WindowBlinds 4.5 Preview

A quick look at what's coming..

Tuesday, January 04, 2005 by Frogboy | Discussion: WindowBlinds

Ah customization of Windows. It's a gradual process.  Using the popular voice over IP chat program, Ventrilo, let's take that journey with WindowBlinds 4.5.

...In the beginning there was Windows classic. And it was good. Simple, fast clean.  Then Windows XP came and it came with a skin (known as "visual styles" when you're "skinning" the entire GUI).

And so the title bars and borders were changed. And it was still good. But not complete. For only theme-aware applications can be skinned by Microsoft's msstyles run through Windows XP.

But there was Stardock, who had been skinning the GUI of operating systems for many years. They had WindowBlinds.

WindowBlinds could skin even non-theme aware programs (i.e. most programs aren't theme aware). And so it was better.  But skinning more elements of the GUI also came at a performance cost that some noticed. 

So then Stardock came out with WindowBlinds 4.x. culminating with WindowBlinds 4.4 released in 2004. And its use of hardware acceleration and other features exclusive to Windows XP make WindowBlinds not just faster than the default Windows XP style (so fast that the high performance PC company, Alienware chose to bundle WindowBlinds with their computers) but on part with the original classic Windows interface.  Users could have their cake and eat it too.

And soon WindowBlinds 4.5 will be here. It has some very key features:

Hue/Saturation colorization. WindowBlinds had colorizing before but not like this. Before, you could apply a color to an entire skin. This worked on some skins quite well but on many skins not so well. Why? Because if you take a blue and yellow skin (For instance) and apply red to the whole thing, the entire thing looks..well washed out.

Hue shifting is different. You shift the colors of the skins rather than apply a color mask to them. This has the effect making skins look a lot more normal and interesting.

So a skin like VectorCell might look like this normally and we'll load up the Setup dialog of that Ventrilo program so you can see the dialog of a pretty busy looking window:

But with Hue and saturation shifting it could then be made to look like this:

Notice how natural it looks? It doesn't looked washed out. Even if you would never want a purple skin on your desktop, it now looks like it designed with purple in mind.

Or how about if you wanted to have it be a more vibrant blue?

You can have that too.  Or any other color you can think of. All looking as if the skin was always meant to have that.

But let's go with something harder. Something more challenging. How about some skin that has lots of colors?

Here's Faux-Toon. It has many colors. You could not colorize this with the old system because it would look very muddied with a single color grafted onto everything.

Not that we'd recommend this color combination but rather just as a demonstration of the difference between hue-shifting (a WindowBlinds 4.5 feature) and what you can imagine applying some arbitrary color to the entire thing.

Plus you have the fact that there's thousands of WindowBlinds skins out there:

And once last look at this dialog using the default Windows XP msstyle:

So in other words, if you want Windows XP to look like Windows XP consistently you will want WindowBlinds.

The Second new feature of WindowBlinds 4.5 is the ability for WindowBlinds visual styles to now include special styles just for the frames of Internet Explorer / Explorer browser windows. We don't have any examples done yet so we'll have to wait to show some screenshots. But you can probably imagine what skin authors will be able to do with this.  We may expand this further so that in a given skin, skin authors can define specific frames for specific programs within a single skin if they choose.

The Third new major feature of WindowBlinds 4.5 is the ability to have per-pixel alpha channels on the Start menu itself. Those of you who like very nice Start menus can imagine the cool stuff that can be done with this.  We don't have any skins done yet that show this off (we're working on them now).

The Fourth major change in WindowBlinds 4.5 which may get into 4.5 or have to wait until a minor update is the ability to have per-pixel alpha on menus.  Many skinners have requested this for years.

The Fifth major addition to WindowBlinds 4.5 (or it may get into a subsequent update depending on time) is support for the 64bit version of Windows.

Plus, there are tons of small tweaks and changes here and there to improve performance, fix bugs found/reported, etc.

So there you have it, WindowBlinds 4.5. It should be out in the next couple of weeks.  If you have Object Desktop you'll get this automatically.  You can purchase WindowBlinds or Object Desktop here.

First Previous Page 1 of 3 Next Last
CerebroJD
Reply #1 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 3:24 PM
Hehe, good news!

