The decoy visual style

Date:January 11, 2006 / year-entry #17
Orig Link:
Comments:    79
Summary:During the development of WindowsXP, the visual design team were very cloak-and-dagger about what the final visual look was going to be. They had done a lot of research and put a lot of work into their designs and wanted to make sure that they made a big splash at the E3 conference when Luna...

During the development of Windows XP, the visual design team were very cloak-and-dagger about what the final visual look was going to be. They had done a lot of research and put a lot of work into their designs and wanted to make sure that they made a big splash at the E3 conference when Luna was unveiled. Nobody outside the visual styles team, not even me, knew what Luna was going to look like.

On the other hand, the programmers who were setting up the infrastructure for visual styles needed to have something to test their code against. And something had to go out in the betas.

The visual styles team came up with two styles. In secret, they worked on Luna. In public, they worked on a "decoy" visual style called "Mallard". (For non-English speakers: A mallard is a type of duck commonly used as the model for decoys.) The ruse was so successful that people were busy copying the decoy and porting it to their own systems. (So much for copyright protection.)

Comments (79)
  1. Chris E says:

    Any screenshots of the fake visual style? I didn’t really pay much attention to XP’s development in that regard (and, to be perfectly honest, I always use the classic Windows visual style).

  2. Mal says:

    Is this the theme commonly known as Watercolor?

  3. Dr Pizza says:

    Is this the (considerably more attractive and, well, /grown up/ looking) Watercolor theme?

    If so, it was convicing as a decoy because it wasn’t amateurish and hideous.

  4. Universalis says:

    We did something similar when testing the "self-translating" technology for Cardbox: we wanted to check that the language translation mechanism was working even before we had any translations to test.

    We sïmpły added a few dïacrïtïc marks to standard Engłïsh. The resułt was bïzarre but readabłe and you coułd see at a głance ïf ït was transłated or not.

    By an obvious association of ideas (Mötörhead, Motley Crüe) the language appeared in menus as "English (Metał)" alongside "English" and "English (United States)".

  5. Jon says:

    Personally I found the clean sharp edges and subtle colors of the "watercolor" theme FAR preferrable to the bubbly rounded edges and stark bright colors of Luna. Luna looks like something you’d see on a computer you’d give your kids to use.

    Fortunately the newer Royale/Media Center theme is a good compromise… and Vista’s theme is really nice.

  6. rich says:

    Hard to believe much work went into Luna: from a fairly clean interface in Win2k we now have something which looks like Teletubbyland.

  7. Zlad says:

    Yeah, I have to agree that Watercolor Ergonomic is far superior to the dreck that is Luna. For that matter, so is Windows Classic. It’s more muted, doesn’t rely on Fisher-Price-sized buttons, and is overall nice.

  8. Dr Pizza says:

    The big problem is, many users love luna. God knows why.

  9. stb says:

    I can’t help but agree with rich, jon, etc. Luna is hideous. The first thing that came to my mind when I first saw it was, "this looks like it was designed by Fischer-Price". Too bright, too round, too childish.

    The first thing I do on every XP machine I work on is turn the Classic theme back on, and I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one.

  10. Dave says:

    The big problem is, many users love luna.

    Because they use the default? In 1996 many users loved as their home page but now they love That’s not love, that’s laziness.

    Besides, many users love spyware, porn, and email stationery with unicorns, but please don’t put any of that in the OS. Especially the unicorn stationery.

  11. Jeff says:

    Luna barbs aside, was the point of this thread that what we’re seeing of Office 12 right now could possibly be a decoy?

  12. Jozef says:

    Raymond, are you actually saying that the current Vista visual style is a decoy as well? :)

  13. Xavier says:

    Jeff, there is an excellent ‘blog by Jensen Harris about the Office 12 user interface at:

    In it, he makes it very clear that the Office 12 betas do not have the final artwork.

  14. asdf says:

    The XP visual design team were actually decoys of competent designers.

  15. Anon. says:

    Gasp! Does this mean that… the Vista betas are using a decoy theme?

