Refreshing Stardock, One Page at a Time
Tuesday, January 31, 2023 by BradSams | Discussion: Stardock Blog
Earlier this year, we started to roll out updates to Stardock.com to improve the user experience for downloading applications and managing subscriptions. In addition, we have also overhauled our help portal and are now shifting focus to our app pages.
We've rolled out the first new app page update, bringing with it a new style and messaging for one of our most popular applications: Start11. The new page layout has larger images, new messaging for both home and business users, easier link discoverability, and more.
Start11 New App Page
Along with the new design, one of the bigger changes makes it easier to find the trial links for our software. In our old design, the software trial links for our applications were not easily discoverable – the new layout places an emphasis on making this link easy to find.
Bringing the business and consumer pages together will also improve our discoverability. While we do currently have pages dedicated to our enterprise clients, we know that most of them initially learn about our products from our consumer pages. By creating one page that can effectively serve both users, we can streamline our navigation and better serve both types of users.
Start11 Legacy App Page
With the first page nearly complete, we will start to roll out these design updates to more pages next month. We are still making a few optimizations to our design and mobile layout, but if you see any oddities, please let us know.
Updating all of our core app pages will push us closer to our goal of modernizing many aspects of our site experience, but the work is not done. We still have more plans to continue to update Stardock.com, but we will share more about those efforts when they are closer to fruition.
How to make Windows 11 look like Windows 95
Wednesday, December 21, 2022 by BradSams | Discussion: Stardock Blog
Earlier this year, we released WindowBlinds 11 and with it, we included a modern theme that looks like the future of Windows but also a retro theme that brings back memories of Windows XP. And today, we are taking it back even further with a true classic Windows theme.
With the latest update to WindowBlinds 11, we have now included Windows Classic, a truly retro theme that takes you back to the era of Windows 95. We have spent a significant amount of time crafting this style to be a faithful replication of the previous version of Windows.
And like our other themes, when paired with Start11, you get the best experience where the Start menu, along with the frames and taskbar, are themed too. The Windows Classic theme is included as a default option, and while you can install many other styles from our user-created marketplace inside the application, there is no additional cost for this particular theme.
Along with the new theme, there are a couple of bug fixes in this release including better interoperability with Fences 4 along with an improved experience for selecting which themes to include during installation.
While we don’t want to spoil any upcoming themes, this is not the only release we have planned for WindowBlinds 11. Our expert skinners are already working on another update that we know you will love but you’ll have to wait until early next year for that release.
You can download the update with the new theme today by opening WindowBlinds and searching for an update, downloading the build from your Stardock dashboard, or if you need to purchase the application, you can do so here.
This last week of holiday celebrating has been a whirlwind.
Saturday, December 17, 2022 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog
The holidays are in full swing here at Stardock, and we’ve had ourselves quite the busy week! Although most of us are local to Michigan, some of our colleagues work remotely with us from elsewhere. For the last couple of years, Stardock has made sure to fly them out for the festivities so that we can spend some time with them in person, and believe me we made the most of it this year!
We kicked our week off with one of our patented game nights in the studio’s cafe. We wanted to make sure they got a taste of the original Detroit-style pizza, so we ordered some Buddy’s for dinner and got started right after our work days ended.
I brought and introduced a game that was new to most everyone else called Wavelength. In Wavelength, you break off into teams and take turns sending up a clue giver. The clue giver then draws a card with a range on it (example: Genuine to Not Genuine, Best Dog Breed to Worst Dog Breed, etc.) and then spins a dial.
The dial brings up a target range which, due to the spin, lands randomly on the face of the spinner. The clue giver must then give a clue that falls within the range of their card in an attempt to get their teammates to turn the dial to where they think the bull’s eye is.
The clues can be pretty creative, too! My favorite was for Genuine | Not Genuine and was “A used car salesman, but he has pictures of his family in his wallet.” Our team turned the dial hard toward Not Genuine, but pulled it back a bit because of the “pics of his family” modifier. It was a clever clue, even if we did end up missing the mark a bit!
We played with 3 teams instead of 2 because there were so many (25!) of us. Team Right, Team Left, and Team…Clump of people in the back. Team Clump was very enthusiastic, and all I learned from that night was that I need to switch up my naming conventions. Also, just so I don’t get bullied, I feel that I should mention that “Team Left” took home the win.
We split off into groups then and played some rousing games of Avalon, Euchre, and other things. It was so nice having our friends from out of town in the same room as us! We enjoy our online game nights, sure, but there are just some things that are better to do in person.
Speaking of better to do in person, one of the other things that’s hard to do online together is an escape room. So the following night, we loaded everyone in a few cars and drove out to Decode: Ypsilanti, where we tackled probably the most elaborate and beautiful escape room I’ve ever been in (and I’ve been in a lot!).
But first, we had dinner at Hop Cat, a local favorite in downtown Ann Arbor. Can’t tackle complicated puzzles on an empty stomach!
