Making Windows Vista YOURS
Monday, January 29, 2007 by Frogboy | Discussion: OS Customization
Windows Vista has finally arrived! Many people have been asking us what are Stardock's plans? What can we do to take an excellent new OS like Windows Vista and make it better?
There have been a lot of articles on how users of Windows XP can get a lot of the visual benefits of Windows Vista using Stardock Object Desktop. And while that may be true, Windows Vista provides us a whole new canvas of cool things we can do.
For Starters: LogonStudio Vista
We've developed a new format (.logonvista). While existing .logonxp files won't work on Windows Vista due to the significant change in the way logons are displayed, I have a feeling there will be no shortage of logons being made for Windows Vista.
LogonStudio Vista will be available for free when it's finished. If you want it now, you'll need to get Object Desktop.
Availability: NOW for Object Desktop users.
Your GUI your way: WindowBlinds 5.5
With thousands of different visual styles to skin the look and feel of Windows Vista, along with the ability to change color, saturation, and all kinds of other elements, Windows Vista users will be able to make Windows Vista look however they want it to look.
And for power users -- WindowBlinds cuts battery consumption over Windows Vista Aero significantly. On our internal tests, running Vista with a WindowBlinds skin gave back over 40 minutes of battery life on a Dell laptop. You can test for yourself, it's pretty consistent. And if that's not enough, WindowBlinds is faster too thanks to DWM caching.
Availability: NOW for Object Desktop users (in beta). Public release, February 5th.
Animated Wallpaper on-the-fly: DeskScapes
If you have Windows Vista Ultimate, you will be able to get Microsoft's new animated wallpaper extra called Windows DreamScene. It lets you play video as animated wallpaper. If you like the computer generated animated wallpaper that comes with it, then good, we made it, including the one shown at launch and the default official one (animated Aurora).
Object Desktop users will be able to get exclusive animated wallpapers not available anywhere else. And they'll be getting our new program that lets Windows Vista Ultimate users have dynamic animated wallpaper. Dynamic animated wallpaper is generated on the fly and it's all done on the video card so even on a mid-powerful computing rig, you'll see virtually no CPU use and incredibly cool stuff.
Moreover, it supports a new format we've designed called .dream. Amongst the various features it supports, one really straight forward one we think artists will enjoy -- credit. Look at the screenshot on the right and you'll see that we've extended the wallpaper dialog to support author info (which can be a link to a website). Creating a good animated wallpaper is non-trivial and we figured artists would want to make sure their hard work gets credit and send them traffic.
Availability: As soon as Microsoft releases Windows DreamScene for Object Desktop users.
Gadgets: The Next Generation = DesktopX
Windows Vista includes the Sidebar. That's good. Making sidebar gadgets is not particularly easy. That's bad. But sidebar gadgets provide a standard format. That's good. But the native functionality of the Sidebar gadget APIs is painfully low. That's bad.
Enter: DesktopX 3.5. Nearly ready for beta, DesktopX allows users to export their creations as Windows Sidebar gadgets! This is significant because of the massive functionality and API support built natively into DesktopX. From a technological point of view, it's a superset of every widget/gadget implementation out there. With 8 years of development behind DesktopX and thousands of widgets, objects, and gadgets out there, it provides a huge boost to Windows Sidebar gadgets and a great way for users to be introduced to the power of DesktopX.
Because DesktopX doesn't just make gadgets, you can build desktops (we even make an enterprise version of DesktopX for corporations wanting to create secure branded desktop environments).
Stardock also has developed a technology that allows users to create gadgets in .NET (including WPF gadgets). We'll be talking more about that soon.
Availability: Late February Beta for Object Desktop users
Changing Icons for Windows Vista: IconPackager 2.5
Changing the icons for Windows Vista is not quite as easy as previous OSes. For one thing, the folders are done differently -- they have "live previews". But no worry, we've got that nailed down now and you can now even change the live folder preview icons and still get live previews!
Availability: Early February in beta on Object Desktop.
Your own boot screen: BootSkin Vista
Stardock BootSkin allows users of Windows XP to change their boot screens. So what about Windows Vista users? On Windows Vista, the default is not boot screen at all! With BootSkin Vista, you'll be able to have your own high-resolution, high color boot screen of your choice.
