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August 24, 1999

Since the release of WindowBlinds .97 we've begun trying to tidy up things that have been on our list of things to do.  Increase performance, increase stability on a wider range of systems, fix annoying bugs, etc.

We hope to release .99 before the end of the month with 1.0 coming in September.

Here's some interesting info on which skins are the most popular.  As you know, you can download the most popular skin (popular being the one that the most users are running) but we automatically exclude the skins that come with WindowBlinds since you already have those for certain.  So for your interest is a pie chart of the most popular skins that come with WindowBlinds.

 

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July 24, 1999

Just a head's up on how development is going on WIndowBlinds as we near 1.0.

Next week, 0.97 will be released. For those of you running .95, the biggest new things in it include the skinning of toolbars and Internet features.

The internet features include:
* Ability to download the most popular skins
* Ability to get a skin of the week
* Direct access to Stardock's news service (i.e. we can tell you when new versions and such are available).

Plus we will be able to make www.windowblinds.net have a "Rating" on skin based on the popularity rating of a skin. This is kind of the ultimate way of telling what the "Best" skins are by what skins people are using. We'll create a most popular skins section.

The Skin library has recently undergone a tremendous upgrade in features and ease of searching.

Now, for us to be able determine the most popular skins we post from WindowBlinds to the server the name of the skin in use. If, as some people have recently posted, you have a problem with this data being given out, you will be able to disable the Internet features from within the configuration window (in the .96 ALPHAS available, you can do this by following the readme which explains how to modify the WindowBlinds INI text file). The other two pieces of information it sends on occasion are your registration number and the version running. We'll probably modify this so that it only sends this once per day or something. But either way, it's not much data. If you're reading this news item, you have just downloaded more data than WindowBlinds will send in weeks. We are purposely not encrypting anything we send so that users who are ...extremely concerned about their privacy can easily monitor exactly what WindowBlinds is sending.

Stardock will not be participating in any further "discussion" on the "privacy" issue of the Internet features. If you are worried about us knowing about your skin choice simply turn it off. The internet features are meant to be just that -- features. No different than choosing to use the toolbar features or the bitmap background features, it's totally up to you. However, I would recommend people to please be aware of the fact that current WindowBlinds is a beta product and that .96 is actually labeled an ALPHA product. Users who are squeamish about lack of polish and documentation should probably stick with (at the very least) the beta version and avoid interim builds (this has been mentioned numerous times during the course of the beta).

0.97 will be the final public release before 1.0. In addition to its new features, it also has a host of bug fixes (including once and for all working with NextStart, a popular program manager/taskbar used by some people here at Stardock and elsewhere).

0.98 will come shortly after that only for registered versions and primarily be a "Bug fix" over .97 though some new features may sneak in. One change in .98 and future registered builds is that they will only be available to registered users who are actually in our purchase database. So those of you who have...borrowed a serial number (like the zillions of people who have the name "cokebottle") will no longer be able to obtain registered versions (unless they're willing to scour the internet for a "cracked" version of a particular WB build -- at which point one has to wonder how that person must value their time to avoid paying $20).

1.0 will come out in mid August and 1.1 probably in late August. 1.1 will be only available to Registered users and will have scroll bar support in it.

Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions:

Q: "I've read on this news group about people having problems with WindowBlinds, will 1.0 solve all this?"

A: Let me say that in 99.99% of the cases, a system can be made rock solid running WindowBlinds by doing a combination of excluding problematic programs and updating video drivers. However, Stardock can't realistically work interactively on a case by case basis with every user who has a particular system tray applet or program that has problems and show them how to exclude those programs.

WindowBlinds won't work with 100% of the programs out there, more like 95%. Those other 5% will have to be excluded. This is because some programs have been programmed to paint their own window in every respect. For instance, a popular program like Sonique has to be excluded because it "skins" itself. Because it is popular, we can add it to our default exclusion list. However, for every program we know about there are a dozen we don't. If users aren't able to exclude those problematic programs (or in some cases identify the programs causing it) they won't be able to reliably run WindowBlinds. As .95 shows, WindowBlinds runs without modification on most of the systems, since .95's release, over 120,000 people have downloaded it. There are relatively few posts in here about problems when compared to that number (contrast that to our .40 days when this forum was full of problems and we only had 20,0000 or so users).

