Home > Graphics > The Future of OOP UIs is Coming Soon: DesktopX 2 The Future of OOP UIs is Coming Soon: DesktopX 2 Guest post by Brad Wardell 2003-07-31 Graphics 64 Comments After over a year of work, we’re almost ready with DesktopX 2. We even have a public beta of it now here. Here is a Windows media video with DesktopX 2 in action. I’ve also written an article for the OSNews readers about DesktopX 2. 64 Comments 2003-07-31 10:42 pm Interesting, but I’ve found that a lot of desktop replacements are a bit unstable. Something Windows doesn’t need. 2003-07-31 10:46 pm Yep 2003-07-31 10:58 pm Sure, desktop enhancements can make your system unstable depending on which one you use. That’s the case with a lot of software. But DesktopX isn’t your ordinary desktop enhancement. You have total control over how much or how little you enhance your desktop. For instance, my neighbor just uses it to have a fish swimming back and forth. That’s it. Uses it as just a toy. Right now, I have a couple RSS objects on my desktop along with some system monitoring. Pretty simple stuff. 2003-07-31 11:02 pm what about litestep?? I use this my win2k box at work. Never see any mention of it, just suprises me a little 2003-07-31 11:07 pm Litestep is a shell. That’s a totally different animal. You would use DesktopX WITH Litestep, not instead of it. On the Mac, there is Konfabulator. DesktopX could be seen as a superset of what you can do with Konfabulator. 2003-07-31 11:12 pm Fish don’t swim with clouds. I mean c’mon! What were they thinking? Neat stuff though. But it looks like it all takes a fairly heavy hit on the CPU. Imagine trying to boot up with a bunch of those icons on your desktop! Anyway, it looks like this is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Quartz Extreme. 2003-07-31 11:26 pm Actually on a decent machine it should use virtually no CPU. I mean likes <1%. A lot depends on your graphics card actually. My laptop at work has about 9 fish on it and a…ahem mermaid swimming around on it and DX is using only 4% of my CPU and it’s a P-1.6Ghz with an ATI Radeon 9000 inside. Make sure you have the latest video driver for your card so that you can make use of hardware acceleration. 2003-07-31 11:28 pm Actually Longhorn is supposed to have some kind of 3D-based desktop, not as in actual 3D objects, but that it uses (presumably) DirectX/D3D to do all the window drawing, rather than GDI+ (I’m guessing that’s what is used now?) Most of the work gets moved off to the GPU in QE, and I guess whatever MS is calling their QE clone. 2003-07-31 11:29 pm Howdy Is there anything like this available for the *nixes ? something like this would definately be a boon, although it seems we`re lucky to have a vauguely working desktop as it is . Thank you all for your time :0) 2003-07-31 11:33 pm May be the problem is that in the demo video there is no Task Manager to check the CPU/Mem usage. May be a video with it would show how much resources are being used. 2003-07-31 11:34 pm Superkaramba is a similar thing for *nixes. http://netdragon.sourceforge.net/ 2003-07-31 11:35 pm Why not just make a gif of fish swimming and set that to back ground, nothing else needed to do that. 2003-07-31 11:35 pm Karamba and SuperKaramba http://netdragon.sourceforge.net/ 2003-07-31 11:40 pm Karamba and SuperKaramba … and KDE looks like Windows … and Windows looks like Mac … and Word looks like Wordperfect … and WordPerfect looks like WordPro … and Excel looks like Quattro … and XMMS looks like Winamp … and so on You would have a really tough time trying to find a single new original application that looks like nothing else. 2003-07-31 11:45 pm Granted it may hit the cpu a bit, but the last animated background i had, was using some very large image files in it. 2003-07-31 11:46 pm Aside from some basics of graphical windowing systems like square boxes with stuff in them, i don’t see how windows looks at all like make, any version vs any version 2003-07-31 11:48 pm Hey Brad….Hope StarDock is doing well! 2003-07-31 11:54 pm I am downloading it now. (Slow on a modem) I am curious as to how things like icons scale. I tried Stardocks Objectbar that was similar to the Macs Dock and the scaling icons generally looked like crap (even the XP icons). I also tried DesktopX 1 a couple of years ago. I thought it had potential, but was too much trouble to really do anything with. Hopefully, this version will address some of those shortcomings. 