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Stardock's Cider Mill Trip!

Thursday, October 28, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

I am in a unique and wonderful position here at Stardock in that I genuinely enjoy spending time with my colleagues. Many of us spend time outside of work hours playing board games, slaying monsters in Dungeons & Dragons, or critiquing new and popular films out at the theater together. 

Once in awhile, our amazing operations team plans an outing for us so we can all get out of the office and enjoy some teambuilding activities. Autumn is widely celebrated in Michigan as cider season, and since we are blessed with so many beautiful apple orchards here we're lucky enough to be able to go and enjoy all of the fun that goes along with it.

What does "fun" look like at the apple orchard? It comes in many forms, but in the case of our trip it was a hay ride, a trip through a corn maze, and then roasting marshmallows and eating sugary cider donuts around a toasty bonfire. You can check out a video of our cider mill trip here if you like!

If you're unfamiliar with the concept of a corn maze, it's pretty much just what it sounds like: several paths are made in a corn field at the end of the corn harvesting season and people are turned loose within to find hidden stations. When you reach a station, you punch your card with the associated symbol and then enter it into a drawing for a prize later. 

After the tractor picked us up again, we headed back to our bonfire pit. We had an hour or so to just relax and visit with one another while we roasted marshmallows, drank delicious fresh-pressed cider, and devoured cinnamon-sugar cider donuts - a beloved delicacy here in Michigan!

After we sugared ourselves up, we headed home so that we could start our weekend! The first thing I did when I got back (aside from flurry-cleaning my house before my company arrived) was put some cider in a pot on the stove and heat it up with some mulling spices. It's one of my favorite treats for when the weather starts to turn cold! If you can get your hands on some good apple cider, you should absolutely try this - my recipe is below.

Kristy's Mulling Spice Recipe

  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup star anise
  • 1/4 cup dried orange peel, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons whole allspice
  • 3 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon crystalized ginger, finely chopped (add more ginger for a bit more zip!)

Combine the cinnamon sticks and nutmeg in a plastic bag together. Smash the bag with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer to break them up into smaller pieces.

Combine the contents of the plastic bag with everything else and mix well. Store in an air-tight container. You can also opt to separate the mixture into small cheesecloth pouches or pre-made teabags, but I prefer to just toss it all into the cider loosey-goosey.

To make mulled cider:

Add 1-2 tablespoons of the mix to about 3 or 4 cups of fresh cider and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour into mugs. You can strain out the spices if you prefer, but I usually leave them in.
I also like to add fresh orange slices, cranberries, and/or apple slices if I'm feeling fancy.
Add a splash of bourbon or whiskey if you're of age and feeling spicy! 
These spices also taste absolutely delicious when combined with a bottle of red wine and heated up over the stove.

Are you a cider mill fan? Tell me about what kinds of autumn traditions are alive in your area!

Last Minute Halloween Themes and Skins!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

Halloween is this weekend, so there's just a few more days to get your desktop ready for the day! We've been looking at many skins over the past couple of weeks, so I wanted to finish off the Halloween season with a few of our favorites. 

We want to see your Halloween desktops, so be sure to post a screenshot in our October desktop thread.


Bad Jack






Busy Night


Toxic Halloween

Stardock's Chili Cook-off!

Thursday, October 21, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

I am a lover of soups, stews, and chilis.

The very second the weather dipped below 60 here in Michigan, I popped my head out the door and bellowed "SOUP SEASON!" think I'm exaggerating or being dramatic, but I'm not. My friends (and my poor neighbors) will attest.

Anyway, I'm not the only one who loves this time of year around here! Fall sees all sorts of fun activities popping up at Stardock, from visits to Cider Mills, to Halloween costume contests, and of course also chili cook-offs. We missed out on pretty much all of these things last year, so we're hitting 2021 with a vengeance. 

Last week was our annual chili cook-off, and we brought our best offerings to share with our coworkers and appeal to their better judgments. Some people even teamed up and took to google to find the ultimate recipe for the competition! We had a lot of delicious chilis to taste that day.

Our six competitors were:

  • Bacon's The Bomb Chili - Traditional style red chili with ground beef and bacon
  • Chili.lua - Dark chocolate chili with stout and beef stew chunks
  • Dance Magic Chili - White chicken chili with green chiles, cream, and cumin
  • Verde Chicken Chili - Chicken chili with green chiles
  • Winning Chili - Traditional red chili
  • M-34 Chili - Dark chili made with beer

After vigorous taste testing (and some precarious balancing acts trying to get all the tasting cups back to our seats!), we voted via a QR code that Raeann, our one of our brilliant members of the Operations team, set up for us. A dramatic drumroll or three later, we had our winners!

Debbie's Bacon chili came in at 3rd place, followed by Max and Jacob's dark chocolate chili. Their medal is being beautifully modeled by Scherzer, one of our resident office doggos. My white chicken chili took 1st place, and the trophy is now nestled on my desk next to several other Stardock prizes and mementos I've collected through my years here.

