Object Desktop
Reviewed by: Lianne Reitter, send e-mail
Published by: Stardock Corporation, go to the web site
Requires: Works best with Windows XP, but also works with Windows 98, ME and 2000; Pentium III or faster CPU, 128MB RAM
MSRP: $49.95

Object Desktop makes me think of a twist on an old song lyric - you don't know what you've missed until you've got it.

It's strange, I didn't realize how boring I thought my computer really was. I mean I have all the cool software, I have a cool wireless mouse, a gadgety keyboard and a mean LCD Monitor, but man my computer was really boring looking until I got to play with Object Desktop and a few of the really neat programs that marry up to this really nice piece of software.

If you are familiar with 'skins', software that allows you to manipulate the look and layout of an interface or operating system, Object Desktop could be described as the mother of all skins. It's the skin master that allows you to not just change the look of a program, but your whole windows environment.

If you are a Windows XP user, you already know what I mean. There is the classic Windows look, with icons looking just so and menu bars that perfect blue. Then there is the XP look with rounder corners, and softer hues of blue green and silver for menu bars and the like. I admit, I really like the way XP looks, mainly because it's just different from previous versions of Windows. Now if you want to push that envelope a lot further, you must get a hold of Object Desktop.

With Object Desktop you can apply new styles to Windows to change the look of your title bar, title bar buttons, push buttons, radio buttons, scrollbars, the Start bar & menu and just about every other aspect of your Windows environment. New controls can be added to the user interface of Windows to control your MP3 player, monitor stocks or visit web sites.

Tired of the look of your Start bar? How about a more powerful, fully configurable Object Bar instead? With this little gem you can have the best that the usual Start bar has to offer, but with the added capability of designing it to look anyway you want. Maybe that cool OS X dock is more your style? You can choose your Object Bar from hundreds of offerings on the web, or design the perfect one yourself. Do you feel you have choices missing from your context (right-click) menus? Object Bar allows you to fully configure that too.

How about those Icons in XP? Tired of them already? Your choices are almost endless with an Object Desktop feature called Icon Packager. Currently I have my icons looking like Apple's OS X just because I can. But that is only one of hundreds of choices you have with this program. For the uber-organizer, Icon Packager will let you create a separate icon for every drive on your computer and - wait for it - every folder on every drive.

My favorite thing to play with is a feature called WindowBlinds (which is also available as a separate program). I have my menu bars and buttons and such looking a lot like an heavy industrial factory (once again, because I can). Earlier last month I was feeling a little frazzled, so I set everything as a calm pale silvery blue with rounded corners and large oval slider bars so I didn't have to strain anything scrolling down my pages (two of the hundreds of different changes you can make to the way Windows looks). And what would a different looking window be without a cool effect to accompany it? With the WindowFX component of Object Desktop, all my windows open with a side scroll and close with a twisting motion. Those windows not in use are 75% transparent and only come into full view when I activate them. The aforementioned Start bar, when I'm not running the Object Bar, also fades to 75% transparency when not in use.

The number of available downloadable components are almost too numerous to mention. You can get a little feature that spring loads your folders. Just hover your mouse over a folder and it will spring open. Keep hovering, and all your sub folders will spring open until you reach the desired level. This gives a whole new meaning to dragging & dropping.

The geek in you will revel in the ControlCenter. With this you can have a monitor on your desktop that will track your system use, launch programs and even set up virtual desktops. If you can't decide which Object Desktop configuration suits you best, set up four different ones and use them all.

Are you tired yet? Can you stand it? I'm not even scratching the surface!

Cursors don't have to be pointy little arrows because with the Cursor XP component you can have colorful yin-yans that twirl or big blue water drops that dangle so life-like, you might think your keyboard will get wet. One feature of this component that tickles the six year old inside me is a setting which allows you to add effects to cursor actions. I now have small explosions (with sound effects) with every left click and a trail of smoke follows my every cursor move. Don't like smoke? How about butterflies? I like having little Monarchs following me around everywhere. I'm a girl.

My favorite component of all is Desktop X. While it doesn't change your icons or cursor, it may change the way you think about what a desktop should really be with respect to what features should be at the ready, all the time. How should your Start menu work? What folders should be just one click away? Where is the Stardock media player going to be and what will the whole thing look like anyway? Thankfully, a lot of those choices have already been made for you as there are several themes that come with Desktop X as well as hundreds more ready for download.

And if you just can't deal with all the choices, cut to the chase and direct yourself to WinStyles. All the aforementioned goodies put together in one click of the mouse. WinStyles will also skin Winamp, your Windows media player, your wallpaper and just about any other third-party skin-able software.

A lot of the power behind Object Desktop exists because Microsoft has opened up the architecture of Windows XP for this type of manipulation. But the thoughtful planning, design, programming and configuration features which go into Object Desktop are all Stardock.

Cons: While my system never crashed, I did notice some things slowing down having all those little component programs running at the same time. However, my staples, Icon Packager and WindowBlinds seem to run with no trouble and no noticeable strain on resources. A rather large Desktop X download caused an error message in Window's XP but I've no clue what was affected as things are still running fine. Little trouble as far as system compatibilities go. My biggest complaint might be that I'm a manual reader, not a help file reader, so when things were not as user friendly as I would have liked, I preferred a book to flip through, instead of the limited online help. The FAQ section on the Stardock web site also seemed pretty lean.

The individual components are not at all difficult to use, Skin Studio however, where you can actually design your own stuff, was over my head and I had no clue where to start. For this, you need a good manual to curl up with. Once again, there are on line help files available and web tutorials from several sources (all accessible through the help system) so if you are feeling ambitious, check it out. I'm just glad that there are those out there greater than myself, who will allow me to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Pros: One of the most thoughtful aspects of Object Desktop is the ease with which individual components can be reconfigured or removed entirely. Every component can be accessed from an icon that sits in your system tray. Open up the program configuration panel and change your objects, icons or cursors on the fly. At any time, you can also unload each component meaning that you never have to uninstall anything. You can have your favorite configuration load when you start up your computer, or load (and unload) each component as the mood strikes you.

Object Desktop is highly recommended. I have had an absolute blast with this software, my system is running fine and looking even better. On top of that, I have configured my system is a way that is unique to me and my way of working and accessing programs and data. Object Desktop is a breath of fresh air. Highly recommended.

Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: whine@kickstartnews.com




© Copyright 2000-2006 kickstartnews.com. All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | forums | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe