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Windows interfaces have evolved steadily with time. Windows XP was a step forward in interfaces over previous versions and so is Windows Vista over Windows XP.
The thing with the Windows interface is that it looks pretty for some time then we get tired of it. This is not the case with Compiz Desktop Effects and the themes in Linux. There are so many options that one can always find something new and worth changing to for some time.
The following apps lets you overhaul your Windows interface and add some eye candy and usability enhancements at the same time. You wont need pliers and screwdrivers – promise!
1. Get the Cube Rolling – YodM3D
Let’s start with the much talked about 3D Cube effect. To get the 3D cube effect on Windows try “YODM3D”. The site was down when I wrote this (you can download it from here), but I wonder if it’s in development anymore. Nevertheless, it surely does what it promises to do and that is to give you a nice 3D Cube effect with virtual desktops. You can customize the transparency, zoom levels, hotkeys and the image that will appear as the background when the cube rotates. Just run the application, choose the language, set up the options and hit the hot key and there you go – “A nifty 3D cube effect”.
Windows Vista will allow you to do this if it thinks your hardware is good enough for it! However if it thinks otherwise, use XP and you can easily get the effect. WinFlip is what you need. A mere 598 KB, you just have to extract it and run the executable. Then just hit the Win + Tab key and there you are switching in 3D. The software gives you plenty of options – you can customize the hot key or specify how would you like to invoke the 3D flip with your mouse. You can even exclude some windows from being included in the flip by specifying them in the exclusion list. A letter appears beside each window’s representation, hitting that letter directly navigates you to that particular window
If the 3D flip is not what you like, how about getting the expose functionality? Check out DExpose2. Hit F9 and it exposes (lays out on the desktop) all of your open windows. From there on you can switch to a particular window or minimize or close windows. You can also hit F11 to minimize all windows and show the desktop.
TrueTransparency [No Longer Available] is a nice application that changes the borders (or frames) of your windows to transparent and it does so very well. You can choose from among four skins to skin your Windows borders. I didn’t find an option to add more skins.
5. Transparent Windows – Glass2K
There are a number of applications that give you control of the transparency of the complete window and not the window frame alone. Glass2k is one of them. Glass2k gives you hotkeys and a right click (on the title bar) pop up menu that you can use to change the opacity of the windows. You can also save these settings.
6. Animating Windows – Lebendig
Try Lebendig for the minimalistic animations that you can get on your Windows desktop.animates Windows on launch and on close. These are not the prettiest animations out there specially if you compare them with Compiz Fusion animations, but Lebendig surely provides you a bare minimum if you really long for rotating, fading, stretching your Windows! Here is a shot of all the options available
7. Animating Icons UberIcon
UberIcon – UberIcon animates the icons when you launch folders and applications. You can choose what animation you want or you can download plugins to get more animations.
If you are like me then you like to keep your desktop clean. However no one can argue that the desktop provides an easy and fast way to launch programs. Need the best of both worlds? Try Deskontop. Deskontop (direct link) provides you with a mini snapshot of your desktop when you click on the DeskOnTop icon in the system tray. You can then launch your programs from this mini desktop version just as you would do it originally from the desktop! As you can see now I can get away with a cluttered desktop because I can hide all the icons on the desktop (Right click on desktop choose Arrange Icons By and uncheck show desktop icons), but still access them via this app! Left Click on the DESKonTOP icon in the tray gives you a visual preview while Right Click gives you a list.
9. QTTabbar & QT AddressBar
QTtabbar is an Add on for Windows Explorer that not only adds some visual appeal but also includes some very awesome features that increases your productivity when working with Windows Explorer. Some of the awesome features includes
- Tabbed file management in Windows Explorer
- Create groups of favorite locations
- Create groups of frequently used applications
- Tab appearance customization
- Tab behavior management
QT Addressbar [No Longer Available] on the other hand gives you a Vista-like address bar (both appearance and functionality wise). Not for you if you are already using Windows Vista.
10. Visual Tooltip
Visual tooltip [No Longer Available] gives you a thumbnail preview of the windows when you hover your mouse over the taskbar icon representing the window. You can also set the options to display all the windows on a dock as thumbnails instead of using the taskbar. You can adjust the size of thumbnails, the animations and colors. Here is the screen shot:
There is a lot of other software you can use to add a little spark to your interface. Here are some of them that I didn’t mention in the list above:
- ViStart [No Longer Available] – Gives you a Vista-like Start menu with transparency and indexing. Very pretty and useful but I had an issue (I think it was on my side) with it, nevertheless kept it back to mention here. You can try it if you want.
- Rainbow Folders – Lets you add colors and customized tooltips to your folders.
- XPScene [Broken URL Removed] – Gives you an animated desktop background.
- Docks – Alternative ways to launch applications.
Even now I am sure some of you might have other software to mention that can improve or increase the usability of the standard Windows interface. Let us know in the comments.
(By) – Varun Kashyap – A tech enthusiast, programmer and a blogger who blogs about the latest on the web, tricks, tips, productivity hacks, step by step tutorials on his TechCrazy Blog