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Fast Alpha-Blending In Your GUI

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the alphablend-soup dept.

Graphics 592

visnu writes: "I've been waiting for this for 2 years now -- a REAL glass-like windowing system. And yes, it's Microsoft to do it. Ever since W2k came out, and they included alpha-blending in the GDI, I was tempted to write a little tool to turn on any window's transparency, but of course I'm way too lazy to do that. These guys weren't though: glass2k runs in the systray and handles turning on any window's transparency. yes, here's a screenshot. I'm not too sure about the speed in W2k, but in XP w/ the newest Nvidia drivers and a somewhat recent video card, it's hardware accelerated, and yes, you should be drooling." Update: 11/26 19:00 GMT by T : Links updated, so hopefully you'll be able to actually get to the content again :)

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JTFTR (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612531)

Just Trolling For Teryl Rothery [terylrothery.com]

Re:JTFTR (1)

gazbo (517111) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612590)

ROFL, I clicked on the link to figure out who she was (interesting choice, btw, I don't really see it myself) and was amused to notice the site is nearly slashdotted. Seems strange to mod somebody down as troll when so many people are clearly interested in the post.

Re:JTFTR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612619)

Teryl Rothery is my Queen, and I want all the world to know of her immense beauty.

Also, the site is kinda slow on its own, so it's not necessarily getting slashdotted.

Mod me down Bitch! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612533)

Irrelevant Posting.
I shove cookies up my ass.

Been There... (1, Flamebait)

Moonshadow (84117) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612534)

I wrote an app that did the same work about 6 months ago. It started out as an app to set any window to permenantly be on top, and shifted to being a translucency editor for Win2K, too. It even has this nifty little pulse thing that will make a window move between 2 transparencies in a set interval, giving a "glowing" feel.

I submitted it to download.com, but of course, they rejected it. I need to see if I can find a copy somewhere, after 2 hard drive reformats without backing up. Think I'd learn my lesson.

And why exactly is this news? Any Slashdotter could have done the same in 20 minutes.

Re:Been There... (2, Funny)

gazbo (517111) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612603)

...any slashdotter who is a Windows developer, and had the idea in the first place. For the rest of us, we need somebody else to do it and then post a link to the download.

If only there were some site that allowed links like this to be posted to the interested geek masses. It'd really be appropriate on a site like that.

Re:Been There... (2, Informative)

Alan Partridge (516639) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612643)

MacOS X does this trick natively. The only times I have found it useful is for system monitoring windows that really need to be visible all the time but you which you don't want to kill your deskspace. In OSX, each window has adjustable opacity - the linked JPEG seems to show all windows the same - that would be ultra crap. I'd almost forgotten how pug-ugly Windows is. Shudder.

Re:Been There... (4, Informative)

Osty (16825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612648)

Windows 2000/XP also does this natively. It simply doesn't expose per-window control of it through the UI. Each window does have its own alpha level, and it's up to the programmer to decide if s/he wants all windows the same or not. For a good example, check out Lucidamp [daishar.com] , a Winamp plugin that allows you to set varying levels of alpha transparency on each of the four main Winamp windows, and also works with the Mikroamp Winamp plugin.


Also, please note that Windows 2000 did this before OS X did this. Not that it matters, but it's true.

Great for always on top windows (4, Insightful)

snake_dad (311844) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612535)

There are some apps that I would like to run "always on top", but most of the time they get in the way. This would sure be a nice way to still sorta see them .

Great stuff, now implement it for NT4 and win98 :P

finaly! (0)

cLn-pSe (170458) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612536)

I've been waiting for this for years, thank you.

It's nice and all that... (5, Insightful)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612537)

...but it strikes me as "Not that useful". Most of my users get confused with standard GUI look and feel. I'd hate to think what this would do to their poor little minds.

Re:It's nice and all that... (2, Funny)

Bakajin (323365) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612573)


And its almost as annoying as the menu on the linked page.

'What's wrong?' (3, Insightful)

DABANSHEE (154661) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612621)

You load that up on the average bloke's computer & they'd be complain about their buggy Windows desktop till the cows come home.

Re:It's nice and all that... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612657)


And if it was Linux that did it you'd all be jumping up and down, having a party, and marching in a parade. And of course this post gets a 2 as well. I'd laugh but it's monday.

