Tuesday, March 26, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
As Windows 8 gains traction with users upgrading their current OS and people purchasing new PCs, the desire to find solutions to common issues has also risen. While Windows 8 is a fine OS overall, there’s still lots that can be done in terms of usability and functionality.
That’s where these 3 desktop tools step in.
Let’s take a look at some shortcomings of Windows 8, and how we’ll correct them.
Bring back the Start Menu
Yes, Windows 8 does not include the start menu you have been using for years and years. The start button and menu are gone, replaced by the new “Modern” start screen. The start screen is useful, but there’s no reason you can’t have it and the start menu as well.
Start8 brings the start menu back and better than what Windows ever delivered. There’s also several styles of the start menu you can choose from, so you can customize it to how you like. Start8 can be configured to automatically take you to the desktop when your computer starts, disable hot corners, show a start button on a second taskbar, customize the start button image and many other features.
Run Modern (Metro) Apps on the Desktop
The Windows 8 start screen runs “Modern” apps (previously referred to as Metro apps). There’s some really great apps available such as Netflix, Rowi, SkyDrive, and many others. The problem is these apps only run in full screen making them less useful, especially for users with larger screen sizes.
ModernMix takes those same Modern apps and allows you to run them in a window on the desktop, just as you would with any other desktop app that you normally use. You can also pin those applications to the taskbar and ModernMix will explicitly close the Modern apps when closed with the close button.
Customize the Windows 8 Start Screen
ModernMix and Start8 help improve the functionality of Windows 8, and last up we have Decor8 which lets you customize the background in the Win8 start screen. This is something else you can’t change unless it’s one of the included images in Windows. Whether you want to use your own custom images, or a picture from your image library, Decor8 can take of it. Other features give you the ability to create your own Windows 8 color scheme, randomize the backgrounds for the start screen, and change the image of the login screen.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013 by Frogboy | Discussion: Personal Computing
To say the response to ModernMix has been overwhelming would be an understatement. In the 20 years that Stardock has existed, we’ve never put something out that has has been this positively received, this fast.
To recap: Last week we put out the first beta of ModernMix, a program that lets users run Windows 8 ModernUI (Metro) apps in a window, on the desktop. It’s a free download that you can also buy for $5 (which gets you the full beta and final version).
The reaction has been universally positive. But also, people (including myself) have found that ModernMix may be the single best thing to happen to ModernUI apps. It makes them relevant because many of them are really good – but not something you’d want to dominate a 22 inch monitor.
Can anyone seriously say that these ModernUI apps would be better run full-screen on a large monitor?
Here are some of the headlines:
Slick Trick: $5 tool runs Modern apps on the Windows 8 desktop [Computerworld]
Windows 8 tip: Run Metro Apps in windows on the desktop (WinSuperSite)
ModernMix: Runs Windows 8 apps on the desktop (The Windows Club)
Stardock ModernMix app allows ALL Windows apps to run in desktop mode (Mobile Magazine)
ModernMix enables all Windows 8 apps to run on the desktop (Geeky Gadgets)
ModernMix Fixes Windows 8, runs all apps on the desktop (Laptop Magazine)
And these are just the ones I know about and is by no means complete (and it hasn’t even been a week since the beta went out).
Friday, March 08, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
Just a day after release, ModernMix has gotten a great response from Windows 8 users so far. Today Lifehacker takes a look and says, “ModernMix isn't free; after a 30-day trial, to continue using it, you'll need to pay $4.99. But it's the best five bucks you might ever spend if you're a Windows 8 user.”
Read more at Lifehacker - http://lifehacker.com/5989454/modernmix-runs-windows-8-full+screen-apps-on-the-desktop
Wednesday, March 06, 2013 by Frogboy | Discussion: Personal Computing
Stardock released the first BETA of ModernMix today. In a nutshell: Modern apps (often called Metro or RT apps) on Windows 8 are forced to run full-screen no matter what. If you have a 20 inch monitor (or larger) you know how absurd it is for many of these apps to be running full-screen.
If you want to grab it right now you can at www.stardock.com/products/modernmix
Once ModernMix is installed, all those Metro apps can run windows on the desktop. They even show up on the taskbar which means you can pin them for easier later launch.
Let me show you, in pictures, what this means:
There’s a really good Metro version of Netflix. But without ModernMix, this has to run full-screen. If I want to watch Netflix full screen, I’ll watch it on my TV. The whole point of watching something on a PC is that you can have it in a window while you do other stuff.
