Date: October 13th, 2003
Article by: Roger (Hardware Reviewer)
Product was donated by: Stardock
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Product: WindowBlinds version 4
Developer: Stardock Corporation
Platform: Windows XP or later (Windows 98, ME, 2000 coming soon).
Price: WindowBlinds is available as a stand-alone application ($19.99) or as part of Object Desktop ($49.95)
Homepage: www.windowblinds.net (or www.stardock.com)
The WindowBlinds installation is a breeze. From the splash menu, you can select to install, visit the stardock.com or wincustomize.net web sites, or exit back into your plain-ass windows. I am embellishing that last option… as WindowBlinds is far more politically correct than I.
Once the product is installed, you can reach it via the Appearance tab in your Display properties. Just right click in an empty spot on your desktop (some people may have a problem finding an empty location on their cluttered desk), and select Properties from the menu. Alternatively, you can click the Start button, select Control Panel, and find Display Properties there as well.
*free background available at www.ninjai.com.
**custom icons available at www.wincustomize.com
Click on the Appearance tab, and you will see a few new options that were not there before. The first drop down menu (Windows and buttons) allows you to select a skin. You can preview all of the skins from within this tab, and then apply whichever you decide upon. Clicking the WindowBlinds button will open up the following window.
From within the WindowBlinds application, you can also scroll through the skins that are loaded on your system. I found that if you have many skins, the scrolling becomes tedious. A thumbnail preview that is set in multiple rows would have been nice.
Your main options (located on the left), allow you to tinker with the selected skin's basic settings. Here, you can select to make use of Hyperpaint.
From the windowblinds.net website:
"WindowBlinds supports a feature called "Hyperpaint". This is different from "Smart Paint". Hyperpaint uses the extra video RAM on your video card to "buffer" your windows which makes moving them on screen possible without any repainting."
WindowBlinds also allows you to override some of the skin's settings, as well as use SmartButtons. You also have the option of selecting a skin per application. What this means is that you have the ability to make certain key applications different. Some apps, such as your browsers, tend to look better when they are skinned in light colours. Granted, that is a personal preference. I find that dark skins take my eyes away from the page that I am surfing. You can see from the options on the right, that you can easily add more skins either from a file on or from the web. You can also search for another skin, or filter your skin list (a useful option when you have many skins loaded). Beneath these options, you are presented with the tools to change the skin, which you currently have selected.
One of the coolest options is to change the colour.
As you can see, you can change the colour scheme of a skin without affecting the "look" of the skin - the overall design, if you will. Having looked at a lot of skins over the last week, I can tell you that there were many times when I saw a skin that was beautifully designed, however the person who created it must have been colour-blind. This option allows you to fix those troubled skins. Also, it allows you to match your skin to your icons. While you are at (www.wincustomize.com), check out their icons section, and pick up some custom images to spice up your newly skinned desktop. I came up with an ingenious way of matching skins to different icon sets, but I will go into that later.
As you can see here, some designers have taken the liberty of changing the colours on their skins to offer you a wider choice. All that you have to do is scroll down this list, and view the various colour schemes that are available. If nothing interests you, you still have the option of changing the colours yourself.
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