Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on October 27, 2016 By Draginol In Personal Computing

 

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My desktop running WindowBlinds, DeskScapes, WindowFX, Fences, Start10 at 5K resolution

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IconPackager, Tiles and more at 5K resolution

 

Object Desktop is a suite of desktop enhancement utilities designed to allow users to customize their Windows desktop to work however they want it to work.

The core components of it are:

  1. WindowBlinds – customize the Windows GUI
  2. Fences – organize your desktop
  3. IconPackager – customize your icons
  4. DeskScapes – customize your desktop background
  5. WindowFX – customize the UI behaviors

But that line up has changed as Windows has changed over the years as Windows has changed.

When Object Desktop first launched for Windows its 5 core parts were:

  1. WindowBlinds
  2. ControlCenter – virtual desktops
  3. IconPackager
  4. Tab LaunchPad – launching programs

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Back then, the idea of “skinning” your Windows GUI was radical. 

 

By 2000, we had added a 5th item: DesktopX

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DesktopX let us objectify the Windows desktop.  It was one of our most popular components.  Unfortunately, the Windows UAC (the security features built into Windows) eventually made DesktopX untenable because, by its very nature, it was designed to integrate executable code into the desktop which is the opposite of what Microsoft wanted to accomplish with its secure desktop initiative.

Windows XP Era

By 2004, Object Desktop had 3 years of Windows XP to be able standardize all its efforts on. This resulted being able to create Theme Manager which let users gain total control of the Windows desktop.

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Object Desktop 2004

Windows Vista

Windows Vista was tough on Stardock and Object Desktop.  Microsoft pioneered a number of amazing technologies including Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), XAML, Silverlight and more.  For two years, Stardock put a great deal of effort into creating an Object Desktop Vista.  This included a DesktopX that could import XAML and export sidebar objects, a version of WindowBlinds that would use WPF to create resolution independent windows and a desktop compositor and of course the animated wallpaper program, DeskScapes.

Unfortunately, two things happened.  First, Windows Vista did not replace Windows XP for most people. Second, Microsoft decided to change direction leaving its promising new technologies sidelined. 

Moreover, the new secure desktop, UAC, made it very hard to run DesktopX.

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Object Desktop 2006

Windows 7

With Windows 7, Microsoft was back on course.   Stardock updated Object Desktop to version 2010. DesktopX was deprecated and in its place was Tweak 7 which gave users the ability to modify various largely hidden settings.

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Tweak 7

Windows 8…sigh

For Object Desktop to thrive, it needs a single OS target.  This is very important.  Windows 8 split the Windows market.  It made Start8 possible (which became very popular) but it meant that any technology we developed would have to be aware that it might not work on most of our customers machines.

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Start8

Object Desktop 2013 saw Start8 and Fences become the two stars of Object Desktop.  Neither program, however, was about customizing the look and feel of Windows as much as altering the way people work with Windows.

 

Windows 10

With Windows 10, Microsoft has created an OS that appears to be their new flagship.  It’s still new but it appears that it will be a stable platform for us to focus our Object Desktop development efforts.  This means we can potentially revisit bringing back apps that were broken on certain versions of Windows and get them on Windows 10.

The real question is, in the age of mobile computing, what is the use case of a Windows desktop (or laptop) PC?

 

Object Desktop 2017

Since the release of Object Desktop 2016, Stardock has added two new programs to Object Desktop:

  1. Multiplicity
  2. SpaceMonger

Neither customizes the desktop but rather focuses on what we are calling the Metadesktop.   Multiplicity lets you easily access your other desktops on other machines and SpaceMonger lets you manage your drive space on your desktop and cloud drives.

This represents the start of the next stage of Object Desktop. 

Let’s take a look at the core components now:

WindowBlinds

The hardest part of WindowBlinds development now is high DPI.  Many of the skins were designed when everyone was running much lower resolution.  WindowBlinds 10 nails high-DPI support but not all skins will play well with it.  This will be an ongoing evolution for WindowBlinds 10.

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WindowBlinds 10

 

DeskScapes

Animated wallpapers are pretty cool. And today, they use trivial amounts of resources.  When DeskScapes first came out, CPU use was a concern for animated desktops. Now, machines are so much faster it’s barely measurable.

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DeskScapes 10: Animated wallpaper

Fences 3

Stardock released a new generation of Fences this year. 

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Fences 3

But we have a lot of plans in mind for future versions of Fences.  For example, in the age of cloud storage, imagine being able to create fences to Google Drive folders? Or a Fence of your YouTube subscriptions? The mission of Fences, now that Windows 10 seems to be the standard will evolve to incorporate your world into your desktop experience.  We’re very excited.