  16. Stu says:

    I’ve just had a terrible thought: What if the current Vista theme is a decoy, and they have something even more hideous than Luna in the works?

    PS. I think even Microsoft think Luna is bad, notice that none of the "Professional" (Office, Visual Studio, etc.) MS apps use it, a much better default theme is included in Media Center and Luna is not available in the current Vista builds, even though Classic is.

  17. AngryRichard says:


    How could you have left out Spiñal Tap?

  18. "Hard to believe much work went into Luna: from a fairly clean interface in Win2k we now have something which looks like Teletubbyland."

    you do know that you can change that to look almost identical to Windows 2000 right?

  19. Travis Owens says:

    Gasp! Does this mean that… the Vista betas are using a decoy theme?

    No, just two days ago (Jan 9th) two MS employees said Vista’s Glass theme is the official Vista theme.

  20. Jeff says:

    Thanks Xavier. I read Jensen’s blog but hadn’t gone all the way back to where he made the statement about not sharing the final skin. It makes sense that they want to hold back for a bigger bang when it ships.

  21. Brad Brening says:

    I can only hope that this same principle is being used on the new Visual Studio 2005. Now THAT is one ugly interface – like some beginner just leared how to use the gradient option in their imaging program.

  22. Steve Loughran says:

    To an extent, the Windows themes are all inconsistent and unmemorable. They are like the vehicle designs of ford: workable, but not really something anyone is proud of, owner or developer. Each version is completely different from its predecessor, for no apparent reason, and sometimes the fashions (think 1999 ford taurus) are butt-ugly.

    Apple are like Audi: unique, elegant, stylish. Every new version is an extension of the thing that went before it; nothing is one that gets laughed at. Which means that old Apple apps look better than old windows apps. Maybe that is why the windows themes always change radically: to make the old apps look obsolete


    ps: I hate the current vista CTP look and feed too. A low grade rip-off of the apple metal look.

  23. John Topley says:

    I actually think that when it first came out, the Windows 95 look and feel was the best one. They tidied up all of the silly inconsistencies that were in Windows 3.1 and made everything have a uniform 3-D appearance.

    Then things started to get a bit confused with Windows 98 and the whole Active Desktop debacle. Windows 2000 was quite nice but the use of the Tahoma font wasn’t consistent across the entire UI, it was quite a patchwork. Windows XP always felt rushed to me, as I’ve blogged about.

  24. KiwiBlue says:

    Win95 look? Gimme a break. Nothing beats ctl3dv2 style on Win16 apps.

  25. Puckdropper says:

    There are times I have to use one of my school’s computers to do one thing or another. Since they have XP, I’m subjected to Luna. Thankfully it’s only temporary and doesn’t get in my way much.

    I haven’t tried changing the theme back to Classic and seeing if it would hold across all their machines for my log in.

    The point being: Even though you can change it back to classic, you can’t always do that on your current machine.

  26. JamesW says:

    I’ll gladly join in with the Luna bashing – it is hideous. Garish colours and much wasting of space. The first thing I do with XP is to make it look as much like W2K as I can. I did try out Watercolour and found it quite pleasant – it’s quite something that the hack-job decoy is better than the final design! I won’t even bother comparing Luna to Aqua.

  27. kbiel says:

    >The first thing I do on every XP machine I work on is turn the Classic theme back on, and I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one.

    Better yet, I turn off the Themes service and save my memory and processor time as well as my eyes.

  28. stb says:

    Steve: I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying that Apple has never stumbled. Personally, I can’t stand the brushed metal look that a lot of OS X apps used early on (I don’t recall seeing it much these days). It’s just so out of place.

    However, I will agree that they have been consistently better than Microsoft’s designs. Luna has always felt, to me, like someone at MS looked at Aqua, wanted to copy it, but entirely missed the point. They took "simple elegance" and removed the "elegance". Then, they mistook "childish" for "simple".

    The end result was the garish monstrosity known as Luna.

