Review: Give The Windows GUI A Face-Lift

Stardock's Object Desktop 2007 lets you fiddle with the look and feel of Windows 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista to get it the way you like it.
Tired of that same old Microsoft Windows graphical user interface? Plymouth, Mich.-based Stardock aims to enable PC users to get the Windows GUI to look and work the way they want with its Object Desktop 2007 software.

Object Desktop 2007 adds a plethora of interface customization options to Windows 2000, XP, 2003 and Vista.
Launched earlier this month, Object Desktop 2007 is a $49 set of tools that adds a plethora of interface customization options to Windows 2000, XP, 2003 and the upcoming Vista version. While many users may shun change, finding the Windows interface akin to the "comfort of an old friend," the CRN Test Center finds that Stardock's product can enhance their experience by making the point-and-click Windows GUI function as they desire--not according to some arbitrary design elements decided in Redmond, Wash.

Object Desktop enables users or administrators to modify the look, functionality and feel of the six primary user-interface areas in Windows: Icons, Desktop, GUI, program access, system tray and switching between active applications. Users looking to change the GUI will use the WindowBlinds component of Object Desktop, while those looking to enhance the desktop experience of Windows will leverage the DesktopX component. Icons can be modified using IconPackager or enhanced using the IconX controls.

Beyond those basic elements, users can enlist the WindowFX element to build special effects into window transitions or the IconDeveloper to build custom icons. Any way you slice it, Object Desktop brings an almost limitless ability to modify the desktop interface experience.

Yet therein lies a big question: Why change something that users are accustomed to and possibly add complexity? Simply put, custom interfaces now can be created to match the way a company works with applications, as well as to simplify the learning curve for new users.

For example, with Object Desktop, a new GUI/desktop interface can be fashioned to discard any elements unrelated to the task at hand--in other words, a kiosk-style user environment can be quickly created and deployed. What's more, by selecting a "suite," users can modify all desktop elements in a single step, changing the look and feel of Windows in one fell swoop.

Much like some Linux distributions, Object Desktop brings to Windows the ability to mimic other OS interfaces. For instance, a Windows machine can have the look and feel of a Macintosh, or a Windows XP machine can mimic the look and feel of Vista.

Those looking to build the ultimate in custom desktops, in particular, will appreciate the DesktopX application, which can be used to create custom desktops and build mini-applications.

Administrators will find the tools easy to work with and consolidated into a central application, Theme Manager. Installation is straightforward, but installers will have to deal with an activation process and registration screens.

For the channel, the product has several applications, ranging from preparing users for the look and feel of Vista to building kiosk-based interfaces for vertical market applications--or even just to make cool-looking white-box systems. The flexibility offered by Object Desktop and its ability to create live mini applications married to the desktop could prove to be just what the doctor ordered for bringing some excitement back into the Windows desktop PC.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing