Brad Wardell's site for talking about the customization of Windows.
Learning how to super-charge Windows
Published on July 7, 2005 By Frogboy In Beginners

I have a lot of computers.  It seems like I've always had more computers than one person should have.  And each computer is different.  I've got my development machine, I've got my casual office machine, I've got my laptop, and I've got my gaming machine.  I even have a tablet PC.

Each computer has different types of software on it and very different capabilities. And yet, by default, they all look and behave identically.  Windows has always been a one-size fits all solution. Even the Tablet PC version of Windows is pretty much the same as every other version of Windows. 

So what is a user to do? We all use our computers for different things so how can we easily custom tailor it to our needs? The answer: Object Desktop.  Object Desktop has seen its popularity steadily increase over the years as users have found themselves wanting to tweak, modify, enhance, etc. the way Windows works. 

Many people see Object Desktop as a visual, cosmetic product for Windows. I.e. something that makes Windows "look cool".  That's only a very small part of the story.  In a screenshot or in a first impression, it's always that "cool" stuff. But as users get used to using it, they realize there's a lot more under the surface.

For this article, I'm going to stick with pretty basic stuff.  Object Desktop gives you the power to really alter the way Windows works.  But we don't want to go crazy just yet, let's go with some fairly straight forward stuff and go from there.  I'm going to talk about my 3 main, non-specialized computers and how I use them.  For the purposes of the screenshots, I'm doing them all on my development machine (the machine I'm on right now) to cut down on the time it would take to put all this stuff together for you.

All the programs I mention before come with Object Desktop which is only $49.95 and plus you get everything added to it for a year!

The Laptop

I am probably the one guy in the world who runs his laptop at a relatively low resolution.  My ThinkPad T42 laptop does up to 1440x1050 resolution but I tend to run it in 800x600 or 1024x768 when I'm doing email or browsing the net.  And that's fine with Object Desktop which lets me transform the Windows UI into something optimized for low resolutions:

I use RightClick to have a new default right-click menu. I set it up to display my most frequently used programs along with a few other handy things on there such as my "Programs" menu.  I have it set to automatically open when I hit the Windows key.  Sometimes I tell it to hide my Start bar to get a bit of extra space. But I go back and forth on that depending on what I'm doing.

I also turn on IconX. That's because I sometimes will have my icons be only 24x24 on the desktop.  That's smaller than the default icons and IconX can scale my icons much better than Windows can.  The new version of IconX lets me specify labels so I can have nice big labels still for the icons.  These days, icons are pretty useless for individual things it seems like (IMO) and labels are much more useful.

When I'm using my Start bar, I use the new Stardock Virtual Desktops.  It's faster than other virtual desktops I've used and makes it easy to get more screen space when I need to.

I also use the Silica Media Player widget. And I admit, I mainly use it to control iTunes at this point. I have it set to come up when I hit the F12 key so I can quickly zip through songs.

Keyboard LaunchPad is really crucial on my laptop.  The reason is that, especially when traveling on the plane, I don't have much room for a mouse and while I like IBM's Trackpoint technology, it gets a bit old navigating to particular programs.  So what I do is I have my common programs tied to a series of hot-keys.  I am hoping that the next version will let me control iTunes directly from it (not that I don't like my media player widget but I pretty much just want to control things via the keyboard at that point).

Last but not least is WindowBlinds. I use it to run some minimalist skin. It changes my entire Windows GUI to have a nice, simple looking skin. But it is also important because I can set it so that when I right-click on a title bar it minimized the window.

What I've used Object Desktop to do is to get the most out of my limited screen space.  I want to be able to get to things very quickly and I'm not very concerned about what is on the desktop or what is pretty.

The Development Machine

My development machine is typically running at 1600x1200. So my screenshot isn't really reflective of just what I tend to have on it.  My development machine is where I do everything from write code for Galactic Civilizations to creating new skins, objects, scripts, etc. 

First off, I use DesktopX, as an environment here.  The whole "widget" thing has kind of created some confusion on what exactly DesktopX is for.  DesktopX is a desktop environment.  It lets you have real objects on your desktop.  In this case, what I do is import widgets and other content onto my desktop.  Widgets are great but each widget is a mini-program.  Imported content, by contrast, use very little memory because DesktopX itself takes care of running them.  So I tend to import my To-Do list, various RSS feeds, stock-tickers, sticky-notes, etc.

I also have a bunch of custom objects that I can't take screenshots of that display the status of our various databases and stores, and recent bug entries into our bug database. We created these with DesktopX too.

The Silica Calendar widget is one I always run.  So often I just don't remember which day of the week something will be and while I can double click on the clock in the Start bar, it's a lot quicker to hit F12 to bring up the calandar.

