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Spring Cleaning for your Windows PC

Thursday, April 15, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

I don’t worry too much about constantly tidying and organizing my PC - until it gets annoying, anyway. By then it’s too late, and I spend all sorts of time sorting icons and renaming folders. I’ll admit that I am pretty much the same way with my house - the idea of ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ has never really resonated with me.

This creates a special sort of chaos, which is fine - until it isn’t. I know that if I had a system in place for where everything goes and just followed it, I wouldn’t have to do frantic cleaning later when I have company coming - or when my disc drives start screaming at me that they’re getting too full.

I’ve discussed my love for Fences and how essential it is in some previous blogs over the last year, and I’ll be honest - it’s gone a long way toward preventing massive bouts of “Where the heck did I put that file!?” that I used to be prone to rather frequently. Even with an organizational system in place, the occasional “spring cleaning” is still called for - let’s take a look at what can help with that!

Fences

I’m sure it comes as no shock, given the above paragraph, that this powerhouse of an app is the first one on our list. At face value, creating fenced in areas on your computer to organize your icons is useful enough, but did you know that you can customize and sort icons automatically?

You can! In the Fences settings, you can actually dictate which fence certain types of files filter into. All of the images I save on my computer filter automatically into my “Pictures and Media” fence, while any documents go to another fence that I am setting up for my Spring cleaning binge.

Your Fences can also become Folder Portals, which lets you see all of the files you need at just a glance, but won’t clutter up your desktop with tons of unsightly folders. Being able to roll up my fences also makes for a clean desktop. You can control how fences snap and resize when you move them, too. I don’t get too nitpicky with my settings personally, but the point is - if you want to, you can!

SpaceMonger

Although I sung the praises of Fences first, this is probably where you should start for your PC spring cleaning! Using SpaceMonger, you can scan, map, and manage your computer’s storage. 

When I built this PC with my friend Gus a couple of years ago, I repurposed some of my old hard drives. The C drive, however, is small - which is different from what I was used to. Previously, I would just save everything to my C drive and never really saw any space issues. This isn’t the case now, and my computer started yelling at me about limited space a few days ago.

I pulled up SpaceMonger and used it to determine exactly what was taking up so much darn space. SpaceMonger made it easy for me to isolate the major offenders and move them to other drives to free up some space. You can click on the categories that are to the left of the pie chart in order to bring up a list of all those types of files at the bottom of the screen.

In addition to running SpaceMonger, I also remembered to go into my Windows 10 settings and change where my files and folders default download to, so I should hopefully be able to alleviate any space issues before they even happen.

Tiles

Another great way to make sure you get the most out of your desktop space is by using Tiles. If you’re unfamiliar with the software, Tiles lets you create multiple desktops of related programs, files, and links through the use of a customizable sidebar on your Windows desktop. You can drag programs onto the sidebar by holding the shift key, then it will create a thumbnail of that application so that you can find it more easily.

This program works pretty well in conjunction with Fences and actually completely interfaces with Groupy (another one of my favorite workflow organization tools). You can adjust the settings in Tiles so that certain Tiles categories show only maximized or minimized Windows, as well as customize where you'd like the Tiles bar to appear on your screen.

Tiles is made to help manage apps that you’re running - which, while it doesn’t help the overall organization of your apps and icons on your PC, still goes a long way toward feeling more organized overall, especially when you’re multitasking and trying to do a lot at once. 

Start10

I have made no secret of the fact that I really dislike the Windows 10 Start menu interface. I feel like I can’t find anything half the time - so that’s why I installed Start10. It lets me choose a Windows 7 or Modern look, making it much easier for me to find what I need. 

It interfaces directly with Fences, too - it will show all of your Fences (and the colors you’ve assigned to them!) right in the Start menu. Custom searches also make for a much more organized feel for your PC, because even if all of your files and folders are organized, sometimes you just can’t remember where you put something - so just search for it right within the Start menu. Start10 and Fences, specifically, are absolutely indispensable for me. 

All of the programs I mentioned above are available individually on our website, or all together along with several other awesome apps in our Object Desktop suite.

How often do you “clean up” your PC? What are some of your favorite organizational programs? Share with me!

Stardock's Virtual Trivia Night

We're all still at home, so we decided to have some friendly competition online!

