Wednesday, September 17, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: OS Customization
ShadowFX is the newest desktop customization app from Stardock that gives you the ability to add drop shadows to your windows in Windows 8. It’s very easy to use, just select which shadow you want from the drop-down list, and you’re good to go.
ShadowFX is also easy to customize, and making your own shadows is very simple. You can create your own shadows to use for yourself, and you can submit them and share with others on WinCustomize.com.
There’s only a few files needed to put your own shadow together. Most of them are the actual graphics files and one is the theme.sfx file. I recommend taking a look at the default skin directory and see the files that are included for yourself. The default directory should be here: C:\Program Files (x86)\Stardock\ShadowFX\skins\skins
The four graphic files needed are for the left, right, top, and bottom shadows. Each image you create should have an active/inactive state. The theme.sfx file (open with a text editor), lets you define the parameters of the shadow. Here you can define things like the shadow name, image names, and image offsets.
Once have everything together in a folder, you can make a .zip file from that and rename it as a .shadowfxtheme file so it will install to ShadowFX when double-clicked. That covers the basics of creating your very own shadows for ShadowFX, and be sure to share your shadows with others on WinCustomize.com.
Wednesday, September 03, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
I’ve been talking about and recommending Snagit for many years here on WinCustomize. I started using it many versions ago as I needed a tool to capture screenshots with features that just couldn’t be found in Windows or other similar apps. A few months ago TechSmith released Snagit 12 with several new features including a new user interface for the editor, an enhanced capturing experience, and more. For the last month or so I’ve been using the latest version and wanted to share my thoughts about it, and a big thanks to Betsy Weber from TechSmith!
Snagit is obviously well known for capturing screenshots, but you should also know that it also captures video as well. Their new enhanced capture now lets you select the area to be captured first, then you can select whether you want to snap a screenshot or record a video clip. Another useful feature to note is scrolling capture. Need to capture an entire webpage of content for example? This lets you do that quickly and easily. Profiles can also be used to streamline your capturing process. These customizable profiles let you configure a capture and choose how to take the image and what to do with it when taken. For instance, you can set it up to export to a specific location like Dropbox, or be inserted directly into an application like Word.
Once your image or video is captured it’s opened in the newly designed editor. Here you have plenty of editing options for images, and for videos you can do basic editing. Taking a screenshot is one thing, but what you can easily do with it afterwards is key in many cases. When writing articles about the various Stardock applications we have, it’s often useful to point out or emphasize specific parts of the UI to show users a feature or function. Snagit excels here because it has a variety of tools that are designed to accomplish this task. Whether it’s a simple arrow, a speech bubble, or one of the many stamp graphics available, you can be sure you have the right tool to show and direct viewers to exactly what you want them to focus on in an image.
The editor is actually very useful for all types of image editing. It use it frequently just for basic editing like resizing and cropping even with images I didn’t originally capture with Snagit. You can expand Snagit even more by downloading more stamps to use in your images, and there’s a wide variety available for download.
The number of images you capture can quickly add up, but Snagit has an integrated library where you can find, sort, and view past captures. The Snagit library sorts captures by date or by the application they were captured from. This is especially useful for me because I can quickly find the images that were taken from a certain app such as WindowBlinds or ObjectDock. Images can also be tagged or assigned flags for even more organization.
Getting your image captured and edited is one thing, but doing something with that image is another. That’s why sharing is a very big part of Snagit and they’ve continually updated this with more sharing options. Images can be saved in the familiar way of saving into a variety of supported image formats, or you can export images into various applications using the integrated output accessories. With just a click you can export right into Word, OneNote, Camtasia Studio and other supported applications. Snagit also lets you share to Facebook, YouTube (video captures), Dropbox, Google Drive and to Screencast.com. Other outputs for other services and apps can be downloaded to expand sharing even further.
