Wednesday, September 18, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
Nowadays it’s pretty common to have multiple PC’s on your desktop or in your household. With that being said, I wanted to talk about Acoustic Bridge from Stardock and give you an overview on what it does and how to use it. Acoustic Bridge gives you the ability to take the audio signal from one PC, and send that signal to another PC in your network.
A good example of use would be if you have a nice set of speakers connected to your desktop PC, and a laptop or Windows tablet with less-than-ideal speakers. Take that audio output coming from your laptop and send it over to your desktop to listen to your music (or any type of audio) on those great sounding desktop speakers.
Acoustic Bridge is pretty simple to get setup and running. After installing you choose whether this PC will be sending or receiving the audio signal. This can be changed in settings if you need to reconfigure at another time, and options are available in the system tray for easy access.
TIP: You can install Acoustic Bridge on up to 4 PCs!
As you see in the screenshot above, you can configure Acoustic Bridge to send or receive audio. For the PC that wants to receive the audio, make note of the PC name and passcode and then proceed to install and setup on the PC you want to send audio from.
When you select the option to send audio, you just need to enter the PC name and passcode from the receiver setup we mentioned in before. That is the basic setup, but you can click ‘Advanced Settings’ where you can change additional settings such as port numbers and buffering settings.
Once you use Acoustic Bridge you will see how handy it is, and I’m sure it will become one of your favorite desktop utilities!
Thursday, August 29, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: OS Customization
Stardock's CursorFX is an application that allows users to easily and safely change the Windows cursor to one of the thousands available on sites like WinCustomize.com. CursorFX works with Windows 7, Vista, and XP. There is a free version, and a Plus version which offers features like cursor colorization, cursor sizing, transparency, and much more.
Creating the graphics
I'm going to show you how to create and put together the actual cursor, but something you have to do on your own is create the graphics for your cursor. Skinners use a wide variety of tools to create their works, including 3D graphic programs that create stunning animations. However, that is not a necessity, you can make your graphics with any image editor such as Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Paint.NET, etc. The only thing you really need to make sure of, is to export your graphics in the .PNG format as it will keep the transparency that you make.
If you want to create animations from static images, the best tool to use is AniUtil. It will create a "strip" of images in the .PNG format that you can use in CursorFX.
CursorFX Theme Editor
As you can see in the screenshot above, the theme editor has vastly improved. You can now see all the cursor states at once, and most of the tools you need to make the cursor are all on one tab.
You can find the theme properties in the File menu. Here you can input the theme name, author name, e-mail, description, etc. Also from the file menu you have the common options such as "new", "open", and "save". Saving your theme will put it into the .cursorfx format which is compatible with both CursorFX and CursorXP.
You can also apply your new cursor from the file menu as well.
TIP: Download more CursorFX themes on WinCustomize
Creating a Theme
Once your images are ready, and you have a new theme started in the CursorFX Theme Editor, then it's time for us to start building a new cursor. There are 20 cursor states that we can change in the theme editor. These cursor states are going to define what cursor image is shown for that particular state. An example would be the "normal state" is the cursor you see and use the most, and "text select" will show the cursor that changes when you are going to enter text.
Select the cursor state you want to change, and click the "import graphics" button that is near the bottom right of the window. From there you can browse and choose your image for that selected state. For my example I will change the "normal select" state with a simple cursor image I made.
TIP: The CursorFX Theme Editor can be found in your CursorFX directory
As seen in the screenshots above, the image I made and imported is now occupied in the "normal select" area. The next step is assigning the hotspot, which is the active part of the cursor image. Clicking your selected cursor with your pointer will move the target to where you want this active spot to be. You can also refine the target by adjust the x and y values of the hotspot configuration.
If you want to remove the image you just place, you can either import another image in its place, or click the "remove this cursor" button. Remember that it will only apply to the cursor state that is selected.
The cursors we are changing here are in the normal state. If you want to add a different image to the pressed state, then click "view pressed state" and import the images as we did before.
What we did before is the basic steps of creating a cursor theme. If you want to create an animated cursor you just follow the same basic steps, but this time you will use the "strip" of images that we talked about before. Once that image is imported you need to enter the number of frames the image has in the Frames value area. You can also set the image to loop by checking the option box.
Another option you have for the animation is setting the interval between frames. This will determine has fast or slow your animation will appear. If you want to alternative the animation, or enter a separate animation script, you can also do that in this section.
All you have to do now is repeat these steps for the remaining cursor states, and your cursor is done. You can now apply the cursor and save to upload to the CursorFX gallery on WinCustomize.