  29. JamesW says:

    @John Topley

    ‘Windows 2000 was quite nice but the use of the Tahoma font wasn’t consistent across the entire UI, it was quite a patchwork. Windows XP always felt rushed to me, as I’ve blogged about.’

    XP’s GUI rushed – amen! I’ve noticed inconsistancies with tabbed dialogs on some of the control panels: some tabs have the new light background shading, but others have plain old dialog grey. This seems less prevalent in SP2, but there are still horrors. Witness the display dialog: . I mean, that’s a OS dialog – would Apple ever ship a build of OS X with a dialog looking like that! Avert your gaze from the gratuitous block of solid grey – look how lame the monitor bitmap is! Four shades of grey and some checkerboard dithering is so Windows 3. Not to mention how biiiigggg and in your face the caption bar buttons are. I’ll admit not to being a fan of default Aqua either – too bright. I use the graphite theme.

    It’s frustrating when you jump through all sorts of hoops in order to be theme compliant – transparency and owner draw stuff are the worst – but still find examples in the OS where no one gives a damn. The annoyance is compounded when you know how easy it is to knock up a compliant GUI on OS X…

  30. Ooohooo yes, I’d totally agree with the others: Watercolor was far better looking than luna (and in fact I loved the original logon screen in whistler, thought it was just beautiful…the one in xp is as ugly as they come :))

  31. JamesW says:

    OK – scrub the moan about the display panel – it was an artifact of changing themes whilst the panel was raised (+ the png got garbled on its ftp journey). Doesn’t stop users moaning when they change themes when our products are running though! Still, the themed version of the monitor still has some nasty jaggies around it’s base. And Luna is still hideous – I’m just about to switch back to W2K style :)

  32. They went to all that trouble just to create a splash??


    I have a dream… that one day an operating system will be judged not by how pretty and shiny it is, but by the content of its code.

  33. Dan McCarty says:

    "I have a dream… that one day an operating system will be judged not by how pretty and shiny it is, but by the content of its code."

    Hey, we’re talkin WINDOWS here. Be careful what you wish for…


  34. Dave says:

    you do know that you can change that to

    > look almost identical to Windows 2000 right?

    To paraphrase Steve Ballmer: "Discovery, discovery, discovery, discovery."

    Users don’t change the defaults because they can’t readily discover how to change things in the OS. Watch the smile on someone’s face when you show them XP’s VisualEffects dialog set to "Adjust for best performance."

    Who’s to blame for this? "Developers, developers, developers, developers." :)

  35. Jay B says:

    XP’s Fischer Price default is hideous, I agree. I use the Windows Classic Style, for lack of a replacement.

    I would really like the Watercolor visual style, but I’m not about to start hacking system files. If it can’t be gotten through proper API or configuration files, I don’t want to mess with it…

    So, CAN it be done through proper API or configuration files?

  36. Jerry Pisk says:

    "Windows 2000 was quite nice but the use of the Tahoma font wasn’t consistent across the entire UI, it was quite a patchwork."

    This was caused by a bug (or a feature since it was never fixed) in Visual Studio’s resource editor – if you used MS Shell Dlg font in your dialog to have the OS use the default dialog font it went ahead and replaced it with whatever that default font was on the machine you used.

  37. Ben Cooke says:

    Oh dear, Raymond. Look what you started!

    Jay B: An alternative to hacking uxtheme is WindowBlinds:

    It’s a third-party shareware utility which became famous due to its ability to "skin" Windows ’95. The new completely-free version is for Windows XP only, and I believe (though I may be wrong) that it operates by run-time patching uxtheme, so the file on disk isn’t modified but calls to certain functions are redirected through to WindowBlinds’ own implementation. If you unload WindowBlinds, the hooks are removed and the system returns to normal.

    This is a similar technique to that used in the unofficial WMF bug fix that was issued a few days before Microsoft got out the official one.

    I imagine you could find a legally-dubious version of the Watercolor skin for WindowBlinds quite easily.

  38. Adam says:

    <i>So much for copyright protection</i>

    Odd. I thought Microsoft was <a href="">against copyright for look-and-feel</a>.

