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WindowBlinds, IconX, and more!
Published on August 30, 2005 By Frogboy In
  September 2005  
Contents
WindowBlinds 4.6 released IconX 1.1 charges up your desktop icons Top Skins of August
Bring the outside onto your PC with Natural Desktop 2006 PowerUser.TV Arrives Make your own skins with SkinStudio 4.6
Make beautiful icons with IconDeveloper 1.2 Stardock prepares StyleVista for Windows Vista August Skinning Highlights...

WindowBlinds 4.6 dresses up your Windows desktop
WindowBlinds is a program that can change the look & feel of the Windows GUI.  In short, it allows users to personalize their Windows based PCs. 

Outside computers, nearly everything people use are personalized to people's particular tastes -- cars, houses, appliances, even cell phones.  And yet, the Windows GUI has a style for everyone.  WindowBlinds changes all this.  With thousands of different skins to choose from, WindowBlinds users can make their PC match their own tastes and styles.  Version 4.6 adds some new effects to title bars (glowing effects on mouse-over) that many newer skins now make use of.

Download: [WindowBlinds home page]
Part of: [Object Desktop]

 
Natural Desktop 2006 brings the outside world to your computer

Imagine a desktop where the backgrounds were based on the time of day and time of year. Imagine being able to listen to natural sounds such as birds singing, crickets chirping, or rain falling. Imagine having a mini-display on the desktop that showed animated day and night cycles, clouds, lightning, and more!

That is what the Natural Desktop is.  It doesn't interfere with your work or your other desktop enhancements.

The sounds, which can be turned off if you wish, are a welcome treat for those who work inside all day. Morning doves singing in the morning to cicadas in the afternoon and crickets and owls at night all give a subtle and realistic simulation of what the outside might be like (or what you might wish it were like if you're wishing it was a pleasant spring afternoon instead of a dreary late Fall afternoon).

Natural Desktop 2006 is a near rewrite of the underlying code that made Natural Desktop work.  New customization options and new weather options make it easier than ever to customize Natural Desktop to your local area.

Visit: [www.naturaldesktop.com]


 
Make beautiful icons with IconDeveloper
IconDeveloper 1.2 has been released.  IconDeveloper is a program designed to make it easy for users and artists to create their own Windows XP icons.  Once installed, it can take nearly any image and convert it into an icon very quickly. It automatically generates all the common icon sizes and supports various advanced scaling algorithms to make sure that your icons look good at different resolutions.  IconDeveloper can also export icons as most common graphics formats.

New in IconDeveloper 1.2:

  • Ability to export icons into multiple graphics formats (PNG, GIF, JPG, BMP, etc.) at once.
  • Can export ICLs as individual icons (very handy for ObjectDock users for instance)
  • Ability to work with GIF files
  • Support for IconPackager 3 files
  • Numerous usability features

Download: [www.icondeveloper.com]
Part of: [Object Desktop]


 
IconX turbo-charges your existing icons
IconDeveloper creates icons. Another program called IconPackager can change your Windows icons to new ones.  IconX makes your existing desktop icons look better by being able to add shadows to them, make them appear any size you want on your desktop, add special effects to them when you mouse over them (such as zooming or playing a sound or glowing or other effects).

The new version even lets you enhance your desktop icon labels to have a background.

Download: [IconX Homepage]
Part of: [Object Desktop]

 
PowerUser.TV

PowerUser.TV is a new podcast dedicated to bringing you the latest news of interest to power users with a regular panel of expert power users along with guests from the community.  Already four episodes have been released.

 

  • Episode 1: Windows Vista Preview, Yahoo buys Konfabulator and more!

  • Episode 2: OS/2 RIP, Sex & Grand Theft Auto, IE 7 preview

  • Episode 3: Google loses adwords lawsuit, CNN gets worms, MacOS X gets into the wild

  • Episode 4: QuakeCon wrap-up, Windows 95 turns 10, Linus trademarks Linux and more!

And best of all, it's FREE!

 

Subscribe by: or or

 


 
Windows Vista gets StyleVista
Windows Vista is the official name to what was previously called Longhorn -- the next major version of Windows to follow Windows XP.

And already Stardock is out of the gate with a freeware utility to tweak the appearance of it.  It's called StyleVista.  StyleVista allows users to change the color and opacity of the new Windows Vista "Aero" GUI.  As Windows Vista progresses, so will StyleVista since the feature set of Windows Vista will likely change dramatically between now and release.

If you have the Windows Vista beta, download StyleVista.