When we got to Decode, our guide Patton was waiting for us. He was fantastic! A great game master with a ton of enthusiasm and full-on commitment to the story of the room, which I really appreciated.
We escaped with about 10 minutes to spare! It was definitely the most challenging room I’ve ever been in, but we tackled it with gusto and had a fabulous time doing so. Our smiles afterwards were even bigger than our smiles going in - I knew we had it in us to get out.
Finally, to the main event of the week: the holiday party! Brad and Debbie, the company’s owners, always graciously open their home to us each year so that we can spend the day enjoying delicious food and even better company. We play a lot of games, have a fun white elephant gift exchange, and just enjoy time appreciating each other and the year we’ve had.
Getting back to reality on Thursday was tough, but we managed! We had the update for the Sins of a Solar Empire II Technical Preview to release, after all. Today is a day for eating more of the leftovers from the party, playing some lunch euchre, and then crashing at home under my Star Wars Christmas blanket with my cat.
We are getting ready for our holiday closure here, too. Stardock will be closed from Friday, December 22nd through Monday, January 2nd and will reopen on Tuesday, January 3rd. I know we’ve all been looking forward to some well-deserved rest and relaxation!
From all of us here at Stardock, we wish you and yours a warm and wonderful holiday season. See you in 2023!
Lots of bugs squashed
Thursday, December 8, 2022 by BradSams | Discussion: Stardock Blog
Today we released Start11 v1.36, which brings with it numerous bug fixes, compatibility updates for using with other Stardock products, and a couple of optimizations on startup. You can download the update now from your Stardock account, or by going to "about" inside the application and checking for updates.
In this release (you can read the entire changelog here), we focused on squashing many of the bugs that have been reported, as well as enhancing compatibility with WindowBlinds 11. For those who are applying the various styles that WindowBlinds provides out of the box, you will find a more consistent experience when using both of the applications in tandem.
Along with the bug fixes, we have made enhancements to the startup process for Start11 that should resolve any visual impairments experienced after a reboot. There are also quite a few tweaks to how various assets are displayed when using either light or dark mode with Windows 11.
Our goal with v1.35 was to focus on direct user feedback regarding where the app needed improvement. An application like Start11 has an almost unlimited number of deployment scenarios, and while we do test and validate our products before shipping, there will also be edge cases that may not show up in our reviews.
We always value the feedback of our customers and if you have suggestions about features we should add to Start11, make sure to let us know in our forums or the comments below.
Making Windows look a little more modern.
Tuesday, December 6, 2022 by BradSams | Discussion: Stardock Blog
Last week, we released WindowBlinds 11 1.0, and with it comes a bunch of new features. One of them is that, for specific styles, it’s possible to bring a rounded taskbar to Windows 11.
There are several themes out of the box, but one in particular - Diamond - has been overhauled to support all of the new features in WindowBlinds 11. This means that along with higher DPI support and themes for various Start menu styles, we also took the time to implement a rounded taskbar.
With a few simple clicks, you can apply the Diamond theme to your desktop and experience a modern Windows design. Like all themes within WindowBlinds, you can customize it to your exact specification by adjusting the transparency, font, and more from within the app.
While not all themes have a rounded taskbar, support is up to the designer to implement. With the release of v1.0, we expect more updates to arrive from our community of creators in the near future.
If you are looking at the Diamond theme and thinking, "it would be great if there was a darker version," don't worry; we are hard at work building out this style and expect to ship it at a later date. Like all skins, if you do not want the included Start button to be present, you can default back to the standard Windows icon.
WindowBlinds is Stardock’s most robust application when it comes to personalization. With 1.0 now out the door, the work begins on updating older styles so that they support new features we have introduced. We can't wait to see what you come up with.
And by 'you', we mean anyone who has purchased WindowBlinds 11. With each purchase, you also receive a copy of our SkinStudio suite so that you can build your own design from scratch or further customize an existing design, too.
All the tutorials you will ever need
Thursday, November 17, 2022 by BradSams | Discussion: Stardock Blog
Every day, we help our customers activate, install, reset passwords, and find their license keys for our software. It’s part of the job, after all; when you help make Windows more personal and productive for hundreds of thousands of users each month, questions are going to arise.
Historically, we have helped our customers in various ways from our support forums to our ticketing platform, but for the last couple of months we have been working to overhaul our documentation platform. That effort has now produced the fruits of our new support portal.
Filled to the brim with documentation, guides, screenshots, and other information about how to get the most out of Stardock software, you can find it all at one convenient address: support.stardock.com.
Our new portal will make it easier for you to find the documentation you need with a robust search index, easy-to-follow navigation prompts, and a breadcrumb trail to help you find your way back home if you end up lost in the wrong section.
While I know it’s not always the first consideration someone makes when trying to decide if they want to buy software, we do really put forward a strong effort to work with every customer who needs assistance. As I have highlighted previously, our team is based in Plymouth, Michigan – there are real humans answering your questions in the forums and via email.
