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  Tricking out the Desktop 


Something I have always been a sucker for is tricking out my desktop. I love any kind of tweak or gadget that enhances my pc and the whole user-experience thing. It's one of the many reasons I am looking forward to Vista. I've been a fan of applications that trick out the desktop from the norm for years, so I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

My currently tricked out desktop
(click for larger image)

That's my current desktop on my main workstation - both monitors. I have a patched uxtheme.dll, Desktop Sidebar, LClock, CursorXP, IconPackager, UltraMon, and Konfabulator. Oh yeah, don't forget my ninja stars wallpaper. Everyone knows that ninjas are cool, and by cool I mean totally sweet.

Edit: I've added a larger shot of my desktop as suggested in the comments. Click the image above to see the full view.

 WindowBlinds ($19.95) - WindowBlinds by Stardock is nice. It allows you to do about anything as far as the visual style of your windows go. Price is fairly cheap. One of the cooler things about the new v5 is the support for “glass” ala Vista Aero style. However, I don't run WindowBlinds on my main development workstation (but I do on my laptop).

 Custom Visual Styles via a patched uxtheme.dll (Free) - The UXTHEME.DLL file in Windows is what provides the support for Visual Styles. The DLL that comes with Windows only includes support for the standard luna visual style known as “Windows XP Style”. Using a patched uxtheme.dll file will allow you to use other custom visual styles, such as the ones available from many different windows customization sites (like these on, I particularly like the Royale Vista VS theme). The great thing about using a patched uxtheme.dll is that you're really just using the same engine for “themeing” that is built into Windows.

 IconPackager ($14.95) - This is another app from Stardock. It allows you to change all the system icons on your pc. I've changed all of mine to a Vista icon pack. I love the new folder and other system icons.

 LClock (Free) - LClock is just a tiny clock replacement for Windows. Provides a much nicer, prettier systray clock (like mine).

 CursorXP ($10) - This one gives you custom cursors, complete with subtle animation and drop shadows. Yet another one from Stardock. It can be annoying if you go too far with this. You have to just select a theme that doesn't overdo it. I like my StarCraft style theme.

 Konfabulator (now known as Yahoo! Widgets) (Free) - The wonderful world of widgets. There's a widget for just about anything. I use the one for weather, cpu usage monitor, one that rotates images of my kids from my images folder, and one that monitors the Google pagerank of some of my sites.

...and last, my favorite...

 Desktop Sidebar (Free) - Desktop Sidebar ROCKS! I've been hooked on this thing for quite some time now. This gives you the longhorn/vista style sidebar without the wait. I use it for displaying new unread mail in my Outlook inbox, my calendar (today's & tomorrow's activities), and more. It is completely skinnable, and while there is a very large collection of skins available online, it is brain-dead easy to create your own as well. Very well built and performs nicely. You can even build your own custom panels for it fairly easily.

There's plently of places you can get new custom styles and themes for these apps. A few favorites are: WinModify, WinCustomize, BelchFire, VisualStyles, etc.


Leave a comment below.


  1. Haacked 1/11/2006 2:52 PM
    Dude, you MUST post a larger screenshot of your desktop. That looks pretty sweet.
  2. Eber Irigoyen 1/11/2006 4:07 PM
    the guys at Stardock have done an amazing job at extending the desktop, I remember back in the Windows 9X they already had that, and they have kept on improving it and adding stuff
  3. nick 1/12/2006 7:07 AM
    wow i wish i could say i beleived you were joking
  4. Ryan Farley 1/12/2006 7:17 AM
    Nick, why?

    Most of the change is from a custom visual style which is not loaded or ran in any way by other software. It is taking advantage of the themeing already built into windows, so I don't see any performance hit because of the added style (maybe the few gigs of ram I have in my machine helps there though, who knows)

    And I like it, so why not? Am I not holding on enough to a design that was the same UI I used in 1995? Personally, I see nothing wrong with it.

  5. vinit 1/12/2006 10:34 AM
    Yes Ryan, i agree with Haacked. You MUST post a larger screenie for us.
  6. vinit 1/12/2006 10:35 AM
    Yes Ryan, i agree with Haacked. You MUST post a larger screenie for us along with the link to the wallpaper :-)
  7. Ryan Farley 1/12/2006 11:56 AM
    OK. Full size screenshot has been added. Click the smaller image in the post to view.

  8. Ryan Farley 1/12/2006 12:03 PM
    Also, by request, I've added a link to download the wallpaper (I wish I could give credit to whoever made it, but I can't remember where I got it from)

  9. vinit 1/13/2006 8:52 AM
    Thanks Ryan for the full size screenie as well as the link to the wallpaper. Keep us posted whenever you make a change to your desktop or when you find some new useful software/sites.
  10. RoudyBob 1/14/2006 2:45 PM
    VERY nice. What resolution are your monitors at?
  11. Ryan Farley 1/18/2006 8:33 AM
    Hey Bob,

    My monitors are at 1280x1024. I would actually increase that, but my second monitor only goes that high, and it bugs me out when the resolutions between the two monitors are different.

  12. tyler 3/11/2006 6:33 PM
    Hey Ryan, can you post a link son i can have the same desktop as yours???? All i have right now is the ninja thingy's and i was hoping i could trick out my desktop even more! thanks.
  13. Ryan Farley 3/11/2006 8:10 PM

    Everything you need (that I mentioned anyway) are linked in the post.

  14. Niklas Nihl 3/30/2006 11:56 AM
  15. Niklas Nihl 3/31/2006 11:00 AM
  16. Niklas Nihl 3/31/2006 11:05 AM
  17. Niklas Nihl 3/31/2006 11:30 AM
  18. dan 5/16/2006 3:33 PM
    if i try the patcher and it says the .dll file cannot be found but i can find in on my computer what should i do???
  19. Ryan Farley 5/16/2006 3:37 PM
    dan, I would suggest posting this question to the forums.
  20. 8/22/2012 3:00 PM
    Pimp up my windows | Hard Coded
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