A component of Object
WindowBlinds 2 development builds are currently available
via Object Desktop. WindowBlinds 2 will be available to
the public in late September. See this document for information on qualifying
free updates (when available) and the continued support of WindowBlinds 1.x.
WindowBlinds 2 Overview
For the past several months, Stardock’s development team has
been working hard on designing and implementing a host of new features to
create a next generation version of WindowBlinds.
The primary focus has been on making WindowBlinds faster and
more compatible while at the same time offering features that make it a more
complete skinning solution.
WindowBlinds is ultimately a component of Object Desktop whose goal is
to allow users to completely control the Windows environment. The function of WindowBlinds is to give
users control over the GUI interface elements of Windows. Users and
corporations can then determine what look and feel Windows needs to have to
suit their purposes.
The result of these months of effort is WindowBlinds 2. A more detailed overview of the new features
is discussed later in this document but in short what it provides:
- A new
skinning engine that is both object oriented and much faster.
- A new
skinning format internally called “UIS1+” but known generally as “Basic”
that is designed to replace classic UIS1 skin format that skin authors use
to create skins that provide maximum compatibility.
brand new, easy to use configuration interface for WB users that provides
a host of new features and options.
to both UIS1+ and UIS2 including on-the-fly colorizing, compound skins,
group box skinning, combo box button skinning, font objects, list view
skinning, MDI child button skinning, and more. Basically nearly everything
that can be skinned is now skinned. And skin authors can allow users to
change the color of their skin on the fly. If the skin is green and you
want it blue, you can now make it blue from the configuration interface.
- A new
GUI control: Optimize that will resize the window to a specific size.
compatibility with WindowBlinds 1.x and vice versa. A WindowBlinds 2.x
skin will work with WindowBlinds 1.x (though the features in 2.x won’t
appear to 1.x users obviously).
A more detailed explanation is available later.
WindowBlinds 1 vs. WindowBlinds 2
In the software industry, people are used to using a program
and having a new version come out and having to pay for the new version without
much choice being involved.
If I purchase Widget 1.2 and they come out with Widget 2.0,
you basically are forced to upgrade to Widget 2.0 if you want to continue to be
supported or see any updates.
At Stardock, we do things differently. We don’t like the upgrade system that most
companies use to force their customers to continually pay them money.
So let us start this section with this statement: DO NOT
UPGRADE TO 2.0 UNLESS YOU ARE CONVINCED IT PROVIDES YOU WITH ENOUGH VALUE TO
JUSTIFY THE UPGRADE EXPENSE. We hope we
can convince our 1.x customers that all these new features are worth the $10 upgrade
price but we do not want them to feel forced to upgrade in order to continue
As much as we might like to be able to give WindowBlinds 2
away to everyone who bought 1.x, we can’t afford to spend half a year in
development and give it away. But what we can do is make sure that it’s clear
to customers that they shouldn’t feel they need or have to upgrade to
WindowBlinds 2 unless they find the new features compelling.
We’re are also saying, even before WindowBlinds 2’s release
that we are going to continue to release new registered updates to WindowBlinds
1.x until June 30, 2001 and they will be free.
There won’t be any new features in those releases but there will be bug
fixes in them as we come across and fix them.
And we will provide you with free unlimited technical support on
WindowBlinds 1.x enhanced edition until June 30, 2001.
And if you purchased WindowBlinds 1.x directly from Stardock
after June 30, 2000, you get WindowBlinds 2 free automatically.
A considerable amount of effort has been put in to make sure
that a skin made for WindowBlinds 2 will function on WindowBlinds 1 still. The 2.0 features won’t be present on 1.x but
the skin itself will function. Again, the point being that we don’t want people
to feel they have to upgrade to WB 2 unless they want those specific features.
They can continue to enjoy all the benefits of 1.x by using the new WB 2 skins
that begin arriving.