For this reason, we strongly recommend users to use the shareware version, don't register it unless it's working for you. Don't assume that some future version is going to suddenly fix every problem on your system. Some things are not resolvable and they're not due to "bugs" on the incompatible program or WindowBlinds. WindowBlinds is a program that changes the GUI which means that it is taking over drawing functions from other programs. Most programs (nearly all) do not have a problem with this, but a few do.

Q: "What about piracy"?
A: The piracy rate on WindowBlinds is remarkably high. This puts us into a difficult position from a support standpoint. But let me put it like this, if you're running an illegally registered version of WindowBlinds then first off, you shouldn't, it's not just illegal, it's immoral. We haven't crippled the public versions of WindowBlinds in the least. The only difference between a registered and unregistered copy of WindowBlinds is the title screen. While some people like to make the excuse that "Why should I pay $20 for a program that just dresses up Windows" that's just a bad excuse. WB does more than that anyway (it adds functionality to the GUI itself and will continue to move that way). $20 is not very much money and if it's not worth $20 then you shouldn't be using it.

Secondly, as mentioned earlier, we're basically going to be forced to have to make it so that only users in our registered user database can access new versions. We consider everyone who uses WindowBlinds (whether registered or not) to be our customers. When it comes to this support forum and taking bug fixes, we make no distinction. But the people who have bought Object Desktop and WindowBlinds are the ones who are essentially paying our salaries and making the development of WindowBlinds and Object Desktop possible. We have to have a mechanism in which they are rewarded for helping us in a very direct way and that will be by having updates only available in a secure manner.

Q: What about an upgrade to Object Desktop?
A: Clearly Object Desktop is the way to go in the long term. Not only do you get Object Desktop but you get IconPackager (and they now both work together so that skin authors can call IP to optionally change your icons too). You also get Control Center, NetScan, DriveScan, and lots of other goodies. (think of the relationship like this: Word is to WindowBlinds as Object Desktop is to Office).

Like WindowBlinds, the Object Desktop Network is in beta still as we iron out kinks in the system. When it goes 1.0, there will be an upgrade path for registered users of WindowBlinds to Object Desktop. Probably a $34.95 upgrade fee or something.


Conclusions:
Anyway, I hope that answers any questions anyone might have on where things are. We're very excited about the impending release of WindowBlinds and Object Desktop. Both products have lots of additional cool features in store for them and together I'm sure we'll be able to make them truly world class products.

 

July 12, 1999

WindowBlinds 0.95 goes on-line.  Two months of hard work have paid off with the release of WindowBlinds 0.95!  The most stable, fast, and feature-rich version of WindowBlinds.  I'd like to thank all you users who have registered WindowBlinds or joined the Object Desktop Network.  Without your help, we'd never be able to get this far.  As a product of this immense complexity working on Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows 2000 nears completions, it's becoming a massive effort to test and support it with all the features it has, all the features we plan while making it stable and fast.

We hope to go 1.0 before the end of July though that probably won't happen.  There will be another public update before the end of July though since this version expires at the end of this month.

For those of you relatively new to WindowBlinds, WindowBlinds is actually a single component of our upcoming desktop environment called Object Desktop.  The idea behind Object Desktop is to create a set of next generation technologies in component form that transform the way people interact with their computers.  WindowBlinds, originally called "WindowFX" has been designed to handle the visual transformation of Windows.  Object Desktop has many other components that add incredible power and functionality to Windows (visit http://www.stardock.com/odnt for more info).

0.95 was mainly designed to be more compatible, faster, and more stable than 0.90 and I think we succeeded.  While we were at it, Neil (the lead developer of WB) added a couple of really cool features for the upcoming Windows 2000 OS such as real shadows to windows and a semi transparent start bar.  It's quite incredible actually.

This week we're working on adding a couple of new features such as tool bar skinning, Internet integration (now users will be able to get a "skin of the week" or find out what the most widely used skins are and automatically get them).   This integration will be optional of course but it will be great when it's done.   It'll also allow us to more easily help users obtain the newest versions and solve problems.

