It’s on the extremely rare occasion to find an application that live up to my expectations with a great piece of coding, but it’s happened just last week: Y’z Shadow is a small application that sits in the SysTray (next to the clock) and has only a couple of “tasks.” One is to draw user-configurable drop shadows, under both active and inactive windows. Don’t worry: there’s options for the size and opacity of the shadows and it really looks good when it’s running. Y’z will effect any open menu by turning it semi-transparent, which is a neater effect than you would think.
Every now and again I stumble upon an application that I had an idea for at some point. This isn’t all that uncommon – my mind rarely shuts off and it tends to keep me awake at night so it has to think about; why not computer code? And as for finding the application, not’s not too rare – there’s a whole world of engineers out there with a lot more free time available and much, much smarter than me. Most of the time, when I have an idea, I’ll search the ‘net to see if someone thought of it first. I would say, especially with more programmers than even before these days, that almost every idea I have had is usually old – I can find at least a couple applications already out there, if not a couple dozen, that will perform for me, and encompass my “idea”. Unfortunately, the found applications typically feck off my PC in one way or another. An example? Take the Dock in Mac’s OS-X. Great idea and works really well on the Mac – I thought it would be a great innovation to move to the XP desktop, so I did a search for just such an application. I found a number of them out there that claim to be the OS-X Dock… they just mostly suck. Oh, some people have worked out how to grow and shrink the icons while mousing over them… a few even don’t have jagged edges when they are in “large” mode. Otherwise, they mostly suck! Like the icons don’t click at all, or the images are hard coded (and ugly) or the app was written in VB and require run time files or flicker… always something screw up the whole app. So now here’s a good idea, that is implemented poorly by many, and that kills my idea. Bad apps can make me very discouraged – it’s like a musician going to see a bad concert: it’s painful and demoralizing.
Having said the above, it’s on the extremely rare occasion to find an application that live up to my expectations with a great piece of coding, but it’s happened just last week: Y’z Shadow. See, over the last year or so, I’ve begun to see applications become less than completely opaque while on my desktop: they can become partially transparent when inactive. AIM+ does it for AOL’s AIM windows. I found it neat, but mostly useless… then I started looking at OS-X a while back and got used to it over the last month or so… it not only looks neat but it’s also really effective to your desktop. So I got to thinking: have a SysTray icon that would allow you to turn certain running windows semi-transparent. Should be easy, right? Only a couple of lines in Windows code – no big deal. Well, I gotta tell ya. A transparent TaskBar is nearly impossible to work with. Not only that but if you start to turn every window transparent, it takes forever to paint them all. I had windows all over Windows as mostly invisible; turned each window into onion paper, mostly as an experiment, but it showed me that messing around with this stuff was mostly useless. So I chuck’d the idea. Enter Y’z Shadow.
Y’z Shadow is a small application that sits in the SysTray (next to the clock) and has only a couple of “tasks.” One is to draw user-configurable drop shadows, under both active and inactive windows. Don’t worry: there’s options for the size and opacity of the shadows and it really looks good when it’s running. Y’z will effect any open menu by turning it semi-transparent, which is a neater effect than you would think. There are other settings that can change like the languages used – there’s also a Japanese version – but for the most part, it’s easy to use, highly effective, cooperative with other applications (i.e. StyleXP) and best of all, it’s freeware (bonus!). It was just updated on 15-Sept, so it’s an “active” application and can be downloaded at: http://www.h5.dion.ne.jp/~yzathome/ – only caveats I can even think of, and they’re both no big deal, are that it requires XP (no hardship there, or for most people) and has to be started by hand (or put into the Startup group).
‘Tis just a really great piece of software – I highly recommend it!