We do cook-offs occasionally here, and it's always fun to see what different tastes and experiences everyone brings with their cooking! Some of us bring tried and true family favorites, while others do some online research, find one that looks good, and gives it a whirl. Every method is valid and delicious - I'm looking forward to whatever our next cook-off is going to be!

Do you have a favorite chili recipe? Have you done cook-offs at work or with friends before? Tell me about it!

NOW ANNOUNCING: Fences 4 - Get into the Alpha Today

Now with a refreshed interface and Win 11 support, users can continue to organize shortcuts and icons on their PC desktop

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

Stardock Announces Fences 4 with new features, a Refreshed
Interface and Support for Windows 11
Fences 4 offers an array of customizations to keep PC desktops clean and organized
Get into the alpha now (available exclusively through Object Desktop)

Stardock announced Fences 4, a program that allows users to automatically organize shortcuts and icons on their PC desktops into custom-sized spaces called fences. As with previous editions of the software, Fences 4 creates dedicated areas to organize icons and folders and offers additional customization features that has made it popular with millions of users of Microsoft Windows®. 

"Fences 4 is being designed to meet the needs of today's PC user," said Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock. "Fences has always been a great way to show a clean desktop or to organize it and now we are adding features that allow users who want a minimalistic desktop to have that while also supporting users who use the desktop as a natural extension of their work space."

Stardock has released an alpha version of Fences 4 for Windows 10 and 11 to users of its Object Desktop suite. New features will be added to it throughout the fall with a targeted release later this winter.

Upcoming features for Fences 4 include virtual desktop support, enhanced search functionality, roaming profiles, and many other updates that will help home and business users stay organized. 

Additionally, Stardock has announced Fences for Business, which will help keep PCs organized and standardized across the workforce. A new kiosk mode will help administrators lock their entire desktop layout, while the Snapshots feature will allow them to replicate layouts across multiple devices. 

The Fences 4 alpha is available exclusively through the Object Desktop suite
For more information, visit the Fences 4 website here.

Top 5 Animated Wallpapers for Halloween!

Monday, October 18, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

Halloween is just a couple of weeks away, and now is the time to get your desktop ready! Today I wanted to feature some of the fantastic, animated wallpapers for DeskScapes that we have on WinCustomize. An animated wallpaper is a fun way to add some customization to your desktop, and Halloween is an especially fun time.

Come check out some of top animated wallpapers for Halloween!

Halloween Eve


Spooky Halloween Forest with Bats


Candle Inside Halloween Pumpkin


Foggy Mistic Forest


Halloween Night



Top 3 Software I use to keep my PC organized

Fences, Groupy, and Start10/11 are the real MVPs

Thursday, October 14, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

If you know me, then you know that the idea of me writing about any form of organization is a ploy of comedy in and of itself. Still, as all over the place as I am with just about every aspect of my life, that doesn't stop me from trying to be more organized.

I spend quite a lot of time at my computer, both for work and for leisure. Beyond a few very important things, I don't really have much of a system for where I put documents or shortcuts - they just sort of get lobbed on the desktop as a problem for future Kristy to swear over while she tries to find wherever the $*#! she put that really important program she needs right now

Obviously, this isn't very efficient, and is certainly more than a little frustrating. I've gotten a lot better about this in recent years, and I admit that the primary reason for that is the software I started using when I came to Stardock back in 2015. A few programs in particular have defined my workflow over the years, and I'd like to share a brief overview of them with you. Let's take a look!


This program seriously revolutionized how I manage my Windows desktop space. I use it both at work and at home, and whenever I find myself trying to navigate a PC without it, I feel a little bit lost. I run two monitors at home and actually have them split for work and play, just so I can find what I need more easily. I talk about it a bit more in a blog here.

If I didn't have two monitors, I would probably use the "pages" feature in Fences so that I could swipe between my personal leisure apps and my professional work programs. I also take a lot of screenshots, so being able to double-click on the desktop to hide all of my icons is super convenient. Most of all, though, I just love how I can make categories and then sort items into those fences based on setting specific rules pertaining to them. If you haven't made use of that feature, definitely make sure you try it out!


Where do I even begin with Groupy? It was honestly a program that I had no idea I needed until I had it, and now I can't live without it. Not only is Groupy a huge space saver, but it also lets me sort my work into categories, which is really important for what I do. Because I'm on the marketing team, I have my hands in a lot of different projects at once, sometimes bouncing between multiple different titles within a single day. Groupy helps me keep them all apart.

When I stream, I love being able to group Xsplit, my Twitch channel, my Discord, and any other notes or websites I might need for the game I'm playing onto one monitor while my game takes up the other monitor. I then set a hotkey and use it to tab between them easily while I'm streaming - I don't know if I can ever go back to not having this app! If you want to read about it in a little more detail, you can check out a blog I wrote here.


I held onto Windows 7 as long as I possibly could before I built a new PC for myself and had no choice but to move onto Windows 10. The thing about change is that we all tend to resist it at first - I think it's a fairly natural thing! - and then eventually fold over into acceptance when we realize that maybe it wasn't so bad after all. In the case of Windows operating system, this seems to be a very cyclical thing - and I know many of us are experiencing this very emotion with Windows 11 right now!