Thursday, April 8, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel! Vaccinations are rolling out and we’re all one step closer to being back together in person at the office. I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that we’ve missed each other so much. 

We’re still not quite ready to gather in person yet, so we’ve been taking our game nights online for the last year or so. A couple Fridays ago, we hosted an online trivia night using Discord. We offered a $20 Amazon gift card as a prize, worked on the honor system that no one would use Google (or any other search engine, for you loop-hole searchers!), and had a grand old time. I teamed up with Raeann, our awesome administrative assistant, and together we wrote the questions, chose the categories, and organized the entire affair.

 

The Tools

As I mentioned above, we used Discord for voice chat. Back at the start of the pandemic, we created a company server where we hosted other virtual game nights for things like Jackbox, Among Us, and plenty of games on Tabletop Simulator. Discord is nice because it has a huge room capacity, so we didn’t have to worry about anyone being left out, and Raeann was able to stream her screen with the trivia software (more on that next) easily to everyone in the room.

We needed a way to keep track of the score, the timing, and have everyone be able to answer and participate. We discovered a website called Kahoot!, which is used commonly by teachers for class trivia and quizzes. Raeann and I wrote all of the questions in a shared Google doc and then she spent the time (thanks, Raeann!) putting the questions into Kahoot for the trivia night.

 

The Trivia

First, we came up with categories about two weeks in advance and just filled in a question or two here and there as we thought of them or had free time. Then, about 2 days before trivia night, we discovered that we had completely avoided categories like Math that we both wanted nothing to do with. We figured, why write questions for a topic we hate? New topic! So we added a second miscellaneous category and ran with it.

There’s about a ten year difference in age between Raeann and I, which I found really entertaining to see when we got to any questions about pop culture - it was like two different worlds! It was also fairly obvious by the time we got to trivia night which questions I had written - I can’t help it, I’m wordy! 

 

The Team Building

We had a lot of fun together that night. The competition was friendly, the jokes were abundant, and the laughs were nonstop. Even though some of the questions were total misses - as in, no one got it right! - there was usually a question at least one person knew the answer to.

In the end, Sarah from our dev team absolutely dominated the night with an impressive total score of 29,680 and around a 70% answer rate. Second place was another member of our dev team, Xander, with a score of 19,278. Sarah took an early lead and held onto it with an iron grip - it was inspiring to see how much trivia she knew!

 

Let’s Have a Little Fun

I want to share a smattering of trivia questions with you. There are no prizes, no big to-do, and nothing to stop you from using Google, but I encourage you to try to answer these in the comments without looking up an answer. I will post the answers in the comments (or let you know when you're right!) next week. I’m picking some of my favorites from each category - I hope you all enjoy guessing as much as we enjoyed writing!

CATEGORY 1: MISCELLANEOUS

1. What do Noodlers catch with their bare hands?

2. This number, one of the first 20, uses only one vowel (4 times!)

 

CATEGORY 2: TV & MOVIES

1. The Electric Mayhem band was a regular mainstay on The Muppet Show, which aired for 120 episodes from 1976-1981. Name 3 of its 5 members. Bonus if you can name all of them!

2. Which video game franchise had frequent segments on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show?

 

CATEGORY 3: VIDEO GAMES

1. Video game sound design can often lend itself to finding sound sources in some unusual places! The Ghast enemies in Minecraft were portrayed with sounds from what real-life animal?

2. Any video game fan will tell you that a game’s music is one of the most important aspects of immersion. Composer Christopher Tin is the first musician to win a Grammy for a song written specifically for a video game. Which game was the song written for? BONUS POINT: What was the name of the song?

 

CATEGORY 4: SCIENCE

1. Humans aren’t the only beings who have been to space - they brought man’s best friend with them, too! The first animal to go to space was a dog, aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957. What was her name?