2003-08-01 12:10 am Brad couldn’t you have mentioned how big the video was? http://skins.stardock.com/video/DesktopX20-1.wmv I have done 50MB so far and it is still going. 2003-08-01 12:13 am Who made the clip? Didn’t seem too planned =) Or I’m just too used to the MacOSX sample videos (where the mouse cursor moves in a perfect seemingly robotic way). 2003-08-01 12:33 am Re CPU/Mem: The first click on the OSNews article shows the task manager: http://www.stardock.com/products/desktopx/dx2/new-1.jpg John: The WMV file should stream. What version of WMP are you using? Kevin: Icons scale really well because it doesn’t have to do them in real time. Regarding real time scaling — ObjectDock with the GDI+ engine does it pretty smoothly I think. Regarding the clip, it’s just something we whipped up to show it off. I suspect that Apple spent more than 30 minutes making their videos. 2003-08-01 12:41 am Did the man in the video state that “You cannot set the desktop icons to be a differen’t size than they are everywhere else in the system”? And I do believe that he stated that you’re trapped at 32×32. Well under the Appearance tab in display properties (In Win2k at least because I realize that it’s a little differen’t in XP) select “Icon” from the “Item” dropdown menu, and after icon is selected you have the option to set the Icon size/resolution to a max of 72 (maybe more in XP). If you set the size to 64, and there’s an icon that supports 64×64 pixels, then the higher-res icon displays just fine. It may not support 128×128, but it certainly can do 64 just fine… So much for being trapped in 32×32 without the ability to resize your desktop icons, huh. 2003-08-01 12:44 am George: By doing that you are stuck with the same sized icons system wide. That was the point. You can’t have, for instance, 128×128 icons on just your desktop. So you want 72×72 icons on your desktop you’ll end up with 72×72 icons EVERYWHERE in icon view which is not terribly usable. Whereas with DesktopX you can specific the icon size for JUST the desktop. 2003-08-01 12:44 am Firstly.. Icons scale great if you use PNG files that are 128×128 and then save them as ICOs. I have been using DesktopX for a while now and my desktop rocks. Here is a screenshot http://itorrey.com/images/myDesktop.jpg It is NOT heavy on system resources. As a matter of fact my machine runs just as fast as the CLASSIC theme in Windows XP. There is no slowdown at all. I have an Athlon XP 1500+ and 768mb of ram which isn’t really a super fast PC.. but it runs very smooth and I have had no problems. My favorite feature is the scripting. Check out my screenshot and the weather widget. Skinning has come a LONG way since 2000. I first used window blinds in 2000 and it made my system SLOW and it crashed a lot. Now window blinds actually runs faster than windows default themes… according to stardock atleast. 2003-08-01 12:49 am Here’s a screenshot of my desktop. http://www.wincustomize.com/wcmag/images/dxfish.jpg System: ThinkPad T40 laptop (Pentium M 1.6 Ghz, ATI Radeon 9000) Taken 3 minutes ago. 5 fish on the desktop (one covered by the task manager) all swimming back and forth on the screen, fully alpha blended, fully animated. 2003-08-01 12:51 am Originally posted by Brad… John: The WMV file should stream. What version of WMP are you using? Mplayer on linux I was downloading in mozilla and stressing out because it wouldn’t tell me the max size, and I have stupid Optusnet for an ISP and my max monthly quota is 3GB. So now you know why I stressed out. Now of to reboot into windows WMP9 to play it. 2003-08-01 12:57 am See subject… 2003-08-01 2:32 am Do these objects have the ability to exist elsewhere besides the desktop? It seems as though they could be used for productivity purposes, but since I run most apps maximized, I don’t even see the desktop 98% of the time, so this whole objects thing would be of little use for me. However, if you could build enhancements to the taskbar with it or extra buttons on application titlebars, that has the potentital to kick ass But if not, I see this as little more than eye candy. 