When I got to Stardock, the IT team asked me if I would like Start10 installed on my computer. When they explained to me what it was, I absolutely said yes - and then was overjoyed to see the return of my familiar and favorite menu style. When Microsoft announced Windows 11, we launched immediately into developing Start11, which I currently have installed (along with the new OS) on my laptop. Start11 not only helps me restore my favorite versions of the Windows menu style, but also extends that to support a bunch of new menu ideas like the concept of pages and minimalism.

The newest update to Start11 released today, actually - if you're a Start11 user, make sure you try out Release Candidate 2! 

Those are my top 3 organization apps for my Windows PC. What are some of your favorites and how do you use them to keep yourself organized? Share with me!

Fun Halloween Wallpapers, Cursors, and Themes to Download!

Monday, October 11, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

Halloween is just a few short weeks away, and it's always a fun time to put a "costume" on your desktop! We've asked the WinCustomize community in the past what their favorite "skinning holidays" are and Halloween is always one of the favorites. I've been going through the gallery and grabbing some of my favorites and wanted to share them in this week's post.

Bat O Ween (WindowBlinds)


Halloween Night (DeskScapes animated wallpaper)


Black Widow Halloween (CursorFX)


Helloween (Wallpaper)


Halloween Tree (Wallpaper)


NOW AVAILABLE: Release Candidate 1 Update for Start11

Friday, October 8, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

Enhance the Start Menu and Restore Classic Functionality with Start11

Get into the Beta

Stardock announced the availability of the Release Candidate 1 update for Start11, a program that allows users to customize the Windows Start menu and taskbar. This update brings several new Start menu layouts to choose from, restored context menu functionality, enabled repositioning of the taskbar, plus one of our users’ favorite features: Fences integration. As with previous editions of StartX products, Start11 allows users to restore the Start menu to appear as it does in previous versions of Windows, as well as customize and enhance its functionality.  


Start11 is designed for Windows 11 and Windows 10 and comes loaded with features intended to make Windows more productive and personal. Start11 supports moving the Start button to the middle or to the left, adjusting the taskbar size, re-ordering quick access shortcut lists, options for adjusting grid spacing, enhanced classic and modern search experiences, and much more.  

For users who want to personalize their Start menu, Start11 offers robust customization options ranging from aesthetic to functional. The software enables enhanced Windows 10 and Windows 11 style Start menus, a compact Windows 7 design, optional Windows 11 style for classic menus, and many additional settings that let you configure your personalized Start menu.  

Start11 extends this to support a host of new Start menu ideas such as the concept of pages, minimalism, and features for our enterprise customers.


The Start11 beta is currently available for $4.99.
Get into the Beta


Windows 11 updates: better than Windows 10? It appears so!

Thursday, October 7, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

If you're a Windows user, then you've definitely had this happen before.

You're playing or working, deeply engrossed in whatever it is you're doing, and then suddenly your computer alerts you to a Windows update! Or, in some cases, just shuts down and decides to update right then and there. It's obnoxious, it's frustrating, and now it's hopefully a thing of the past.

Windows 11 launched just a couple of days ago and Microsoft had been telling us quite a lot about their new OS leading up the launch, including providing details on how Windows 11 intends to deliver seamless updates that will be 40% smaller than those of Windows 10. These updates are supposed to take place with a lot less frequency, which means they shouldn't interrupt what you're doing - a bonus!

According to Microsoft, Windows 11 will have fewer feature updates than Windows 10 did, with a single feature update released every year, much like Apple's annual macOS updates. In order to achieve this, Microsoft has made some quality-of-life improvements to Windows 11's updates.

Image credit: Microsoft

When a new patch is available and you go to check for updates, Windows 11 will compare the contents of the new update with what's already installed on your PC. That way, it will only download the necessary parts of what you need, which makes the size of the update significantly smaller and way more efficient.

Windows 11 users will see their updates downloaded automatically when they aren't actively using their PC thanks to a new version of Microsoft's AI and machine learning software. Although there's a lot about upcoming Windows 11 updates that are great, it should be noted that the updates won't necessarily be faster. You will still have to restart your machine after an update and stare at a blank screen while it implements for a bit. 

Image credit: Microsoft

Microsoft launched Windows 11 just two days ago on October 5th and will continue to roll it out gradually over the next few months. If you're planning to make the move over to the new OS and want to jump right into customizing, make sure to check out Start11 and the other great programs in our Object Desktop suite, many of which can still be utilized on Windows 11. 

Did you download Windows 11 yet? Tell me about your favorite features!

Share Your October Desktops with the WinCustomize Community!

Monday, October 4, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

We are finally into fall and October is already here! Since it is October, now is a fun time to get your Halloween themed desktops ready! We have a bunch of Halloween skins, so it'll be fun to see what you put together this month. Take a screenshot and post to our desktop screenshot thread linked below and let us know what themes you are using this month.

Post your desktops to the monthly thread here:

(This is a news thread and will be locked. Screenshot taken by teddybearcholla)