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For many users, the default Windows user interface is a tad boring and just doesn’t cut it. They want to personalize and customize it to make it their own.
Objectbar, a product from StarDock, is a tool for doing just that. Let’s see if this product delivers on its promises.
You can download ObjectBar from the TechRepublic Software Library.
After you’ve installed the application you will be presented with this screen. ObjectBar comes with three themes by default. Choose one and select Load.
ObjectBar By Default
Once loaded the Objectbar you’ve chosen will display at the top. I chose the first option, Accessorize. It’s pretty boring by default but we’ll see if we can spruce it up a bit.
Oddly placed widgets
I believe this theme is intended to accent your Windows taskbar rather than replace it. For this reason, there is no way to access the start menu from ObjectBar when this theme is loaded.
In place of the start button, you’ll find this widget that shows the weather and some system statistics. It’s bulky but it shows what sort of things you can do with ObjectBar.
RSS Feed Chooser?
Also included in this theme is an RSS icon that drops down a list of RSS feeds. This list is configurable and you can add and remove feeds from it. I’m not sure of its practical value, however, since it seems to be little more than a favorites list.
If you right-click on the ObjectBar and select either Theme Editor or Properties, you are brought to this configuration screen. I’m not sure why there are two options that go to the same place but I imagine it’s configurable on a theme basis, so this may vary when using other themes.
On the content tab, you can add or move elements and widgets to and from the ObjectBar. Objects you can have on the bar include (but aren’t limited to) folders, shortcuts, and widgets.
You can also hide the Windows task bar from this screen. With some themes, ObjectBar is intended to replace the Windows task bar.
Here you can modify the same settings that are available from the context menu.
Extended Feature Options
On the Extended Feature Options tab you can change how menus work on your ObjectBar. Many applications have implemented a system where menu options that aren’t frequently used will be hidden. This feature is also available in ObjectBar.
There are two checkboxes on this tab. I recommend checking the first but not the second, which would remove the system tray icon for ObjectBar, making it difficult to get to configuration options in a pinch.
I always like to see these types of options built into an application. Many times a single troublesome feature can cause big problems.
When a software company can identify them and give you the option to disable them, it’s a sign that proper testing has taken place.
You can also adjust these settings to get better performance on slower machines.
Theme Browser... revisited
I’m not overly impressed with the Accessorize bar, so let’s look at another one.
The MacPC theme will add a bar that looks and feels like the bar used on Apple operating systems.
Themes from the Internet will take you to Stardock’s Web site, where you can download user-created themes, some of which are really well done. You’ll have to test them to see which ones you like.
Here is what the MacPC theme looks like. Its very similar to the task bar that Apple users see, very clean and simple.
Since this theme is designed to replace the Windows task bar, it was hidden automatically when I loaded this theme. You can show it again by unchecking the box in the settings screen.