Drool? Hardly. (2, Flamebait)

dirtyhippie (259852) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612538)

Why would I drool over such a thing? Isn't the whole point of a window so that you can put one on top of the other, and not be confused by what's beneath it? It's great for games, but why on earth would you want to use it in your windowing system? So you can open more porn simultaneously? I don't get it.

-DH

Re:Drool? Hardly. (0, Flamebait)

mgv (198488) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612550)

Like alot of things, there is a difference between doing somthing because you can do it, compared with doing something because it should be done.

Alpha transperancy is a good thing, used wisely. Like the nice shadow on the mouse in win2k

Makeing whole windows transparent has limited usefulness to my mind.

Can anyone see a real use for transparent windows?

Michael

Re:Drool? Hardly. (2, Funny)

fredrik70 (161208) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612568)

yes, I must admit my productivity increased by several magnitudes since that nifty swadow on the mouse pointer got there....

Re:Drool? Hardly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612597)

Maybe not, but most would admit that a shadow is better than none, and a shadow that doesn't hide the very thing you're about to try manipulating can only be better.

And yes, I *do* find a nice environment more productive =)

Re:Drool? Hardly. (1)

Alan Partridge (516639) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612636)

in that case you should be a Mac user

Re:Drool? Hardly. (1)

Computer suck! (455504) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612630)

ICQ maybe....
Its a a little slow on my poor old V3 don't like it all that much, I'll have to wait til I buy a new box, which will be a TiBook ;-)

Re:Drool? Hardly. (1)

snake_dad (311844) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612552)

I'd love to see my icq contact list almost transparent, so I wouldn't have to muck with semi-working auto-hide settings to prevent it from obscuring my browser windows, and wouldn't have to move the mouse away just to see who's online.

But unfortunately they don't seem to be able to do this in nt and win98. Oh well... maybe the boss will pay for an upgrade to W2K :-)

Re:Drool? Hardly. (2, Interesting)

gazbo (517111) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612584)

Clearly to some extent this is mainly a neat toy rather than a useful tool.
However, I can think of many times when it would be useful, such as when I have many windows open from different apps, and I need to cross reference the data and enter it into a final window (which always seems to be an ssh client - strange) Currently if there are too many windows, it becomes impractical to shrink them all down so I can see them at once. Hopefully this should allow a lot more text to be seen through overlapping windows; whilst overlapping text would get confusing, it could recover a lot of space lost due to excessive window chrome.

But to reiterate my first point, it is just really neat.

Re:Drool? Hardly. (0, Flamebait)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612625)

No offense meant here, but this is something that has already been solved very well in the windows world. It is the key strokes "Ctrl-c", "Ctrl-v".

I do not mean to be offensive here, but Windows actually has this one solved really well. I know on the LINUX platform this is an absolute mess and pain in the butt.

Re:Drool? Hardly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612631)

Different field inputs, and formating considerations. Get an Amiga, there is the real solution :)

Looks neat... (2, Insightful)

Nachtfalke (160) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612539)

..but it would drive me nuts after a while.
Heck, I even reverted to non-transparent xterms, because the background made the text in the xterm partly unreadable, which is kinda bad if you're programming :-)
But still a cool heck to impress friends with.

Wow! (1)

guusbosman (151671) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612540)

Well... might not be the nr.1 most useful invention ever, but it certainly looks nice. At least you'll always see 'where your windows are'...

Mac (3, Informative)

zephc (225327) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612541)

There is an Extension called PowerWindows [kaleidoscope.net] that will do that with live dragging of windows in MacOS 8/9. You can adjust the level of transparency too

OS X Does this too (3, Informative)

Aqua OS X (458522) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612600)

Apps like WindowShade X will allow one to drop the opacity of windows in the OS X. It's quite cool to have an MP3 player rendering visuals at 30 percent opacity behind BBEdit or something ;).

I'm fairly sure WindowShade X beat Glass 2k to the consumer opacity punch...but who really cares.

Unfortunatly, the whole GUI in OS X is not hardware acellerated due to the fact that it is vector based. No current video cards support this... but they are going to have to eventually. PostScript is the obvisouse evolution of the 2d GUI.

However, transparent windows still seem to work at a very respectable speed as long as they are not huuuuge with lots of animation. It's quite impressive actually... considering the graphics card does nothing really ;).

And yes zephc, PowerWindows has been doing this kind of neet'o stuff for a million and 5 years. However it tends to be quite slow on older machines. But then again, the old OS 9 GUI was not designed for stuff like this. No one at apple cared to dump window buffering into the damn OS ;).