This brings me to the second window: The music app. Every time I want to mess with my play list or whatever, I don’t expect to have to switch to a big full screen app to do this. iTunes doesn’t make me do this. But the Windows 8 music app does – unless you have ModernMix. Now I can keep it in a little window if I want and click on it if I want to do something.
One of the best Metro apps on Windows 8 is the ESPN app. But again, on my desktop PC, why would I want to have this app be full screen?
One nice thing about ModernMix is that those windows are resizeable and most of them, remarkably enough, almost seem to have been designed to be resized.
The result is that ModernMix suddenly makes the Windows 8 app ecosystem relevant. I’m finding myself actually interested in them because they don’t get in the way of the other things I’m trying to do with my PC.
As a practical matter, no app can be designed to be all things to all people in terms of the user experience. That’s one of the reasons having windows on the desktop works so well. I might be running at 1024x768 and you might be running at 2560x1440. That difference leads to a very distinct user experiences. But if apps are forced to run full-screen the app designer has the challenge to create something that will work in all these different conditions. But when you run them in a window these apps can really shine.
Ironically, the Windows 8 store runs as if it were originally designed to run in a window. By being able to run it in a window I can (like I do with my Mac) search for things on the net and then look for them in the Windows store.
Ending the debate
When you combine Start8 with ModernMix, the end result is that Windows 8 becomes an indisputably better than Windows 7.
The two biggest problems with Windows 8 are solved:
1. Being forced to jump between two environments (the desktop and the Metro experience)
2. Being forced to run the “new” (modern) apps full-screen
With Start8 and ModernMix you can run your entire Windows 8 experience from the desktop and enjoy all the advantages that Windows 8 provides.
To get the beta (and I want to emphasize, this is a BETA) go here:
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
Animated wallpapers on the Windows desktop made their debut several years ago, with the original version of DeskScapes and Windows Vista Ultimate. Microsoft removed the option with Windows 7, users could continue to use Stardock DeskScapes to bring animated wallpapers (AKA Dreams) to the PC.
With Windows 8’s availability, Stardock has DeskScapes 8 (beta) available to get those animated wallpapers back on your desktop. DeskScapes does much more than that, as you can add over 40 effects to your static or video wallpapers, recolor wallpapers using simple sliders, add animations to static images, and more.
There are thousands of animated wallpapers available to download for free from WinCustomize.com. These range from subtle landscape scenes to custom 3D animations, so there’s something for just about every style you can imagine. DeskScapes 8 can also use WMV files so you can easily use your own videos as an animated background as a screensaver!
DeskScapes can apply animations to your favorite static images too. In the screenshot above, I have a nice looking landscape image and I have used DeskScapes to apply a falling snow effect which adds animated snowflakes on that image. DeskScapes also supports multiple monitors, so you can apply different wallpapers on each screen, or stretch over multiple monitors.
DeskScapes 8 is available as a free beta download now!
The full version is just $9.99 and is also part of the Object Desktop suite of apps which includes other great applications such as Start8, Fences, Decor8, WindowBlinds, and more.
Get more info and the beta here - http://www.stardock.com/products/deskscapes/beta/index.asp
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
Whether you upgraded to Windows 8 from a previous version of Windows, or just bought a new PC, you may have noticed that the start menu in Windows 8 is missing. You didn’t do anything wrong, this is just how Windows 8 was designed. For those users who miss it, I want to show you a way to get the start menu for Windows 8 back.
Start8 from Stardock brings the start menu/button back to your Windows 8 desktop.
Along with the start menu/button, Start8 allows for further customization in both appearance and functionality. Pin your desktop and Metro apps to the Start8 start menu, boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop, shut down with one click, and much more.
After the quick/easy install…
Start8 gives you a choice of styles for your start menu. Choose from the Windows 7 style - which most are probably familiar with - and the Windows 8 style, which gives you a start menu in the Modern UI (aka Metro) style. Additional options allow you to tailor the start menu to a size and style that works for you. Start8 also gives you several choices in start buttons to be displayed on the taskbar, you can easily create your own or download buttons created by others and shared on WinCustomize.com.
Customize the start menu…
Users can also configure Start8 to function in the way that best suits them. For example, have the Windows key on your keyboard set to show the Windows 8 start screen, and clicking the start button on the desktop will bring up the start menu. Another option is to have Start8 show the start button on a secondary taskbar, and it can also disable Windows 8 hot corner when at the desktop. Those are just a few examples, but you have the ability to set Start8 as you like.