Like BootSkin for Windows XP, when completed it'll be released as freeware. But the initial beta will be on Object Desktop only.
Availability: Mid March for beta on Object Desktop.
Tweak Vista with...TweakVista!
We've partnered up with TweakVista.com to bring you a new program called TweakVista. Designed both for power users and their friends and family, TweakVista lets users get into the guts of Windows Vista but also allows casual users to maintain their systems.
Many people reading this are probably the family "computer guy". If you are, you'll definitely want TweakVista to hand out to people because it helps take care of the most common problems people run into with a Windows PC. But it also lets you dig into the guts of Vista to change undocumented settings and get more data on your system than..well probably more data than you really need to know.
Availability: Mid March beta.
A Dock for Vista: ObjectDock
If you have ObjectDock 1.5, you have the version that already runs on Windows Vista. But the good news is that we are busy at work on the next version of ObjectDock which is due out later this year. If you don't have ObjectDock (particularly ObjectDock Plus) grab it! You can get ObjectDock right now at www.objectdock.com.
Better Cursors for Vista: CursorVista
CursorXP is the defacto alternative to the Windows XP mouse cursors. On Windows Vista, CursorVista is being designed to make it even more powerful. Thanks to the new DWM (the composited, 3D surface that is the Windows Vista desktop), all kinds of fun should be possible. We are getting fairly close to having a beta of this available. If you have Windows XP, you can get CursorXP at www.cursorxp.com
Availability: Early Spring
And now a peek at Stardock's lab!
Working on stuff that's about to get released is very exciting. But the stuff that's just getting cooked up in the labs is just as exciting. When Windows Vista's RTM build was sent to us, we were able to start digging in and seeing what's possible. As video driver quality gets better and we get a handle on what parts of Windows are more easily extended than others, cool stuff results.
My #1 reason I like Windows Vista in terms of customization is that it's free from a CPU point of view. Now that the desktop is a 3D surface, we can do all kinds of cool stuff without affecting system performance.
For instance, Microsoft's Windows DreamScene plays video as your wallpaper. Now, I've seen people say "You could do animated wallpaper on Windows with <insert hack here>." Please. What is possible and what is practical are two different things. The only CPU used by DreamScene is in the decoding of video which is not a major deal now adays. Other effects are completely done on the video card.
On Windows XP, we had to develop a DirectX interface ourselves to get universally good performance with this stuff (which people noticed in WindowBlinds 5). But on Vista, everything's already on the video card, it's great!
Rise of the Super-Gadgets: Code-Name DesktopVista
With Microsoft providing a standard gadget format, Stardock can then concentrate its resources into what it does best -- making really cool technology. Not a competitor to DesktopX, DesktopVista is designed to enable the creation skinnable gadgets. That is, a system in which a standard gadget skin format can be created and used to skin gadgets. Right now, it's just a technology.
A New Style for Windows Vista: Code-Name StyleVista
Windows Vista is pretty polished. But it could be polished further. Enter StyleVista. This new program will let users alter the little touches that Microsoft has in Windows Vista that don't quite fit into skinning but also are just beyond what is included. Want a different blur effect? Want to change that Start button? StyleVista is for you. We're still inventorying what we can and can't do with the DWM now that finalized video drivers are coming out so we'll have more news on this soon.
Build your own 3D desktop: Time for 3D modelers to get their day
For years, a significant percentage of artists were locked out of customization. 3D modelers might be able to make pretty rendered icons but beyond that, things were limited. But now, thanks to a combination of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Media Center Markup Language (MCML) we are exploring letting users take their 3D creations from Maya, 3D Studio (and if possible XAML) and turn them into working, fucntional 3D desktops. Not 3D in the sense that you move around the screen but rather where the objects you interact with are 3D.
What we can and can't do will heavily depend on the capabilities of WPF/MCML and the DWM which we're still exploring (as well as video drivers). We hope to have something to show late summer.
Other Cool Stuff(TM)
People on Linux have been showing off XGL for awhile. Anyone with Windows XP should try out WindowFX and know we've been doing window scaling, 3D dragging of windows, and all kinds of effects since Windows XP launched and we didn't have the benefit of a 3D accelerated desktop. Now we do. That's all I'm going to say on that.
It's going to be an exciting year! Stay tuned!