Re:OS X Does this too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612626)

damn, you sound like youre trying to sell something :P

Nothing new (5, Informative)

Mwongozi (176765) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612544)

Stardock [stardock.com] have an application called WindowsFX [stardock.com] which allows you to turn on transparent windows selectively, for example, just for Notepad windows, which is much less of a CPU hit than turning it on for everything. It also lets you add shadows and various other graphical trickery to windows.

It's rather cool, but not free, in either sense of the word.

Re:Nothing new (2, Insightful)

kawaichan (527006) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612562)

It's kidda slow though, this program IMO is better than windowfx If you want just transparent windows, then glassxp thing is good. WindowsFX is good for overall effects. Glass thingy allows individual window customization too. I thought no one is using windows here...

OS bloat (1, Flamebait)

resprung (410576) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612614)

Three words for you:

Operating System Bloat.

Apart from fueling the market for >1 GHz machines to run office applications (!!!), I see no benefit from this eye candy.

For once, Apple got it wrong in OS X. You ought to experience how sluggishly it performs your UI tasks.

We all know that Microsoft will release a butt-ugly and more or less broken copy of whatever Apple does. And XP already demands ~90 Mb of System RAM just to tick over.

Anybody apart from me believe that the UI should be lean and fast as hell?

Re:OS bloat (1, Informative)

Osty (16825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612645)

First off, Windows 2000 had this before OS X, so your claim that Microsoft only rips off from Apple is off-base. Second, this is more GUI bloat than OS bloat, if it's bloat at all. Windows 2000 and XP tastefully use this alpha blending in subtle ways, such as a barely-noticeable shadow under your mouse pointer, or fading out menu selections (giving you some subtle feedback on what you actually selected, while being tuneable in that you can change the menu speed or simply turn off fading effects). Yes, large windows employing this effect are a bit sluggish, but recent video hardware has 2D acceleration for alpha blending so it's not so bad, and is actually very useful for small windows like Winamp.


As far as a UI being "lean and fast as hell", you'll notice that Microsoft made little use of this effect, and in most places made it optional. I say "most places", because layered windows (Microsoft's term for windows that do some form of alpha blending) are now used instead of the old window regions, and are used with such things as Microsoft Agent (the technology behind the annoying Office Assistants) to bring them "outside the box" of a normal window. Whether or not you choose to use this utility to add alpha blending to all or some of your windows should not reflect at all on Microsoft, who simply chose to add this functionality (which is actually a very nice addition).

I thought (1)

nervlord1 (529523) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612545)

I thought there was an entire damn OS previously on slashdot that could do this, it even had transperant VIDEO windows That to me is alot more amazing, oh well

Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612546)

Finally we can see how absolutely useless this is, and hackers around the world can start spending their time hacking together more useful applications.

XFree86 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612549)

We really need this kind of support in XFree86......... what do we need to do it? Who has the know-how to get this done? I'd gladly support an effort.

Re:XFree86 (1)

Jack Hughes (5351) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612570)

This has been around for at least a year...

http://www.xfree86.org/~keithp/render/translucent. png [xfree86.org] .

And, an alternative to X http://www.directfb.org/screenshots/gimp.png [directfb.org]

Re:XFree86 (1)

Jack Hughes (5351) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612585)

I messed that up...

translucent.png [xfree86.org]

Re:XFree86 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612591)

Wow! Besides that fact that the XFree86 screenshot looks like ASS, it's the same thing!

Under Win2k... (2, Informative)

MrSeb (471333) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612551)

It runs just fine.

w/ GeForce 2 Ultra, on an overclocked 1.6ghz Athlon CPU.

No lag or resource drain to mention... :)

Thanks, (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612553)

Now I need to stack *10* maximized windows in front of my porn when mom comes. If I put just one like I'm doing now she would see through.

Re:Thanks, (1)

fredrik70 (161208) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612582)

one could have a sort of boss key, that made the image viewer 100% translucent - = no porn to be seen!!! ;-)
problem is to find that window again though..

Re:Thanks, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612595)

You should be using the better alternative : GNU/GNOME/Linux
This new kernel revision includes a module called kgnome which provides the whole gnome core inside the kernel. This is seen by some people as bloated software but you should not care in these days of gigahertz cpus and cheap ram. Go run to the nearest kernel mirror and download it today!

