Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Same reasons one customizes their car!
Published on September 11, 2003 By Draginol In Personal Computing

See a video of this desktop in action

Why? What's wrong with the default Windows look? That's the question I sometimes get from friends and family. For the life of them, they don't understand why anyone would spend the time, let alone money, to customize Windows. I often get a look of benevolent patronization when I inform them that our software has slightly over 6 million users or that gets nearly 2 million unique visitors each month. "Sure you do...sure you do..."

For me, and millions of other people, the question about customizing Windows is like asking why doesn't everyone drive the same car? Imagine if every car was a black Motel T. Forget how it might be used, forget about different tastes, needs, and priorities, all cars are black Model Ts.

"Well that's different.." No it's not. In fact, there is less reason to customize the typical car than there is the typical computer. Nearly everyone who buys a car is using it for only a handful of different reasons (mostly just driving to work).  I have plenty of neighbors with big old SUVs that drive around mostly empty. What does a Suburban house wife need with 4 wheel drive? When was the last time she went off road?  What's the point in buying a car that can go 150 mph when the speed limit tops out at around half that? And how much time does the average person spend in their car? An hour a day? 90 minutes tops?

Now contrast all that to personal computers. Millions of people spend 8 hours a day in front of their computers. Moreover, they do vastly different things with their machines.  An accountant is using their computer in a totally different way than say an IT manager. Or how about a sales person versus a plant supervisor? Or a graphics designer compared to a journalist. And then there's the power user. The person who uses their PC as a tool to do a hundred different things and has very little time to do it.

The reasons to customize your computer are as varied as the reasons why people buy different types of cars.  Maybe they want to improve their productivity so they get Object Desktop to mold Windows to be able to do the things they do very quickly.  For instance, I have every location I regularly visit on the Internet set up with a hot key via Keyboard Launchpad.  So when I want to get to my admin pages on I just hit Ctrl-Alt-S.  I have every canned reply and sig set up with Ctrl-Shift-# (1, 2, 3, 4, and so on).  I use DesktopX for monitoring various on-line admin issues like the store status, store revenue updated every hour, desktop calendars, and to simply make my environment look nicer.  WindowBlinds is much the same way. I use it to make my desktop nicer to look at but I also use it because I can set the right click on the title bar to minimize the window. That alone makes it compelling as a productivity helper.

When I'm deep into programming, my desktop gets very weird looking. That's when I really get into ObjectBar. I create a bar that has my entire project and everything I might need with it put up as a bar that appears when I move my mouse over on the right of the screen. With it, I can quickly get to particular files and programs and eliminate the menu bar of many programs giving me more screen space.

Using ObjectBar to remove the menu bar from apps to have it floating. When I'm really busy I do this and have the hot key Ctrl-Shift-Z bring it up. So regardless of what I'm doing, I can hit Ctrl-Shift-Z and the app's menu will show up wherever I have the mouse. Note: This isn't for everyone as some programs don't really use menus but instead do toolbars but it works well on the apps I use.

Anyone who's ever looked at the DesktopX theme section or Litestep theme section on can see how people transform their machines in all sorts of different ways. It's a matter of taste and it's a matter of molding the machine to work for you rather than the other way around.

For me, if customizing my machine can save me 10 minutes a day in productivity (and sometimes it's more than that) then I'm saving a lot of time in a given year. And I'm doing it with style in the meantime. People who rely strictly on themes and such don't really see the full story. Sometimes people not into this will look at a screenshot or something and all they can see is the eye candy. A lot of the really good stuff can't really be shown in a screenshot.  And obviously the cooler and more specific you get, the more you will have to learn on your own (for instance, the ObjectBar thing I showed is probably only in use by a few hundred people because most people haven't put together the menu removing feature with the hot key to bring it up feature).

So why customize your computer? For me, I believe it's the better way to get work and play done on the computer.