The bottom line is that if you purchased WindowBlinds 1, we
want you to feel comfortable in staying with WindowBlinds 1 if you choose not
to upgrade. We consider you just as
much of a customer as someone who purchases WindowBlinds 2. In upgrading to
WindowBlinds 2, you should feel that you are upgrading because the features in
it are worthwhile to you. We think the
new features in version 2 are pretty incredible but we want you to be the judge
WindowBlinds 2: The Features
WindowBlinds 1.0 was released on September 20, 1999. 1.0 was a milestone in the GUI customization
movement. No other program available on Windows can match what the
customization WindowBlinds provides and version 2 moves the goal posts even
Yet, 1.0 did not skin scrollbars, the task bar, the start
button, menu items, the menu itself, and a whole range of other GUI
Over the last 10 months, Stardock has, in accordance to its
long standing policy, released a multitude of free updates to WindowBlinds that
have greatly increased its feature set.
The aforementioned GUI elements are now skinned in WindowBlinds
1.31. WindowBlinds 1.4, available only
to registered users, will feature an all new configuration window that is based
off the WB 2 code.
With WindowBlinds 2, Stardock has gone and begun the process
of giving the user the ability to change the look of nearly every GUI element
in Windows. Some of these new elements are obscure (like the headers on the
details view of a window). Others are
very apparent (like the buttons on an MDI child window). Below is a fairly comprehensive list of all
the new features:
Rendering Engine V2. A better,
faster, and more object oriented rendering engine for displaying
skins. All skins run significantly
faster than they do on WindowBlinds 1.x. The underpinnings for hardware
acceleration (when supported by the video drivers) have been added.
Config Dialog V2. A visually nicer and easier to use configuration
window that allows users to control far more aspects of a given skin than
previously. A 1.x version of this will be made available for free to
registered users of 1.x in WB 1.4.
Skins. Many skin authors make
several different versions of their skin and either provide them as a half
dozen different uploads to the various websites or bundle them all
together in one big ZIP file. Compound skins allow the skin author to
bundle several different skin “styles” in a single skin. The user can then
select from one of these styles from the configuration window.
Control. Possibly one of the most significant enhancements in WindowBlinds
2 is the ability to change the color of a skin on-the-fly. The color change is done when one
applies the skin so there is no performance hit for doing this. Get a skin that you like but don’t like
the color? Change it to the color you want. Version 2 enhanced skins can modify which parts of the skin
are modified and by how much to give better control. The enhanced
registered version (and the one on Object Desktop) allows users to force
the color changing on 1.x skins. This is probably one of the cooler and
more useful (as well as difficult to implement features) in 2.0. No longer will we need to download
skins that are identical other than color.
GUI element skinning. The remaining few parts of the GUI that weren’t skinned
in 1.x are now skinned in 2.0.
This includes the rebars (those little vertical bars that you grip
to move something), group boxes, maximized MDI child window buttons, combo
box buttons, and several other GUI elements.
and Font objects. Question: Why do you rarely see oddly colored push
buttons and taskbar buttons? Answer: Because WindowBlinds 1 didn’t allow
the skin author to specifically control the font type and color for
buttons. In Windows, you can only
control the color of the 3D object (typically gray) and everything is
changed on that. Hence, button text is almost always black. With
WindowBlinds 2, skin authors can create font objects in which they have
total control over what font they use and what color they are. These
objects can then be placed in many places in the skin. This means push
buttons that can be black as night with green text while having taskbar
buttons that are a different color. This may not seem like a big deal to a
casual user but it will mean massive flexibility in skin creation and much
more varied skins. Text can also be rotated so that in theory, you could
actually have a diagnal or sideways title bar.
