Home > Graphics > The History of Object Desktop The History of Object Desktop Submitted by Brad Wardell 2003-05-23 Graphics 44 Comments The 10-year history of Object Desktop. It’s about 50 pages long and has lots of screenshots and also neat insights and OS history and how skinning grew more important over the years. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 44 Comments 2003-05-23 12:50 am It a shame this isn’t available for GNU/Linux it seems very nice, not particulary useful but still has its WOW effect which I can’t get ot of Linux. 2003-05-23 1:24 am Don’t know what you mean, but I know Stardock’s stuff, but KDE and especially Enlightenment can do most of the same stuff without the Stardock – typcal massive slowdowns… 2003-05-23 1:39 am Oh yeah skinning it so important! I love it when my interface is inconsistent! I love having qt, gtk, mozilla, brushed metal, and aqua windows all at the same time, too! honestly, is it anything but a time/cpu waster? -he 2003-05-23 1:40 am have never used their product. it can do much more than you think, its not jsuta themer. The closest thing to it is Karaba + KDE Control panel for linux. 2003-05-23 1:42 am Exactly, Object Desktop is not just sknining, it is a runtime engine on top of Windows that can run scripts and apps in a way that Windows can’t, resulting in a specific functionality. Skinning is only a small part of what ODesktop does. 2003-05-23 1:43 am Why do they refer to me as Lokai?? Weird. 2003-05-23 1:45 am Wasn’t it also a taskbar/toolbar addon also? 2003-05-23 1:50 am “WindowFX then added shadows to its list of features. It was the first program to allow alpha blended shadows on Windows. This was before there was a MacOS X incidentally (a long running issue with Stardock has been Mac fans retroactively crediting Apple or others with features Stardock came up with and implemented first).” He, he. Imagine that. BTW I still have my copy of OS/2 and Object Desktop. 2003-05-23 1:51 am I can’t help but feel that the morphing windowfx is um, sick. Oh yeah, I don’t mind it jumping into the dock as in OS X, but that’s not there 2003-05-23 1:55 am It was a great improvement, until some apps declared that they *HAVE* to be up front all of the time, which caused system issues when the desktop hides them. 2003-05-23 3:12 am I enjoy having all my applications look and feel the same. I also like added functionality. StarDock was interesting to me for a while, but I actually like Luna better. In the GNU/Linux community, I think that the native apps for KDE and GNOME are great looking by themselves… it’s the apps like OpenOffice and Mozilla (both have their own toolkits I think) that tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Both of them look great on Windows XP, however. Did you see those screenshots of OS/2!? Unbelievable how far ahead of MS they were! I hear Trolls talking about that all the time, but MAN! those pictures kinda prove their point… 2003-05-23 3:34 am The thing about systems like linux is that they don’t have a native interface. Any look that you pick is a third party choice whether you picked it or your distro’s company did. Some use more resources than others. People have said E for example is a hog. Programs like stardock with object desktop actually bring choice to windows. You can change the look with a skin, (Luna counts as a skin as well). Like using WB or the themes service. Or you can add functions like with desktopX, tablaunchpad, etc. etc. I here use object bar, windowblinds4 and icon packager the most and I don’t notice any signicifant slowdown especially with the recent versions. However there are things you can’t do on XP like what was shown in the longhorn videos. And no WindowFX doesn’t count. It only has 3d windows while they are being animated. 2003-05-23 3:36 am BTW, the only truly native windows look is the classic look anything else is extra. 2003-05-23 3:42 am is the only decent WM IMHO on Linux. 2003-05-23 3:52 am WB and the themes service (what you know as visual styles) are only 2 examples of window changers that you can use on windows. There are of course others. 2003-05-23 4:26 am and litestep, geoshell and cloud:9ine can do most of the same stuff without the KDE – typical massive slowdowns http://litestep.net/ http://www.cloud9ine.com/ http://www.geoshellx.com/ —- http://www.desktopian.org/ 😛 pffffff 2003-05-23 7:46 am > Enlightenment is the only decent WM IMHO on Linux. But who need a WM anyway? 