    Or is that just when they’re the ones wanting to do the copying?

  39. Stealing the actual bitmaps goes beyond look-and-feel.

  40. Mike says:


    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

  41. I was obviously using it in the informal sense of "copying". In the same way people say "I stole code from this other program" meaning that you copied it.

  42. DCMonkey says:

    I like Luna (I use the silver tinged version), but would prefer that MS bring back "Hot Dog Stand".

  43. John Topley says:

    Hmmm. The screen shots I’ve seen of Aero Glass just didn’t make me think of a Maybach*. It all seemed a bit chaotic. Sorry Scoble!


  44. Ulric says:

    The cubes on the title bar were pretty, but I can’t say I find WaterColor exactly breath taking!

  45. dhiren says:

    I think I’ll be the first to admit it in this thread, but I use the Luna style on XP and dont mind it. My secret? As soon as I do a new install of XP, the *very first* thing I do, before patches and drivers and everything else, is go to

    Display Settings -> Appearance -> Advanced

    and change the size of the Title Bar from its default (24 i think) to the smallest it goes (seems to be 20). That makes the title bar and the control buttons at the top right small enough to not be obtrusive and tacky, but still have the cool blue colours (I like blue, even though its a trademark of the Dow Chemical Company). Just that change alone makes a *huge* difference to the style

  46. bramster says:


    Surely, there are better ways to make your boss run away?

    Maybe not.

  47. PatriotB says:

    Microsoft did a great job separating the theme engine from the theme data, but what really irks me is the lack of themes available. When XP was released, there was Classic and Luna. Nothing more.

    Three years later, a new theme is released with Media Center edition (Royale). Then, it is also released as a separate download ("Energy Blue Theme Pack"), but ONLY for Tablet PC edition! Who came up with THAT one?!

    Some time later, Microsoft New Zealand put out Rolaye for all XP users. See, it wasn’t that hard was it?

    The wait between XP and Vista is quite long — 5 years. Would it have been THAT hard for Microsoft to put out a couple more official themes during that time?

  48. :: Wendy :: says:

    Will I be able to match my computer windows to my real windows now, I’d like a european pine theme please, with the wood-grain showing and some ‘knots’

  49. John Elliott says:

    John Topley: The relatively consistent Win95/NT4 look can be explained by it having only just been st^H^Hadapted from NEXTSTEP.

  50. John Elliott says:

    Drat, typed the URL wrong. Should be:

  51. Centaur says:

    Once I installed Windows XP the first time in my life, these were my first three thoughts.

    First: “Ugh! Rounded corners. So that novice users don’t get injured. I’m careful enough to not need that, how do I turn it off?”

    Second: “The colors. Let me recolor it the way I want, or I’m not responsible for consequences.”

    Third: “If the theme engine does not allow me to make my own themes, I do not want it.”

    Then the first thing I do is switch to the Classic theme. Therefore, as a developer, I’m not likely to care about the tax of theme compatibility.

  52. James Risto says:

    I knew a user that ran with this … an interesting machine to work on, but hey with only 16 colors, you do what you can.

  53. Sherrod Segraves says:

    When you change themes, why does it take so long, with the screen slowly desaturating? Is it so apps can adjust without on-screen flicker? It might make a good blog topic.

  54. Jubal Harshaw says:

    I have to laugh at how many people switch to classic. That position always reeks of "fear of change" to me.

    When I first started using XP I resisted the new Start menu but one day I decided to try it for a few weeks. Now when I see people using the old Start menu on XP I just laugh. The new menu is so much more efficient.

    The only real problem I have with Luna is the large icons, short Start menu, hidden keyboard shortcuts and the transition effects.

    When I start using a new XP machine I change the Start menu to small icons, list 15 programs, and expand Control Panel. The turn off transition effects and "hide keyboard shortcuts" and I am good to go. I probably do a few more tweaks but I am pretty happy with only those changes. Of course IE is another story, but I am pretty happy with the 7.0 beta.

  55. Jon says:

    I agree with Jubal here… I used to do the same with the Start Menu (switch it to classic style), and a huge long list of other tweaks that didn’t really serve any purpose (changing fonts around, removing the shortcut icon and "Shortcut to…" prefix) and then one day I thought I would try the defaults, and it’s stuck ever since.

    It’s made me realise that most of these things that come in are changed because they have been tested to be more efficient and user friendly, so now whenever something new shows up I make a real effort to leave it how it’s set by default for the first few weeks. I would say in about 9 out of 10 cases I end up liking it that way.

    Luna is still the exception though :)

  56. stb says:

    Jubal: your comment about "fear of change" seems to miss the point most people are making about Luna. We’re not really commenting on the interface. We’re commenting on the fact that the color scheme and layout is butt-ugly.

    Additionally, you make the assumption that everyone uses computers the same way you do. I use the classic Start Menu because I almost never use the Start Menu in the first place, and so when I do, I don’t need a bunch of extra information cluttering it up.

    My Quick Launch Bar at work has in it 13 items currently. These are the 13 programs I am using 99.9% of the time while I’m working. Anything not there, I can go find in Start/Programs/… if I need it, which is rarely.

    I certainly don’t need the OS trying to guess which programs I find useful, and keeping a list of them. I’d rather make the list myself. If I’m using something enough to warrant it being on my list, I’ll add it.

    I’ve worked this way for some time, and it’s efficient for me. Why should I change to something that’s less efficient for me, just because Microsoft came up with some new whiz-bang interface?

  57. Jubal Harshaw says:

    I wasn’t really addressing others opinions of color scheme and layout, on was commenting on people using the classic theme.

    Of course the optimal layout will vary for each individual. I, for example, do not even use the Quick Launch bar because I can’t access it from my keyboard while I can access the Start menu. So I would pin those 13 items to the top of my Start menu and access them from there.

    However, I heard never heard a good argument for using the classic menu. Most of the extra items on the Start menu can be removed if you don’t use them (mine is pretty sparse) and most of the items on your Programs menu will rarely be accessed, if ever.

    If you switched to the new menu you could remove most of the clutter, unpin everything from the top and keep you top 13 programs in the Quick Launch. Then the less frequently used programs would be on the first pane of the Start menu and you would have to root through all your Programs to find them. I really can’t see any reason to use the classic menu.

    Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong ;)

  58. Jay B says:

    Fear of change?

    Not really. I use the classic menu for one reason, and one reason alone: The placement of the "Run…" menu item is a pain in the ass in the XP Menu. I use this item a lot, and I’m quite used to it being straight above the start button.

    Why is that such an issue though? Well, it’s not just that I have to move my mouse in a different direction. If I manage to move my mouse over "All Programs" (something very easy to do since its lower right quadrant is in the direct path from Start to Run), the full programs menu shows up right over top of my Run command and it won’t go away until I click on some other area! Being a quick mouse user, I often will accidentally bring up that programs menu up to 3 times before I get pissed off and move slower to get it right.

    I could use Windows Key+R, but why should I change?

  59. Jubal Harshaw says:


    That is one of the better reasons that I have heard, but it seems odd that you would prefer to:

    1. Take one of your hands off the keyboard and place it on the mouse.

    2. Mouse over to Start.

    3. Click Start.

    4. Mouse up to Run.

    5. Click Run.

    6. Put your hand back on the keyboard.

    7. Type a command.

    When you could:

    1. Press Windows Key + R

    2. Type a command

    Of couse some people just like using the mouse and waiting for a large programs menu to load when you didn’t intend to access it is quite annoying.

    For my own sanity, please tell me that after performing the seven steps I listed above that you press Enter rather than clicking "OK" ;)

  60. Jay B says:

    Whether I click OK or press Enter totally depends on what I do in the Run dialog. A lot of the time the item I want to execute is in the combo box already, in which case, I’ll select it and click OK. Other times, I have to manually edit the contents of one of the entries, in which case I might press Enter.

