DesktoX 3 Quick Start Guide

Published on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 By Brad Wardell In DesktopX Tutorials

Quick Start

Spring 2005

(c) 2005 Stardock Corporation

General overview

Stardock DesktopX is a program that is designed to allow users to put useful and interesting things on their Windows desktop. By default, Windows only supports putting little static pictures called "icons" that act at "short-cuts" to other things.  DesktopX allows you to add desktop objects to your Windows desktop that can do almost anything one can imagine.  These objects can be combined together to create mini programs or used to create an entirely new desktop. 

When the content that one makes with DesktopX is exported, it can come in the form of a DesktopX object pack, a DesktopX widget, or as a .Desktop file (for replacing the desktop).

This Quick Start guide is designed to walk users through the basic elements of DesktopX.

The DesktopX User Interface

When you load DesktopX you are presented with this user interface.  If you are using the DesktopX Client, the last option "Create" will not appear.

The Widgets option allows user to load up DesktopX content that was exported as a mini-program called a widget. Widgets live on your desktop but behave like small Windows programs. They tend to take up less memory than a normal Windows program and do things like provide system information, grab data over the net, perform simple utility services.  But in truth, a widget can pretty much do whatever the person who makes it can imagine. But think of widgets as "mini programs". These are .EXE files.

The Load Objects option is designed to import a desktop object onto your existing Windows desktop. Things exported as objects tend to be more along the lines as "super icons". Things that do more than your Windows icons but aren't really applications.  A "Recycle bin" object that tells you how many items are in the recycle bin would be an example of a desktop object.  Or an Internet Explorer "icon" that changes its size and shape when the mouse moves over it would be another. These are .DXPack files.

The Load Desktop option is designed for users who want to load an entirely new desktop created by someone else. Your existing Windows desktop probably has the "Start bar" at the bottom of the screen and a number of icons on it.  People from around the world have their own ideas on how the Windows desktop should look and work and have used DesktopX to create them and then export them. These are .Desktop files or .DXThemes files.

Using Widgets

When you choose load widgets, the DesktopX Widget Manager is run. This is a simple program that resides in your system tray to make it easy for you to access and manage any running widgets. You don't need it to load widgets, it just makes it convenient to organize what's running.

Widgets are designed to exist on your desktop but they have also been designed not to clutter it up. You can assign hot-keys to your widgets that will make them show or hide. They default to F9 (to activate a widget) and F10 (to toggle showing or hiding them). Note that you may have to change these defaults as other programs may be reserving them (such as Multiplicity which reserves F10 for switching desktops).

Widgets also have a properties dialog. Right click on any widget and you can access its properties dialog.

Typically, a widget has at least two tabs on its properties dialog: Appearance and General Settings.  The appearance tab lets you control how the widget looks.  The General Settings lets you control what hot keys will activate it. Some widgets have a "Preferences" tab that is widget specific.

Using Objects

Quick Tip:

If you want DesktopX's development environment to be the default DesktopX mode when you import objects or load desktops, choose "Create" to load up the DesktopX development environment and then go to the "Preferences" tab and click on the "Make DesktopX Builder the default program for loading .dxpacks and .desktops"

When you use to load an object on to your desktop, it will open up your objects directory. Double click on the object you want and it'll add it to your desktop. At that point, if you are not running DesktopX, it will load up the DesktopX run-time (client).  DesktopX client allows users to remove objects or set the target of the object. But to do more than that, users need to go into the DesktopX development environment (by choosing the "Create" option).

Using Desktops

Using a desktop created by another person can be quite an experience.  Most people who make desktops create them for themselves that they happen to make available on sites such as for others to use.

That means that they tend to be resolution specific (common resolutions being 1280x1024 for instance).  If you're not running at the resolution specified by the author of the desktop, you will probably run into problems.

Many desktops are resolution independent. But when downloading desktops, just be sure you look to see if it specifies a particular resolution.  If the desktop hides your Start bar and desktop icons you can access your key options by right-clicking on the Windows desktop.

Creating or modifying objects, widgets, and desktops

Creating or modifying things in DesktopX is quite easy. However, it goes beyond the scope of this Quick Start Guide.  A few tips though for that:

  • Holding down the CTRL key while left clicking on a given item will allow you to move it around (Ctrl-left click dragging).
  • Holding the CTRL key is also the default key for interacting with ActiveX controls.
  • You can also hold down the CTRL key to select multiple objects.
  • If drag selecting multiple objects has stopped working, odds are some other program has hooked the mouse during that time. To enable DesktopX to re-hook the mouse, restart it by right clicking on the DesktopX icon in your system try and choosing "Restart DesktopX".

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