There’s still lots of features I wasn’t able to cover, so be sure to visit the Snagit site to get an overview of everything that Snagit can do. It’s one of my most used apps on both my Windows PC and Mac, and I highly recommend it.
They offer a free trial, and there’s upgrade options also available for previous users.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
Since the launch of Windows 8, Stardock has released several award winning apps, like Start8 and ModernMix to bring back lost functionality and add new features for users of Windows 8. Another Windows 8 app from Stardock is Launch8.
Launch8 adds the convenience of a quick access stationary dock on your Start screen. Drag and drop your favorite applications to your Launch8 dock and quickly launch them no matter where you have swiped to on your Start screen.
Once Launch8 is installed you will have a dock on your Windows 8 Start screen. You can choose to place the dock at the top or bottom of the screen, and customize it to have a translucent background.
Apps are added by simply dragging and dropping them to the Launch8 dock. You can create shortcuts for Windows 8 Modern apps or regular desktop apps that you use everyday. Icons can be arranged by dragging them around, and the size can be controlled in the Launch8 configuration.
The Windows 8 Start screen can become quite large if you have a lot of apps displayed. The Start Screen scrolls from left to right to display all of your apps. Launch8 stays stationary so you will always have quick access to your shortcuts, regardless of where you have scrolled to on the Start screen.
Launch8 can also be enabled to show jumplists for apps that utilize them. In the screenshot above I am viewing the jumplist for Steam showing items like my recently launched games. This is especially handy with many apps, including Office where you can open recent documents right from your dock.
If you need a way to have quick access to frequently used applications on your Windows 8 Modern Start screen, Launch8 is the perfect solution.
Friday, July 18, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
Whether you work in a traditional office environment or have your own home office setup, having your Windows desktop working at maximum efficiency is a key step in being as productive as possible. Stardock makes a bunch of great desktop customization and enhancement apps, and while they all offer a benefit to the desktop, I wanted to write about the ones I think are a huge benefit to your productivity as well.
I have used these applications in my home office for years, and I can say without a doubt they help keep my desktop organized and keep my workflow going.
Fences is really one of those must-have tools for your desktop. It’s been very popular since it was first introduced and millions of users use it to keep their desktop icons clean and organized. Fences gives you the ability to create shaded areas on your desktop that hold your icons so you can keep them organized and your desktop clutter-free. Multiple fences can be created and their size and shape can be adjust to fit on your desktop just how you like them.
ObjectDock puts an animated dock on your desktop where you can launch applications, file shortcuts, folders, and more. The dock can be customized with custom backgrounds and icons, the size and position can be changed, and effects can also be applied. In addition, ObjectDock also supports docklets which are mini-apps that can display information like the weather, calendar, clocks, and more. ObjectDock also has tabbed docks which makes it easy to organize apps and shortcuts by using sorting them into different tabs. It’s a fantastic way to have quick access to frequently used items.
If you have lots of running applications on your Windows desktop then Tiles is an app that can help you greatly. Tiles puts a customizable sidebar on your desktop which contains multiple pages that let you manage your running tasks and application windows. You can switch between pages by swiping your mouse or using the keyboard, and Tiles even supports multi-touch displays.
Monday, July 07, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
Stardock has several apps under $5 that are designed to make Windows 8/Windows 8.1 easier to use and to restore lost features such as the Start menu. Below is a quick overview of each app and what it can do to enhance your Windows 8 experience.
The start menu in Windows 8 was removed, and in the 8.1 update, Microsoft brought the start button back. Unfortunately, their start button DOES NOT bring the Start Menu with it, it launches the Windows 8 Menu. Start8 returns the missing Windows 8 start menu and brings additional features like customization, pinning of desktop and Metro apps, unified search, and more.
Start8 was listed in the "PCWorld Top 100 BEST" list, covered by USA Today, Forbes, CBS News, the Wall Street Journal and more!
There are some cool and useful Modern UI apps available for Windows 8. The problem is, these apps take up the entire screen when opened, which is annoying when running an app like the weather app. ModernMix takes those apps using the Modern UI (Metro) and puts them in desktop windows so you can easily re-size, switch back and forth through running applications, and easily close out of them.
Windows 8 limits your start screen customization options to only a few provided background images and a few pre-defined color schemes. Decor8 removes these limitations and provides the freedom to personalize your start screen with your own images and colors.
Launch8 is an application for the Windows 8 Start screen which places a stationary dock on the Start screen. The Launch8 dock stays in place while you scroll through the Start screen and lets you quickly launch applications right from the dock. You can add apps to the dock by dragging and dropping so you’ll always have quick access regardless of where you have swiped through your Start screen.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: OS Customization
I’ve had some questions come in from Facebook and the WinCustomize forums about some of the additional features of WindowBlinds regarding textures and backgrounds, so I wanted to write a post going into more detail about it. These are all features that aren’t really difficult to use, but if you are a new user you just might not be familiar with where everything is and how they work.
If you are completely new to WindowBlinds 8, let me recommend you also take a read through the WindowBlinds 8 Walkthrough: The New User Interface.
Colors, Transparency, and Fonts
On most WindowBlinds skins, you’ll see tabs on the right of the WindowBlinds interface for Style, Color, Texture, and Background. Clicking one of those expands the section with all the available options for that particular feature. We’ll start out with selecting Color, and that will bring up the coloring options in WindowBlinds. Using this option you can change the color of a WindowBlinds skin by selecting a color and using the sliders to adjust it even further. You can just the brightness and saturation, and there’s also options to adjust the range and primary skin colors. Of course you can also stick with WindowBlinds smart recoloring which will give you excellent results. Note that some skins will accept color changes better than others depending on their design.
Next we have the Transparency option which gives you the ability to change the transparency of the start menu, task bar, window frames, and context menus (Windows 7 only). Just adjust the sliders to the amount of transparency you want, and apply the changes to see them in use. For Windows 7 users, you also have the option to force blur effects.
The last option in the Color tab is for fonts. Here you can override the font that is defined in the skin, and you also have the option to adjust the size of the fonts.
Textures is another feature available in WindowBlinds that gives users the ability to add textures to a WindowBlinds skin. When adding a texture, it can dramatically change the way a skin looks depending on what type of texture image is used. There are a bunch of textures included, and it’s fairly simple to create and add your own so you can customize a skin to your personal liking.
We even have a WindowBlinds Texture gallery on WinCustomize.com where people can download textures other people have made and shared.
There’s two sections under Backgrounds. One is for wallpaper and the other is for Explorer Backgrounds. With WindowBlinds 8 you can set which desktop wallpaper is used right from WindowBlinds, and it also has a random wallpaper changer where you can set WindowBlinds to automatically change the wallpaper at designated times. Have it change the wallpaper every morning, every hour, each time you login, and other settings you can choose from.
Explorer Backgrounds is something people often ask about, and here is where you can set them. By choosing one of the texture images they will apply to the background of your explorer windows. Just like the other textures mentioned before, you can create them and download additional ones from WinCustomize. WindowBlinds also gives you the option to adjust the active and inactive window opacity for explorer windows.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: OS Customization
Animated wallpapers were introduced to Windows back in the Vista days, and has since been continued with the DeskScapes app created by Stardock. By using DeskScapes, you can have beautiful animated wallpapers on your Windows 8 and Windows 7 desktops. DeskScapes also lets users manage both animated and static wallpapers, add effects, and more. You can get a more detailed of what DeskScapes does with this article found here.
There are thousands of animated wallpapers, also called Dreams, available for download on WinCustomize.com. Most of these are created by users of DeskScapes, and although there’s a variety of methods used to make the actual animation in the wallpaper, you will need to use DreamMaker to package your videos so you can use and share with others. DreamMaker is an app that is included with DeskScapes that helps you with that process.
