This month there was a lot of noteworthy software releases. First off, there was ObjectDock 1.2. This version of ObjectDock was notable, for me anyway, for two things. The first thing is that it is the first and only dock that supports interesting alternative mouse-over effects. I'm using one where when I mouse over items on the dock, the icons swing (rotate) back and forth. It's a really cool effect with a bit of physics thrown in for good measure. The other cool thing that wasn't even mentioned is that it has a new, much more robust file saving system. I have had a couple of incidents where my dock was somehow erased -- one time just as I was about to give a demo of it. I asked Jeff to redo how he does that stuff and since then, no lost docks.
And with ObjectDock's release, here are some cool ObjectDock released stuff for this week:
Web Gizmo's Spectre ObjectDock skin is really nice. And I make no bones about pimping a game Stardock is distributing called Gish. But here's an ObjectDock icon for it. Web Gizmo has a bunch of other cool stuff too for ObjectDock so you should just check out his personal page. It's ranked 142th overall as I type this, I wonder what it's rank will be by next week. I wish there were more good docklets out there for ObjectDock.
Another thing that got released this week was IconDeveloper 1.2. It hadn't been publicly updated in nearly a year and countless fixes and tweaks were made to it that aren't really mentioned but for me, it had a couple of really cool features such as being able to turn GIF files into Windows XP icons and the ability to export ICLs into individual icons which I find very nice since many icon packages are now .ICL files (one file full of icons) but when I want to decorate things, I need individual icon (.ico) files. IconDeveloper can now do this. Just select all the icons, right click on them, and choose export.
Yangge (rank 17) has been working on an icon series which is looking pretty good. Mormegil (rank 2) is working on more icons too. He is also has said he's going to be updating his existing icon packages to IconPackager 3 level -- hooray! Speaking of IconPackager, that iprepair.dll feature has been a pain and a lot of people have reported problems stemming from it. We've done several updates of IconPackager 3 to see if there's a happy way to get it to be more compatible but I suspect we're going to end up just removing it. I believe that feature allows for certain additional icons to be changed that otherwise wouldn't be possible. It works for most people but on a few systems, it causes all kinds of pain (you can just delete that DLL from the directory and that should "cure" the problem).
Currently inside Stardock we're working hard on getting DesktopX 3.1 out the door. DesktopX 3 will have heavily revamped widgets that come with it along with a number of brand-new widgets. But what we think will be the key to DesktopX's future isn't widgets but rather GADGETS. Gadgets are the same as widgets except that they don't require the parent program to be installed. The million-dollar question is, will gadgets trump widgets? So on the low-end you'll still have DesktopX Client which is only $15 and lets you run widgets and apply .desktop files. And at the high end will be DesktopX Pro which is $70 but lets users export their widgets as stand-alone programs (gadgets). After all, it's kind of odd to go to some guy's site who has created something neat and then have them "Oh, btw, I know I've made this neat program but you need to go to this other guy's site and download this 10 megabyte program (and pay that other guy) in order to use my program." With skinning programs, like WindowBlinds, it's pretty apparent what the value of the skinning program is. But with widget enabling programs, I don't think it's quite as clear. I think one of the reasons why widgets seem to be stuck at the "Look, it's a clock" or "Look it's an RSS reader" is because no one wants to spend the time to make something truly sophisticated only to tell users they have to go to some other site to download another program (and pay for it) in order to use theirs. Gadgets solves that. DesktopX 3.1 should be ready in about ten days.
Speaking of widgets, here are some cool ones that came out this week:
With all the hype that widgets get, it's easy to forget that what most people seem to prefer is not to put little do-dads on their desktop (I like to have gizmos on my desktop) but rather have a complete replacement desktop environment. Alpha-Omega (rank 104) has delivered the goods with his new, designed for DesktopX 3, LCARS desktop. You have to be running 1280x1024 in order to use this one as it's designed explicitly for their resolution. It's possible it might work at 1600x1200 but I wouldn't count on it. Mountain Dragon has released his first DesktopX-made desktop called Dragon Desktop. I haven't tried this, it also requires 1280x1024 resolution to use I believe and it's his first try to be warned. But it looks neat.