😉 2003-05-23 8:11 am OS/2 was the OS which got me trying alternative OSs because it showed me how much better an underdog may be. Honestly, Object Desktop was just there and so well integrated that I thought it was part of Warp and Merlin (don’t remember its functionality back in 2.x days) until now. Great job, OE people. But I didn’t really understand the last part of the history. MS seems to be taking their ideas, integrating into Windows in house and they seem to be happy about that. What am I missing? 2003-05-23 9:15 am At first glance it may look like MS is intergrating windowfx for example into the OS. BUT, what they are doing is more like making a 3d accelerated desktop which can allow those effects.WindowFX2 because of XP’s 2d GDI only has the window 3d while it’s animating. However, microsoft never puts in all functionality into bundledintegrated apps. It’s up to third parties to embrace and extend. Like for example on longhorn it might be possible for someone to make a windowfx type application to add effects beyond the bundled few that come with longhorn. 2003-05-23 9:15 am hmm.. of you could just use free (and usually open-source) shells for Windows. I do pay for Object Desktop and have been a customer of Stardock for a few years, but I’ve been using alternative Windows shells longer. If you really want a *nix-like GUI feel under Windows, you may want to check ’em out. 2003-05-23 9:18 am Even when using shells you can use programs such as WB. As a matter of fact stardock doesn’t even have a shell per say though using some of their programs together can resemble running one. You can mix and match free and shareware software to suit your needs. That’s the beauty of all this software that is available. 2003-05-23 9:23 am If you just use a shell more often than not you are left with unskinned windows so you still need to use some kind of window changer whether it’s the themes service or WB or whatever other window changer you prefer. 2003-05-23 10:26 am unless you’re using (an older version of) bluebox 2003-05-23 12:20 pm The desktop metaphor stinks anyway, mainly for two reasons: 1. You hardly ever see the desktop, because it is covered by windows. 2. Putting files on the desktop is a really bad way of organizing them. All desktops evetually get cluttered with at least a hundred random files, and if more than one person is using the same desktop, nobody ever dares to delete anything. At least in gnome, I can turn the desktop off. 2003-05-23 1:52 pm I started using OS/2 with 2.0. Object Desktop (OD) was a great enhancement, but IBM’s object-oriented Work Place Shell (WPS) was great to began with and one reason it was easier to develop OD on OS/2 than to port it to Windows. The following passage from the article is a little misleading in this regard: “…there were many different software companies who made word processors, spread sheets, databases, presentation packages, etc. As a result, working with a myriad of formats was a challenge. Object Desktop integrated the ability to read these documents into the OS. And it could do so on the file system level. This mean that opening a folder would assign the icon. The file extension didn’t matter. You could name your file “IBM.LET” (for IBM letter) and it could determine what type of file it was and give it the proper icon. This was also useful when printing. Just drag and drop to your printer and it would print it out with the correct formatting even if you didn’t have the application in question on your system.” OS/2 attaches meta data called “extended attributes” to files. These include the type of file (typically the application that created it), the associated icon, etc. Much more robust and powerful than relying on extension or inference to determine file type. Every benefit that Brad describes as a result of this was already present in the WPS. OD simply added support (through a viewer) for file types that the user may not have applications for. OS/2 was sweet. Where were all you people?!?!?!?!?! Rob Campbell 2003-05-23 4:40 pm Have you noticed that Nokia phones sell way better, at least here in Asia? I wonder why. Is it functionality? Nope, most of the time, features comes to handphones from Motorola or Sony Ericcson or Alcatel and the likes before coming on Nokia. Is it price? Nope, Nokia phones costs about the same, if not more, than similar phones from other brands. Then what is it? Its sheer customizablity. Go to Bangkok – you would see boats selling Nokia phone cases in the markets. Go to Malaysia, same thing in night markets. Go to Singapore, every mall/shopping centre and heck some small stores too have those cases. Do other