Sincerely, Mike Bouma

Re:Thanks, (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612635)

The slashdot interface gave me a choice of reply to this or parent. Tempting. }:>

drooling??!! (0, Flamebait)

boy case (197665) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612554)

Well that doesn't make me drool it makes me sick! When will people start thinking about doing some real work and how to make that easier.

How the heck does having my document half obscured by a calculator help me in any way!?

Get a life! Ask yourself what your GUI is actually FOR?? Seems like for most people here's it's for playing around with and looking 'kewl'! What a joke..

Who's going to use this? (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612555)

Am I the only one thinking that this is a big old mess? I can just about make out what windows appear to be on top of each other (I think), but is it really a big whoop to have your desktop background smeared all over your word processor?

Suggestions as to who would find this useful will be gratefully received. If this appeared on my desktop, the first thing I'd be looking for is the (translucent) button to turn the damn thing off.

Re:Who's going to use this? (1)

WzDD (23061) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612567)

Certainly the example screenshot looks really, really terrible. I'd like to alpha blend a few things though: winamp comes to mind, perhaps some kind of clock ala osx, etc.

Unfortunately I'm running Linux atm... :)

Re:Who's going to use this? (2, Interesting)

Osty (16825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612601)

I'd like to alpha blend a few things though: winamp comes to mind, ...

Lucidamp [daishar.com] to the rescue (yes, shameless pimpage. but I don't care!). Lucidamp has been applying alpha blending to Winamp for the better part of a year and a half (okay, so the first version sucked). There are others out there that will do this, both in Winamp plugin form (such as Lucidamp) and one-size-fits-all form like Glass2K, but I believe (and I'm biased here) that Lucidamp is the best when dealing only with Winamp.

Re:Who's going to use this? (2)

Grab (126025) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612649)

Yep. IMO, this is the _worst_ user interface idea ever. Non-intuitive, impossible to read, and basically dumb.

Suggestions for who'd use it - well, any luser who likes "flashy graphics" over actually doing any work. If you currently have an animated background in Windows, you'll probably love this. The rest of us will keep going with 100% higher productivity.

It's a classic example of ppl doing something without thinking "is this a good idea?".

Grab.

i don't think this is real (0, Flamebait)

rfsayre (255559) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612556)

if this systray app makes everything transparent, shouldn't I be able to see through to an inner dog turd or something?

Is this useful? (1)

Bakajin (323365) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612557)


Neet. Sure. Useful? I don't see how having more visual clutter helps me.

Awful ! (1)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612558)

Would you really imagine working in such an environment ? Making windows transparent when moving them would be cool, but using a transparent Word-like would kill my eyes.

Seems to lag my 2k workstation.. (1)

dunkan44 (537519) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612559)

But its useful to have a few screens transparent and on top while I read email! No excuse not to keep an eye on stats now.. doh

Old hat - rubbish 'news' story (2, Redundant)

The Government (88212) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612564)

Why is /. posting this tripe? This has been available for ages on the Mac - with PowerWindows on OS 8.x (i.e. 1996-7 if I remember properly), and on Mac OS X since it came out. OS X users - go and get yourselves a copy of WindowShade X - not only can you combine the old minimise-in-place windowshade feature of OS 9 and before with the Dock minimisation, but you can set any window to your chosen degree of translucency at will. Find it on Versiontracker. Then understand why this news story is a waste of time. Mac OS X's graphics system has a far more powerful compositing architecture to WinXP - let's focus on the real news.

Re:Old hat - rubbish 'news' story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612612)

"Mac OS X's graphics system has a far more powerful compositing architecture to WinXP - let's focus on the real news."

That's the funniest thing I've read this morning. Especially with the poor support on your OS of choice for ttf panels. XP sucks too in this regard but OS 10.1 is even worse. Then factor in the driver support not being there for the king of graphic card vendors at the consumer level (nvidia for panels true color, colour vibrance whatever) and it's even more funny. I won't even speak about the warf in OS 10.0 compared to win2K speed and functionality wise. Hint it has yours beat there too.