We are continuing to add more helpful information to our new support portal and like all things Stardock, it will continue to evolve over time, too.
The next time you need help, make sure to check it out. And as always, if you can’t find the answer you need, asking a question in our forums is always a good option too.
The easiest way to transform your desktop is with WindowBlinds 11
Wednesday, November 9, 2022 by BradSams | Discussion: Stardock Blog
When it comes to your desktop, personalization is something that Stardock takes very seriously. After all, our goal is to make Windows more personal and productive! When it comes to personalization, no one does it better.
We recently released our second beta of WindowBlinds 11 and with it comes a new theme called Luna. With a couple of clicks of the mouse, you can quickly bring back all the nostalgia of Windows XP, but still keep the modern conveniences of Windows 11.
And in a true “better together” fashion, if you are running Start11, you will also be able to access the customized Start menu that provides the full experience. Using Start11, you can also ungroup your taskbar items like you could on Windows XP, but not on Windows 11.
WindowBlinds 11 is still in beta and we are in the process of updating several of the in-box themes, Luna included. If you spot any rough edges, make sure to let us know in our forums. For most users, we expect a pleasant experience.
And if Luna isn’t quite your style, you can use the in-box theme browser to find one that fits your personality. After all, the goal is personalization, and WindowBlinds is the industry’s best tool for transforming your desktop.
Tuesday, November 1, 2022 by redskittlesonly | Discussion: Stardock Blog
WindowBlinds first released in 1999! The idea that we could change the look of our PC from the default settings was entirely new and exciting. WindowBlinds was the first program that let users customize the look and feel of the Windows GUI and is still widely popular today.
With WindowBlinds 11 in active development, I had a thought... how many of the skins we see in WindowBlinds 11, were included in the earlier versions? While the skin I am showing below wasn't in the original WindowBlinds, it has been in since 2009!
Here is 'Diamond' back in 2009...
Here is 'Diamond' today (currently in dev...)
I love this skin because it's clean... check back for part 2 where I will feature another long-standing skin.
Faster access to your screenshots
Tuesday, October 25, 2022 by BradSams | Discussion: Stardock Blog
For those of you who take frequent screenshots, Microsoft has provided various ways to perform this task. Everything from the classic PrtSc button to various iterations of the Snipping tool has given you options for how you would like to capture the contents on your screen.
One of the shortcomings of the Snipping tool, however, is that the application would only copy the screenshot to your clipboard instead of automatically saving the file. Thankfully, Microsoft has added this functionality to a version of the snipping tool that will ship in the near future, but it has one annoying shortcoming.
While the files will now automatically save to a folder, you cannot change the location of where the file will be saved. This means that if you want your screenshots to save to your desktop (or any other location) out of the box, this is not possible. Fortunately, there's a workaround: Fences 4.
Fences 4 has a powerful feature called portals that allows you to mirror any folder to your desktop, granting you instant access. With this feature, you can now view your screenshots directly on your desktop. Additionally, with Peek you can instantly access your files if you have an application covering the fence.
With Fences and the Snipping tool, you can now access your screenshots directly from your desktop without the need to install a dedicated third-party screenshot tool. In the future, Microsoft may eventually allow you to change the default save location for the Snipping tool, but as of today, using Fences is the most viable option for a more productive workflow.
Want to try Fences 4? You can download a free trial here.
Fully customize your desktop with one click
Thursday, October 6, 2022 by BradSams | Discussion: Stardock Blog
Last week, we released the first beta for WindowBlinds 11, which is designed to run on Windows 11 (it also runs on Windows 10). Like previous versions of the application, theming your desktop is as easy as making a couple of clicks and - voila! You have completely changed the appearance of your workspace.
To get started, you will want to download WindowBlinds 11 from your downloads page. Or, you can start a free trial here.
Once installed, the configuration panel will open. This is the primary control surface for the application. From here, you can select the style for your desktop - but it’s also important to note that some styles have multiple options.
As an example, the Acrylic style has four different substyles that slightly change how the skin appears on your desktop. If you don’t see a substyle that matches your preferences, you can modify any style and save it as a preset, too.
One of the big benefits of WindowBlinds is that there are thousands of styles created by our talented community for you to choose from. You can browse skins directly within the application using the “download more styles” option.
Since you are already customizing your desktop, choosing a new wallpaper has never been easier. With WindowBlinds 11, you will see a list of wallpapers that can easily be applied to your device without having to leave the application.
In a future post, we will dive into the Settings and Advanced options, but know that there are robust controls in place to allow for per-application skinning. Some applications, like Chrome/Edge, require a few minutes of effort to make them accept the skin, too.
WindowBlinds 11 is the easiest way to skin your Windows 11 (and Windows 10) desktop. It’s important to keep in mind that Microsoft is frequently changing how Windows 11 operates, which is why we recommend you only use our software on the release builds of the OS and not the insider channels.
However, if you do run into an issue, we are happy to help triage any incompatibilities or features that are not working as expected in our support forums.