Thursday, August 15, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
If you read our various articles and news you probably see Object Desktop mentioned often. We still get lots of questions about what exactly Object Desktop is, and why a subscription to it should be considered over just purchasing a single product.
Let me first start off by explaining that Object Desktop is a yearly subscription that contains many popular Stardock applications which we’ll cover in detail below.
Subscribing gives you access to all the included applications, and as long as your subscription is current, you will receive any updates and new versions that are released. Being a subscriber also gives you the benefit of having early access to beta versions of software so you can check out the latest updates before it’s released to the public.
You are also getting over $100 worth of software for just $49.99, and yearly renewals are just $34.99.
Own any of the stand alone products in Object Desktop? You may be eligible to upgrade for just $34.99! Upgrade now
You get a whole collection of desktop enhancement apps to both change the look of Windows and to help improve the functionality of it as well. You can download the individual apps from your Stardock account, or use our Object Desktop Manager to keep up-to-date with updates. The Object Desktop Manager is an application that can notify of any new updates available, and lets you download those updates or install any of the various components of Object Desktop which we will talk about more below.
Once you have subscribed, you can download the Object Desktop Manager from your account.
TIP: See a list of all the included apps here.
Now we’ll cover the core applications included with Object Desktop, and a brief overview of what they do.
WindowBlinds is one of our most popular pieces of software in Object Desktop, it has been around for many years, and has millions of downloads. WindowBlinds gives you the ability to completely change the look and feel of your Windows desktop by applying skins to the user interface. These skins will change the start menu, window frames, taskbar, and much more. Thousands of skins are available to download and there are styles to match just about every kind of taste.
TIP: Download more skins for WindowBlinds and other Object Desktop apps from WinCustomize.com
If you are running Windows 8 and are looking to bring back the look and functionality of the missing start button, then Start8 is what you’re looking for. Start8 brings back the missing start menu along with many additional features such as boot straight to desktop, jump list support, customizable start buttons, and more.
TIP: If you use Start8 with WindowBlinds, Start8 will inherit the skin used so it will match.
DeskScapes does lots of cool things, and the top feature would be putting animated wallpapers on the desktop. Whether you’re looking for a subtle landscape animation, or a 3D rendered animation of the solar system, there are Dreams (animated wallpapers) available. Not only does it apply both animated and static wallpapers, it also lets you apply effects to them giving you even more customization options.
Fences is another popular desktop utility programs included with Object Desktop. Fences removes those messy, out-of-control icons on your desktop and lets you wrangle them into "fences" on your desktop. You can label, resize, and even create rules for these fences to keep your desktop clean and tidy. Additional features include, letting you create folder portals so you can have direct access to favorite folders right on your desktop.
TIP: Double-click an empty space on the desktop and your icons and fences will disappear. Double-click again to bring back.
WindowFX lets you add a bunch of cool effects to your desktop. Make the desktop windows wobble, assign them different animations for opening/closing, take control of window focusing, and more! We have several demo videos on the WindowFX website to show exactly the neat things that WindowFX can do.
Another app designed for Windows 8 users is ModernMix. If you have ever used a "Modern UI App" (Metro App) in Windows 8 you may have noticed that it’s full screen, which is pretty annoying for most apps. ModernMix lets you run those same apps in a window on your desktop, just like do with regular desktop software.
These are just several of the popular apps included with your Object Desktop subscription. You get many other applications like IconPackager, IconDeveloper, Tweak7, Keyboard Launchpad, and several more.
If you want total control over the way Windows looks and functions, then you can’t go wrong with an Object Desktop subscription.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
DeskScapes 8 was recently released and just like WindowBlinds 8, it received a big overhaul along with a completely new user interface. If you aren't familiar with DeskScapes, it's an application for Windows 7/8 users, to apply animated desktop wallpapers. It also gives users the ability to customize and manage static wallpapers by adding effects or recoloring their existing wallpapers.
The screenshot below shows the new user interface. The left side of the DeskScapes window shows all of your animated and static wallpapers that. Choose which folders to display and add or remove folders from the "Settings" option.
Tip! Get more animated wallpapers from WinCustomize.com
Tip! Animated wallpapers have a small filmstrip icon on their thumbnail preview so you can see which are animated and which are static wallpapers.
Selecting a wallpaper will bring up a preview which is displayed on the right side of the window, if it's an animated wallpaper, it will display an animated preview so you can see what the animation is.
Settings and Effects
Depending on what type of wallpaper you're using, there may be additional settings available. For instance, the "Dynamic Shape"s animated wallpaper is dynamic so it can be customized further. There are additional options to adjust the size of the shapes, how many shapes are used, and how fast the animation should be.