2. Which jungle animal, when in a group, is known as an “ambush”?

 

CATEGORY 5: GEOGRAPHY

1. Vienna is the capital of which European country?

2. What is the only New England state with no Atlantic coastline?

 

CATEGORY 6: LOGOS

1. Identify the company this logo is from.

2. Name the company this logo belongs to.

CATEGORY 7: TECH

1. What does "NFT" stand for?

2. What was the name of the very first computer virus?

CATEGORY 8: HISTORY

1. What piece of technology did IBM develop in 1973 that they nicknamed Winchester?

2. What was the name of the first social networking site launched on the internet in 1994?

CATEGORY 9: MORE MISCELLANEOUS

1. In the movie The Princess Bride, the characters Wesley and Inigo Montoya duel with rapiers on a cliffside. During the battle, both confess the same secret to one another: what is the secret?

2. What race of Star Wars creatures originate from the planet Kashyyyk?

CATEGORY 10: LITERATURE

1. This book series, which started in 1984, features iconic fantasy characters like Tanis Half-Elven, Raistlin Majere, and Sturm Brightblade, among many others. The books began as a Dungeons and Dragons Campaign. What is the series?

2. In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch offers Edmund hot chocolate and a sweet treat when she finds him standing alone in the cold. What did Edmund eat?

 

I am looking forward to hearing your answers. Have fun!

It’s April Fools’ Day! Let’s talk origins and great geeky pranks

Thursday, April 1, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

I absolutely love a good joke.

As long as the joke doesn’t hurt or disparage someone, I’m 100% for April Fools' pranks. While some corners of the internet are to be avoided on April 1st, I personally always look forward to some of the funny prank products that game and tech companies come up with for that day. 

I got curious about the origins of April Fools' Day, so I did a bit of searching online and found a few different accounts. The most credible explanation of its origin is on History.com, which claims that although its exact origins remain a mystery, there is an early account on April 1, 1700 of English pranksters playing practical jokes on each other, thus popularizing the tradition.

Some historians speculate that the tradition dates back to starting in 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. People who were slow to receive the news or failed to recognize the start of the new year had moved to January 1, and continued to celebrate it during the last week or March through April 1, were suddenly the butt of many jokes. 

From History.com: “These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as poisson d’avril (April fish), said to symbolize a young, “easily hooked” fish and a gullible person.

April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.”

Now that the history is covered, I thought we’d take a look at some of my favorite gag products and posts from game and tech companies from the last several years. This is by no means an exhaustive list - there are tons and tons of these, and I’d love to hear which ones are your favorites, too!

Blizzard Entertainment - Crabby the Dungeon Helper

Back in 2011, Blizzard introduced a little April Fools' joke of their own: Crabby the Dungeon Helper. This little azure crab would offer helpful tips and tricks for tackling those tough dungeons - not unlike Microsoft’s Clippy, who was absolutely essential for writing those tough college essays, right?

Blizzard has had quite a few great jokes over the years, but I think Crabby is by far one of my favorites - and I’m not even a World of Warcraft player! 

Duolingo - The Duolingo Pillow

Want to learn another language, but finding the time is tough? That’s okay, the Duolingo Pillow has you covered! With this incredible product, you can learn a language overnight and wake up bilingual in the morning. 

The Duolingo pillow offers 3 languages - Spanish, French, and Italian - with promises of adding Japanese in 2039. The website for this prank is actually very clever and entertaining to look through. The joke first debuted for April Fools' Day in 2016.

YouTube - Rickrolled

You know Rickrolling - who doesn’t? It’s one of the oldest jokes of the Internet, and I’m sure at one point or another we’ve all either been Rickrolled or have unleashed it on an unwitting friend or family member.

In 2008, YouTube took the joke to an entirely different level by redirecting all featured videos on its main page to the famous Rick Astley clip. Considering the huge amount of traffic YouTube had, even back then, I think it’s fairly safe to say that they essentially succeeded in Rickrolling the entire internet. 

Thinking about this one still makes me laugh!

Google - The Screen Cleaner

I love it when a company really commits to their jokes - and back in 2019, Google absolutely did. Not only did they have a fairly large volume of gags, but their execution was meticulous, flawless, and funny. I love this trailer for the screen cleaner who lives inside of the Files app!

2019 also saw Google introducing several other gag products, including Snake in Google Maps, the Google Tulip, and Spoon Bending for Gboard.

Walt Disney World - Snears

They’re not a tech or gaming company, but I found these while I was doing my searching and I got a great giggle out of them. What better way to enjoy snacks at Disney than out of a set of Mickey Mouse ears on your head!? 