Start8 is available as a free trial, and just $4.99 for the full version. It is also part of the Object Desktop subscription which includes Fences, and many other desktop enhancement and productivity applications for Windows. Object Desktop subscribers also enjoy the benefit of trying out any new software before our other customers.
More info can be found at Start8’s website.
Object Desktop – http://www.objectdesktop.com
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News
If you have already upgraded to Windows 8 Pro, be sure to visit http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/feature-packs before January 31 to take advantage of the free Windows 8 Media Center Pack offer.
The Media Center pack also includes video codecs for decoding MPEG2 videos (these were previously available in Windows 7, but are limited to the Media Center pack for Windows 8 Pro users).
Even if you have no plans to use Media Center, we encourage you to take advantage of this free upgrade AND use the code before the end of January. The future DeskScapes 8 beta and release will be encouraging the use of AVI/WMV codecs for dreams.
Monday, December 10, 2012 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
Windows 8 has the new Start screen (aka Metro) which some users love, and others hate. After having use it for a while, I have come to like it and use it often especially since there have been some great apps released recently. One thing about the Start screen though is you really can’t customize it much aside from colors and a few included background images.
That’s where Decor8 comes in and gives you ability to further personalize your Windows 8 experience. Decor8 allows you to change the Windows 8 Start screen to one of many included images, or use your own images. You can also create a slideshow of pictures or have background images changed at timed intervals for an even cooler experience. Decor8 also does much more by letting you choose and create your own color themes, along with apply effects to your images and even control how many rows of tiles to show on your start screen.
You can get Decor8 here - http://www.stardock.com/products/decor8/
Using Decor8 is pretty simple. In the Backgrounds setting is where you can choose and set your start screen background image. As I mentioned before, there’s many included but you can certainly use any image on your PC. You can load an individual image file, or select image folders that Decor8 can display. All you have to do is select the image you want and you can click through to the start screen to see if you want to keep it or choose another. You can also choose several (or all) images and set them to change at timed intervals.
Decor8 also gives you the ability to apply effects to your background images. You can and adjust the fade on your images, add some blur, or adjust the color and contrast. This allows you to really personalize the start screen experience!
In the Colors settings, you can either choose to use a standard color theme, or get really creative and choose your own custom color scheme. Here you can change the colors of various areas including the background color, accent color, standard tile color, and the text color.
Additional features of Decor8 allow you to define the default row count for Tiles, and the ability to change your Lock screen images also. If you are tired of the default personalization options in Windows 8, then come give Decor8 a try and make your Windows 8 start screen your very own.
Decor8 is available as a free 30-day trial and can be purchased for only $4.99.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News
We are excited to announce the winners in the Wallpapers category for Most Creative and Most Usable in the 2012 GUI Champs! We had over 70 wallpaper entries and it took our judges a while to decide on the finalists, which were then open to public voting.
Now for the winners!
First Place: The Cyper Club by neone6
Second Place: Water Towers by RomanDA
Third Place: Eyecon by TheMasterBaron
First Place: Galaxus 7 by roflmfaoo
Second Place: Bashful Benny waited too long by teddybearcholla
Third Place: Morning Glow by DEVJIT
Congratulations to the winners, and a big thanks to everyone who submitted wallpapers!
Thursday, November 08, 2012 by Frogboy | Discussion: Personal Computing
Yesterday I mentioned that there's no Metro version of the Windows essentials utilities. This remains a baffling issue as a Live Movie Maker and a Live Writer would be very nice to haven.
I will say that the Metro version of Skype is nice. Which brings me to today's observation: Microsoft has got to come up with a distinct classification for WinRT apps because it's impossible to do a decent search on the terms Modern and UI. As in, what is the best Modern UI Facebook client.
The nice thing about the term Metro is that it's distinct. Like iOS or Android, it lends itself to being easily searchable and instantly recognizeable as being different from a normal Windows app. Modern UI won't cut it. We need a term or else we'll end up stuck with something like WinRT which in itself is problematic. I think Microsoft should have just bit the bullet and paid whatever they had to pay to keep referring to these apps as Metro apps.
Surface isn't competing against my iPad for use right now. Instead, it is competing for use with my MacBook Air. It's ironic that Surface shines the most as a notebook rather than as a tablet. I can, and have, used it as a tablet but I find it most useful in using the upgraded keyboard with it. Frankly, if it didn't have so many rough edges (not the hardware, but the software) I'd be tempted to recommend it over any ultra portable out there. It's that good.