    The truth is, I prefer navigating the UI with the mouse, and not attempting to use the keyboard. Yes, Windows Key+R is easier, but I just don’t think in terms of Keyboard shortcuts. At one point I added a Ctrl+Shift+A shortcut to Internet Information Services, and I still ended up going to Administrative Tools, or just clicking on a shortcut to it I put on the Desktop.

  61. PatriotB says:

    "If I manage to move my mouse over "All Programs" (something very easy to do since its lower right quadrant is in the direct path from Start to Run), the full programs menu shows up right over top of my Run command and it won’t go away until I click on some other area!"

    Merely moving the mouse through the "All Programs" region on its way to the Run item won’t cause the menu to pop up immediately, under default settings. You have to leave the mouse to hover over it for a second or so. (There might be a setting somewhere to decrease the menu delay time; maybe you decreased yours? This would cause the problem.)

  62. John Elliott says:

    Jubal’s original comment seems to be conflating the "Windows classic" visual style with the "classic start menu". They can be switched on and off separately.

    Full disclosure: My start menu is set to classic, but I hardly ever use any of it other than "Shut Down", which is a bigger target in the classic version than in the XP version. The programs I run most frequently go in quicklaunch, and everything else goes in progman :-)

  63. Rover says:

    I usually invert most of the visual settings, including moving task bar to the top.

  64. xyz says:

    I thouth its what inside that counts.

    But hey, thats with linux and not with windows.

  65. dhiren says:

    > Of course the optimal layout will vary for

    >> each individual. I, for example, do not even

    >> use the Quick Launch bar because I can’t

    >> access it from my keyboard while I can access

    >> the Start menu. So I would pin those 13 items

    >> to the top of my Start menu and access them

    >> from there.

    Ctrl + Esc to get the start menu to pop up

    Esc to dismiss the start menu, but retain focus on the start button

    Tab to cycle through the various containers in the start menu (Application buttons, quick start, system notification area, etc).

    Once you’ve gotten focus to the quick-launch area, left and right arrow lets you choose the item you want, and space will select it


  66. Jubal Harshaw says:


    Thanks for the tip.

    I suppose I could have guessed that there would be some way to access it with the keyboard, but that is hardly more convenient that pressing the Windows key and then the first letter of what I want to launch.

    On a side note, I gave up on using Quick Launch long before the new Start menu. Back in W2K I put everything I used frequently on the desktop. The I turned off the Quick Launch toolbar and turned on the Desktop toolbar. With the Desktop bar displayed I turned off "Show Text" and "Show Title" and sized it to show the most frequently used shortcuts.

    This left me with something just like the Quick Launch toolbar but with a little arrow on the end that popped up a list of the less frequently used shortcuts I had put on the desktop. Now that I think about it that configuration was similar to the top of the new Start menu, just less convenient :)

  67. Jubal Harshaw says:

    John Elliott,

    You are correct, I am mixing the two. Perhaps I should switch to the classic theme for a few weeks and see if I prefer it.

  68. Jubal Harshaw says:

    I was discussing this thread with a colleague this morning and recalled that the reason I originally adopted the standard XP theme was related to problems with our application on customer’s XP computers.

    Many of our users are not very advanced and they run XP at 800 x 600 with all the defaults. When XP came out the larger forms in our application were designed for a minimum of 800 x 600 and used every bit of that space. The taller taskbar and title bars caused some problems for us so I started using the XP theme and reviewing forms at 800 x 600. Eventually I just got used to it (the theme, not the resolution).

    I think the standard XP theme looks very Play Skool at lower resolutions but it seems perfectly fine at higher resolutions – with the tweaks I mentioned previously.

  69. Ulric says:

    Is the Classic theme still available in Vista, or is that a totally stupid question and I shouldn’t want that?

    In my opition the Classic theme in XP doesn’t just change the colors and look but I believe it also changes several little workflows everywhere I’m used to.

    btw, I didn’t like much having the keyboard accelerators being hidden by default on XP! Full Keyboard access in Windows is imho is a big advantage over MacOSX… not something I want to see Microsoft give up following focus groups feedback..