You can see the link to the tweet containing the silly video in the header above. Hilariously, I read lots of comments about people who wished this product was real - I guess they gave Disney quite an earful.

I’m not sorry.

ThinkGeek - Literally Everything

Ah, ThinkGeek - I miss that website so much. You can still find some ThinkGeek products over at GameStop, but it’s not the same and doesn’t have nearly the same amount of selection. I was devastated when that site shut down; for the longest time, it was the only place I could get quirky nerd apparel and decor. 

What I loved about ThinkGeek so much was their humor - especially around April Fools' time. They had some pretty epic pranks over the years - some of them were so beloved that they eventually became actual products! I’ve selected a few of my favorite prank videos and included them below, but you can see the full list linked in the header above.

The Technomancer hoodie actually went on to become a real product! 

This never became a real thing, but I have to admit: if it was, I'm that weirdo who'd hang it up in her house.

What a bunch of geeks - I love it so much.

Saved the best for last! This one also went on to become a real product and is one of my favorite ThinkGeek jokes. 

April 1st is an awesome time to enjoy some good, clean fun online. What are some of your favorite April Fools’ Day gags? Share with me!

A Tour of Multiplicity KVM

Thursday, March 25, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

One of the most common questions I think I get about the Multiplicity software is: why are there 3 versions and what the heck is the difference between them? It’s a fair question - one that I also had personally when I started learning about our software - and I’m here to help answer it.

A while back, I wrote up a guide to setting up Multiplicity KM. Multiplicity KM is the version that is included in Object Desktop, and lets you control 2 PCs with a single keyboard and mouse. This version, while enough for most average users, does have some limitations that Multiplicity KVM expands past.

Just for starters, let’s take a quick look at the 3 versions of Multiplicity and the differences between them, which are depicted in this convenient chart below.

There are a few pretty big differences between the KM and KVM versions of Multiplicity. KM is great, but what if you’re a user who has more than 2 PCs they’d like to connect and wants to make use of the other options? KVM has you covered.

Multiplicity KVM has more options for seamless mode

First off, let's answer the question: what is seamless mode? 

You'll need to have both PCs nearby and within your field of view in order to take advantage of this. If you use a multi-monitor setup with one PC, seamless mode works the same way in concept, except you can do it with 2 computers instead of just one. You'll be able to move your mouse cursor from your main PC's monitor right to your second PC's monitor as if they were the same machine. 

You can connect a single PC using multiple monitors to another PC using multiple monitors, too! Since I’ve been working from home I only use one computer, but my work setup has a main PC with two monitors, plus a secondary PC with one monitor. I can work seamlessly between them, which is just so convenient.

Multiplicity KVM will let you do more when utilizing seamless mode. In all versions, you can copy and paste things from one PC to another, but only KVM and KVM Pro will allow you to drag and drop files between computers while they’re connected with seamless mode. With KVM, you can also connect up to 9 computers (the primary PC + 8 additional) seamlessly, whereas with KM you can only connect 2 (primary + secondary). 

Two computers is more than enough for me personally, but if you work in fields like financial services, industry analysis, or many others, you might just need all the extra computing power. Wouldn’t it be nice to move easily between them with just one keyboard and mouse?

KVM allows for remote connections

Multiplicity KVM allows you to access one PC remotely outside of seamless mode (you can use your remote PC in tandem with all of your seamlessly connected PCs also!). From your primary designated PC, you’ll be able to connect to another PC remotely over network or VPN, and copy and paste files easily between them. 

You can view an active thumbnail of the remote PC easily, plus you don’t have to worry about security - security options include connection access security codes, AES-256 encrypted connections, and a connection audit log. 

Multiplicity is versatile

With Multiplicity KVM, you don’t have to worry about differences between your PCs. Are two of them running Windows 10 while another runs Windows 8? No problem - Multiplicity is compatible between multiple PCs with various versions of Windows. 