Not that my code ever has memory leaks but I also make heavy use of the Silica Memory meter widget. So I can keep track of my overall memory use to see if something is leaking.

I also run RightClick on this desktop.  Except on this machine, I have all my development tools right off the main menu.

I use Keyboard LaunchPad to do only two things really -- first, I have Visual Studio and its corresponding tools all assigned to a single hot key.  So when I hit Ctrl-Shift-D on my system it loads up several programs at once.  And secondly, I have Ctrl-Alt-1 through 6 specified to load up a bunch of web pages I often go to.

I use WindowBlinds primarily for cosmetics on this machine. I just want my GUI that I'm staring at all day to look cool.

Ditto with IconPackager.  IconPackager lets me change all my Windows icons to something that looks cool.

My overall strategy here is that I turn my desktop into a headline news reader with lots of objects on here that gives me all kinds of info. I also keep track of my resources and schedule. But I also care about how it looks, I want it to be nice looking as well.

The Gaming Rig

The gaming rig is my play machine. It's ridiculously powerful for game playing.  I do quite a bit of work on here too as I end up doing a lot of web work and such on this machine. But mostly I'm playing games on it.    It has a really good video sub-system (right now an ATI X800 on it) so I tend to be able to turn on a lot more eye candy than I might otherwise use.  I also tend to change the way it looks a lot since my tastes vary quite a bit.

First off, I use WindowFX very heavily here.  WindowFX lets me add shadows to my windows.  It also has a feature that lets me scale my windows. This is incredibly cool. Basically I can assign it so that when I hold the SHIFT button when I click on the minimize button, it will turn the window into a scaled window (See the screenshot for an example).  I can even interact with the window even when it's scaled which is quite useful if I am doing IM in a scaled window. 

Again, I have WindowBlinds here and I tend to have various kinds of skins running. I don't stick with anything very long.  I will often just pick whatever is the currently featured skin.

Same with IconPackager. I have it change all my icons to something cool.

IconX is where I really have some fun.  First, I set my default icon size to 64x64. So they're very large.  Secondly, I have the mouse over size be 128x128 and I have it animate to that size so that grow on mouse over.  Some icons in particular I change to use a PNG file.  I am hoping that a future version of IconX will let us set individual icons to have their own unique size but I'm not sure how the UI would be done for that.

The Silica Picture Frame is very nice to have.  Remember, this is a home machine, so I will tend to have a lot of company over from time to time.  So I have the Silica Picture Frame widget cycle through the latest family photos.  I can resize it to be any size I want so if I have a lot of guests over, I'll make it full screen.

The Silica Drive Meter.  I use this because this is also the machine I take my home movies and turn them into DVDs.  As you can imagine, the work files for this can get pretty huge so I tend to want to keep real-time track of my disk space as some of the cryptic programs I use for messing with video files don't bother to check to see if there's enough space to do what they're going to do before hand.

I don't use the Stock monitor widget as much as I used to.  I don't have a lot of stocks but last Winter before I sold some stock I was using this quite a bit. I suspect others would find this useful too.

Enhanced File Dialog is still in beta on Object Desktop but I find it incredibly useful.  Basically it extends your existing Windows File Load/Save dialog to let you have additional functionality (resizable, add new places on the left side, have some quick launch buttons in there, etc.).  A lot of the graphics programs I use don't seem to remember where I want to load images from or where I want to save images to and so being able to press a button to get back to where I want to go is a life saver.  When this program is completed, I'll put it onto my other machines but the other production machines don't tend to run beta software which is why I only have it on this machine.

The tip of the iceberg

Everything mentioned above comes with Object Desktop -- today.  And believe it or not, I've barely scratched the surface.  Object Desktop is probably one of the best software deals on the planet.  It comes with everything you need to turbo-charge your Windows desktop to work however you want it to work.  We haven't even gone into talking about ObjectBar or SkinStudio or IconDeveloper or how you create things with DesktopX.  And we haven't touched on how you can use these programs to really change the way Windows looks & feels.  I'll leave that for another time.

Object Desktop
Purchase Object Desktop and you get all of the Object Desktop programs such as WindowBlinds, DesktopX, ObjectBar, IconPackager, SkinStudio, WindowFX, and much more. Plus you get everything Stardock updates or adds to it for an entire year.
Object Desktop     [download only]
Get all of Object Desktop now and everything created and updated for it for an entire year after! Get it on CD-ROM here.
Object Desktop Renewal
Renew your access for an additional year to new Object Desktop updates and new programs.
Object Desktop Upgrade
Upgrade from one of the components below to Object Desktop.