Before anyone asks, I didn't find any boot screens or logon screens this week that I liked in particular. But if you're curious to know what my boot screen is here, it's THIS. My Logon is THIS.
With the Longhorn beta about to start, get ready for a ton of Longhorn-style themes to be made. If you're in the beta, you'll be happy to know that the current version of WindowBlinds that's available to Object Desktop users should work fine on Beta 1 of Longhorn. Only gotchas are that the Start menu has an entry field that obviously existing skins will have some cosmetic issues with and the same for the new toolbars. We'll have to come up with some way for existing skins to be able to cover these new controls and look nice and then extend the format to support these new controls.
But for XP users, the next few weeks should bring some Longhorn-style stuff. One thing that pains me as I look over other websites are all these..ahem.."make over" utilities that will completely change your system to look like something that do so by patching your resources. Yuck. I mean, hat's off to the guys who do all that work but the idea of patching my resources on disk sends a chill up my spine. People will be trying to get rid of that stuff for months. So we did release a new Theme Manager that we hope will encourage people to make .suite files. I'm going to make a Theme Manager .suite of a Longhorn theme soon so that people who want a full make-over can have it without messing with their system files. I'll talk more about that next week.
The Dangeruss project continues with some new skins updated by MikeB:
Boxxi (rank 28) was active this week with some cool new skins too for WindowBlinds. VStyler made a Transformer skin. JJ Ying (rank 10) Made a T&rget WB skin which I really like and am running right now.
Here are some wallpapers I ran into this week that I liked:
I really found that I liked a lot of Dezin's (rank 80) wallpapers.
In the article front, here's a guide I wrote on different ways of using the popular Windows customization suite, Object Desktop. You can read about that HERE.
Meanwhile, in terms of actual goodies to download for your computer, I came across some neat stuff:
Star Wars Yoda is a replacement boot screen for Windows XP. It looks totally cool and sure beats that standard Windows XP logo.
Speaking of Star Wars, I found a cool looking light saber replacement mouse cursor here. You use CursorXP to apply it. If you're looking for something a little more..well normal the Encoded mouse cursors are pretty cool too.
For you widget lovers out there, I found some pretty cool stuff. These widgets use DesktopX. Once you have DesktopX intalled on your computer, these widgets run like any other program except widgets use less memory to do what they do than traditional programs use (which is one of the points of using widgets). The On-Time clock widget is pretty nice. There's a gazillion clock widgets out there already but this one is particularly nice.
One of the most interesting widgets I've seen lately is the LCARS MP3 widget. It lets you specify which media player you want to control (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player or its own built in one). For anyone who is really into Star Trek TNG, this is definitely worth getting.
Meanwhile in icon land, there have been some incredibly cool icon sets packaged up with IconPackager 3. There's Luna Alt, Icon-A-Day, and the Encoded icon package. All are very nice and all are incredibly cool.
If you have ObjectDock Plus, there's some cool new backgrounds out too. I'm partial to the Gizmo background myself.
You maynot have heard of Rainlendar before, but it's a free program for giving you skinnable calendars. While there are lots of calendar widgets out there, the difference here is Rainlendar only does calendars so it has really specialized on making them very useful. NWC Blue
and elsdee RL are two recent ones that look good.
Customizing wouldn't be complete without wallpapers of course and here are a few I liked in particular:
Over in Windows Media Player land things have been somewhat quiet lately but the World of Warcraft skin for WMP is pretty cool.
In the GUI skinning department, there's been a lot of activity lately. Visual styles or whatever you want to call them change the look & feel of the Windows GUI. The most popular way to do this is with WindowBlinds, a program that extends the native visual style engine to support all kinds of cool new stuff.
Mr. Clean is like the name implies.
My Longhorn is a pretty solid attempt to get Windows XP to have the look and feel of Longhorn complete with an alpha blended Start menu.
Also in the "clean" style is MoonBlinds.
And finally, Pixel Pirate who has all kinds of cool stuff lately has made Encoded as a visual style as well.