Windows like OS X

Vincent Danen

April 19, 2005

Not really, OS X-related, but kinda is considering my Windows install looks more like a default OS X install than my Mac desktops do! Read on for some good links to customizing Windows XP if you, like me, are saddled with using it some of the time and just can't stand how ugly the thing is out of the box.

Strange stuff, but I never thought I'd blog about Windows considering I can't stand it. However, it's become a necessary evil. For one, Quickbooks for Mac blows (especially the Canadian version), so I caved in and started using Quickbooks for Windows. Then I found Quicken for Mac was royally messing up my data, and reading about the latest version for Quicken for Mac (which, stupidly enough, isn't even available in Canada!) was no better, so I ditched Quicken for Mac to use Quicken for Windows after I couldn't find any good alternatives (online banking is a must).

Anyways, so I've got two important apps that I need Windows for (yes, I suppose I could use VMWare or Crossover Office or whatever, but I need things to be stable and I have a problem with upgrading Linux distros every 6mos (for work, I have to keep current) and reconfiguring stuff is a serious PITA. This is one reason I prefer OS X for my desktop machines.

Anyways, since I think Windows is hideously ugly, I like to mod it a bit. I had previously just used Stardock's excellent WindowBlinds program (shareware, but worth it in my opinion since it makes Windows look less Windows-ish). After using it for a while, I stumbled across this mod that makes Windows look very close to a default OS X setup... it's called FlyakiteOSX and if you haven't seen this you at least need to see this guy's website. It's amazing! Anyways, this mod makes my Windows machine look more like a Mac than my Mac does (I use Unsanity's excellent ShapeShifter preference pane to "skin" OS X and I don't care what anyone says... Unsanity's stuff is very reliable).

So after monkeying around with that, which also installs Stardock's ObjectDock (which essentially looks like the OS X dock even with magnified icons on it.. very cool), I went looking for LiteStep which I used to use back in the Win98 days. It's a bit different now (I'm almost positive that it used to do virtual desktops), but seems fairly decent... I'll have to tweak it a bit to make it behave the way that I want it to. Since it didn't do virtual desktops, I ended up switching back to Explorer for the shell (LiteStep is a shell replacement that's not quite as bloated) and found Microsoft has a virtual desktop PowerToy available called Virtual Desktop Manager and it seems to work ok.. not nearly as smooth as anything on OS X or Linux, but it beats having a single desktop (can people actually work efficiently with only one desktop these days?!?)

At any rate, I just found all of this quite cool. I don't particularly care for Windows... about the only thing it's good for is EverQuest, Quicken, and QuickBooks (that's pretty much all I use it for). But the fact that I can make it look a lot less Windows-ish (read: butt-ugly), makes it a little better. Now if we could just do something about the stability of the whole thing...

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