Tip! The cool Expanding Shapes dynamic wallpaper is included with DeskScapes
Clicking the "Effects" tab will bring up a large list of available effects. These will work on both animated/static wallpapers, along with your images/videos. Examples include; Grayscale, Motion Blur, Textured, and my favorite, Snow. Selecting each filter will bring up a preview of the effect on your chosen wallpaper for a quick preview. DeskScapes also allows you to combine effects so you can create a custom combination.
Tip! The Snow effect adds animated falling snow over your wallpaper for a very cool effect.
After you've selected a wallpaper to use, simply click "Apply" on the bottom right corner of DeskScapes and your selected wallpaper will apply to your desktop. If you use multiple monitors you will also have the option to "Apply to all monitors", or select which monitor to apply the wallpapers to.
Tip! DeskScapes lets you apply a different wallpaper to each monitor also!
Friday, July 19, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
In my previous article we went over the new user interface in WindowBlinds 8. If you are new to WindowBlinds or just want a refresher, then give that a quick read here. This time I wanted to show users how to find, change, and apply skins in WindowBlinds.
Getting New Skins
WindowBlinds includes quite a few skins to get your started, but there are thousands available for download on WinCustomize.com. There are skins with a minimal look and skins with wild graphics, and just about everything in between. Regardless of your style, I’m sure you will find something that you will enjoy having on your desktop.
WindowBlinds skins come in a .wba format, and sometimes those will be packed in a .zip file that will need to be extracted. When you double-click a .wba file, it should automatically install to WindowBlinds and be added to your skin list. There’s also an option to manually install a skin by clicking through the menu as seen in the screenshot below.
TIP! If you don’t see an installed skin, select ‘Rebuild skin list’ from the WindowBlinds menu.
Viewing and Selecting Skins
The left side of the WindowBlinds window is where you can browse and view all your installed skins. Hovering your mouse pointer over each skin will reveal the name of the skin and selecting one will bring up more options on the right. You will also see a preview of the skin there as well.
TIP! There’s an option available to keep the skin names visible if you prefer.
Right now you could just press the ‘Apply Style’ button and apply the skin, and you will be all set.
Substyles, Coloring, and More
As I mentioned before, when you select a skin you will get some additional skin options on the right side of the WindowBlinds window. One of those will be a drop-down menu for substyles. Substyles are variations of the selected skin. Some skin artists will make different substyles specific to Windows 7 or Windows 8, and some will make light or dark versions of a skin. If there are substyles available to can select which to use here, and remember, you will have to apply the skin again to show it.
There are also options available to recolor skins, add textures, and to change the Explorer backgrounds. We will cover these features in another article.
Thursday, June 20, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
The New User Interface
I wanted to start off with a general overview of the new user interface and the basic functions. The UI has been completely redesigned, so I want to make sure everyone is up to speed on the new look and functions of WindowBlinds 8.
This is the new main interface for WindowBlinds 8. If you already own WB, then the UI probably looks substantially different. The basic functionality remains the same, but we will cover it for new users.
On the left side of the window (screenshot above) you have a list of skin previews. WindowBlinds comes with several great looking skins, and you download more from WinCustomize.com. When you select a skin, it will display a preview on the right side of the configuration screen. Here is where you can adjust the "Color", "Texture", and "Background" per the chosen skin. Whenever you want to apply a new skin, or see the changes you made, just hit the "Apply Style" button in the bottom right corner of the WB config and you'll see the changes being applied to your desktop.
Under the "Style" tab, you can select a different substyle of the skin. Some skins come with substyles, and some don't. Usually the substyles offer a lighter or darker version of the skin, or even one specific to a specific OS.
Selecting the "Color" tab gives you the ability to re-color the skin you have chosen and change the color of some system colors. You can pick from several common color choices and fine tune the coloring options with the adjustment sliders.
"Transparency" is another option under "Colors". This is another favorite feature among users as you can add and adjust the transparency of the start menu, task bar, and window frames. Just use the sliders to adjust the amount of transparency you want, then apply the skin again to make the changes.
If you're feeling really ambitious, choose "Fonts". The fonts tab allows you to change the font shown in your windows. Tired of the standard sans serif font that comes with Windows? Choose something more stylized, or simply change it to a serif font, like Times New Roman.
Selecting the "Textures" tab button allows you to apply a texture to the skin you've chosen. There are several textures included with WindowBlinds, and you can easily add your own texture effect, or download more from WinCustomize.com.
Desktop Wallpaper and Explorer Backgrounds
Lastly, we have the "Background" section. You can manage your desktop wallpapers from within WindowBlinds, add specific directories where WB can look for images to use, and even set WB to automatically change your selected wallpapers at set intervals.