Different screen resolutions and monitor sizes won’t negatively impact using Multiplicity in KVM mode, either. Here’s a quick look on compatibility and what you’ll need to run the program:

System Compatibility

  • Keyboard and mouse, wired or wireless
  • Video monitor (VGA, SVGA, HDMI, DVI, USB, DisplayPort, PS/2)
  • Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista; 32 and 64-bit; Windows XP 32-bit only
  • Windows Server 2003 / 2003 R2, 2008 / 2008 R2, 2012 / 2012 R2
  • All PCs must be accessible on the same network or router, wired or wireless
  • PCs on different networks must be accessible by VPN or crossover cable

Want to learn more? Here are some resources

If you've decided to download Multiplicity and are ready to install it, check out our handy quick start guide here. If you run into any issues, there's pretty thorough help to be found in our support center here. Our longtime software guru IslandDog wrote this handy FAQ too - most of your questions can be answered there!

Are you a Multiplicity fan? Let me know what you use it for!

 

Customizing Start10 Searches

Thursday, March 18, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

I normally don’t mind change. Change means progress, new and exciting experiences, interesting people, and so on. Change is good!

Unless it’s your Start menu.

Look, I spent a lot of time on Windows 7. I skipped Windows 8 entirely. So when Windows 10 came around and handed me a brand new Start menu (not to mention a bunch of other new stuff that I wasn’t used to), I wasn’t a huge fan. Like it or not, though, I’m a Windows user and I’m pretty much bound to whatever Microsoft hands me in their latest version.

At least, I was - until I discovered Stardock’s customization software.

Maybe “discovered” isn’t so much the right word - I didn’t start using it and exploring it until I was hired here. But honestly, even if I were employed elsewhere, there are several programs I would happily pay to continue to use because I’ve found them indispensable. Start10 is absolutely one of them.

For starters (hah, pun!), the big draw for me is that it returns the Start menu to what it looked like in Windows 7. It also has a cool “modern” option that is sort of a hybrid of Windows 10 and Windows 7. I really like being able to go back to what’s familiar, tried, and true - but I can add a splash of “change” in there at the same time! Let’s take a look at some other things we can customize in Start10.

The first thing I did was customize my Start button. I’m a Green Lantern nut, so I was excited to find a custom Green Lantern symbol button on WinCustomize. I found an image I liked and added it to the Start menu background. Now that the aesthetics were out of the way, I could look to more practical things.

A feature I haven’t used too much until recently is filtering my searches. In order to do this, you want to first make sure to go into the Start10 configuration and set the “Show search filtering icons” is on.

Once you have that option selected, pop into your Start10 menu (I have the Modern option enabled here) and type something into the search bar. A search will pop up, showing icons at the top that allow you to filter what you’re looking for.

Now, select one of the icons at the top. It will remove all other file types from the search, leaving you with a narrowed down view of whatever it is you’re looking for. This has been game changing for me.

I’ve taken great pains to attempt to organize my desktop (Fences is the greatest thing ever), but still, I am who I am and I have a bunch of stuff scattered pretty much everywhere. Being able to search and then sort what I’m looking for (settings, files and folders, documents, etc.) makes the task of hunting down an elusive object so much easier.

Another way to make things easy on yourself when looking for things within your Start menu is customizing how programs, folders, and files appear within the menu itself. If you go back to the Start10 options and select “configure,” you’ll find that there’s quite a lot more you can do still. 

You can select which shortcuts you want to show up within your Start menu, as well as the order in which they’re displayed. You can also customize how many large icons you want to leave room for, set it to open sub menus with a mouseover, and also determine what the power button to your PC does.

Now, all of this adjusts depending on which style of menu you’ve selected - everything I’m showing you is related to the Modern style, which is my personal preference. If you choose to utilize the Windows 10 style menu, some of these options won’t be available.

Start10 is a fantastic little tool. Regardless of what your preference is with the menu’s aesthetic, you can find plenty of other customizations within this software (which can show your Fences right in the Start menu if you use that program!) that make it worthwhile to use.

Which Start menu style do you prefer? Share with me!

A Dive into Classic Stardock Software - Part 2

Let's take a look at Desktop X, Logon Studio, and RightClick

Thursday, March 4, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

A couple of weeks ago, I used an internet archive tool and took a look at some of the history behind a few of our now discounted software products. This time, I’m going to look at 3 more classic products that we still have up on our website for posterity, even though they are no longer supported or available. The first one we’re discussing, according to Wayback Machine, first appeared online over 20 years ago.