handphones hae such a thing? Not really. But is it really that easy to change cases? Well, my mum freaks out whenever one of us changes over phone’s look (“oh no, what happens if it spoils?” “oh no, it looks really fragile in there” and the likes). So personally, the next handphone I would buy is most definately a Nokia. Now, I like the same for my desktop. I don’t really like when a company say “Okay, you all get to experience this few selections of style only”. No thank you. I want my desktop to look the way that I want to with my own personality, especially when I’m going to stare at it for hours at end. If that’s the default style, wonders of wonders, it stays. But how often does that happen? For me, until now, never. Maybe in the future one company would strike the right cord with their UI. But as they say, no shoe size fits all (or something like that). Sure, I agree that even with the most advance and convienient skinning capability, a product does not get my money if it doesn’t have the features and fulfil the requirements I want. Secondary? Maybe. Unimportant? For me: nope. If Nokia phones don’t have SMS, nor supports GSM, I would say “bye bye” and choose another brand. Oh BTW, it wasn’t only looks where IBM was ahead of Microsoft then. OS/2 was far more stable than Windows 95, far more faster, more memory efficient, more secure, more “built for the Internet” and the whole works. Heck, back then if I had a choice, I would choose OS/2 hands down. Windows 95 won because IBM really screw it big time with the OEMs, resulting in its utter failure – in addition of most apps being written for windows 3.x as oppose to os/2 because Win 3.x apps run on Windows and OS/2 but not vice versa. 2003-05-23 4:45 pm But I didn’t really understand the last part of the history. MS seems to be taking their ideas, integrating into Windows in house and they seem to be happy about that. What am I missing? Microsoft licensed parts of their product for Windows XP, IIRC. perhaps more parts in Longhorn and the future. Which means big $$$. Just like Roxio being all happy when Windows XP bundled part of its CD burner software. 2003-05-23 4:47 pm On Windows, I have one icon on my desktop – the Recycle Bin. On KDE, I have none. On Gnome, I have three – Home, Something-I-Currently-Forgot and Trash. Yeap, really cluttered. 2003-05-23 5:49 pm I have all my frequently used programs on my desktop, and a junk folder I use to quickly store projects in. If your desktop routinely gets that much crap on it, I don’t think it’s others you should be pointing fingers at for poor organization… 2003-05-23 5:52 pm Rob: What Object Desktop did with file viewers is that it added a file viewing class to the WPS that would automatically update the extended attribute. It was by no means trivial to do. It is kind of too bad that some people think Object Desktop is primarily about making Windows “look cool”. It’s never been about cosmetics, it’s jut that the cosmetic aspect of the product is what you see in the screenshots. A lot of the coolness is subtle or doesn’t show up in a screenshot or video. For example, a lot of people use DesktopX to have pretty stuff on the desktop. But a DX object can be purely a VBScript that interacts with COM objects to automatically manage a system. Nothing visual at all. A lot of people got excited about the Mac program Konfabultar even though it’s a small subset of what DesktopX can do and DesktopX is just a small piece of Object Desktop. 2003-05-23 5:53 pm Would the desktop objects aspect be the same as BeOS replicants? Koki 2003-05-23 7:15 pm In short no. Replicants where nothing more than programmatic ‘BView’ windows that ran in thier own process space, but embedded thier display into a recatngular space on the desktop. Desktop X is a host, that hosts DX Objects. A DX Object can be almost anything, but still tied to the desktop. These objects aren’t even programmatic windows. An object can be as simple as an image that has a few events that are user defined, (‘Mouse Over’, ‘Mouse Leave’, ‘Mouse Click’ for example), and on click it ‘launches’ an application. It can be a more complex object that has a timer and updated itself, with a new graphic based upon data that it retrieves from another service. Common uses today are things like clocks, mail checkers and other relatively simplistic items. Eventually, I see DesktopX being used for data entry and kiosk’s in tightly controlled environments. It’s that powerful and flexible. The problem is that it’s not quite as simple to learn, and the people that got strted with it first are the graphic artists, but as the scripters and programmers start to work with it, DX could become something much more on the level of something like ‘Flash on the Desktop’ powerful. 