Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Oct 2007 12:38 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces Last week, Stardock released version 6 of WindowBlinds, their Windows skinning suite, which is the first version to include full support for Windows Vista. Stardock was kind enough to provide OSNews with a copy of WindowBlinds 6.0. Read on for some findings.
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I agree with your chief complaint.
by VenomousGecko on Mon 8th Oct 2007 13:12 UTC
VenomousGecko
Member since:
2005-07-06

I have always thought that WindowBlinds was a unique application, but if you did not like the default themes, there wasn't much available that had any type of quality.

Reply Score: 1

Catch 22?
by null_pointer_us on Mon 8th Oct 2007 20:21 UTC in reply to "I agree with your chief complaint."
null_pointer_us Member since:
2005-08-19

IMO, WindowBlinds does not have many themes suited to more practical users like Thom because more practical users like Thom do not normally use WindowBlinds.

Maybe holding a minimalist/practical theme competition here on OSNews would be a good idea?

I mean, people are always picking apart the new themes on the open source OS's, so there must be some knowledgeable people here. If StarDock thought it was a good idea, they could give away a free copy or two of ObjectDesktop and WindowBlinds to the winner and the runner-up, respectively.

Eugenia is quite...particular about GUI design. Maybe OSNews staff could come up with an OSNews-themed skin that could be a free download after the contest?

I am assuming that the trial versions of WindowBlinds and SkinStudio would work for this; otherwise, people would have to pay $20 or more to enter the contest!

Edited 2007-10-08 20:24 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Catch 22?
by Thom_Holwerda on Mon 8th Oct 2007 20:26 UTC in reply to "Catch 22?"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Eugenia is quite...particular about GUI design. Maybe OSNews staff could come up with an OSNews-themed skin that could be a free download after the contest?


I'm about as particular as Eugenia when it comes to design. And yes, I indeed have a lot of ideas on how a GUI should look and, more importantly, behave. However, the ideas I have cannot be made to work in a mere theme - they entail so much more.

I've long thought about turning all those ideas, which are fairly coherent, into a nice design document. The sheer amount of work, though, is holding me back at the moment.

Who knows what the future brings.

Reply Score: 1

more than elegance missing
by jtrapp on Mon 8th Oct 2007 13:23 UTC
jtrapp
Member since:
2005-07-06

Decreased stability,
Decreased responsiveness,
Fugly and incomplete themes,
Where do I get one?

Reply Score: 6

RE: more than elegance missing
by Thom_Holwerda on Mon 8th Oct 2007 13:28 UTC in reply to "more than elegance missing"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Decreased stability


Proof? No problems here.

Decreased responsiveness


Proof? No problems here.

Fugly and incomplete themes


As said in the review, yes.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: more than elegance missing
by Yogurth on Mon 8th Oct 2007 13:50 UTC in reply to "RE: more than elegance missing"
Yogurth Member since:
2005-07-20

All of the above mentioned are YES on my system. That should be part of proof You are looking for. WinXP Professional...and WB6 free managed to freeze XP to the reset button point.

Reply Score: 2

Adam S Member since:
2005-04-01

No one is doubting you experienced it, but how is one to know that it is a Windowblinds problem and not a problem with your system, or other software on it, or drivers, or something else entirely?

Reply Score: 1

OddFox Member since:
2005-10-05

Sounds like a driver problem, like most everyone else here who's actually using or used WB6 those issues you're having are quite isolated. No stability problems, no responsiveness issues, not even with the whiz-bang new flaming theme with that fire-breathing dragon in your start menu, and I've even got an ATI video card! I would expect issues from that at least. Maybe you should seek assistance with your problems from the people who make the application?

Reply Score: 1

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

"All of the above mentioned are YES on my system. That should be part of proof You are looking for. WinXP Professional...and WB6 free managed to freeze XP to the reset button point."


Windows XP crashed once when I inserted a CD - which is aparently "proof" that CDs are unstable ;-)

Reply Score: 3

Almafeta Member since:
2007-02-22

Windows XP crashed once when I inserted a CD - which is aparently "proof" that CDs are unstable ;-)


Was it a RIAA music CD, by any chance? I know they sometimes hide malicious code in their discs to try to prevent computers from playing them...