2003-08-01 2:51 am “Now of to reboot into windows WMP9 to play it.” what??????????????? you said you used MPlayer, right? why would you want to boot into windows to play a simple wmv file? There are many reasons to keep a windows partition handy, but wmv files is definitely not one of them.. 2003-08-01 2:52 am YES! You can set these objects to “Always on Top”, “Normal Z ordering” and “Always on Desktop”. There are also other software packages from this company such as ObjectBar. It lets you build ‘start’ bar like bars and customize them anyway you like. It’s not just eye candy. Also you can do quite a bit with the desktop X objects. They can do and be just about anything. 2003-08-01 3:23 am Can you put them in folders? Can they BE folders? Could you make one that automatically does something when other icons (normal windows ones or IconX ones) are put in it or dropped on it? Can you script one so that if the user drags it they get a copy of a document defined by the script (think tear off stationery or templates)? Can they be easily made to look like normal icons (ie: fit in with the usual Windows look)? I can think of interesting things to do with these if the above things are possible PS: what’s with the commerical/noncommercial thing? Will I be able to purchase this for a reasonable price per desktop and develop whatever I want for it royalty and limitation free? 2003-08-01 4:15 am id rather something that replaced explorer.exe Tracker for Windows would perfect 2003-08-01 4:16 am seriously, what is wrong with icons that are 32 x 32 pixels. i hate seeing those big ugly icons like Mac has, SVGTracker and now this. 2003-08-01 5:03 am I have used it…and guess what…instabilities in the OS rise. I have used other products for desktop enhancement that have not led to as many instabilities (Talisman 2 and Litestep mostly, Serenade and others). Why do you assume that I have tried it? BTW…I wasn’t really commenting about desktop replacements in my first post…I was just agreeing that the last thing Windows needs is anything that might destabilize it. 2003-08-01 6:22 am Will it run on my Desktop? A dual head AMD K6-2 500? or my laptop? A 266MMX? Prolly not. Yet my systems look great with what I have(latest KDE and some playing)… Animated fish? Nah. Slashdot newsfeed? already have one, works great. Overall it sounds like something usefull to keep the less technically adept people contented, and something fun to show off your graphics skills, but not much else. Just my thoughts. Enjoy. 2003-08-01 7:56 am Quote Do these objects have the ability to exist elsewhere besides the desktop? It seems as though they could be used for productivity purposes End Quote You mean something like clippy? 2003-08-01 11:03 am Any chance of you folks entering the Linux desktop market? A Stardock-inspired XFree desktop would be awesome. Heck, I’d even pay for a desktop enhancement for X that’d let me use animated mouse cursors. Even OS/2 can do it via a third-party WPS enhancement, so why not Linux? 2003-08-01 11:20 am About a year ago I bought the whole package, window blinds, desktop x, etc. The problem is, that it is a little bit confusing to setup. There are so many different programs. The only thing I ended up keeping is the windows version of unix’s pager. I liked the mockup of OS X however, it was hard to add my icons to the desktop. 2003-08-01 2:46 pm “Anyway, it looks like this is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Quartz Extreme” Microsoft has nothing to do with this desktop, Stardock is it’s own company!!! 2003-08-01 3:30 pm Michael, you’re right, Stardock is it’s own company… But Brad, just one question : as Microsoft’s used to buy any successful company adding useful tools on their systems (connectix, Acces software,etc…) or builds the same thing in it’s software (zip extractor, internet explorer, etc…) don’t you think you destiny is to be eaten or be killed by them ? (please come back to OS/2 world… no I’m joking, don’t bother answearing this, I know your reasons and I know they’re justified. Congratulations for your work, and long life to Stardock, if possible also on linux systems…) 2003-08-01 3:39 pm Since this is a generally technical crowd, I’ll focus on that: ALL DesktopX does is give Windows an object framework on the desktop. What you choose to do with that is up to you. Objects can have any Z-order you want. You can build custom applications with this. There