I will agree that the submitter and the poster are out to lunch on this story, but it also unfortunately shows just how out of touch the world is with the mac especially when you consider the nature of this site. Indeed that's no laughing matter. :-(

Evas (2, Interesting)

vandan (151516) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612565)

Check out http://www.enlightenment.org/pages/evas.html (sorry I can't figure out linking in Slashdot. I think my account is broken) Evas from the new Enlightenment does this sort of thing (hardware alpha-bending, anti-aliased text, etc). There is a neat little demo included in Evas which shows off the features. I'm not sure about transparency (which I suppose this article is about). I think I remember reading some threads on the E developers list where Rasterman said that there are some very dirty ways of achieving this (transparency) with a BIG performance hit, but he wasn't interested in supporting it seriously until X offered some better tools. Or something. Anyway, if you're interested, check out the mailing list archives.

it's vaguely interesting. (4, Funny)

matthayes (459103) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612566)

Athough I can't really think of any practical reason for it - when I'm working / concentrating I usually minimise all but a couple of windows anyway.

And I think it could be a little dangerous while surfing at work. You know, the boss comes around and you swiftly alt-tab to your work window...to find that it is 90% transparent.

Does look nice, though.

Just a thought,
Matt.

Wow. Old news. (1)

PsyQ (87838) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612571)

My 7 year old Mac did that already, 7 years ago.

Yes, it wasn't hardware accelerated and maybe it would stutter when dragging a larger window, but it worked. I don't see why this is such an innovation.

Slow news day? :)

Day Late and a Dollar Short for a Crappy Feature (1)

BlackGriffen (521856) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612572)

OSX could do this easily. So far, the option to turn it on is only presented for the terminal (and on by default for the dock and menus), but it shouldn't be hard to make a hack to do it for anything. But guess what? I tried it on my terminal windows, and immediately switched back. Why? Simple, when I have the terminal in the foreground, I want to be able to see what's in it well, when I don't need to see it, I just let other things cover it. Transparency is like so many other things in this day and age, it just doesn't live up to the hype.

BlackGriffen

Re:Day Late and a Dollar Short for a Crappy Featur (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612607)

OSX could do this easily.

Sure, but Windows 2000 beat OS X to the punch by nearly a year. Not that it really matters or anything, but if you want a "my OS is better than your OS argument", there you go.

Let me bind this to a toggle key on my keyboard (4, Interesting)

Sludge (1234) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612574)

If this was bound to a key that was togglable on my keyboard, it would be nice. I could hit the key, and see where each window lies. Perhaps making the windows transparent and alt-tabbing through them while putting a red border on each one instead of having them pop up would be nice.

Whatever the case, it looks kind of hokey. I would like to see something like this where the widget graphics have alpha channels. Right now everything is one level of transparency. One step at a time, right?

Re:Let me bind this to a toggle key on my keyboard (1)

fredrik70 (161208) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612596)

Hmm, that could be something, something like alt-tab (shft-tab?) to toggle the top windows between transparent/solid...
letting alt-tab make all windows transparent isn't bad either... hmm, might be a fun little proj...

Re:Let me bind this to a toggle key on my keyboard (2)

x00 (82065) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612609)

Personally, I'd like it so the current window was opaque, and the others were semi-transparent. Now thats a function I could use.

how cool is this! (0, Redundant)

el'gwato (232384) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612576)

Wow, now I can further confuse my cluttered windows desktop...

XFree86's RENDER extension (4, Informative)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612580)

If you have Xfree86 4.x, you have the RENDER extention which does the same thing. See http://www.xfree86.org/~keithp/render/ for a description (screenshot at the bottom). Now you just need the guy who'll patch Gtk to use this.

Re:XFree86's RENDER extension (1)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612599)

OK, for those who can't copy/paste, here it is again: The RENDER extension [xfree86.org]

Re:XFree86's RENDER extension (0)

boltar (263391) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612611)

Why is it that with almost all X extentions
no one EVER bothers to publish the Xlib APIs for
it. Do they assume that everyone uses some high
level toolkit when writing to X? I prefer using
Xlib as it gives me complete control over what
happens on screen, toolkits don't.

Shiny! (5, Funny)

fhwang (90412) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612583)

I think I'll design a desktop theme called "The Bedazzler". And basically what it will do, is it'll show the same windows and widgets that we've all been stuck with for twenty fucking years, only they'll be covered in rhinestones and glitter! You'll be able to customize your own rhinestone patterns, to say things like "Groovy!" and "Fan-tastic!"

And this is how we'll enter the brave new era of computing: Not by actually designing and using tools to make our lives more productive, convenient, and satisfying, but by slumping in our chairs and staring at useless eye-candy while we touch ourselves. I can't wait for the future.