DreamMaker can be found in the DeskScapes directly on your PC, usually in C:\Program Files (x86)\Stardock\DeskScapes8. Just run the DreamMaker.exe and you can begin assembling your .dream file.
There’s four types of animated wallpapers you can create and then package with DreamMaker.
- Single Video File – This is just a simple animated wallpaper made from a video file. You would need either a wmv or avi file for this.
- Triggered Video – This uses a video, but you can set triggers for that video to play at a certain time.
- Dynamic Content – This is for dynamic .dream content
- Hybrid Content – This is an animated wallpaper that can use both static images and animated content. More about that here.
Remember, DreamMaker only packages your content and makes it ready for distribution and use with DeskScapes. You still need to create your own content with video clips, 3D rendering applications, etc. The forums on WinCustomize is a great resource to ask questions and get advice on way to do this.
Once you have all the files for your .dream ready, we can begin. In DreamMaker you will see it has 3 tabs that we will be working with. The first tab is the Dream Information where you will enter the name of your Dream and a description of it. You will also need to add a thumbnail image (.jpeg, .PNG, no larger than 256x256) that represents your animated wallpaper.
Next is the Dream Contents tab. This is where you will select which type of .dream you are creating (see overview above). One you select the type of .dream you are making, you can select and add all the necessary files needed for that particular animated wallpaper.
The last tab is where you enter the Author Information. Here you can enter the author’s name, website, any copyright info, and a box for any additional information you want to include.
All you have to do now is click the Create .Dream button, and your animated wallpaper will be packaged into a .dream file, and will then be ready for use.
Sharing Your Animated Wallpaper .Dream Files
Now that you have your .dream file ready, you can either keep for yourself or share it with others so they might enjoy it as well! WinCustomize.com is where thousands of other animated wallpapers are available for the public to download, and it’s easy to join and get your wallpaper added.
Note: When sharing an animated wallpaper, it must be created by you or have the necessary permissions included to distribute. See more about that here.
It’s free to join and upload your animated wallpaper to WinCustomize.com. If you already have a Stardock account, you can simply use the same login credentials as they work across all Stardock sites. Next, head over to the upload page, enter all the information and upload your files. WinCustomize has a moderation process, so after a short time the .dream file will appear on the site and will be available for download.
Thursday, May 01, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
If you are a subscriber to Object Desktop, it gives you a bunch of great applications like WindowBlinds, DeskScapes, Start8, ModernMix, and more. We also make a download and update manager specifically for Object Desktop users so you can easily manage the apps available to you with your subscription. I wanted to give you a look at Object Desktop Manager, and how you can take full advantage of it.
You can find the download to Object Desktop Manager in your Stardock account. Here you can also download your apps individually if you need to do so. Just download and install the app and enter your Stardock account credentials.
Installing and Updating Apps
Installing and updating your Object Desktop apps is the main focus of Object Desktop Manager. Once ODM is setup you will see a list of all the applications available for you to download and install. All you have to do now is check which apps you want and click the install button. The installation will proceed and you’ll just follow a few prompts, and soon you will have all these cool apps ready for your desktop.
Updating app is very similar. As you can see in the screenshot below there’s an update for ModernMix, so I just need to check the box on that and install. When a new update is available Object Desktop Manager can notify you via the system tray, and you can even configure ODM to download the updates.
Managing Your Object Desktop Apps and Subscriptions
Not sure if you have a particular app installed? Need to uninstall it for some reason? No problem. Just click ‘Installed’ at the top of the ODM app and you’ll see a list of all the apps you currently have installed. You can even launch the software from here or uninstall apps from here as well.
Clicking the ‘Subscriptions’ link you can see your Object Desktop subscription information like your expiration date and product key. If you have a subscription to WinCustomize.com, you can also see the expiration date for that too. From here you can press the Extend button and be taken to our store to renew/extend your subscription.