Comments (Page 1)
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on Sep 11, 2003
Well. When I got on the internet, about 3 or 4 years ago, I didn't realize how much customization could be done. I just used the computer for whatever. Then it flashed on me like lightning. I am a SKIN freak. I DL skins and maybe never use them. It's kinda like an addiction. My cousin got a computer, and I told her about a few sites, now she's as bad as me. I have Style XP, Object Desktop, Winamp, Coolplayer, and everything else you can skin, almost. It's fun, cool, and just makes you're computer look different all the time. She showed her son a few days ago, and he's hooked. I am not a skinner, but I wish I could, and I would like to thank all the skinners out there. I'm a pretty fair musician, but you guys are amazing. Peace. Hippie.
on Sep 12, 2003
I entirely agree with customizing. Having to look at the same screen for 24/7 can get a little boring and setting up things like Objectbar can clean up the desktop and have everything needed for a project. At the moment my XP looks like Longhorn but I don't expect it will last long!
on Sep 16, 2003
I've always been a firm believer in the subservience of computers. I use my own custom built version of litestep to let me do what I need to do faster and easier (plus it uses less memory than explorer does). The problem is most people just don't have the right attitude about their computer, that you are in control of it, and not vice-versa!
on Sep 18, 2003
I've always wanted to customize but I'm concerned if my machine has what it takes in the way of resources. Doesn't customizing reduce available resources as well as RAM? (1MH/256K MEM/40GHD)

Thank You in Advance

on Oct 04, 2003
I runoint Windowblinds no problem but I had problems with other OD components.

My XP machine became unstable and the programs would not uninstall. I had to restore my computer using a recovery point.

Should I try them again ?

I am also not sure if components some components are user friendly enough.
on Nov 10, 2003
I dont use skins to customize mi computer, I use Windows PowerPro. I can set up keybord/mouse shortcuts (includeing caption midle butin, and windows key), I can set up timers, scedules, floting bars, scripts (with commands like programing langwige, goto,arithmetics,input string, and more). Sum commands ar CD(prev,next,pause), Window(Move,OnTop,TrayMin), Virtual Desktop, Hide/Show desktop icons, Enable/Disable screen saver, start screen-saver, notes, calender, and more. I can also make it do the stuf on serten events: Window with serten name, serten program open, serten time, keys press, mouse bump into side uv screen, caption midle click, click on tray icons, more.
on Nov 15, 2003
Dear Kryofx,
I've always been one that always felt the stinkin' computer had the upper hand. I didn't feel computer illiterate until I started going to a tech school. Anyways, where do you recommend I start in order to begin showing the computer who's the boss?
Big B
on Dec 01, 2003
yeah, i agree, customizing your windows is important. i an like hippie, i dl things even if i dont use them, its better to have them so that i have a choice later. i change my skins like every week so my life is interesting. i would like to thank all the skinners for their good work and i am trying to join that group too but i dont really have that much free time . thanks for wasting your time skinners!!! lol
on Dec 01, 2003
yeah, i agree, customizing your windows is important. i an like hippie, i dl things even if i dont use them, its better to have them so that i have a choice later. i change my skins like every week so my life is interesting. i would like to thank all the skinners for their good work and i am trying to join that group too but i dont really have that much free time . thanks for wasting your time skinners!!! lol
on Dec 01, 2003
sorry for posting same comment twice *sheepish grin*
on Dec 14, 2003
For me i am just learning how to use a computer.Using windowblinds lets me feel as if i have alittle control over what my pc does.While alot of it is still over my head ,being able to decorate my desktop makes it a lot more fun.Alsoi look forward to all the tech stuff.Tell all the skinners thanks for making my new experiance with computers a joy.
on Dec 22, 2003
i fing it is good
on Jun 20, 2004
Very nice article, very informative indeed.
on Jul 16, 2004
How to install blue curve linux in my windows Xp?
on Oct 02, 2004
I've been building my own and my wife and sons systems from the ground up for years now and always felt as if I had some control over how the computers performed and when something went wrong, I would usually know how to fix it becuse I built it and installed all the software and system tools. I think that customizing windows is just an extension of this and allows us much more control with how we interact with the tools on our systems. I also really like the ability, with Object Desktop, and it's set of tools, to enchance many functional aspects of our systems and when I actually get time, even create a few skins.

On top of all that, it's just a lot of fun.
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