are already numerous companies using DesktopX 2 (even in beta) for this purpose. A lot of the early examples of OpenDoc were limited to showing a clock embedded in a window. I suspect that most reasonably technical people could grasp that there was a lot more you could do with OpenDoc than that. Yet I wonder how many respondents here would have said “OpenDoc? That’s just for eye candy.” What DesktopX does, in a nutshell is handle the visual and audio portions of development for you, letting the developer focus on the actual code logic for what they are trying to make. How much overhead DesktopX uses depends on the program. The person who says you culdn’t run this on a Pentium 266Mhz is simply incorrect. It’s like saying you can’t run a C++ program on a P-266. DesktopX itself, the framework, uses hardly any RAM at all. It just depends on what you choose to do with it. Jason, saying you used DesktopX is like me saying I used Linux. When? Wouldn’t Linux users find it annoying if I used some older version of Linux and condemned it for that? If you read the OSNews article, you can see what DesktopX 2 brings to the table over 1.x. DesktopX 1 came out over 2 years ago. A lot has happened in 2 years. Richard, good to see you. Linux looks interesting but it doesn’t have a large enough desktop market yet and it’s so different from Windows & OS/2 to code desktop extenders for. 2003-08-01 3:41 pm There is always the chance Microsoft is going to borrow technology. After all, look at Windows XP, every time you see that blue “Luna” title bar with its bubbly buttons think: WindowBlinds. But that’s why Object Desktop is also moving forward. Like I said in the above post, 2 years for us is forever. There’s always “new stuff” to take advantage of. Longhorn has a ton of good stuff coming in it too. The new compositing engine in Longhorn will let us greatly expand the abilities of DirectGUI for instance. 2003-08-01 4:48 pm “…and it’s so different from Windows & OS/2 to code desktop extenders for.” Brad, If you ever do think about writing a version for Linux, do it using Qt (http://www.trolltech.com/), which is cross-platform…that is what KDE uses. But then you have GTK+, which is what GNOME uses, but so far is not cross-platform like Qt. 2003-08-01 4:50 pm Thanks for the postings! I enjoy all of the stardock products! I think you stated it well.. it’s not about eyecandy.. it’s about whatever the user wants it to be. It’s not just fish! I love ObjectDock as well and can’t wait till 1.0 comes out 2003-08-01 5:00 pm 200×200 icons. Wow. Now that 18″ LCD of mine is reduced to the desktop real-estate of the 350×400 Amiga 500 desktop I thought I had rid myself of… 15 years ago. How technology progresses. I think I’ll stick to my usable desktop with no ‘tonka toy’ unproductive eye-candy-like features and humungous icons. I for one tend to not sit around and stare at my desktop all day to see how cute it looks. I have work to do. 2003-08-01 5:05 pm what a total freaking waste of bandwidth. that speaker on the video is a dork, and should not be making presentations. the product is pure eye candy. this is worthless “news” 2003-08-01 5:33 pm Kon, it does’nt have to be used for eye candy. You can use it to create any kind of object or app or whatever you’d like. You could use it to build a quick database management app for instance. 2003-08-01 5:38 pm Brad, Are there any plans to make a repository or some such for people to download other scripts for DX2 when it comes out?!?! 2003-08-01 5:40 pm Already is: Just go to the http://www.desktopx.net page and click on download and you can get more there and share what you create. 2003-08-01 5:41 pm Brad, I also forgot to mention SDL (Simple DirectMedia Layer; http://www.libsdl.org/)…which is also cross-platform. Take a look at the applications section (http://www.libsdl.org/applications.php) 2003-08-01 5:43 pm “…and share what you create.” Brad, As much as I’d like to share what I create, I cannot create anything…I’m not a programmer; yes I can build web sites but that is something else altogether. 