Reply Score: 1

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

Nar - was just a blank CD-R. XP was just throwing a hissy fit as it sometimes chooses to do.

I was just making the point that personal experience does not constitute as computer science fact.

Edited 2007-10-08 17:21

Reply Score: 3

Obscurus Member since:
2006-04-20

Quite. Anecdotes do not constitute data, and there are so many variables involved in computers that you need to get an aggregate of end user experiences on a range of hardware and software set-ups before you can start considering a problem with a particular piece of software or hardware as a bug or design flaw.

Something might not work for one person for a range of reasons, from a defective transistor in a CPU to a virus ridden machine loaded with crapware. But if something consistently shows the same pattern on several very different machines, then you can say something is a bit sus.

Reply Score: 2

Yogurth Member since:
2005-07-20

I guess uptime ranging from 30 days to 3 months should be a good pointer if there is something wrong with my system.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: more than elegance missing
by jtrapp on Mon 8th Oct 2007 21:57 UTC in reply to "RE: more than elegance missing"
jtrapp Member since:
2005-07-06

Decreased stability

Proof? No problems here.

Decreased responsiveness

Proof? No problems here.


I'm glad that it ran well for you, but sometimes mileage varies...

http://forums.stardock.com/?forumid=167

About half the posts are problems...problems with stability mostly.

Reply Score: 2

Great app
by makfu on Mon 8th Oct 2007 13:31 UTC
makfu
Member since:
2005-12-18

WB6, on Vista, is a very impressive application. By interacting with DWM, the entire experience "feels" more thorough and there appears to be no overhead or any of the strange themeing weirdness that always seemed to plague WB under XP. There are at least two theme's available (one provided in box) that were pretty (both derived from other OS GUI's) and didn't impact usability.

That said, yes, for some reason wincustomize is full of horrid, garish themes. Even more disturbing is that many of them are, by all appearances, very popular. This would seem to indicate that all the goodness of WB6 will be used to help people turn their desktops into the digital equivalents of "hoopties".

Nevertheless, WB6 is by far the best version yet.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Great app
by DoctorPepper on Mon 8th Oct 2007 13:47 UTC in reply to "Great app"
DoctorPepper Member since:
2005-07-12

This would seem to indicate that all the goodness of WB6 will be used to help people turn their desktops into the digital equivalents of "hoopties".

Kind of like the ketchup and mustard theme on Windows 3.1? ;-)

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Great app
by makfu on Mon 8th Oct 2007 14:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Great app"
makfu Member since:
2005-12-18

"Kind of like the ketchup and mustard theme on Windows 3.1? ;-)"

Worse.

Example:

http://skins2.wincustomize.com/NightTrain/wb/6288.jpg

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Great app
by Gryzor on Mon 8th Oct 2007 15:26 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Great app"
Gryzor Member since:
2005-07-03

The worst thing is that you will read comments like these:

"Thanks man, this is the best skin I've seen so far"

Or people that will say...

"I have been looking for this !! "

I guess that we're outdated ;)

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Great app
by merkoth on Mon 8th Oct 2007 15:55 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Great app"
merkoth Member since:
2006-09-22

The worst thing is that you will read comments like these:

"Thanks man, this is the best skin I've seen so far"

Or people that will say...

"I have been looking for this !! "

I guess that we're outdated ;)


I don't know if we're outdated, but one thing is sure:

most of us OSNews readers see computers as tools to accomplish a certain task, and most of our UI setups (for those who actually use GUIs ;) ) tend to be geared towards productivity and/or comfort. Extreme desktop-modding is "Pimp my ride" with a computer. Crazy looking but absolutely useless, and more than once absolutely ugly.

Reply Score: 5

RE[5]: Great app
by Almafeta on Mon 8th Oct 2007 16:44 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Great app"
Almafeta Member since:
2007-02-22

(for those who actually use GUIs ;) )


I'm kind of annoyed by this 'Real users use the command line' mentality.