"Explorer Backgrounds" can also be applied here, along with the opacity levels of active/inactive Explorer windows.
This gives you a good overview of the functionality and new user interface of WindowBlinds 8. The best way to experience WindowBlinds is to download skins, apply them, and explore all the cool features that can be found in WindowBlinds!
Wednesday, June 19, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Press Releases (WC)
PLYMOUTH, MI – June 19, 2013 – Stardock announced the release WindowBlinds™ 8.0, the latest edition of its popular desktop interface customization application. Updated features include an all new user interface, Windows 8 support and Stardock’s skin editing application SkinStudio™ is now included with each WindowBlinds purchase.
WindowBlinds enables users to customize desktop interface themes called skins to personalize the look and feel of their desktop. Kris Kwilas, Stardock VP of Technology, says; “WindowBlinds has always offered users of all skill levels an easy way to customize the visual appearance of desktop interface elements. With the new 8.0 release, creating a unique look for your desktop is more fun and intuitive than ever.”
All of the skins included with WindowBlinds can be customized and there are thousands of free skins available for download at WinCustomize.com. SkinStudio enables users to design their own skins by customizing only the parts of the Windows interface they want to change; SkinStudio will do the rest. This makes it easy for inexperienced users to create a great skin quickly, while advanced users can still enjoy designing every aspect of the windows interface. Users are encouraged to participate in the community and upload their own skin creations to WinCustomize.com
- All new user interface
- Windows 7/8 support
- Design your own skins with SkinStudio
- Thousands of additional FREE skins available at WinCustomize.com
WindowBlinds is available as a free 30-day trial and can be purchased for only $9.99.
To learn more WindowBlinds visit: http://www.stardock.com/products/WindowBlinds
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Stardock is one of the world’s leading developers and publishers of PC games and desktop enhancement software. Its desktop software includes Start8™, Decor8™, ModernMix™, Fences®, Object Desktop™, ObjectDock™, Multiplicity™ , DirectSkin OCX and many other applications for customizing the Windows user experience. Its PC games include Sins of a Solar Empire®, the highest rated and best-selling PC strategy game of 2008 as well as the critically acclaimed Galactic Civilizations™ series.
Monday, June 03, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
I wrote a similar article to this years ago, but ObjectDock has had several updates since then, so I created a new one to help with questions on how to change the background theme. ObjectDock has become a favorite app among Windows users over the years as it’s a great app for organizing your desktop icons, shortcuts, etc. To see more of what ObjectDock can do and how you can configure it, be sure to check out my article.
ObjectDock not only offers the great features listed above, it's also customizable. There are thousands of icons and background themes available to download from WinCustomize.com. Many of them are made to match popular WindowBlinds skins, so you can have matching components on your desktop. There are all styles and colors available, and once you download them they can be added to your ObjectDock collection very easily.
Adding a New Background Theme
If you downloaded a new background theme, we’ll start with how to add it to the existing ObjectDock collection. Most of the backgrounds will come in a ".zip" format, so the first thing to do is unzip them into a folder of their own.
Next, move that folder to the ObjectDock "Backgrounds" folder, and they are now added to the background selector.
TIP! The ObjectDock theme folder will typically be located here: C:\Program Files (x86)\Stardock\ObjectDock\Backgrounds
Changing the Background Theme
Whether you want to change to one of the included backgrounds, or one you added yourself, you can do that with the Background chooser in the ObjectDock configuration.
You can access the settings through the ObjectDock tray icon, right-clicking a dock (select settings), OR via a shortcut on the dock itself.
See the screenshot below:
Click "Style/Color" > "Change Theme". That will bring up the Background chooser and from there, simply select the background you want to use.
TIP! The process is the same for tabbed AND animated docks.
Thursday, June 06, 2013 by Island Dog | Discussion: Press Releases (WC)
Today we released the WindowBlinds 8 beta (v7.95) featuring an all-new user interface, Windows® 8 / 7 support and performance enhancements.
Skin the Windows desktop interface with a unique look using WindowBlinds from Stardock. Customize the look and feel of your start panel, taskbar, window frames, control buttons and more.
- Apply skins to your desktop
- Add backgrounds, textures and colors to skins
- Customize title bars and buttons
- Choose your own skin fonts
- Choose from thousands of FREE skins at WinCustomize.com
- Windows 8/7 support
- And more!
To learn more or download the WindowBlinds 8 beta visit: http://tinyurl.com/mxgh92u
Object Desktop subscribers can visit their Stardock account to download the latest beta update now!
Note: WindowBlinds 8 beta supports Windows 7 and 8 only.