2003-08-01 5:52 pm Actually you dont’ have to be a programmer to create things. Most of the basic stuff is purely GUI driven. Create a .PNG file with an alpha channel and use the built in features and you can make all kinds of interesting things. Or you could download existing scripts from the site and modify the graphics around them. For instance, all the “fish” objects use the same script. They just replace the graphics. And web developers can do some really interesting stuff. If you know PHP or ASP you can just use a IE container to open up your webpage and distribute it. 2003-08-01 6:58 pm All of you “Worthless! It’s just EYE CANDY” people are just showing everyone how stupid and ignorant you are. Instead of reading about what this thing can do, you just look at screen shots and cry and moan of how much of a waste it is. Heaven forbid you read about the product and actually learn something before opening your mouths and showing how ignorant you are. 2003-08-01 7:07 pm Brad, But I am not a programmer, so I cannot write scripts…I don’t know PHP or ASP (again: I cannot program); hopefully there will be a script repository — I cannot find this on desktopx.net, of course I’m probably looking at the wrong part of the site. 2003-08-01 7:46 pm This is kind of stuff that just makes you want to get a big monitor, one of those 16:9 sony’s 2003-08-01 10:12 pm Brad, I’m just curious…when you download an object from one of the repositories, do you have access to the source code? For instance if someone creates an object which scrolls the weather, and I’m not sure how they accomplished this, can I always see the script that runs it? Furthermore, can I then modify it and change it’s behavior? Also, are all objects free, or do some authors charge for their work? Another thing I was curious about is what happens when I create a shortcut on my desktop to a program on my machine? Does it just use the standard 32X32 icon that came with the program (and if so, doesn’t it then clash with the iconX objects), or does iconX modify it on the fly somehow? I know I can create special objects to act as a shortcut, but that’s a little annoying to do everytime I install a program. Lastly, are the screenshots posted in this forum (like that cool Mac clone one, or the fish one by Brad) using just desktop x, or is it using those other packages too? Like I noticed the taskbar and menu look different on the mac one. Sorry for all the questions, but I’m sure they’ll benefit other people here aside from me. Thanks! 2003-08-02 12:47 am Re Objects, yea you can right click on them and go right into their script so you can see how it was done. 99.9% of objects are free but there are probably some that aren’t free. When you run DesktopX you can choose to either use IconX which extends your icons or keep your regular Windows icons. If you use IconX, your icons gain new visual enhancements but are otherwise still objects. So when you right click and create a new short cut the icon would look enhanced. Re screenshots — I’m also running WindowBlinds (www.windowblinds.net). Both it and DesktopX are part of the desktop extension suite called Object Desktop (www.objectdesktop.com). 2003-08-02 5:56 am I think it sounds awesome. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it subsequently drove more research into the GUI of operating systems (like the interaction with the desktop). In fact there’s a paper out there calling for more research into the desktop. It certainly opens up a lot of possibilities that weren’t available to us before. 2003-08-02 1:56 pm This is eye candy. Everything demonstrated in that video said eye candy. Even the so-called productive uses of this software were just eye candy (and duplication of all the same concepts that came before). If you are sure that this is useful to non-geeks and for purposes other than ego gratification (desktop customizing) than you need to demonstrate something original and useful. MP3 players and newscasters are not new. I also think that this software increases the potential confusion users experience when using computers. These days it is impossible to rely on any user interface conventions. No one knows what’s an icon, button, object, link, etc any more because the distinction is so horribly blurred. There’s enough toy software out there to complicate technical support people when trying to help Windows users. Please, no more. 2003-08-02 2:19 pm Ever see the OpenDoc demos? They were all toys. That’s because demoing a custom database reader or a administrative console isn’t terribly interesting to