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Manage your programs and running tasks with style!

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 DesktopX - FAQ

Why would I want to use DesktopX?

That depends on what you do.  If you're an end user (most people) you can install DesktopX and be able to add mini-apps called "widgets" to your desktop. These can be quite useful depending on what you want to know.  You can add things like stock tickers, headline news, extended weather forecasts, CPU meters, drive space monitors, or pretty much anything else. The idea is to be able to put things on your desktop that aren't "applications" per se but are things you would want rapid access to.

Wouldn't that clutter up my desktop? And besides, I usually have my desktop covered with things.

That's true.  However, DesktopX allows you to hide all your widgets with a hot key (Default is F10 but you can set this). So with a single press, they can be hidden and press it again and they'll all show up.  One can almost imagine using the overlay feature as a kind of..dashboard on top of your desktop for when you need to know things.

Won't this use up a lot of extra memory?

No. That's the whole point - rather than run traditional applications which use a lot of memory, widgets, by design, use a lot less memory to do the same thing.

Okay, I understand widgets, but what about "objects"? What are they? What's the difference?

Technically, the difference is that widgets are .EXEs. They run in their own memory space.  Objects, by contrast, are "imported" into DesktopX. You have to have DesktopX running to use an object.  Widgets don't require DesktopX to be running at all, just installed somewhere on your computer (to make use of its DLLs).

This creates the practical difference: Objects have less overhead than widgets because they all share the same memory. So people use objects to replace desktop icons or to have eye candy on their desktop.  By contrast, widgets tend to do something.

This is an example of a widget.

This is an example of an object.

You can import widgets into your DesktopX environment to modify or to have running in the same space as your other DesktopX content. So many authors have uploaded their widgets as objects too (hence the confusion).  Generally, if your thing does something, you should export it as a widget. If it's basically a super icon, it should be exported as an object.

So then what are desktops?

If you get all your objects just the way you want, you can save it as a DesktopX theme (a desktop).  This is basically a snapshot of your desktop. As a result, users can create some pretty neat desktops:

This is an example of a desktop.

DesktopX Enterprise even lets you create desktops that make use of the Windows NT security features. Or put another way, companies can build custom, branded, secure desktops. They'd need DesktopX Enterprise (1 license) to export the secure desktop file (.desktop) and then purchase DesktopX run-times (around $10 apiece in large volumes) to put on their desktops.

Desktops differ from exported objects and widgets in that they can totally control your desktop (hide the Start bar, have a system tray, etc.). You can literally create your very own custom Windows environment with this.

What is the difference between versions of DesktopX?

If you just want to run other people's stuff, just get the DesktopX client. It lets you run the objects, widgets, and themes. It has almost no user interface so it's very easy to use.

If you want to create your own desktop or objects or widgets you need DesktopX Standard. It can run everything too but it includes the development environment that lets you quickly create this stuff -- right on your desktop.

If you're a software developer (or artist who isn't afraid of a little JavaScript or VB Script) with some ambition, that's where DesktopX Pro comes in.  It lets you export your widget as a gadget. Gadgets are the same as widgets except they don't require any run-times to be installed.  The .EXE you create can be sent to anyone with Windows 2000 or XP and run there. 

Explain again the difference between "widgets" and "gadgets"

Widgets are .EXEs created with DesktopX that run as normal programs but require that DesktopX (any version) be installed somewhere on the computer first.

Gadgets, by contrast, are truly stand-alone programs that require no installation or additional downloads to use.

How big are the "gadgets" I create with DesktopX Pro.

Very small. Consider this analog clock ([Download]). The EXE is around 500K. That's smaller than a "Hello World" program is typically with a modern compiler. And this is a full blown analog clock with very nice graphics included.

Explain a little bit about

DesktopX Pro can create stand-alone programs called Gadgets. Users can give these away or sell them however they want.  But they can also submit them to  The user uploads the gadget, supplies the price (from free to as much as they want to charge) and if they pass moderation, they'll show up on the site with a buy link. When users buy the gadget, the developer and split the proceeds 50/50.

How is DesktopX different from other programs that do "widgets"?

The first thing to bear in mind is that DesktopX was available for any program of this nature existed on the PC or Macintosh.  So it has a very large head start in terms of technical features.

But here are some of the current advantages of DesktopX over other "widget" enabling programs:

  • Its widgets are .EXEs. This means you can load them without having to first load some "widget" environment. As long as you have at least the DesktoX run-time installed, you can use them.

  • It can also build desktops. The other widget enabling programs are just that - widget enablers. They can't build desktops.

  • It's easy to create things with. DesktopX standard includes a powerful but easy to use widget/desktop developer's environment. You can literally create your widgets or desktops right on your existing desktop. It includes a build in editor with Intellisense-like features and will underline your mistakes. The others require you to slog it through by using your own text editor to define everything.

  • It supports ActiveX controls. No one else can do this. COM objects (such as web browser controls) can be treated like DesktopX objects. So creating MP3 players or web browsers or Flash games with DesktopX requires no special coding.

  • It supports an open plugin-architecture. If there's a core feature of DesktopX that you feel missing, you can extend it by making plugins. So developers don't have to lobby (and wait) for us to implement some new class or concept in the underlying architecture, they can build a plugin.

  • It has multimedia features built in. Animations, sounds, and other visual and audio effects are built in. This also includes shadows, transparencies, sizing, coloring -- all from the GUI (as well as in code).

  • Tons of existing classes. The benefit of being first is a wealth of classes for developers and users. Want a system tray object? No problem, just select system tray. Taskbar? Same thing.

Let's say I don't care about "widgets" or "gadgets", why would I use DesktopX to build a desktop rather than other programs that exist that let you have your own shell?

The main difference is that DesktopX doesn't replace the Windows shell (explorer.exe). It instead extends it. DesktopX lets you enhance the functionality of Explorer (or any shell for that matter) as well as control how it looks.

Replacing your Windows shell has some peril involved, especially since many shell replacements make assumptions about the way Windows works that may change from version to version. By sticking with Explorer, you don't have to worry about features you're used to disappearing.

I have Object Desktop, which version of DesktopX do I have access to?

You would have access to DesktopX Standard 3.0 (the one that's normally $24.95). This is the version that can both use widgets, objects, and themes and create them.  But it doesn't create the stand-alone EXEs (gadgets).

So why is DesktopX a big deal?

Here are 3 basic reasons why DesktopX is so revolutionary: 

1)       It lets end users easily add content to their desktop that are far more functional than “icons” but are not quite traditional applications.  DesktopX essentially invents a new category of desktop content that falls between icons and traditional applications.  

2)       We make it much easier for people to create visually appealing functional mini-applications (widgets) / desktops.  The kinds of things that would have previously been created with a traditional "rapid development" environment over a period of days or weeks can be done with DesktopX in a fraction of the time.

3)       With DesktopX Pro, you can take the widgets you create and export them as a stand alone programs (gadgets).  Imagine if you wanted to create a custom sales graphing utility for your office that sits on the desktop of your sales team. Users with only some programming knowledge could quickly write this.  Or picture a company that wants an in-house instant messaging utility. This could be created with DesktopX in a matter of days rather than weeks. Simple programs that display information or perform a few simple but important tasks that need to look friendly can now be made quickly and easily.


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