DesktopX

DesktopX was a desktop utility program designed to let users build their own desktops, widgets, and gadgets. This tool was part of Object Desktop way back in the day and was built with a framework that was meant to give Windows users the ability to have “living” objects on their desktop. 

When I looked back at the old white paper for the product, it described a living object as “an element on the desktop that can receive as well as send messages to other objects, other programs, and other components of the operating system.” 

There’s quite a lot of detail contained in the original white paper for the product, as well as a fairly thorough breakdown of how it used to work and what you needed to do to create your ultimate desktop. You can read it here if you’re curious.

Logon Studio

Was there ever a time when you couldn’t customize your own logon screen for your PC? Apparently, the answer to this question is yes - I’ll confess that I only vaguely remember such a time, though. Initially for Windows XP, Logon Studio was released back in 2002 to fix that.

Logon Studio

Anyone who used Windows 7, Vista, or XP could apply and package new logon screens using this program. It comes already loaded with several logon screens to choose from, plus back in the day you could download tons of them from WinCustomize.com - and apparently still can!

Logon Studio is still available as a free download if you happen to still have a device laying around that could make use of it. It's easy to take certain things for granted these days - like the ability to customize our logon screens on not just our PC, but also our phones and other devices - and it's a little fun to remember that, at one point, it wasn't always the default. 

RightClick

RightClick released in February of 2005 and is a program designed to extend your Windows desktop menu by letting you add more options to it. Using RightClick, you could add running tasks, short-cuts, system commands, internet links and more to your menu. RightClick is also fully skinnable and will automatically inherit WindowBlinds visual styles. 

RightClick

Of the older software products I’ve looked at, this one is probably the one I like the idea of the most. I love the idea of being able to customize the menu that appears on my desktop when I right click. 

I use a few other programs to help with my organization and make things easier to find (I live and die by Fences these days), but there are just a few things - like opening up a Word or Photoshop document, for instance - that I’d love to do with just a right-click and select. 

We no longer support or update RightClick, but it is still available as a free download. I downloaded it myself and intend to explore it later - but if you’re curious, you can get it for yourself or read my buddy Spencer’s blog on it.

Have you used RightClick, LogonStudio, or DesktopX? Share your experiences with me!

A Dive into Classic Stardock Software - Part 1

Let's take a look at KeepSafe, BootSkin, and Tweak7

Thursday, February 11, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

Stardock has been around for a long time - for more years, in fact, than the age of our youngest employee (I’m writing it this way because I like to make the long-timers feel old. ). I’ve been around for a little over five years now, and sometimes I have fun diving back into history and looking at things we’ve done in the past. I’ve mapped the history of WindowBlinds, dove deep into the evolution of PC icons, taken an ‘over the years’ look at the Drengin from GalCiv III, and now I’m going to do it with some retired Stardock software. 

We are always adapting and updating our programs to better serve all of you and keep up with the world and technology as it changes. But, sometimes, a product outlives its usefulness and becomes discontinued. We’re going to take a look at a few of Stardock’s today!

KeepSafe

KeepSafe was a file protection and restoration system for small or mid-sized companies. It would keep backups of each file version of a specified file type or folder location. For people who worked on contracts, legal documents, graphics files, and so on, something like this would have been absolutely critical to ensure you didn’t lose valuable confidential work. 

When I go looking at older software to learn the history, I use the “Wayback Machine”, which takes snapshots of web urls over a period of time. I had to laugh - apparently, it took a snapshot of KeepSafe while it was in the process of being developed. It seems whoever was working on it didn’t want to use boring old lorem ipsum as a placeholder, haha!

From what I’m able to tell, we started selling KeepSafe somewhere around April 2005 and stopped selling it sometime in 2015. There will always be a need for backup software, but obviously our time and energy went elsewhere as we moved away from “ThinkDesk” and onto Object Desktop and other great programs. 

Need some backup protection for your PC? Our partners over at Ashampoo have you covered with Backup Pro 15.

BootSkin

BootSkin was a program that popped up sometime around 2003 and allowed Windows users to change their boot screens on Windows 2000 and XP (and, later, Vista). I’ll be frank here and say that I had no idea something like this was ever even a thing; I’d never felt the need to change the look of my boot screen, personally. 

