Coming to a desktop near you
Version 3.5 Info Guide
DesktopX is a program that lets users build their own desktops. It does this by giving users access to desktop objects. These objects can come in all sizes and shapes. They can have scripts attached to them, they can be combined together to form mini applications or turned into an entire desktop.
A new way of looking at the desktop
Let's take a look at a typical desktop. For this example, we'll use Windows Vista but it could just as easily be Windows XP.
When DesktopX is first loaded, it provides 4 primary options:
This menu lets the user decide whether they want to load an existing creation (widgets, objects, and desktops) or create their own. For our purposes, we'll go with create.
DesktopX appears in the system tray
From the system tray, users can now create a new object which will appear on the desktop like this:
An object on the desktop
This object can be made into almost anything the user wants. Let's look at a couple simple examples:
Making an object into a glorified desktop icon:
DesktopX objects can be turned into fancy desktop icons easily. They have the advantage of being sized however the user wants. Just right-click on the object and choose properties:
From there, a dialog comes up in which users can choose what they want the object to appear like. Users can use .PNG image files (or .BMP or even .ICO) to change the image. By selecting a new image, the user can see this:
The size of the image can be controlled by the summary page.
Now I just have it point to whatever program or website I want. In this case, I'll have it open WinCustomize.com.
And Voila I have a really fancy desktop icon.
Making my object into a widget/gadget
Technically speaking, objects are widgets/gadgets. The difference is one of format. When you have finished, you can take your creation and save it as an object pack which simply saves the raw data to be imported back into your desktop or you can save it as a widget which turns it into a program (.EXE). If you have DesktopX PRO, you can also save as a gadget which turns it into a program that can run on any Windows XP, 2000, or Vista machine without requiring DesktopX to be installed.
What's new in DesktopX 3.5 in this area is that users can also export their works as Windows Sidebar gadgets. The Pro version will turn them into stand-alone sidebar gadgets.
Let's create a simple widget. First, we start back with our object. I'm going to us images and script provided by David A. Roman for this example.
Show/Hide desktop icons widget
This widget, when it's done, will show and hide desktop icons when clicked on. This means I'll need two images for my object: One to represent the hide desktop icons and one to represent show desktop icons.
DesktopX objects support multiple states -- unlike icons. This gives them incredible flexibility.
For each state, I provide an image.
This script is obviously more advanced that what a beginner would create but I wanted to show something that was fairly useful and it's only 67 lines even with spaces and comments. What it does is react to being clicked on. If the icons are showing, it tells Windows to hide desktop icons. If the icons are already hidden, it tells Windows to show them.
Turning it into a Windows Sidebar Gadget!
When I'm done with my object and have made sure it does as I ask, I can export it as a Windows Sidebar Gadget:
Since I have DesktopX Pro, I can export it as a stand-alone sidebar gadget (otherwise, the user needs to have the DesktopX run-times installed).
And there it is. the .gadget file
The advantage of DesktopX for making Sidebar gadgets is that DesktopX has a much larger library of APIs to call on and is a visually oriented development platform for gadget makers. Something as simple as a show/hide desktop icons toggle isn't very easy to make as a Sidebar gadget. But with DesktopX, it's a snap.
Building a desktop
So far, we've really only scratched the surface of what DesktopX can do. DesktopX can create widgets & gadgets. But these days, there's a gazillion different gadget/widget creation tools (though DesktopX is probably the most powerful one currently available).
DesktopX doesn't stop at being able to make mini-applications. Users can build an entire desktop and then save it as a .desktop file to distribute out. It's a lot like making a widget except on a much larger scale.
As we've seen, objects can be given images of any size or shape. Objects can have multiple states to them. And objects can be grouped together.
In this example, objects have been grouped together and also given scripts to allow for the creation of new objects:
Since objects can be created by other objects with all their key properties assigned by other objects, users can literally construct their own Windows environment with DesktopX -- in a fraction of the time it would take to write ones own shell.
When done, a user can simply export their creation as a .desktop file and anyone who has the DesktopX run-times installed can use it.
This Play-ground theme will be coming with DesktopX 3.5.
Developer: Stardock (www.stardock.com)
Price: $24.95 for standard client. $14.95 for run-time client. Both come with Stardock's Object Desktop suite.
Users who want to get DesktopX Pro can get it for $69.95 and that adds the ability to export stand-alone programs and Sidebar gadgets.
Visit http://www.desktopx.net for more information.