Download: [StyleVista home page]


  
Top Skins of August
Here is a list of the top 10 most popular skins from August:
 
Longhorn 5203 WB  (72,762)
Cryo64 Colossus  (42,554)
Icon-A-Day  (25,783)
Sputnik  (25,524)
Encoded  (24,518)
Office Extreem  (22,262)
Encoded  (21,659)
Sputnik  (21,028)
myLonghorn  (19,579)
SevenSwords3D  (18,468)

 


  
Make your own skins with SkinStudio 4.6
SkinStudio 4.6 has been released.  SkinStudio is an application that allows artists of all levels to create skins for programs such as WindowBlinds and Windows Media Player.  WindowBlinds allows users to change the "skin" (the graphics that makes up the title bar, push buttons, scrollbars, start bar, etc.) of Windows.  Those skins are created with SkinStudio.  Operating system wide skins are commonly referred to as "visual styles".

When a user first loads SkinStudio and chooses to create a new visual style, they are presented with the default Windows XP GUI.  From there, they can change as much or as little of the GUI as they want by replacing graphics, moving buttons, changing attributes on different elements of the Windows interface and more.  When they are done, users can save their skin and can either use them themselves or upload them to websites that distribute WindowBlinds visual styles.  The same is true for users who create new skins for Microsoft Windows Media Player.

SkinStudio has a ton of features to make it easy for beginners as well as pros to create excellent skins.  For example, skinners can change the hue of individual parts of a skin or the entire skin at once. Seasoned skinners can bank various skin parts for later use in other skins.  Skinners can open up existing visual styles and edit them as well as import pieces (buttons, borders, start bars, etc.) from other skins to create a skin that is a combination of various other skins.

SkinStudio also allows users to import alternative skin formats such as .msstyles, edit them and save as a WindowBlinds skin or even Windows Media Player skin.  In fact, when SkinStudio is installed on a system, .msstyles are automaticaly able to be used by WindowBlinds users simply by double clicking on a .msstyles file.  This means users can make use of .msstyles files without having to patch any system files.

SkinStudio 4.6 has a number of new features including text shifting in the Start menu, exporting skins to directly support the .WMZ (Windows Media Player) file type, the ability to preview .msstyles files without having to import them, support for non-regular msstyles title bar buttons, support for .GIF files, and probably most notably, now supports the new WindowBlinds 4.6 button glow effects.

A freeware version of SkinStudio is available for download.  SkinStudio Enhanced adds additional features such as skin piece importing and colorization, and SkinStudio Pro adds support for Windows Media Player skins. SkinStudio Pro is also part of Stardock's Object Desktop suite of desktop enhancement utilities.

Screenshots:
 

Download:  [www.skinstudio.net]
Part of: [Object Desktop]


  
August Skinning Highlights by Brad Wardell
August is usually the low point of skinning.  People are outside -- or trying to be outside.  And to losers like me, who look outside at the sun, it's a reminder that we're slowly evolving into vampires or something.  Thankfully, programs like Natural Desktop help give us the illusion that we're outside enjoying the summer.  But luckily for me, I'm not the only one indoors because August was the best month for WinCustomize.com on record.  It's a pretty far cry from just a few years ago when we were just breaking the 1 million mark.

The most popular skin of the month has been Kol's Longhorn visual style.  It gives a pretty close approximation to the Windows Vista look and feel.  The popular skin downloads charts are publicly accessible.  So here are some things I found on the site that I thought were pretty interesting.

Boot Screens (you need to get www.bootskin.com to use these). This month was particularly good for boot screens. Check these out!

There were a lot of other really good ones this month so it was tough to narrow it down to just these.

It was also a good month for Extended mouse cursors.  You need CursorXP for those.

Meanwhile, over in DesktopX land things are still a bit of a confusing mess.  For the record, DesktopX OBJECTS are supposed to be desktop objects. Little animated icons and other goodies.  If they have functionality - like a mini-program - they should be uploaded as a widget.

Some DesktopX widget that really caught my eye include:

Over on the icon front, August was pretty quiet actually.  Incidentally, make sure you have IconPackager 3 so that you can apply the new packages.

Some particularly noteworthy icon packages included:

It was a particularly good month for wallpapers and I'm going to only be able to scratch the surface here. So here are a selected few that I really enjoyed.

And that's just a few of them!

Meanwhile, in the WindowBlinds area, a bunch of new skins to change the look & feel of your Windows GUI have arrived including (wait for it) Driftwood (an update to my all time favorite skin).

Some other interesting skins this month:

So that's all for this month.  WinCustomize is looking for moderators btw to help moderate skins and the forums.  If you're interested and already have at least Master Apprentice access, drop me a line at bwardell@stardock.com.  I probably won't be able to respond right away as I'm always way behind on email but I will read it at some point. Cheers!

 

 
About WinCustomize Magazine
WinCustomize Magazine is a monthly magazine that is sent to WinCustomize users. If for some reason you do not want to continue receiving this magazine, visit http://www.wincustomize.com and click on "My account" once you're logged in. Then click on the "Account information" tab and type in your userID/PW to bring up your personal info. On the mailing list tab you control which mailing lists you are suscribed to. Uncheck the WinCustomize Magazine one.

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