the average user. It is assumed that anyone remotely technical watching the demo can envision useful things with this. The point is that users can use it to do whatever the like with it. What’s wrong with eye candy? People on MacOS X seem to like Konfabulator. There’s stuff in development on Linux similar to this. It is almost always easier to create eye candy and toys (and certainly more interesting to show to users) than “useful” software. You also didn’t seem to get the main point — it’s how easy and fast it is to create objects. There’s nothing in DesktopX you can’t do with Visual Studio or Delphi if you are willing to spend the time. But in DesktopX, you can do the same sorts of things in minutes. 2003-08-02 11:20 pm I’m still curious if these objects can be put in folders or can act as folders. 2003-08-03 9:57 pm Most people buy their PC upon the Clockspeed of CPU and Gfx-card. And they still use a filemanager like WindowsExplorer (cough cough). All you need to give the people is some paintaking application and they will happily use it as long their machine is fast enough… Oh my! I mean: There is the WSH for years and few people know about it. yet even fewer use it. Why ? IPC scripting is a wonderful world. A desktop should be ergonomic. This can eventually be changed with better replacements. But a desktop should offer a most functional approach to comupting. This seems, at least to an extend, being achieved with DesktopX, since it makes the desktop fully and easily scriptable. But this is not enough. The Windows Shell needs to be replaced completly. It is awfully slow. I just waited for minutes to be able to use the mouse again on a mobileAthlonXP 2000+ with 256MB RAM and a 40GB HDD on a laptop using WinXPHome) something that would never happened this way on my rusty old Amiga4000 with 83MB of RAM. Can you believe it ? I wouldn’t if I hadn’t seen it. What I`d like to see is areplacement/combination of the desktop AND the shell. Fully scriptable, fully object oriented. 2003-08-04 8:04 pm Howdy, It looks interesting. I have several questions. 1. How well does the uninstall work? If I load this and choose not to keep it, am I going to have to reinstall the OS? 2. The licensing looks different than what I remember. I looked at ObjectX when it was first in beta. At the time, your license said you got 1 years use for $49. If you did not renew, you could not use the program. I thought that was ridiculous, so I ignored it. The current license just saya you lose the ability to get updates if you don’t renew, which is fine. I may well renew, but I just rejected the old license on principle. When did you change it? 3. I will be installing on Windows 2000. I don’t expect I’ll ever have XP because of the licensing. How much of DesktopX will I miss because the features are not there in Win2k. You refer to the scrollbars in IE, btt I bet there is more. 3. I am running WMP version 6.4, which is the latest version without offensive DRM. The video did not stream for me. It is still downloading and I hope I can watch it. I have the WMV 7 codecs. Mr Wardell came and spoke to our local OS2 group in Dallas several years ago. He put on a good show and his products worked well. I was disappointed when it seemed like he abandoned OS2, but I have come to understand. Ecomstation is still great, but there is not enough market share. Thanks, Ralph 2003-08-05 5:19 am 1) It’s just a system tray app. Unload it and then run the uninstaller. 2) Object Desktop has always been base don 1 year but you keep what you have. You can use the stuff forever. It’s always been that way. You just don’t get new programs or features after 1 year unless you renew. 3) There are no special features of DesktopX on WinXP. Windows 2000 and XP are th epreferred platforms. 4) It really needs WMP 9. I used 9 because it compresses a lot better and if you have WMP 9 it’ll stream really really quick (on my dialup it worked within a minute). Re OS/2, yea, I was bummed having to leavethe OS/2 market. We stayed as long as we could. In fact, we really stayed about 1 year longer than we should have. To put things in perpsective, if in 1996 we made $1.00 in 1997 it had dropped to $.33. That’s a huge drop in a short amount of time. And we kept actively coding new things utnil 1998 when that figure dropped to around $.25.