Not intended to be useful (1)

dda (527064) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612587)

I'm sure the main issue of this tool is only to have a cool desktop, "ala Linux" .. (cfr wterm, Eterm ).
But it's sure that it's not usefull, as lots of /.ers are complaining.
It's just a matter of taste and choice.

Targetting specific apps (3, Interesting)

Osty (16825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612588)

Applying alpha blending to all windows is not really an interesting problem. There are some hoops to jump through, and you have to be realistic about what you expect, but otherwise it's a simple, straightforward process (don't believe me? This article [microsoft.com] gives you 90% of what you need to write such a tool. The other 10% is bookkeeping.)


More interesting is applying alpha blending to specific applications. This lets you be much more creative by doing something that complements an application. A translucent Internet Explorer is not interesting or useful (in fact, it's likely a drag on your system, and hard to read). A translucent Winamp [daishar.com] , on the other hand, is a match made in heaven. What I'd really like to see is more application developers taking the time to add layered windows to their applications where it's appropriate, rather than taking this one-size-fits-all type of approach. But then, I've been playing with layered windows for a year and a half now, so maybe I'm just not getting the "wow" experience anymore.

How This Could be Made Useful (1)

_Neurotic (39687) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612589)

If all background windows could be made transparent, thus drawing attention to your foreground window.

Justin

Re:How This Could be Made Useful (1)

khuber (5664) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612598)

Why not just make them darker and blurred out
of focus? I just covered one of my hands and it didn't become transparent...

-Kevin

OS X does this too ... (4, Interesting)

ramseys (531979) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612592)

For what it's worth, OS X has the capacity to do this as well (and with WindowShade, you can phase any window on the screen). I haven't found the feature incredibly useful, yet, but it sure does look cool.

Operation Brainfuck (4, Insightful)

Eloquence (144160) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612593)

Overlapping windows were a pretty brain-dead idea to begin with. This is increasingly being realized by developers who add sidebars and "panels" to their applications which can be moved and resized (knode [sf.net] , the KDE newsreader, implements this quite fully, although it's a bit awkward to use). The information below the window you're overlapping is cut in half: A browser window you're overlapping might show you text like

as not a good idea
creasingly being interested
ot to be confused with the

i.e. noise. The only purpose it serves is to faster identify the window you're dealing with. This has become unnecessary with the invention of the taskbar. Further additions to this concept, like window summarization and application-specific taskbars [kde.org] , make it even easier to use. If you want to view a lot of information simultaneously instead of having everything in full-screen mode, a smart window-manager like ion [students.tut.fi] will rearrange windows automatically in useful tiles. Additional usability can be gained with clever hotkeys for application-switching.

But while overlapping windows are stupid, transparent windows are really part of a vast right-wing conspiracy to stupidify the masses by making computers incapable of displaying information. The next step will be window-spectific screensavers, which turn on after a specific period of inactivity in a single window. Just you wait. Thanks to transparency:

  • Information becomes unreadable, especially with unfortunate color combinations.
  • Information you think is there is actually part of another window -- have fun editing that picture.
  • When two windows overlap with the wrong alpha-blending setting, you can no longer be sure which one is on top without looking at the taskbar or focus (in this screenshot, thanks to additional braindead color gradients in the title bars, this is especially hard).
  • Even your calculator will use more RAM than Mozilla ..

If you like eye-candy, you may "drool" over this one and get your brain fucked by the Illuminati. A frontal lobotomy may be a quicker solution though.

Re:Operation Brainfuck (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612647)

Overlapping windows were a pretty brain-dead idea to begin with. This is increasingly being realized by developers who add sidebars and "panels" to their applications which can be moved and resized (knode [sf.net], the KDE newsreader, implements this quite fully, although it's a bit awkward to use).

All of which shit I turn off. Overlapping windows are far better than having all your windows cluttered up with that sort of crap.

I do agree with everything you say about transparent windows, however. The elightenment people (or "wankers") really started this trend off and it's just a big waste of processor and developer time.

TWW

Overlapping windows rule (3, Insightful)

GregWebb (26123) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612656)

Sorry, no.

What if I want a large workspace, but I'm working on multiple applications? I create two or more windows with a total surface area greater than the desktop size and overlap them. I can switch more easily than via a taskbar (not so far to move the mouse), I can still drag items between windows, I can see what's going on in different windows. Say I'm comparing two lists of contents. Each window may well contain rather more than the list, but that's all I need at that point. So, I lay it out so I can see both lists and compare away, without losing the larger workspace in the primary application.
Or maybe one is performing a task - by just displaying a portion of its GUI, I can monitor that task without losing a potentially large portion of my desktop for its full UI.
The day a desktop GUI bans me from overlapping windows is the day I look for new GUIs.

