The Best Desktop Enhancements!
Window’s 8 will be knocking on our doors very soon, and personally I’m finding it difficult to justify the upgrade from the rock solid foundations Window 7. Even if the upgrade price is as low as they’re promising us! I’m yet to be convinced it’s not much more than a dressed up edition of 7. So why bother? And if you want to sex up your operating system for either looks or function then we have selected some prime free software to you give your desktop some visual upgrades.
Follow these links for our other ‘issue 270 web packs:
Cooler Stress Testing!
The Best Desktop Enhancements!
Photo Editing and Correction!
Issue 270 game demo roundup!
Not for the faint-hearted, LiteStep essentially enables users to build their own Windows desktop. Using your own custom recipe of scripts, modules and themes it’s possible to implement some, none or all the functions and elements of the standard desktop as you prefer. If you are lees inclined to go about designing your own but are curious to see what LiteStep can do, there are plenty of community-developed interfaces ready to go, so you can just download and try them out.
Real Desktop Standard
Here is a different, but largely useless desktop UI replacement. Real Desktop is a 3D desktop where icons can be arranged within virtual 3D space. It’s an interesting curiosity to behold but fails to improve upon the normal Windows environment. Your taskbar and all other folder/file operations are left alone so other than the transformed desktop, things remain the same.
The desktop can easily become a cluttered graveyard for shortcuts and documents. This problem is instantly transformed with Fences. It’s an incredibly simple idea but utterly effective. With Fences you create desktop windows to drop and organise your desktop icons/documents into. These windows can be named, sized, moved and scrolled. The previously messy arrangement of desktop icons becomes a neat and properly useful workspace for shortcuts and documents.
Windows 8 Transformation Pack
If you just desire the shiny appearance of Windows 8 then just fake it with Windows 8 Transformation Pack. It’s not the complete replica quite yet so keep checking for updates as development progresses. The general appearance is achieved by applying a custom Windows Theme and loading RocketDock to emulate the Windows 8 sidebar, but currently lacks a Metro UI clone. The headline image at top of this page shows Windows 8 Transformation Pack in action.
SharpEnviro resembles a slicker Windows desktop UI so it’s all instantly familiar and accessible with some added extras. The most obvious makeover is the addition of a top configurable taskbar sporting an assortment of gauges, media playback buttons and shortcuts to common applications. The bottom taskbar remains, but in a new form. The Start icon is gone (access your programs with a right-click), and includes buttons extending your workspace to 4 virtual desktops. Any regular Windows Sidebar gadgets remain unaffected, plus SharpEnviro includes bunch of it’s own you can add and configure with themes such as the lovely analogue desktop clock as modelled in our screenshot.
Winstep Nexus Dock
Windows aside, Apple have got a few things right with their OSX family of operating systems, one of which is the Dock system. It is the natural evolution of the task bar, allowing quick and easy launching of programs, folders, documents etc from one easy-on-the-eye location. Winstep’s Nexus dock is by far the best free Windows based version of the dock system, and with the premium features in their Ultimate version they have arguably evolved the dock system beyond even Apple’s current level. It’s like using a whole new operating system!
Handy Start Menu
If, like me, you hate the programs menu in Windows 7 because it’s cumbersome, messy and unintuitive then fear not. Handy Start Menu replaces the regular Programs menu with an easier to navigate variation on the theme. Programs are automatically grouped into categories so your games, utilities, and applications are no longer just mashed together in a big, unintuitive list.
If re-organising your start menu programs isn’t enough, why not cut the whole menu-navigation element out of your PC use? Launchy indexes your start menu programs, images, documents and just about anything else you need and allows you to quickly open any of them simply by typing the first few letters. There are plugins available to add extra functionality, such as switching between open windows and running tasks.
Desktops are boring – it’s as simple as that. You can try to liven it up with fancy wallpapers but essentially, it’s just a flat grid of icons to double-click. XWidget provides a slick, simple and attractive interface for shortcuts, and also includes a powerful visual editor for you to create your own animated widgets – surely that’s enough to hold your interest in 7 and delay your foray into the shiny new world of Metro UI?
If you like an uncluttered interface, try Emerge Desktop. Install it as the default shell and you’ll have no taskbar, Start button or menu: nothing but a single box at the top of the screen to hold your system tray icons. To launch programs, right-click the desktop for quick access to the old Start menu and Quick Launch toolbar. It’s easy to add new items to the menu, or create hotkeys to launch the tools that you need.
on Monday, August 13th, 2012 at 6:56 am under Web Packs.
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Tags: customisation, issue 270, web pack, windows 8