Sure, I tend to use the keyboard to the exclusion of the mouse. But that does not mean I do not benefit from a GUI. I like having pretty programs, which have been enhanced by the (appropriate and conservative) use of graphics and sound. I like reading in well-designed eye-friendly variable-width fonts (that is a requirement for me, given how much of my life I spend sitting before a screen). I like having my commands organized into quickly-scannable lists of commands related to a particular topic (whether you're using dropdowns or ribbons, the concept is the same). It's great being able to summon application controls or OS controls with the touch of a single key (Alt or Win, respectively) and dismissing them just as easily. It rocks to have a well-designed GUI help me to do in three to five keystrokes what would take a command-line user a modestly-sized sentence, or a pure mouse user (oh, how I pity those poor souls) twenty or thirty seconds of lining up the cursor onto the correct spots. It's always nice when programs and features look like what they represent, and work like their look suggests. And when I happen to forget a command (we all use dozens of programs, some with hundreds of commands, it happens to the best of us), it saves so much time to be able to choose the command list of my choice and browse around the list of commands until I find the correct one, as opposed to having to look up the particular arcane switch I need in a manual (or worse, if they use online 'manuals', to have to open up another application to search for this manual -- granted I have internet access at all; wireless is not nearly as ubiquitous as it could be).

And when all you're doing is randomly browsing around, or playing a game to clear your head after beating it against a particular wall one time too many, sometimes that mouse really is the superior option (although I've been known to hold 'Tab' down to cycle through links for 10-12 seconds to not have to reach for the mouse).

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: Great app
by merkoth on Mon 8th Oct 2007 17:23 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Great app"
merkoth Member since:
2006-09-22

Paranoid much? Nothing better to do than ranting?

I could point a few dozens of cases where GUIs are not needed. At all. But I fail to see what part of my post led you to such a misplaced rant. I never said "real users don't use a GUI". Maybe I should have said: "for those of us who actually use a GUI". Happy now? Do you feel better?

Edit: Spelling and removed the quote.

Edited 2007-10-08 17:31 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[5]: Great app
by Laurence on Mon 8th Oct 2007 17:17 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Great app"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

"most of us OSNews readers see computers as tools to accomplish a certain task, and most of our UI setups (for those who actually use GUIs ;) ) tend to be geared towards productivity and/or comfort. Extreme desktop-modding is "Pimp my ride" with a computer. Crazy looking but absolutely useless, and more than once absolutely ugly."


Indeed. I was always puzzeled by case modders who stick bulbs inside their computer. For one, how many people actually look at the case when working on their computer - and secondly, wouldn't it make more sense to cool the computer rather than further heat it?

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Great app
by Laurence on Mon 8th Oct 2007 17:14 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Great app"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

""Kind of like the ketchup and mustard theme on Windows 3.1? ;-)"

Worse.

Example:

http://skins2.wincustomize.com/NightTrain/wb/6288.jpg"


The smilie in your system tray seems quite apt for that theme

Reply Score: 2

Theme preferences
by GreenReaper on Mon 8th Oct 2007 19:04 UTC in reply to "Great app"
GreenReaper Member since:
2007-10-08

...for some reason wincustomize is full of horrid, garish themes. Even more disturbing is that many of them are, by all appearances, very popular.

The reason it is full of them is that they are popular (and not, as you might imagine, the other way around). Most WindowBlinds customers are looking for something spiffy. Usability is not necessarily their top priority. I have always tried to make my own skins usable, but for many what matters most is the look, and it is not necessarily a subtle look.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing - it's just a thing. :-) As for the included skins . . . well, perhaps having a dragon on the start menu isn't the ideal UI, but it sure is a neat way of showing off a new feature! Consider them as an example of what you can do, rather than what you should.

If you don't like the included themes, there are many good skins on WinCustomize. I suggest you make use of the "sort by rating" option ( http://www.wincustomize.com/skins.aspx?libid=1&sort=rating ). Not all of the highly rated skins are likely to be to your taste, but that's true of any art form. In my view, what matters is that some people like them - and if that's the case, what's the harm if you do not?

(Me, I like Blackcomb, but I'm the simple sort . . .)

Edited 2007-10-08 19:23

Reply Score: 1

on the other hand...
by pjjmartin on Mon 8th Oct 2007 13:58 UTC
pjjmartin
Member since:
2005-07-08

I've tried Stardock in the past and it was nice in what it did, but after a while the price in system resources wasn't worth the cosmetic gain.

For those of you interested in going the way of minimalization, try GeoShell. I've replaced my explorer with it and my system is much more responsive. http://geoshell.org

Reply Score: 2

RE: on the other hand...
by merkoth on Mon 8th Oct 2007 14:25 UTC in reply to "on the other hand..."
merkoth Member since:
2006-09-22

I've tried Stardock in the past and it was nice in what it did, but after a while the price in system resources wasn't worth the cosmetic gain.

For those of you interested in going the way of minimalization, try GeoShell. I've replaced my explorer with it and my system is much more responsive. http://geoshell.org


"Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 16777216 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 8192 bytes) in /home/geoshell/sites/geoshell.org/gallery/lib/adodb/adodb.inc.php on line 808"

That's when trying to check some screenshots. I remember it from long time ago when I was trying to get rid of explorer in a Windows box I had to use. It was pretty cool, IIRC. It's not a WB replacement though.

Regarding WB, I wholeheartedly agree with Thom: it's been alwasys a cool app, but the lack of (useable, elegant, clean) themes degrades the experience. The only really useable themes come from the base package and, as someone already pointed out, they're inspired in other OSes GUIs. I will never understand why would I like to have little goldfishes swimming in my windows' title bars.

It's a shame, WB6 is a solid, powerful and affordable product, ruined by the lack of cool themes besides the always present yet-another-custom-aqua-like theme.

Reply Score: 3

Stablility
by whittmadden on Mon 8th Oct 2007 14:35 UTC
whittmadden
Member since:
2007-10-08

I had used Windows Blinds on previous versions, and although I thought that it was a great idea, I agree with the others, about lack of good themes. The biggest problem that I experienced with it, was stability. Older versions were a resource hog for me, and I couldn't justify using that much of my system resources for eye candy. There was very little that added any valuable functionality, and some of the themes were very buggy indeed. I don't use Vista, so I can't comment on this newer version, but from what I've read, it still suffers from the same issues as previous versions.

Reply Score: 3

True
by Ultimatebadass on Mon 8th Oct 2007 14:46 UTC
Ultimatebadass
Member since:
2006-01-08

Most of WB themes are overdone, incomplete or simply ugly (and to top that, the themes for XP dont work very well under vista), but I'm sure once people like http://-kol.deviantart.com/ get their hands on the new version some nice AND usable themes will be produced ;)

I'm waiting patiently ;)

Reply Score: 1

does anybody know
by thebackwash on Mon 8th Oct 2007 16:00 UTC
thebackwash
Member since:
2005-07-06

What kind of hardware acceleration WindowBlinds brings to Windows XP? I would presume it only brings 2D acceleration. There's no mucking with GDI to get a buffered, 3D composited desktop, or anything like that, right?

Edited 2007-10-08 16:01

Reply Score: 1

so...
by JrezIN on Mon 8th Oct 2007 16:42 UTC
JrezIN
Member since:
2005-06-29

So, this article means StarDock should hire more professional designers to offer better quality...?

Well, IMHO that would be very positive! =]

but still... it's hard to judge a product by its 3rd parties... =]

Reply Score: 2

Skins
by Island Dog on Mon 8th Oct 2007 19:05 UTC
Island Dog
Member since:
2007-01-11

Everyone has different opinions when it comes to skins. Some like themes that are more minimalistic, and some prefer skins that are more "extravagant" and have features like animations.