(cant wait for the menus!)
flipdoubt
Reply #2 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 5:35 PM
No need to now, as there are not a whole lot of .NET client apps out there, but when are you guys going to test WB releases against Windows.Forms apps? All non-UIS1 WB themes have the weirdest problem of line-breaks in buttons. Things like "OK" buttons splitting "O" and "K" onto separate lines.

Just wondering.
programcsharp
Reply #3 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 6:08 PM
I second flipdoubt... I've seen that issue as well...
Steve Grenier
Reply #4 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 6:22 PM
Sounds intense. Maybe I will update some of my coming themes for this new update
Koasati
Reply #5 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 6:33 PM
I've never liked the colorizing feature, this sounds like a much better approach. 2,3 and 4 seem interesting.
Woodbridge
Reply #6 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 7:13 PM
Curses! Stuck on Linux for a month. (a bet that I made, StarDock are sure gonna make it hard to win this bet)
Essencay
Reply #7 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 7:31 PM
Per-pixel alpha-blending on menus and the start menu....curious....I wonder how far off we are from per-pixel alpha-blending of the frames themselves? Not much else left that doesn't support per-pixel alpha....Is there?

Question? How will the per-pixel alpha blending on menus effect the RightClick Beta when you choose Use WindowBlinds Skin?

Overall this is a great and interesting enhancement to WindowBlinds
Island Dog
Reply #8 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 7:37 PM
Can somebody explain the alpha channel thing?
Erik Holmer
Reply #9 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 7:46 PM
Island Dog: Link

Long story short: It enables you to have semi-transparent/transparent pixels.
MSethWeisberg
Reply #10 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 10:51 PM
Just updated to the lastest nightly beta and already I see some new goodies, I am loving what I am seeing. Can't wait to see some new skins once the alpha blending goes live.
Kamikaz3ryd3r
Reply #11 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 11:21 PM
wow .. what's the actual release date on this one? I'm going to get it definitly.
Nomad529
Reply #12 Tuesday, January 04, 2005 11:47 PM
~ Also using the newest build and some of the minor updates are looking good so far. The new colorization options are going to be my favorite addition, I think. Now skins can be colorized to match that awesome new wallpaper you've found!
Ma8thew
Reply #13 Wednesday, January 05, 2005 4:45 AM
Will this be free to people that have wb 4x?
Neil Banfield
Reply #14 Wednesday, January 05, 2005 4:52 AM
The .NET issue with buttons having wrapped text is a bug in the Microsoft code. It makes an assumption about the size of the font when calculating the rectangle to paint text in rather than using the correct api call to get a rectangle for the text.

Any skin which sets a font on buttons will have this problem. This includes any modified msstyle files which set fonts on buttons.
Bebi Bulma
Reply #15 Wednesday, January 05, 2005 5:41 AM
Yes the update will be free to people who have registered their copy of 4.x.

What versions is my license valid for?

If you bought WindowBlinds on it's own you will be eligible for all updates until the next major version change. For example, if you bought WindowBlinds 3.0, you would be able to get WindowBlinds 3.3 now, and 3.4 in the future, but not 4.0 or later versions. For a limited time, WB 2.x users were able to upgrade to 3.x for a reduced price - this is likely to be repeated for current users if/when WB 4.x is released.

http://www.stardock.com/support/support.asp?product=7
essorant
Reply #16 Wednesday, January 05, 2005 6:09 AM
Sounds velly interlesting. The new colour shifting sounds very good (I liked the pervious version a lot too) and the per-pixel menus is definitely welcome.

Hurrah!
flipdoubt
Reply #17 Wednesday, January 05, 2005 8:19 AM
Neil makes an interesting comment (dare I say Insightful ) with regard to .NET buttons. I wonder what is the best avenue on which to address microsoft with this issue. Any ideas?
joeKnowledge
Reply #18 Wednesday, January 05, 2005 2:34 PM
what is the work around?
Frogboy
Reply #19 Thursday, January 06, 2005 8:08 PM
Probably need an option to disable font replacing.
Lastshot
Reply #20 Thursday, January 06, 2005 8:55 PM
cant wait to get this in beta

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