Apparently there was a market for it, though, because BootSkin exists - and, at the time at least, it changed boot screens safely by not patching the Windows XP kernel or requiring the user to download replacement kernels.

There were a couple of advantages to BootSkin. First, boot screens that used it were typically under 20K compared to other boot screen programs whose files were usually over 2 megabytes. Additionally, there was no risk of having your system unable to boot because of a corrupted file or service pack.

Also, BootSkin was completely free. There isn’t really a program to replace it in our catalog because it’s not needed anymore, but it maintains an honorary space on our software landing page with a few other older programs.

Speaking of which, let’s cover our last one for this week!

Tweak7

Tweak7’s tagline was “Optimize the performance and behavior of your Windows 7 machine!” I’m guessing I don’t need to explain why we don’t see this one anymore, haha! Tweak7 launched sometime back in 2009 and stuck around as long as Windows 7 machines were mostly relevant. 

The program was designed to be the ultimate “one stop tweaking utility” for Windows 7 users. You could adjust security features, hunt down and turn off unwanted programs that started when you booted your PC up, check that your display drivers were up to date, and more.

Unlike other tools, Tweak7 automatically prompted recommendations for enhancements and offered easy one-click updates to configuration changes that were usually rather complex. It was designed to be completely safe to use and easy to roll back changes in case you didn’t like it.  The idea was to let users freely experiment with different settings without disabling their computers.

The software programs above aren’t the only ones that we’ve retired; I have plenty more to talk about next time! 

How long have you been using Stardock software, and did you ever try any of these?

Let's take a look at Tiles 2.0!

Object Desktop Members can get into the beta right now

Thursday, February 4, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

It's already been an exciting year for Stardock software - and it's only February! We are working on DeskScapes 11 still (you can see some previews and walkthroughs), but today I’d like to focus on our newly released beta for Tiles - what’s already there, and also what new things are coming to the app with the latest version.

If you’re unfamiliar with the software, Tiles is a program that lets you create multiple desktops of related programs, files, and links through the use of a customizable sidebar on your Windows desktop. You can drag programs onto the sidebar by holding the shift key; it will then create a thumbnail of that application so that you can find it easily.

You can have multiple pages of Tiles and categorize and label them anyway you wish, allowing you to organize your tasks in an efficient and visually appealing way. You can click through your lists of tiles and swipe left/right easily to access your other groups. Additionally, you can adjust the size and position of where your Tiles bar sits. 

Speaking of organization, I think my favorite Tiles feature is new to v2.0. In settings, I can change it so that certain Tiles categories show only maximized or minimized Windows. This is especially great for a 2-monitor setup, since I can keep the tiles on one monitor and easily click through to apps and tasks that I can utilize on my main monitor. 

In my case, I made it so that my Tiles pages wouldn’t show any of my minimized apps, so whenever I had something open it would leave the list, making it easier for me to find my other tasks. You can also filter what types of apps go into which Tiles groups.

Of course, we would be terribly remiss if we released a software product like this that didn’t have some additional level of visual customization available. You can find several different style and color options right from within the app so that you can curate your desktop experience. 

The new Tiles is also fully compatible with both light and dark modes for Windows, plus it fully integrates with our Curtains app. All of these great updates will allow you to achieve a perfectly cohesive desktop look that's suited to your tastes.

Tiles coordinates well with the way I work. I have found that I really like keeping a tiles page with all of my different writing documents on it so that I can flip between them. This is especially handy during product releases when I might be working on 4+ things all at the same time. Also, if you look above, you'll notice some smaller tiles beneath one of my bigger ones. Those are tiles that I have grouped together using Groupy. I love that I can see them all together like that!

Have you tried Tiles yet? If you’re an Object Desktop member, you can try the v2.0 beta before its public release. You can find details and instructions on how to download it here.

Let us know what you think!

Curtains: How to Create Your Own Styles

Start from scratch or edit an existing one!

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

One of Object Desktop’s greatest additions last year, Curtains lets you add new “modes” to Windows 10. With Curtains, you can customize the Start button, title bar buttons, and title bar, plus adjust hundreds of other small elements in Windows. You can be as specific and detailed as you want to be, or you can make broader, more subtle changes, whichever suits your preference best!