2003-05-23 10:46 pm >unless you’re using (an older version of) bluebox Except blueboxWM doesn’t skin as much as say, WB or the themes service. 2003-05-23 10:53 pm That’s why I said more often than not. Though I don’t consider blueboxWM a good example because it was practically just a test, wasn’t useable all the time, and only skinned the borders, (no offense to the developer). Actually now that I think of it I don’t think any window changer skins as much as the themes service or WB. 2003-05-23 11:41 pm The BWM (bluebox window manager) was inteded to emulate the idea of a “Window Manager” in X, which conincidentally only provides for window borders. No offense taken. 2003-05-24 12:04 am <snip> screenshots of OS/2!? Unbelievable how far ahead of MS they were! I hear Trolls talking about that all the time, but MAN! those pictures kinda prove their point… </snip> Well duh… Yes, OS/2 is to windows as real wood furniture is to particle board assemble-yourself stuff… 2003-05-24 12:10 am Amen to that. I just installed OS/2 Warp 3.0 on an old laptop I picked up at an auction the other day, when I realized that Linux wouldn’t work on it… Brought back a lot of memories. Crying shame that OS/2 for PPC never took off (especially as I’m on a PPC box right now) 2003-05-24 12:16 am … on the subject of alternative windows shells: They suck. At least, they do now. I hope to see them improve, but I will probably be using Linux full time by then, instead of most time. POOR, POOR documentation, obscure settings and configuration, no stability… Oh, well, something that cool couldn’t run reliably on win9x anyway… 2003-05-24 12:31 am The problem with that is that programs on X rely on TK’s which provide the dialog areas look. Which isn’t present on windows with it’s common controls unless you use only ported *nix applications. But a lot of *nix porters like the ones who do the gimpgtk aren’t for themes that much so a lot of times you are left with the default look. So in order to make up for this you have again to use say, the themes service to do the dialog area. But I digress, some people might like the idea of just skinning the border, or using 2 different theming systems on windows to simulate X. But I think it’s more efficiant to use 1 is all. I mean why do something if you don’t have to? I’m sure you (nivenh) knew all that though. And I thank you for helping pioneer theming on windows. 2003-05-24 12:44 am It’s interesting to see how far along these programs have come. I started using litestep at first since the b23 era and remember still when WB and windowfx where both skinning applications. Windowblinds and litestep had been my mainstay for many years as far as desktop customisation goes. It was always exciting when either of them got new features. Like for me it was a big deal when WB got scrollbar skinning as well as the other controls. 2003-05-24 2:53 am Andy, I somewhat understand (although not fully) your explanation. But if you look at it the user’s side, what is the difference? Replicants seem to me like objects embedded in the desktp that can do pretty much anything (that a program can do). Can you enlighten this poor ignorant? 🙂 Koki 2003-05-24 3:52 am I remember the first beta I actually paid for by StarDock. My OS/2 3.0 suddenly changed to something . .. . .. . else. it was way cool. I wish steve jobs could check out stardock !!! 2003-05-24 2:55 pm Have you noticed that Nokia phones sell way better, at least here in Asia? I wonder why. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve compared, but I know when I got my 3210 the primary reason I chose a Nokia over just about everything else on the market was due to its interface. It was just so simple, quick and efficient to use. The other good thing about it is if you know how to use one Nokia phone you can use any of them, because they all operate in the same way. That’s a big plus IMHO. As I said, I haven’t compared phone UIs for quite a while, but I think it’s one of the main reasons Nokia phones are so popular. 2003-05-25 5:41 am The interface may be far better than this crappy German phone I’m using now (Siemens), but I found Sony-Ericsson phones far more intuitive. But I doubt I would buy one of their phones anywhere in the near future because I don’t really like lime green plastic, and the altenatives aren’t really something to write home about.