Some other screenshots:

Comments (Page 1)
2 Pages1 2 
on Jul 07, 2005
My use of Object Desktop is pretty modest. I use WindowBlinds to have my computer match my personality. My computer is mine. I want the computer to reflect my own tastes not of some guys at Microsoft. IconPackager I also use to that end as well.

One feature of Object Desktop that you don't mention that I use a lot of are the DesktopX objects. I'm talking about things like these:

I really like these animated objects a lot on my desktop and as far as I know, nothing other than DesktopX can do this.
on Jul 08, 2005
I use Object Desktop more and more, but it is still a bit rough. For example, it is weird that running both Virtual Desktop and Iconx yields conflicts between both programs (Iconx refuse that VD applies custom wallpapers and forces the default Windows wallpaper). I would expect more synergy between Object Desktop components.

Apart from this, this is really a great great program.

Emily : I think Iconx renders the DX zoomers a bit useless.
on Jul 08, 2005
Re Zoomers vs. IconX : If You take a closer look at Mormegil's old zoomers, IconX cannot compare to that.
Nevertheless I don't use zoomers anymore, too.

I use plenty ObjectDesktop apps at one time for years now and the OD subscription is the only computer invest that I couldn't live without.

Brad: I use RightClick to have a new default right-click menu.

Glad You never lost any menus out of nowhere. I still think RightClick needs more work QUICKLY.
on Jul 08, 2005
IconX is great, but I wish there was a way to exclude certain icons from being used.

Enhanced Dialog is also nice, but I can't use it until it's Photoshop CS issue is fixed.

Overall, I am very happy with Object Desktop. There is no question that I will renew my subscription when it's up. Keep up the great work.

on Jul 08, 2005
Brad, nice screenshots this time btw.
on Jul 08, 2005
c242: We should have a new RightClick build soon that has more robust menu saving stuff.
on Jul 08, 2005
where did that neowin widget come from the July image you have above? Looks really nice.
on Jul 09, 2005
I, too, would love to know where that Neowin widget comes from. Looks very nice.
on Jul 09, 2005
..What's the skin used in

Looks really cool..

Anyhoo, Nice article... outlines everything very well.
on Jul 09, 2005
nevermind... I found it, 'tis indeed very cool.
on Jul 09, 2005
I use several parts of OD, but hadn't gotten into IconX or Fx - just started in the spring & didn't have a clear idea of what they do. Now I'll dive in.

Some Questions
Could you please give a more detailed explanation of widgets & objects running in DeskTopX? If I launch a widget, I can see DXwidget.exe & WidgetManager.exe. Are you saying that the data aquisition functionality, the calculations, etc all happen in WidgetManager & each instance of DXwidget is a different type of data output interface?

Gagets vs Widgets
What happens when we run gadgets? Does a gadget use more resources on a PC with out DesktopX than with it?

DeskTopX desktop vs WB
Finally, if we ignore the widgets & desktop objects, is a DeskTopX desktop different from a WB desk?. do they use ~ the same levels of system resources?

just stuff I wondered about...
on Jul 10, 2005
Great article....I'm still new to the whole Object Desktop....but I'm loving it!
on Jul 11, 2005
I'll answer a few questions:
Not sure about widgetmanager, but dxwidget is indeed the "instance" of a widget.

Gadgets contain the DX runtime in them. The main difference is that they can run without DX installed - widgets can't. Otherwise, they function as widgets.

Without widgets/DesktopX objects, there is no DesktopX. DesktopX is the desktop objects. Even things like taskbars made in DX themes are groups of DX objects. WindowBlinds changes the existing taskbar and start panel, and the windows. DesktopX adds objects to the computer, some of which may also look like a taskbar (or similar).They are very different apps that do different things, and to me it is not an either-or situation - I'd use both, and frequently do. DesktopX probably uses "more" resources than WindowBlinds in terms of memory, though perhaps not in handles . . . it would depend on the theme and skin involved, and probably things like the number of windows open, but I wouldn't make a decision to use one or the other based on that. That should be based on what things you want to do.
on Jul 12, 2005
Thank you GreenReaper!

You helped me have a much better understanding of DX. I wouldn't make a decidion about whether to use a DX desk vs a WB based on resources- I was just asking about that point as one way of seeing the differences. I appreciate the chance to put a few more pieces into the puzzle.
on Sep 02, 2005
I never thought about using Object Desktop on different systems until I read this article. I have a tiny little tablet pc - it's a HP tc1100 with a 10.5" screen. I often use it in slate mode (no keyboard) and I often switch the screen between vertical & horizantal. I just realized while reading this that designing my own taskbar and rightclick menu, and virtual desktops, would really make my life easier on my tablet!
2 Pages1 2