  70. Inquisitor says:

    I really, really liked Watercolor; I was a Whistler technical tester and Watercolor really appealed to me. I still uxtheme-hack every XP machine I own in order to use a cloned Watercolor as a theme. It’s not that Luna’s bad per se (it’s pretty well designed for what it is, you can see much worse on any uxthemes site), it just lacks the professionalism and style of Watercolor.

    It was such a shame that you didn’t give us a choice – Watercolor and Luna should have been shipped together (as a theme choice), Watercolor as the professional’s choice and Luna as the default. Especially since Office XP , to my eyes, is obviously designed to go with Watercolor rather than Luna…

  71. Charles Randall says:

    My problem with Windows XP’s default theme is one of functionality.

    With the XP theme, the furthest upper-right pixel does not click on the close button. Since when shutting down programs I tend to just fling my mouse up in that corner and click, it doesn’t work anymore in XP’s theme.

    And then, I often go to the task manager by right clicking on the start bar. There’s a bottom few pixels in the classic range that allows this click; in the XP theme, again, this doesn’t work.

  72. RBL says:

    Let’s cut to the bone. Windows’ GUI sucks. It’s not only ugly; it’s also incapable of skinning all the apps. Legacy GUI elements (dialogs, low-rez icons, etc.) always poke through. The animation is half-hearted, lame, and inconsistently implemented. The icons are a fugly mix of Win9x-era stuff through XP era. The GUI elements don’t scale properly when you adjust the DPI. Etc. For a company that crows "innovation" and "leadership" at every turn, the thing users see first and use most — the GUI — speaks volumes about Microsoft’s fundamental lack of visual creativity. This is why there are respectable markets for tools such as Stardock’s Object Desktop and TGTSoft’s StyleXP, yet few if any skinning tools sold for the Mac OS. By extension: compare iTunes GUI to WMP. Apple understands the importance of a great user experience, and invests the creativity to deliver it. Maybe Microsoft should hire some real NY fashion designers for the next inevitable GUI iteration of Windows, in order to finally get it right.

  73. Michael C. says:

    Anybody seen Andy Morum’s "System 5" theme over at DeviantArt? I think it’s one of the best XP themes I’ve even seen. It even beats Watercolor! Check it out:

  74. Vince P says:

    Cutting to the bone, I have to say that RBL’s emotionalism sucks. Not only are his words ugly, but so is he.

  75. Ulric says:

    So the Windows suck because it can’t be skinned… the OS X UI cannot be skinned either. Neither can the look if most of the devices we use daily – nor would many people bother to. But you can try to skin iTune if you prefer. OPPS! That’s right you can’t skin iTune, you’d need Windows Media Player.

    BTW, the graphical look of the UI has nothing to do with its usability, it can be just lipstick on a pig. OS X isn’t without its critics. For example, the Dock, Mail, it has several problems. Perhaps you’re not using a Mac? I do. They should give up the Dock and use the Windows task bar instead.

    That said I have no clue how the first skin for WMP got out of the door, it was truely ugly. (

    Vista essentially fixes the DPI problem (which affects very people), as I believe another blog entry here has mentionned.

  76. PatriotB says:

    Charles Randall: If the window in question is maximized, then flinging the mouse to the corner will work. That said, I hate it when Windows are "full-size" but not maximized… then when you fling the mouse you close the window underneatht it! I’ve been burned by that many times.

    Regarding opening Task Manager via Taskbar: I think the XP theme gets this right. That way it is easier to hit the taskbar buttons.

    The screenshots of the Vista "orb" start menu have me worried. Do you have to actually click in the orb in order to bring up the menu? Or can you still fling the mouse to the lower-left (outside the orb) and bring up the menu?

  77. Norman Diamond says:

    Next you’re going to need a decoy START MENU.

    In newsgroup, subect title "language of MS office", someone has just told a programmer to get information about an installed application by manipulating the Start menu.

  78. Neil says:

    The problem with the Classic Start menu is that a) the disconnect icon is the W2K style but the log off icon is the XP style b) the side graphic reads "Windows Terminal Server" – I wish…

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