WindowBlinds 7 Review


The interface

You don’t need to go to the Control Panel or look through buried options in Display settings: WindowBlinds is a standalone application.  Once you launch WindowBlinds 7, you are met with the interface, which is a little different than standard Windows applications.

You can change your desktop settings by browsing through a set of tabs, which are displayed at the bottom, rather than the top where most people expect to see them.  All items are laid out horizontally, so you must scroll left to right rather than up and down.  The scrollbar is hidden and appears when your mouse cursor is in the window section, although you can scroll through by using your mouse’s scrollwheel.  Above the tabs is an area that shows you a quick preview of your selected options.

Visual Style alternates

The main category tabs are:

  • Visual Styles
  • Alternate Styles
  • Colours (yes, they pretentiously left in the extra “u” for the American audience)
  • Textures
  • Wallpapers
  • Fonts
  • Transparency
  • Explorer Backgrounds

On the top of the window are several actionable items: Apply changes, Skin Options, Settings, About WindowBlinds, and Get More Skins.  The Skin Options pretty much mirrors all of the other functions, such as applying a new skin, downloading a skin, etc.  The Settings button is where most of the advanced features are located, and where most advanced tweakers will spend their time.  Some of the advanced options include how fast you want mouseover animations, pulsing buttons, forcing certain options, using plugins, and special skins for certain applications.

Visual Styles tab

On the Visual Styles tab, you can browse through the category of skins you have installed.  All you need to do to change your theme is just double-click on it (or select and then click on “Apply Changes”).  Once you have highlighted a particular theme, the “Alternate Styles” tab changes to show how many alternates are available.  By default, WindowBlinds 7 comes with the following skins pre-installed:

Skin Notes
Windows Classic no skin applied (a la Windows 2000)
Windows Aero back to Windows default
Aero Colors customizable Aero colors
Aero Clay Earthy textures
Aero Metals Lots of metal textures
Aero Woods Lots and lots of wood grain textures
Corporate A very nice clean skin
Diamond Another very nice clean skin
Sabertooth emulates the look of Mac OS-X
Sublime A nice onyx-like skin

The Colors tab allows you to select a predefined color, or use a rainbow slider to customize your own.  There are also sliders to adjust the brightness and saturation of the selected color.  On the bottom right of this area is a “Change skin system colors” button which opens a window that allows you to customize every aspect of your desktop windows, such as the Active Title, Button Highlight, Active Window Gradient and so forth.

All the pretty colo(u)rs

The Textures tab allows you to augment your skin with a set of textures, and 20 are installed by default.  You can also create your own effect by clicking the Create Effect button on the bottom right, which allows you to select (or create a new) textures for Window Frames, Taskbar, and Start Menu.  You can also edit an existing texture and apply different ones to these different desktop elements.  All textures are Targa (.tga) files, so if you’re a Photoshop junkie then know that you’ll have to save in that format.  Honestly this is the first time I’ve encountered a use for Targa files, and I’ve been doing computer graphics for many years.

Textures tab and cusomization window

The Wallpapers tab is pretty straightforward.  By default, all Windows wallpapers are listed, as well as the images you have installed in your “My Pictures” directory.  Be aware of this when you’re showing off your desktop to your girlfriend or co-worker (they might even be the same thing), as you may have some *ahem* inappropriate content in those folders.

Select your wallpaper

The Fonts tab allows you to change the font size and other options.  There is a slider that changes the skin’s font size, and you can choose to override the default system fonts and use your own.  There are two checkboxes that let you toggle the shadow and outline text effects and the use of system-wide fonts.  The font face is also previewed on the right, and appears to use all installed fonts, even if they aren’t TrueType.

The Transparency tab lets you customize the transparency and blur used on certain desktop elements.  You can specify custom settings for the Start menu window, taskbar, active and inactive windows and context-menus.  You can also ckick the “Vista-ize me” button which enables blur on all elements and overrides the transparency to 5%.

Set transparency for different desktop elements

The Explorer Backgrounds is greyed out for many of the pre-installed themes, but is available for a few.  This allows you to apply a texture to the background of your windows.  You can have a different setting for your Active and Inactive windows.  You can also link the opacity of the Explorer texture to the default window texture, and you can choose to fade the texture out.  Again, all textures are in Targa format.   Too bad there’s not a way to change the background of other windows, like the Command Prompt.

Does it slow down your system?  We answer that on the next page…