I would like to see is something similar to Mac's OS X expose. For those who don't know what expose is here is an example: By pushing on the F10 function key and the Apple key all running applications/program are reduce to a small size and spread throughout the screen so you can see what you have running. Then when you release the keys the applications stay in the small position until you click on an application you want to work on. Really a nice feature. Sorry, haven't got any programing abilities otherwise I would attempe to create something similar.

on Nov 11, 2004
Pam -

WindowFX includes a Tile Windows feature that does something similar to Expose. I think SD is working on refining it for WFX3.

on Nov 11, 2004
That was a great read. Especially point 2

In regards to point 3, I've actually written to at least three PC mags here (Australia) in regards to WindowBlinds and skinning in general with little to no interest to my questions. I don't know how much interest there is in skinning amongst the general PC using community. It would be interesting to find out how effective magazine advertising would be.
on Nov 11, 2004
Pam, as mentioned Win FX has the tile windows feature, but I don't find that particularly useful.

*Warning, warning, sort of off topic post to follow*

Check out Winplosion. Works very similar to Expose and works very nicely. I tried the demo a bit back and was very impressed. I plan on purchasing the program soon.

Sorry 'bout the OT there DZ.
on Nov 11, 2004
Oooh, oooh, back on topic.

Can you imagine the screaming from the MSStyles fanboys if WB suddenly could do full transparency??? It would be a wonder to behold.
on Nov 11, 2004
Off topics are fine BlueDev, like I said, Im a points whore.
on Nov 11, 2004
Scarebear: Sorry, I missed your comment at first. I think people need to understand why skinning is more than just making the system look nice. They need to understand how things like widgets and docks can make computing easier. Once we get enough of those kinds of articles out and about, then maybe the other articles will be more popular. And then we'll be people ahead of our time...

Or the crazy ones with an interesting hobby.
on Nov 11, 2004
Oooh, oooh, back on topic.
Can you imagine the screaming from the MSStyles fanboys if WB suddenly could do full transparency??? It would be a wonder to behold.

Yes, I can not only imagine it, I dream about it. Glassy, crystal clean WB skins so modern and futuristic looking the msstyle crowd wets their pants and comes running.
Then we can all sit back and laugh when msstyle advocates that used to pimp on WB for dreamt up performance issues go nuts about how cool WB is now, and about how theyve always supported it. Thats my vindictive side, the one laughing...
on Nov 12, 2004
I think people need to understand why skinning is more than just making the system look nice.

You are spot-on with that. I've just installed WindowBlinds onto my work PC (I could stand default XP no more! ) and my fellow workers were impressed when I showed them the functional side of skinning. Rollup buttons, On-Top buttons and more. Not only can Windows look a whole lot better, it can function a whole lot better
on Nov 12, 2004
I think I am "spot-on" with alot of what I've written in this series. Some of it may be a pipe dream, like the DesktopX TV commercials. But on the other hand, I've seen, from the outside, a small company of coders grow powerful enough to make Microsoft stand up and change the very look and feel of their core Operating System. If they can do that, they can do pretty much anything.