We hope you like this version, please visit our discussion area to give us feedback.  We're nearing 1.0 and it's important that you let us know if you have problems.  Don't assume a problem you are having is wide-spread, you must report the problems you have or else they may not get looked at.

Which brings us to a rather unique problem -- because nothing like WindowBlinds has ever really been done before, we're in a tight spot.  That is, many features that we've created simply will not work on 100% of the systems out there.   Instead of punishing everyone, we're basically asking users to make sure they try the demo version before purchasing.  We expect that 1.0 will simply not function on around 5% of the systems out there for various reasons.  It's not a "bug" in our code or a "bug" in someone else's code, it's simply an issue of compatibility.  Odds are, it'll work perfectly for you and if you let us know of a particular problem, let us know.  Also, make sure you make use of the "Exclusion" list.  Some (though not many) programs draw their own windows.   WindowBlinds can't obviously take over a program that insists on drawing its own stuff all the time and the two will fight and crashing and mispainting will occur.   This isn't a "bug" in their program or ours.  You'll need to just exclude the program from WindowBlinds. 

Example programs like that would include:

 

 

 

June 26, 1999

After a long hard month of work we're finally about ready to release WindowBlinds 0.93 to registered users of WindowBlinds and Object Desktop users.  It should eliminate resizing issues in the vast majority of cases and hopefully have improved stability.  Some programs will still need to be excluded, sorry but that will be a fact of life as some programs are simply too finicky to try to work around but we'd say about 95% of the programs out there work fine with WindowBlinds.  Ironically, it's mostly drawing packages that can be finicky (3D Studio, Photoshop, Photopaint, Paintshop Pro, PMVIew, etc.).

May 31, 1999

Amongst its features include the ability to change all your colors on a skin by skin basis.

We're including a new version of Console (a UIS1 skin) that does this. For skin authors, all you have to do is add a section called [colours] to your UIS file and then copy and paste (after taking out the "'s) the color entries from hkey_currentuser->control panel->colors

I'm probably going to cheat and look for already existing themes and just copy and paste their colors into some of my skins.

WindowBlinds also reverts to your normal colors after you turn it off or if you switch to a skin that isn't using this feature so you're not stuck with "mutant" skins.

The new version also has a brand new configuration panel which I'm attaching here.   Unfortunately, if you are using large fonts, it won't work correctly so you'll have to run small fonts for now.  We're trying to think of something to work around this (I run at 1600x1200 and believe me, small fonts are a pain for us running at high res).

ui99.jpg (43809 bytes)


This new version also has a lot of changes under the covers to fix (in the long term) sizing issues and many other anamolies.  I say in the long term because in this version, the sizing problems are going to seem WORSE.  This is because the new mechanism makes skinned windows behave exactly as they should but WindowBlinds contains a ton of code for working around the sizing problems from the older mechanism.

For instance, before WindowBlinds windows were technically a different size than they should but code within WindowBLinds would, on the fly, resize the window so they LOOKED correctly.  In this new version, we've figured out how to get the windows to truly be the right size but the old code for making it look correct will now make the window too big.  So you'll ahve windows that resize to be too large.  This will be taken care of shortly.

Another new feature is improved title bar animation.   A new version of Shoggot's scathe skin is going to be placed up in which the title bar (Which is a blade) actually spins around in real time, it's quite cool if you have a powerful machine.

This new version is going to be only available on the Object Desktop Network until next Tuesday when we get back from Memorial day weekend.  On Tuesday, an updated 0.92 will be made available to registered WindowBlinds users as well as Object Desktop Network users.

I'm not sure if this version is going to include the Display Properties integration or not.  If not, it'll be in soon.  I'm running that here and it's very nice.   A new tab called WindowBlinds is created which lets you configure WindowBlinds from it.

If you want to get Object Desktop for Windows, just visit http://www.stardock.com/products/odnt.   Not only do you get WindowBlinds this way but you get DriveScan, Control Center, NetScan, IconPackager, and a bunch of other useful programs.

Please note, this version *is* an interim build.  This means that it may be less stable than 0.90 for many people.


