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.