Home > Windows > Customizing Windows Customizing Windows Submitted by Gsurface 2004-06-29 Windows 26 Comments Here is a lenghty but in-depth look at what it takes to customize the Windows GUI. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 26 Comments 2004-06-29 7:13 am I like the ability to choose a real windows manager/desktop environment to suit my needs. From fluxbox to Gnome/KDE, depending on what one needs you get true flexibilty on Linux/BSD. This is just adding effects/themes, nothing that impressive. 2004-06-29 7:25 am Why not go for one of the many free shell-replacements like LiteStep, Blackbox4Windows or GeoShell?! They’re lighter, eat up less resources and in general can do the same if not more than the Stardock products. Esp BB4Win is amazing in its simplicity (in the best sense of the word) & power. 2004-06-29 7:38 am LiteStep… use less resources than explorer? No way. Overall the article wasn’t very impressive. 2004-06-29 8:18 am Overall I have very grave concerns about Stardock’s business model. For one thing, whenever coverage of them pops up on community sites like this, there’s often a sudden upsurge of pro-Stardock sentiment that – combined with their activities in blogs and similar fora – sounds suspiciously like astroturfing. I know this is a harsh implication to make, but we’ve already seen it with JBoss and I can’t help but wonder. Another thing is that the various components of Windows are so tightly coupled that making changes to one of them must surely expose security holes and bugs in the rest. This is as much a concern with the “free” alternatives. Third, can we be sure that Stardock and similar packages are free of the spyware capabilities of CometCursor and BonziBuddy? Finally, as a developer, I can only imagine the tech support nightmares it must cause. I will continue to monitor the situation, but right now I have significant doubts. 2004-06-29 8:27 am Stardock uses no Spyware. Why should they? Try not to be so emberassingly ignorant. Anyway, WindowBlinds is not my thing anymore. I prefer hacking my uxtheme.dll. The author says WindowBlinds doesn’t produce any overhead; well, I’m not entirely sure on that one. But, it must be said: Stardock has created some amazing applications, and they deserve praise for that. Really. 2004-06-29 8:45 am Actually, Litestep (or other shells, like GeoShell, BB4Win, …) can use much less ressources than explorer, since you can choose what part of it runs and what part doesn’t. To be honest, I think that if you make a desktop looking like the default Windows one – using Litestep -, Litestep possibly uses more ressources than plain Windows. Oh, and the shell community can be found to be using “SUPER SECRET OS HOOKS” ( undocumented things ) that Microsoft has buried deep down the OS. 😛 For those of us who like to get beta (get their hands dirty), there’s http://shellwm.sourceforge.net/ which is an open source skinning program for Windows. 2004-06-29 8:51 am “Stardock has created some amazing applications, and they deserve praise for that. Really.” I wont argue there… but the continuous sales pitch for upgrades/new products is excessive and irritating enough to drive you to alternative products. Their built-in marketing rivals that of MISS CLEO. “Call me now for your ‘free’ theming!” 2004-06-29 9:59 am It seems strange that osnews called this article an ” in-depth look at what it takes to customize the Windows GUI.” when it’s just a look at Stardock apps. Personally I found that some of the Stardock apps seriously slowed down my system. Some of the features you can add are nice, but smaller UI enhancement apps that don’t use as many resources are much better IMO. At the moment the only UI enhancement I’m running WinRoll 2 – http://www.palma.com.au/winroll/ That adds Mac OS classic style windowshading, minimising to the tray, sending windows to the back, making windows transparent, etc. The best thing is that it’s opensource and uses almost no system resources. If you look around you can find quite a few small utilities and enhancements that let you customise Windows in useful ways. 2004-06-29 10:17 am They have some nice stuff in the neowin.net forums, I’m currently using extensis, coming off using lunavx and opusOS. I tried bb4win, and found it useful, but I missed having the mouse functionality I’m used to with explorer. If anyone knows of a program I can use to modify how Logitech assigns buttons besides what’s provided in the drivers, I’d be very pleased. 2004-06-29 10:37 am Well looking ad edje I don’t think there is anything close to that in the windows world. And with more attention it would probably have way more to show. Raster had a nice avalon vs. edje comparison on his page http://www.rasterman.com . The EFL are enourmously great concerning graphical cusomization. Too sad the E project has such a bad publicity. kindest regards, mo 2004-06-29 11:27 am … but it looks like an advertisement. 