Some of the most popular skins out there today are:

http://www.wincustomize.com/skins.aspx?skinid=5758&libid=1
http://www.wincustomize.com/skins.aspx?skinid=6156&libid=1
http://www.wincustomize.com/skins.aspx?skinid=6285&libid=1

Edited 2007-10-08 19:07

Reply Score: 1

Rhapsodized
by dylansmrjones on Mon 8th Oct 2007 20:32 UTC
dylansmrjones
Member since:
2005-10-02

I can understand why Thom is so fond of "Rhapsodized". It looks really smooth. Tish meets Clearlooks-Square (sorry about that comparison ;) ). And no round corners - I like that... a lot.

Reply Score: 2

Why 3rd Party
by imstillatwork on Mon 8th Oct 2007 23:55 UTC
imstillatwork
Member since:
2007-03-22

Soooo... uh....

What ever happened to the .theme files we got so excited about in windows XP? them things even exist?m I thought Windows XP & newer had built in theming... What's up with that?

Reply Score: 1

Luna Element
by VManOfMana on Tue 9th Oct 2007 02:30 UTC
VManOfMana
Member since:
2006-11-01

The impression that I have is that if you want a more functional or minimalistic style you need to look at Visual Styles. Unfortunately, Visual Styles require a hack, and are not as customizable or system-wide like Window Blinds skins (example: Command Prompt).

On the other hand, I do have a license of Window Blinds 4, but its not installed on my system and I haven't renewed the license. The reason is simply that the WindowBlinds skins available just make my eyes hurt.

My Visual Style for a long time has been Luna Element (since version 3):

http://tornado5.deviantart.com/art/Luna-Element-v5-1-Blue-47567543

It doesn't looks like a big change from the default XP look, but the changes in color choice, color saturation and button shape are very well thought.

If there was an official Window Blinds port this that uses the Window Blinds additional skinning features, I'd buy Window Blinds 6 without thinking twice.

Edited 2007-10-09 02:30

Reply Score: 1

RE: Luna Element
by zubaz on Tue 9th Oct 2007 19:23 UTC in reply to "Luna Element"
zubaz Member since:
2007-10-09

SkinStudio5 converts MS visual styles to Windowblinds for a more complete skinning experience.

Tutorial here: http://www.wincustomize.com/articles.aspx?aid=147196

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Luna Element
by draginol on Fri 12th Oct 2007 21:09 UTC in reply to "Luna Element"
draginol Member since:
2006-05-20

"If there was an official Window Blinds port of Luna Element that uses the Window Blinds additional skinning features, I'd buy Window Blinds 6 without thinking twice. "

There has bene for 2 years.

http://www.wincustomize.com/skins.aspx?skinid=4778&libid=1

I do agree that most WindowBlinds skins aren't that great. But that is the same of icons, wallpapers, and everything else.

The existence of ugly WindowBlinds skins as a reason not to use it would be like arguing we shouldn't change our wallpapers because most wallpapers look terrible.

There are thousands and thousands of WindowBlinds skins out there but there are also many ones that would likely match your preference.

For instance, I have been running Metal Vista. (http://www.wincustomize.com/skins.aspx?skinid=6228&libid=1) It looks great IMO. (See http://www.stardock.com/brad/img47.jpg for a quick preview).

There are great themes out there. They're not any harder to find than a good wallpaper or a good icon package. But it does require the user to sort by rating or look around just like anything else.

Edited 2007-10-12 21:10

Reply Score: 1

XP/Vista, Shareware/Pay
by s-peter on Wed 10th Oct 2007 03:37 UTC
s-peter
Member since:
2006-01-29

Thanks for the nice review, it gave good overall information about WindowsBlinds, as well as detailing specific important aspects. However, it would be nice if the review stated near the beginning which version was reviewed on what platform. (Reading through the review it seemed that it was the pay version on Vista.) And while the review is quite useful as it is, ideally it would be nicer if it mentioned the differences between the shareware/pay versions, and what features it supports on which platforms.

Inspired by the review, I just tried the shareware version on XP with the Vista Aero-like Diamond theme and found it quite nice. Even though the reviewer said that most of the themes didn't suit his taste, I think it's enough to find a few themes that you like. (Well, admittedly, an Aero-like theme may not be very new for Vista users... Still, it has the advantage that unlike in Aero, with the Diamond theme, the taskbar color is more matched to the frame colors.)

Reply Score: 1