Re:Operation Brainfuck (3, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612668)

One good reason for the emergence of overlapping windows: low screen resolutions. You didn't have a choice when you were running at 512x384 or 640x480.

It is the brain-dead operation of the GUI in Windows (active window has to be on top) that necessitates such nasty hacks as this. A desktop that allows the active window to be behind another window removes this necessity altogether (for when you are e.g., copying text from one window into another).

Other good systems include multiple desktops, as provided by all good X Windows Managers and various windows hackons. Amiga Screens were another great system. Screens and multiple desktops are like having a large desk (plenty of space to spread your pens, paper, notebook, encyclopaedia, etc), whereas Windows by default is like trying to do all your work on a desk the size of a mousepad.

There are times of course when overlapping windows are not required. Multiple webbrowser windows when a tabbed interface within a single browser is adequate, for example. Need to display 2 web pages at once - explicitly open two windows, or split the current web page view in two horizontally or vertically, a function provided by Konqueror.

Wow...something I've been doing for 18 months (1)

pelorus (463100) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612594)

Since using Mac OS X DP4, I've been using properly transparent terminals...


and now someone hacks it for Win2K. Gee...make it work on Windows XP.


*snore*

Re:Wow...something I've been doing for 18 months (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612616)

and now someone hacks it for Win2K. Gee...make it work on Windows XP.

There's no "hack" going on here. True alpha blending has been available since the Windows 2000 betas (well, at the very least RC1. I don't recall if it was in NT5 Beta 2, but that was a long time ago). This is just a matter of bookkeeping, really, as the interesting part [microsoft.com] is trivial.

VB dll's required? Wtf??!! (0)

boltar (263391) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612605)

WHy the hell do we have to have VB installed to
use this? Can't these guys write some small little
add-on in C++ or are they not up to coding in
a proper programming language??

Slashdot hypocrisy (4, Troll)

The_Messenger (110966) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612606)

Slashdot likes Enlightment and the whole mess of other useless XFree86 GUI toys. Slasdot also likes MacOS X. Plenty of absolutely useless graphical gimmicks (i.e. fully transparent terminals with anti-aliased text shadows), but we rejoiced when it was released.

But when some Windows-weenie slaps together a VB control in five minutes to do the same thing in Win2k, the readers get all bitchy and start complaining about how "useless" it all is. Well, duh. But why didn't you complain about MacOS X's uselessness too?

I object to this story, too, but for a completely different reason: this isn't news. Windows 2000 has always had the ability to display transparent and translucent forms. Windows 2000 can do a whole load of other useless things with forms, too. Ask any Delphi developer -- I can't stand Delphi myself, but a lot of my friends use it -- and he'll show you dynamic desktop magnification and a bunch of other demos that the development suite comes with. It's not news. It may be news to Slashdot's "We only use Windows for games, and Quicktime, and word processing, and financial apps, and graphics work, and email, and web surfing -- but we use Linux for writing Perl scripts, so we're hackers, right?" loser crew, but it's not news to anyone else.

Works in VMware too (1)

Adnans (2862) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612613)

but it's hella slow. Not sure what good it is though. Only usefull for "always on top" folders, like the taskbar or some monitoring tool.

-adnans

I'm not drooling (1)

Ford Fulkerson (223443) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612627)

It looks like the ghost of Windows past.

For a look on how alpha blending should be used in a window manager check out OS X [apple.com] instead.

Ho Hum, Already Done (5, Informative)

under_score (65824) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612638)

Over a decade ago in the NeXT computers. Transparency (alpha-channel) was part of their graphics system (including their windowing system built using Display Postscript), pretty much from day one. I wrote software which depended on it - some funky drag-n-drop stuff which used transparency in icons. It was fast back then on a 25MHz 68040 - eighty times slower clock speed than todays high end processors!!!

!!! YUCK !!! (1, Insightful)

bani (467531) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612639)

The whole transparency thing screams of "1337 euro-democoders" crap, it's a complete waste of effort and time.

A GUI is supposed to enhance and make things easier -- this app just makes things a complete nightmare. You can barely make out the mess of the ruler on the left side of Word, and the transparent buttons of Calculator are a complete mess.

Can you imagine trying to read a book where all the pages were transparent celluloid? How about the desktop in your workplace where every paper you had was transparent? Can you imagine what a nightmare that would be?

Why in the world would you want to do that to your windowing system then?

And why is this a "newsworthy" item anyway?

Moderators: Please mod this post down, and demonstrate the complete and utter failure of the /. moderation system.

glass2k? blah... (1)

pinkysqueaks (539034) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612650)

i haven't tried it, but from what i can tell from the site it's written in vb? hrm...i've been using this for a couple months... http://www.veridicus.com/tummy/programming/powerme nu/ (it's called PowerMenu) personally the whole transparency thing is really annoying to me and no matter how good your vid card is, it slows things down.. but hey...whatever makes your eyes happy

Transperizer (2)

Keelor (95571) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612652)

There has been a program out since one of the betas of Win2K called Transperizer--it no longer seems to have an official homepage (as in development has apparently stopped), but there's a review here [voodoofiles.com] . It allows you to set certain windows as transparent based on their window titles.

In other words, this seems kind of like old news--though I'll probably try it out, since I haven't tested WinXP's transparent window code.

~=Keelor

PowerMenu (3, Informative)

TummyX (84871) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612654)

It's not a big deal. I don't see why this story is on the front page.

I wrote a small free app called PowerMenu [zdnet.com] which does the same thing and more. It extends every window's system/controlbox menu with new options like always on top and transparency.

Transparency effect... (5, Informative)

frleong (241095) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612655)

It's very easy, suppose that hwnd is your window handle:

SetWindowLong(hwnd, GWL_EXSTYLE, GetWindowLong(hwnd, GWL_EXSTYLE) | WS_EX_LAYERED); SetLayeredWindowAttributes (hwnd, 0, 180, LWA_ALPHA);

GUI programming in Windows is quite snappy.

Does anyone here get the point? (5, Informative)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612659)

Sure, this stuff has been done before on other operating systems. Sure, Win2k has had it hidden in the API. THE POINT IS that this is being done by your GRAPHICS CARD....nothing on the processor end. Oh, and its a 54K yes 54K download, and is easy to use. Calm down people. Why start flaming someone without ever checking out what it is?

Already done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612660)

Check DirectFB [directfb.org]

Daniel

Glass and icing (5, Insightful)

viktor (11866) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612661)

There might be a very good reason it's taken two years for the glass-like windowing system. And that would be that it isn't a good idea.

Sure it looks pretty. It's technically cool. It's very nice eyecandy. But useful? Hardly.

If our desktops were three-dimensional, there would be a point - in that case you could refocus on a window below your current. When refocusing, the frontmost window would be so blurry to you that it didn't interfere with your view of what was behind it.

But desktops aren't 3D (and "fake" 3D doesn't work, refocusing requires that your desktop is not displayed on a single plane, as that plane only has one focus), and you can't refocus. What you get is just a blur of all windows that happen to be ontop of one another (and the background if you have a background/wallpaper image).

I would guess that the only time that transparent windows help is if you have an OS/wm that does not offer workspaces or similar. The transparency might help cram an extra three windows onto the screen. Using workspaces you can just put those extra three on another workspace instead.

I have yet to see anybody argue how great it would be if all books were printed on plastic rather than paper, so that we could see through them.

ok ok ok (1)

posmon (516207) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612664)

it's shit. it's slow as hell and makes stuff hard to read.

a far better gimmick would be to be able to drag windows around *behind* other windows with the right mouse button, something riscos has had from the start.

Been there done that (2)

Old Wolf (56093) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612665)

PowerMenu [zdnet.com] has given this for months (years?) on the corner menu of each window, as well as the option to set OS priority, and windows Always On Top. Essential stuff to have around.

hmm this is interesting.. (-1)

SlaveTroll (535702) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612666)

you faggots.

BTSOD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612669)

B.lue
T.ransparent
S.creen
O.f
D.eath

Settle down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612671)



Dammit, settle down already! The point is that there is NO POINT. It's for FUN! it's slightly DIFFERENT! Above all else, it's USELESS! These are good things.


Jeez /.-ers, why give this such a slating? Why don't you Foxtrot Oscar back to themes.org?

Can we see through ? (1)

nsebban (513339) | more than 12 years ago | (#2612672)

I've always been wondering what kind of stuff was inside my screen...Perhaps the fact of setting my win2k desktop to transparent would answer this question ? :)
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