One of the things you can do with Curtains is create and share your own styles. I’m definitely not a style expert - I don’t really have much of an eye for design - but I wanted to walk through some of the options and possibilities that exist for people who are much more talented than myself. 

For those of you who, like me, don’t see themselves as much of a design guru, the options that exist for editing existing styles are pretty great too, so don’t fret! On that note, let’s take a dive into Curtains customization and what we can do with it.

If you like being very specific with customization options, then you’ll love just how much tweaking is available to you in Curtains. I started exploring by opening up Curtains and selecting “Create New.” I then named my style, added a brief description and my username, and got started with it.

I discovered that I could pick an image to start with if I wanted to, and that Curtains would create frames from a background that I selected, adjusting the color scheme to pull colors from that image. 

I could go even further beyond that and edit the image layer, too. I can add effects, being as wild or a subtle as I like (below is an example of the balloon effect). The effects also have sounds, so I can set the volume on that if I’m inclined not to mute it.

One of my favorite details in the editor - which you can do whether you’re adjusting an existing style or creating one from scratch - are Shadows. You can change the color of the shadow on your window, adjust the transparency and blur level, and even adjust how much shadow the window casts.

What I tend to prefer to do is pick a style that already exists and edit it to suit my tastes. A feature I almost always make sure to have turned on no matter what style I use is the background blur. To change this, I go into “advanced properties” on the style (I always make a copy, I never edit the original) and scroll down toward the bottom until I find “Explorer background blur mode.” I personally like the Acrylic Blur.

Below, you can see an example of an edited version of Dark Waters. I adjusted the colors (normally, I would definitely not be using pink, but I wanted to go for a dramatic effect here just so you can see), changed the shadows so that they would tint lavender, and applied it to my desktop.

Honestly, I genuinely like the base styles that come already included with Curtains. I’m usually perfectly content with just altering the colors to match the background I’ve chosen for my desktop and making sure I have the blur effect turned on. 

Curtains, combined with DeskScapes, Fences, and Groupy have made my home PC very unique to me. I generally love blue and aqua tones, so it’s exciting for me to be able to apply that in lots of different places on my computer where I generally would be unable to otherwise. 

Are you a fan of editing and creating styles in Curtains? If so, please share your tips with me!

TouchTasks: A Guided Tour

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

Are you a Microsoft Surface user? Whether you have an older Surface Pro or are up-to-date with the most recent model, take a moment to read on about a snazzy little app called TouchTasks.

What is TouchTasks?

TouchTasks is a touchscreen app for Windows that creates “zones” on your device so that you can easily access apps and tasks.The zones are conveniently located on the edge of the screen and will work in both portrait and landscape modes. You can customize each zone by assigning certain tasks or applications to it, effectively organizing your touchscreen experience.

I have personally never used a Surface before, so I got in touch with our IT team at Stardock and borrowed a Surface Pro 2 that we had available. After I got it home and plugged it in, I booted it up and started to explore. The team was kind enough to load TouchTasks for me, so I got right to playing around with the zones and testing out what sorts of things I could assign to each.

The benefit of the zones is immediately apparent to me, especially as a new Surface user who is just starting to become acclimated to the device. While I don’t have many applications loaded onto it right now, I imagine that if I were to use the Surface much more consistently that it would all fill up very quickly. 

Assigning Zones

I especially like that I can assign my task switcher panel to a zone. Considering how clumsy I am with a touchscreen device, anything that makes it easier to get around is a definite bonus! Rather than having to go rooting around to find them, I can also assign multiple apps to a given zone so that they show up on the menu when I tap the zone.

Using zones to toggle the keyboard on and off is especially great when I’m just using the Surface in its tablet mode. I didn’t really explore assigning custom hotkeys to zones very much, but that option is there if you’re the type of user who would benefit from that!

My personal favorite thing to assign to a zone, however, is recent documents. I love being able to find something I was working on or looking at quickly and easily. Plus, I do also really like that I can make a zone just return me to the desktop.

A Must for Surface Users

I will definitely be playing with the Surface for a while to see if it fits into my workflow. If I like it enough, I may consider a newer model - and I can tell you for sure that if I upgrade, TouchTasks is definitely coming with me.

Have you tried TouchTasks? Share your stories with me!




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