May 18, 1999

WindowBlinds .90 has been released to the general public. Most of the work has been put into stability. While many users have asked for gee-wiz features, we've had to put many of those types of featuers on hold until after 1.0. Nevertheless, .90 does have a number of new features for skin authors and we already are well on our way to .95 which has a brand new GUI for the configuration window and internet integration.

WindowBlinds .90 is available to all, 0.95 will only be available to registered users of Object Desktop or WindowBlinds but that won't be around for a couple weeks anyway. We hope you find this new version as solid as we do. More testing went into this version than any other.

April 30, 1999

WindowBlinds .90 Release Candidate is available to those of you who have registered WindowBlinds.  The difference over .80 is pretty significant.  For instance, it uses far fewer resources than .80 did, uses a lot less memory, is faster, and is more reliable. It fixes a number of annoying bugs (mostly) such as the dialog sizing problem, window sizing problems (for most people) and numerous other buglets.

Feature wise, it supports assigning skins to specific programs, skinnable menus, layered skins, animated skins, programmable plug-ins (for instance, there is a clock plug-in available that puts a clock on every window), and a lot more.

 

March 27, 1999

 

WindowBlinds 0.80 is the latest version of WindowBlinds.  The feedback so far has been very good.  This version is the first version that allows you to register WindowBlinds.  We hope that if you like WindowBlinds, you consider registering it and supporting the shareware concept.

Those of you installing WindowBlinds need to be aware that you should not run it in "quiet" mode right away since only when the configuration dialog comes up is the WindowBlinds information written to the registry. If you install WindowBlinds and running it the first time causes your system to hang, this is why.  First time users of WindowBlinds need not worry about this.

We don't expect to have another major general public update until May.  It's going to be tough to top this version as we near 1.0.   We still have to address some dialog resizing and window resizing glitches that have been reported.  We do expect to release a significant update to registered users early in April which will have, among other things, skinnable menus which look super cool among a few surprise features as well as addressing glitches that have been reported.  This will be our way of thanking the users who have registered the program.

The new version if also self extracting and still small enough to fit on a 1.44MB floppy disk so that you can give it to a friend or relative to try out. 

For developers, we've made an OCX development kit available for shareware and commercial developers. Basically, it allows software developers to make applications that have WindowBlinds features without having WindowBlinds installed.  In the past year, we've seen a ton of "skinnable" programs out there where each author had to design their skinning features from scratch. With the WindowBlinds OCX, it's a breeze to do it.  But in reality, the OCX is meant for shareawre authors and commercial developers.  Companies looking to easily create software that has a very specific look is our target audience.  You can email info@stardock.com to get pricing information.

The other cool new thing we've done is add the a plug-in developer's kit.  This is where skin authors can actually program some pretty fancy looking skins.  It's meant for actual developers, the sample skin that comes with the kit has a clock on the title bar for instance.

March 3, 1999

 

WindowBlinds 0.50 is now available.  Visit the main WindowBlinds page for a list of new features.  This is going to be the last public freeware version of WindowBlinds.  Another public version will be out later this month (target date March 22) which will be a shareware version.  It won't be crippled in any way though.  But if you find you like using WindowBlinds we hope you choose to register it, the registration price is only going to be $19.95.  Another way to get WindowBlinds is through Object Desktop for Windows (Network Edition).   Object Desktop gets interim builds of WindowBlinds (for instance, there was a .41, .42, .43, .44, .45, .46, and .49 of WindowBlinds on Object Desktop).  Object Desktop is $49.95 and comes with a ton of other extremely useful features beyond WindowBlinds.

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Object Desktop for Windows in action

But for now, WindowBlinds is totally free to use and we thank you for trying it.  We hope you are having as much fun using it as we are developing it.

February 1, 1999

WindowBlinds 0.40 debuts today on Download.com (we'll have a link to it here).  It has a host of exciting features and hopefully you'll find it very stable and fast.

January 14, 1999

A new update to WindowBlinds 0.39 has been released.   Version E addresses numerous issues including:

1) You can now safely unload WindowBlinds without losing system stability

2) Printer Properties dialog now works

3) You can now specifiy the rollup size in your UIS2 file

4) The WindowBlinds dialog will now show the entire titlebar in its preview.