 

Tiles

Tiles is a program that doesn’t get enough attention.  The idea behind Tiles is that you have a sidebar with a series of pages on it. Each page can have different things on it depending on what you’re doing. 

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Tiles

On my desktop I have these pages:

  1. Development page.  I keep Visual Studio and a few other apps related to making software here.
  2. Business page.  This is where I switch over to start working on budgets and contracts
  3. Games page.  This is where I link to the various games
  4. Surf page.  This is just a list of my favortie sites I visit.  It’s how I quickly get to all the forums and such. Just click click click.

 

We are looking to further update Tiles (or possibly rebrand it as its mission has changed since its original release) to address Object Desktop 2017’s mission of integrating your world onto your desktop.

Start10

Is the Windows 10 Start menu better than the Windows 8 thingy? Yes.  Is it good? That’s only something you can decide for yourself.

As someone who deals with a lot of programs, Start10 is probably the first thing I install on a new box with Fences being a close second.

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Start10

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Windows 10 on my relatively new box. Thank goodness I know the weather.

 

Start10’s mission, to keep with our theme, will evolve as Windows 10 stays around longer.   Think about how you use your modern desktop.  You may have an Android device or an iOS device.  Does your Start menu pick up any of this? Most people now have multiple devices. Their desktop is supposed to be a superset device.  That’s where we have to go with Start10 in the future.  Keep the Start menu a simple, fast way to access your things but also give you the ability to quickly access anything on any device.  Google and Apple are already doing this on their devices.  Windows needs to do the same thing.

Multiplicity

Multiplicity is best known as the program that lets you control multiple PCs with a single keyboard and mouse.  The idea is that you might have a desktop and a laptop or maybe a couple other desktop machines that you have local access to and want to be able to combine these machines into a single user experience.

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Multiplicity is super easy to set up.

More recently, Multiplicity added support for machines that aren’t local.  In this case, it acts more like a KVM switch or a remote desktop solution.  What makes Multplicity differnet from a normal remote desktop solution is that it is focused on fidelity from top to bottom.  For example, you could play a video game via Multiplicity without a problem.

Once again, with Windows 10 becoming our target OS going forward, Multiplicity has a lot of room to grow over the next year. Our goal, again, is to integrate your digital world to your desktop.

The others

This past year we released IconPackager 10, the first major update to IconPackager in some time.  Once again, the reason is that Windows 10 is becoming a viable target for development – i.e. our finite development time isn’t going to be put into targeting something that is going to be thrown out in 2 years.

WindowFX continues to evolve as well.  We haven’t decided whether we will evolve the touch and other features we have in mind into WindowsFX or into a new Object Desktop program.

SpaceMonger is another recent entry into Object Desktop.  With its ability to manage not just your local storage but your cloud, it’s compelling.

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SpaceMonger will map out Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox use

We want to hear from you!

So how can you get Object Desktop 2017?

Just go to www.objectdesktop.com and there are options to renew your access to it (if you previously had Object Desktop) or get it new.  When you buy it, you access the Object Desktop manager which handles installing the components. 

Comment below with your own thoughts on what you’d like to see.


Comments (Page 2)
on Nov 05, 2016

I would love Stardock to make a Windows 10 virtual desktops application.

The standard one has two major failings: firstly, desktops don't persist between sessions; secondly, you can't name the desktops.

I think Stardock does amazing things for Windows, and a decent virtual desktops manager* would be fantastic.  I hope you guys will consider it.

*(There are other virtual desktop programs available, but most are open source and get very little support.  Many don't work properly on W10.  None work as professionally as Object Desktop.)

on Nov 12, 2016

I still miss Right Click - For me, it was the fastest, most intuitive way to get around.

But hey, 10's WB, IconP, Deskcapes, Tiles are all running smoothly now - I have no complaints.

on Nov 13, 2016

What's the skin in the first screenshot?

on Nov 30, 2016

pureevilgenius

I still miss Right Click - For me, it was the fastest, most intuitive way to get around.

 

Try NextSTART.

on Nov 30, 2016

Try NextSTART.

Which used to be sold stand-alone but is now part of Winstep Xtreme.

Among other things it features skinnable customizable menus (via drag & drop or the built-in Menu Editor) and hotspots, so you can activate those menus any way you want.

on Dec 21, 2016

I don't know the internals of any of these so how does DesktopX differ from Rainmeter or xWidget?  They have similar functions but do they work on a different level?

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