2004-06-29 11:49 am Rather than shell replacements for the GUI, are there any DOS box replacements for 2k/XP? 2004-06-29 12:03 pm You can find versions of bash for NT/2K/XP. I think one comes with OpenSSH for Win32. 2004-06-29 12:37 pm I stopped reading after I read “uses SUPER SECRET OS HOOKS”. Me, I’ll stick to fluxbox on Linux. It doesn’t need “SUPER SECRET OS HOOKS”. 2004-06-29 12:47 pm You can find versions of bash for NT/2K/XP. It’s not just bash–Cygwin comes with a bunch of shells, including my personal favourite, zsh. Only problem is that while the shell may be different, you’re still stuck with the godawful Windows terminal emulator. You know, the one that’s not resizeable and doesn’t have proper text selection? Wake me up when someone makes a Konsole clone for Windows (yes, Windows, and not X/Cygwin)… 2004-06-29 1:03 pm You can use the version of rxvt that comes with cygwin. Yes, it uses X, but it hides the fact very well, and acts just like a native program. 2004-06-29 1:11 pm This article was a blatent ad for Stardock and their products. I’m what you might call a “theming enthusiast” and when forced to use Windows, my current setup is to use SharpE CVS Build 2, Stardocks ObjectDock (instead of SharpTask), and StyleXP. Yes, I do run a StarDock app. I find ObjectDock to actually be very good. Many issues have been fixed in the new version, and it is quite stable. I’ve used Litestep, and had mixed feelings towards it. The themes can be very nice and chock full of features, but I would often run into glitches with the shell. Most common for me was things not displaying properly after changing screen resolution (especially when exiting a full screen game). SharpE is less customizable, but the new PB5 version due out this year has much promise. The CVS build has it’s bugs, but I find it to be a very nice shell replacement in spite of them. Info on SharpE can be found here: http://lowdimension.net/phpBB2/ As far as Linux goes, Fluxbox r0XoR5. 2004-06-29 1:16 pm More power to Stardock if they can repackage something native to windows and get paid for it! It’s not as if the hacked uxtheme.dll is not available, or that there aren’t alternative shells. I agree with the assessment of the article however: its an add. But then again, Flexbeta does tend to get a little breathless at times, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Personally, bblean (a lightweight fluxbox/blackbox clone for windows) is my shell of choice. 2004-06-29 1:19 pm I was expecting to see an article on neat GUI programming tricks / tips or at the very least how to adjust certain obscure or hidden window features / attributes. Sadly, it was just a review of StarDock (who admittedly have a pretty cool looking product), but it would have been better served by doing a comparison of the various skinning products available – as mentioned by previous posters. John 2004-06-29 2:04 pm I stopped reading after I read “uses SUPER SECRET OS HOOKS”. Me, I’ll stick to fluxbox on Linux. It doesn’t need “SUPER SECRET OS HOOKS”. And we care because …. ????? 2004-06-29 2:44 pm Hm.. after reading that article, all I can say is KISS ASS. The author didn’t really explain “what it takes to customize the Windows GUI”. All he did was tell everyone how GREAT Windowblinds is. Thanks for wasting 5 minutes of my life, Aaron. On a second note, Bootskin causes my computer to BSOD upon startup. I had to restart in safe mode and uninstall Bootskin before I could use my computer normally again. This seems to be a common problem. 2004-06-29 3:37 pm the mother of all desktop apps? http://www.samurize.com they’re hosted by stardock too. Anyway, i’m one of those that uses the patched uxtheme.dll, i tried windowblinds some years ago and it wasn’t very good, but after reading the article i’m tempted to try it again. I allways install Iconpackager, the default windows icons are boring. Also i’ve never found any spyware on stardock’s stuff, only some nag screens. 2004-06-29 5:52 pm I was a member of TeamOS/2 and we all thought that StarDock was going to help get the OS recognized. Hah. Of course, you couldn’t just run OS/2 off of a CD with no install, and video was next to impossible to configure correctly when you didn’t specifically know what video card was in the box, and networking didn’t work, yada, yada, yada… Anyway, it would certainly help to have a WIDE VARIETY of games, that rivalled ones on other platforms, etc. 2004-06-29 7:34 pm Only problem is that while the shell may be different, you’re still stuck with the godawful Windows terminal emulator. You know, the one that’s not resizeable and doesn’t have proper text selection? I’m not exactly sure what you’re looking for here (since my command shells resize and do text selection; and I haven’t used Konsole iirc), but MS SFU includes C Shell and Korn Shell. On the other hand, those do have some resize limitations (they only resize vertically). 2004-06-29 9:37 pm Did anyone notice how many times the word “stardock” is used in this? 2004-06-30 10:20 am You can make windows looks like something, anything..