The default settings in Object Desktop Manager will work for most users, but if you need to change some of the configuration you can do that in the settings window. Just click the gear icon in the upper-right of ODM and click Settings. Here you can configure a variety of other settings like showing beta versions of app, launching ODM at Windows start, update check time and auto-downloading of updates, file locations, and more.
Wednesday, April 09, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing
Fences has been one of the most popular desktop organization apps since its introduction several years ago. It has nearly 5 million downloads on Download.com alone and has been recommended by many publications including Lifehacker, PCWorld, and more.
If you aren’t familiar with what Fences does, let me give a brief explanation. If you have a desktop full of icons they can quickly add up and become an unorganized mess in a hurry. Fences lets users create shaded areas on the desktop which contain groups of icons which you can organize inside these areas.
There’s lots of other cool features in Fences that can help you to keep your desktop organized, and here are 3 of my favorite tips to get the most out of using Stardock’s Fences.
Use Rules for Sorting
This is an awesome feature that I think some users might overlook when setting up Fences. You can setup rules in Fences which will help you with sorting and auto-organizing icons. By default, any new icons appearing on your desktop just go right to the desktop. By using a rule, you can set it up to where a certain type of icon will be placed in a fence that you define.
For instance, you can create a rule that will place all new image icons into a fence you have created just for that purpose. You can choose from a variety of types for your rules such as images, documents, folders, web links, and more. You can also set name-based and time-based rules as well.
Customize the Appearance
We like customization, and there’s quite a few ways you can customize your fences. My personal favorite ability is being able to adjust the transparency of a fence. This works great when trying to blend in with a desktop wallpaper I might be using. Fences also allows you to adjust the color by using sliders, and you can also adjust the label text, size, and font used.
Another cool trick is that you can hide a fence by right-clicking the fence, and setting it’s opacity to 0. With that set, the fence and its icons will be hidden until you mouseover the fence.
Create Folder Portals
Do you have a favorite folder you access al the time and want an easier way to interact with it? With Fences you can create a Folder Portal that you can access the contents of any folder right on your desktop. Setting up a portal is nearly the same as setting up a regular fence, but you’ll just need to select the folder to you want to access.
Friday, March 14, 2014 by Island Dog | Discussion: OS Customization
The ability to customize your Windows desktop has been around for quite some time now, and there's never been a better time to jump in and start making Windows look and work how you want it to. We've previously talked about how Stardock has several $5 apps to make Windows 8 more usable, and today we're going to take it a step further with some other customization and enhancement apps that are just $10.
Lets take a look at some of the best and most popular desktop customization apps that you can use to completely change the look and feel of Windows 8 and Windows 7.
WindowBlinds is the flagship application in the Object Desktop suite, and has been downloaded more than 18 million times on Download.com alone. WindowBlinds lets Windows users change the entire look of Windows by applying skins to the user interface. There are thousands available for download on sites like WinCustomize.com which offers a huge variety of skins in just about every color and design you could possibly imagine.
Users can even customize skins further by applying colors, textures, and by adjusting the transparency of different parts of the user interface. If you are using Windows 8 and the popular Start8 application to bring back the start menu, then WindowBlinds will also skin the start menu to match the rest of the skin.
TIP: Object Desktop includes all the apps we talked about today.
DeskScapes is another popular app, and it also goes along perfectly with other apps such as WindowBlinds. DeskScapes brings animation to your desktop by using videos and animated pictures as your desktop background. You can also customize your own background wallpaper with effects, and also includes support for multiple monitors.
TIP: Create your own animated wallpapers with the DreamMaker app included with DeskScapes.
WindowFX is a another cool product that really enhances your desktop experience by adding over 30 animated effects to your desktop windows and over 20 that can be added to your start menu. Animations can be applied to such things like open and closing windows, moving windows, and more.
Other features including the ability to automatically resize windows, hide labels on desktop icons, and use a focus feature to highlight open windows.
TIP: Many of the animations can be configured with different animation styles