and Advanced Mode. Many
users may have noticed that an increasing number of good skins also happen
to have a lot of buttons and options on them. This can be a turn off to
users who simply are looking for a relatively clean look for Windows when
the skin they like has a half dozen buttons on it, an MP3 integrated into
it, a clock, etc. WindowBlinds 2
allows skin authors to specify whether a given button will appear in
“simple mode” or not. This way, users who want to know what the
temperature is outside on their skin (or whatever other plug in someone
might include in their skin) can have that while others who simply want to
have the standard 3 buttons plus maybe a rollup button can have that. The user then chooses which mode they
want to be in from the configuration dialog. By default, it is in advanced
button: optimize. WindowBlinds provides skin authors with the ability
to add many different kinds of buttons to add new functionality to the
Windows GUI. Examples of this are
the roll-up button, always on top button, minimize to tray button, make
window transparent button, and the various program launching buttons. The new “optimize” button is for the
increasing number of users running at resolutions beyond 1024x768. With
this button, the skin author can specify what size the window should
resize to when it is pressed. A user running at 1600x1200 may want more
options than simply maximizing or minimizing. They may want to “optimize”
their window to 800x600 or 640x480 or whatever other size suits their
Objects. With layouts, skin authors can control the position of icons
relative to text. In practice, this means things like the taskbar can have
their icons moved to be on the sides or be eliminated entirely. We have
only just begun to explore the ramifications of what this technology will
allow skin authors to do (We suspect they’ll demonstrate to us what they
can do with layouts).
Format: The “Basic” skin format (UIS1+). Many of the most popular
skins don’t need all the power of UIS2 (Enhanced format). The popular UIS2
format, used by 99% of all skins, allows the skin author incredible flexibility.
With UIS2, your buttons could be on the side of the window or the bottom
and be as big or small as wanted. But in reality, most skins are simply
enhancements of what Windows already provides. This is where the UIS1+
format comes in. Because it knows precisely how big the title bar is going
to be and where it is going to be, performance and compatibility is
increased. Most programs that have problems being skinned are that way
because of the things UIS2 has to do to them to work. UIS1+ doesn’t have to do those things
and thus is compatible with virtually every type of program available.
(WindowBlinds Scripting) For skin authors who really want to get
fancy, a Visual-Basic like scripting language is being introduced.
more! As with WindowBlinds 1.x, Stardock will be adding additional
features to 2.x over the next year.
And remember, WindowBlinds 2.x skins will function (sans the 2.x
features) on WindowBlinds 1.x enhanced mode.
Pricing and Availability
WindowBlinds will continue to be $19.95 for the downloadable
shareware version (and $29.95 for the retail edition which comes with box,
manual, CD full of skins, and other goodies).
Users who purchased WindowBlinds 1.x before July 1, 2000 get
a discount to 2.0 and can upgrade for $10.
Users who purchased on July 1 or later will be able to download 2.0 just
as they would download any enhanced build of WindowBlinds.
Another option is to upgrade to Object Desktop which is what
WindowBlinds is part of. Until the end
of September, we will have special upgrade pricing for those WB 1 users who
want to upgrade to Object Desktop: $30 (Object Desktop is $49.95
normally). Object Desktop comes with
not just WindowBlinds but DesktopX, WindowFX, IconPackager, Control Center, Tab
LaunchPad, ObjectZIP, BuilderBlinds, and lots of other components.
There is no “pre-order” mechanism for WB 2 since users can
purchase WindowBlinds 1 and they will automatically be able to get WindowBlinds
2 and users who want to upgrade will be able to do that immediately when WB 2
becomes generally available.
WindowBlinds 2 Alpha will be available on Object Desktop on
August 28. So users wanting to beta test WB 2 can upgrade or purchase Object
We realize that by supporting WindowBlinds 1.x and WindowBlinds
2 at the same time may cause some confusion. But we, as a company, feel that
our customers should not be made to feel like they need to upgrade to receive
support. As individuals, we have often
felt burned by large software companies who put out new versions of their
software, expecting everyone to pay money to upgrade if they want to see
continued support. So while supporting
WindowBlinds 1.x with new versions and such after 2.0 is available may cause
some confusion, we believe that in the long run treating customers with respect
and courtesy pays off.
If you are interested in discussion WindowBlinds 2, please
visit our discussion group at: news://news.stardock.com/stardock.windowblinds.beta
Screenshots of WindowBlinds 2 in action: