10 Tools to Overhaul Your Windows Interface

Varun Kashyap 12-07-2008

toolsWindows 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”.

YodM3D - Cube Effect in Windows

2. WinFlip

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 download, 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


3. DExpose2

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.


4. TrueTransparency

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.

TrueTranspareny - Transparemcy Effect

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. Lebendig 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

lebendig-animation effect


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.


8. DeskONtop!

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.

desk on top

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

  1. Tabbed file management in Windows Explorer
  2. Create groups of favorite locations
  3. Create groups of frequently used applications
  4. Tab appearance customization
  5. 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:

visual tool tip



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 Docks - The 6 Best Friends of your Windows Taskbar Read More – 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

Related topics: Windows App Launcher, Windows Explorer.

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  1. Apple App Tips
    November 27, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Lots of useful Windows tools mentioned here. A great list and must have softwares.

  2. Zach
    September 27, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Well, if your processor doesn't stink and you have a crapload of RAM, you don't have anything to worry about. :D

  3. Daniel
    February 15, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Or install ubuntu from and all these effects work without having to download programs of dubious quality to windows

  4. Varun Kashyap
    July 13, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    I would have to disagree with Michelle, the apps are infact very easy on CPU, one exception might be Glass2K

  5. Michelle
    July 13, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    These applications will eat up ur memory and will make the system slow as well, some of them will eat the cpu like hell, making the system busy while there are other applicaitons which need the memory and the cpu. Who cares this is only for the look, but if the system allocates the cpu time and the memory for these external applications other than the main applications which we use like browsing or any other, its of no good use rite. SO think about it, i just told my view on it. Since I have installed most of them and tracked the memory and the cpu usage. Thats all for now. Njoy :)

  6. Varun Kashyap
    July 12, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Thanks Ken :) , Pleasure is mine !!

  7. Ken Burkes
    July 12, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Oh wow. This is awesome. I've been looking for a 3D Cube program that could run on Windows.Thanks a bunch for YodM3D. Great post Varun.

  8. Varun Kashyap
    July 12, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Ya the QT Tabbar and QT address bar are very cool, vistart is also very good and has indexing built in, unfortunately it got stuck twice on my machine
    Glad You like our articles!!

  9. ryan
    July 12, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    go back to Windows 98 or 95 or 3.1 or DOS or whatever you use. the article wasn't about "improving" your interface but overhauling it. i.e. Eyecandy

    Those QT tools look like they can add some extra functionality.

    Thanks for all these great articles!!!!!

  10. alfred
    July 12, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I think this is a wast of computer resources(RAM, Processor, I/O, etc) is this ..

    • Varun Kashyap
      July 12, 2008 at 3:02 pm

      No Alfred, You might experience occasional problems with Glass2K if you have a number of windows stacked over each other, each of them being translucent, rest all are very very easy on the system.