5) Menu issues and such fixed.

6) You can supply sound effects for your buttons

7) Freecell and other 16 bit applications will now function.

8) WindowBlinds replaces the standard Windows buttons with transparent ones.  0.40 will allow you to make your own buttons.

9) You can now have your title bar text on the bottom of the window instead of just on the top.

This is all getting ready for WindowBlinds 0.40 which should be ready soon we hope.  After 0.40's public release, future updates will appear first for Object Desktop Network users and later for the general public for free.   WindowBlinds is one of the components of Object Desktop for Windows.  If you really like WindowBlinds, we encourage you to join the Object Desktop Network which not only has WindowBlinds but a host of other cool components with more on the way.

December 28, 1998

 

We have a build of 0.39 available for download.   This build is meant for skin authors only.  We do not consider it ready for prime time yet but it has the 0.40 functionality built in (most of it) so skin authors can create some pretty neat looking themes.

 

December 22, 1998

WindowBlinds 0.40 is still in development.  We've been testing out its functionality by creating themes and seeing how well it handles them.  Here are two screenshots of two WindowBlinds 0.40 themes in progress:

Holiday

NeoPlanet

 

December 12, 1998

A new beta of ThemeBuilder will be going up today and Skinz.Org now maintains a list of skins for WindowBlinds.  Visit http://www.skinz.org to see a bunch of cool stuff.

December 8, 1998

A beta of ThemeBuilder is available for download. It will be expanded with clipboard support in the near future, support for the UIS v2 spec (part of WindowBlinds 0.40 and greater), and should eventually support the creation of more "custom" functions like dynamic lines, etc.

December 2, 1998

Things are coming along well with WindowBlinds 0.40.   We did release an update of WindowFX (which is a subset of WindowBlinds that is found in Object Desktop) that corrected a few things found in 0.36.  Stability has been pretty good overall but we are still trying to track down a a number of reported issues.

One thing we are looking for is the creation of more personalities (skins/themes/whatever you want to call them).  We are working on a ThemeBuilder that will make creating these much easier.  But in the meantime, it's pretty straight forward to create a personality.

Each personality is in its own sub directory underneath WindowBlinds.  It is made up of a bunch of bitmaps and a .uis file.  The bitmaps are the pictures for the buttons in their various states, titlebars, borders, transparencies, whatever.  The .uis file is just a text file that tells WindowBlinds where to put what.  All you have to do to create your own personality is replace the bitmaps with whatever you want and modify the .uis file in notepad of Object Edit.

November 23, 1998

Note: ignore references to differences between WindowBlinds and WindowFX in the text that follows. As of 12/5/98, WindowBlinds will replace the WindowFX component of Object Desktop for Windows.

WindowBlinds 0.35 is released.  WindowBlinds is a superset of the WindowFX component found in Object Desktop.  WindowFX contains the core features found in WindowBlinds. 

Basically, WindowFX and WindowBlinds have in common the features that change Windows 95/98/NT into a particular personality.  WindowBlinds goes beyond those features and adds additional system enhancements like changing the toolbar styles to flat, giving folder windows backgrounds and other goodies we come up with along the way.

Go to the downloads are to grab the first Stardock version of Window Blinds.  If you have run previous versions of Window Blinds by Neil Banfield, you'll need to uninstall those betas.  I think you'll find this new beta is a night and day difference.

The final version of WindowBlinds will not be free, if you think you're interested in WindowBlinds, we encourage you to go to the Object Desktop page and get ahold of Object Desktop.  Object Desktop is Stardock's overall direction in allowing users to take control of their OS.

The problem we have with Windows is that Microsoft seems to be determined to tell us how we should be using Windows.  Projects like LiteStep and the like demonstrate that there are lots of people who are not satisifed with the one size fits all approach Microsoft takes with Windows.

With Object Desktop, which WindowBlinds is component of (WindowFX), our goal is to give the user complete control over how Windows works.  WindowBlinds takes care of changing the way Windows looks.  The rest of Object Desktop takes care of changing the way Windows works and feels.

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