Thursday July 13, 2006

If I Have to Use Windows

At least I can make the best of a bad deal

I have to use Windows for my current job (not by choice and not for lack of trying to get a Mac OS X system instead). And, while I can use Windows, I don't like it. So... I've made some modifications, installing various applications and extensions that make Windows look and feel... not so much like Windoze.

Here's what I installed; most of these are free unless otherwise noted.

Look and Feel Modifications

Let's start with the Wired Magazine article I found that pointed me in the right directions: "XP Users Cop a Feel of OS X".

  • WindowBlinds - change the look of the desktop, title bar, widgets, etc. and IconPackager - change the system icons. The "Lite" version of each is free (although it will nag at startup that the paid version has more features)

    Once you have these installed, go to, where you can find and download Wallpapers, Icon sets, & skins for WindowBlinds (and other, similar packages).

  • Cygwin — provides a Linux feel under Windows. I'd go stark raving loonytoones without this. I discovered Cygwin in 2003, the last time I had to use Windoze. It's a must-have for anyone who knows how to use the *nix command line.

    There's also a cygwin-savvy version of PuTTY that lets you use the PuTTY terminal emulator on the local machine. PuTTY allows my mouse to work the way I expect it to.

  • KeyTweak - turn off capslock and modify other keys as desired. (Personally, I also mapped left-alt and left-windows keys to control. Don't use my keyboard. :-)

  • Firefox and Thunderbird

    I'm using Firefox for web browsing and Thunderbird for email. I've "skinned" both to be more appealing. :-) I'm using the AquaFox theme in Firefox and the "Crossover X" theme in Thunderbird.


    I've also installed these ThunderBird extensions:

    • YAMB - Yet Another Mail Biff. Now I have a little cartoon wizard that tells me I have new mail. (it's cuter than the paper clip. :-)

    • Notary — add notes to messages.

    • ConfigDate — provides finer control of the date display.

    • Signature Switch — use and switch between multiple signatures

    • Lightning - a calendar extension for TBird; nice.

    • Contacts Sidebar - displays the address book in a sidebar.

  • Actual Window Manager — This is a commercial product. There are several versions to choose from, depending on how much functionality you want.

    I found this before I found WindowBlinds. The WB skin I installed gives me windowshading (aka "rollup") so I really don't _need_ Actual Window Manager anymore, but I like the alternate minimizer feature. So I paid for it (pricing: $19.95 for any one of the individual features; $39.95 for all of the features in one program).


  • Vim — If you know your way around the *nix vi editor, vim is a terrific variant. It's very configurable and has syntax highlighting built in.

  • Crimson Editor - If you prefer a mouse-click, drag & drop, WYSIWYG editor, Crimson is very nice (and free!). It has syntax-highlighting, "project" groups, spell checking and lots more. I'm an old hand at vi; however, I've gotten used to having a drag & drop editor available. I like this one and you can't beat the price.

  • Advanced Diary— I always keep some sort of "project logbook". I used to use a paper notebook; now I keep my records electronically. Advanced Diary is not only free but nicely done (and has support).

    If I Have to Use Windows ( in category Computerware , Trivial Pursuits ) - posted at Thu, 13 Jul, 12:46 Pacific | «e»

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