Expose and Vista-specific Alt-Tab Task Switchers
I love the Exposé feature of Mac OSX. On Windows XP I ran TopDesk, an Exposé clone for a few years. Now that I'm on Vista and I find Flip3D to be a virtually useless way to switch tasks, I'm looking for a better task switcher again. I hope TopDesk jumps back into the party with new DWM support for Vista.
I still like TaskSwitchXP, but it's needed less with Vista's default ALT-TAB behavior.
When Vista runs Aero, the new Desktop Composition Engine, the possibilities for new Task Switchers becomes virtually unlimited. Early entries into the fray include:
- My Exposé (Source Available!)- Released a CTP last November, and he's meaning to get a new one out, but has been busy. It's a LOT like Mac Exposé but it's got a LOT of screen-flickering and doesn't work well when your secondary monitor is taller (has coordinates ABOVE) than the primary monitor. Still, it's working good considering it was written BEFORE Vista RTM'ed
- Switcher (Switcher Blog)- I was initially disappointed by this Task Switcher because its default mode is a strange "dock all running thumbnails to the top of the screen" place. And, there's no initial animation or transition. Then, I RTFM'ed, and noticed that you can switch between "dock" mode and "Exposé" mode using Page Down. Doh! After that, the choice is ssticky and you have the best Exposé in Vista I've seen. Brilliant and recommended. I hope he keeps developing it. I'm definitely using this one all day long.
With these two apps to choose from, and more, no doubt, on the way, the micro-market of Task Switching Software for Vista is looking pretty sweet.
- Here's some examples on how to do Live Window Thumbnail Previews in .NET on Vista.
- Eric Malamisura's Winposé or Winpose from last July.
If you're not sure if your TaskSwitcher is really using the Vista Aero DesktopComposition Engine, do a little test. Find a web page with a video or animated graphic or flash. Do a task switch and while in that "task switching mode" see if the animation is running inside the thumbnail. If it is, and running smoothly, that TaskSwitcher is using the DWM rather than static screenshots.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Flip3D... does two things.
1. It provides some WOW factor, which Vista needs since the MS Marketing guys are doing a pretty poor job of well marketing Vista.
2. It does give the user an "interesting" view of the applications running using a 3d perspective. The user can also jump directly to any application while flipping if they click on it (in the 3d view)... Not sure how many people realize this and in actual practice it is a little challenging to do.
I do agree that MS could have made the feature more usable, but it’s not useless.
I agree with Bob that it's interesting, I just don't think it's useful.
Finally I thought I was the only one who thought Flip3D was worthless, they could have done Expose easily but they opted for the "stay different" mantra. Thats why I explored the Thumbnail API only to find out it fell pretty short of what I really wanted. For example, OSX doesnt create thumbnail images of the windows it actually shrinks the actual windows itself. This is 100% entirely possible in Vista but they didnt expose (no pun) the API to us which is very irritating. Also according to inside information they have plans to expose that functionality through the API to outside developers, so instead we are left with manipulating the composition manager externally. Stardock appears to be doing this with their next release which is going to take advantage of the DWM. Apparently in the fast they had to create their own DirectX surfaces and render onto those, now they are able to utilize the pre-existing directx surface with desktop compositioning. But I would like to know how they are accessing it, its no exposed publicly. They must be manipulating it somehow...
In any case its a shame that they arent opening that functionality, alot of neat stuff would come out of that. Take Beryl for example, if those API's were exposed an entire plugin system would no doubt surface for Vista based around composition effects.
PS: Thanks for the plug! :)
It's hard to believe that Microsoft would spend all this time building a new graphics core and not provide developers with access to it, but i guess some things had to be cut in the rush to get Vista out the door.
Sure, but there's so much untapped potential that we can't access. Using the thumbnail API feels like driving a sports car in 1st gear.
Here is a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYX6YboNA4c
Here can it be downloaded: http://www.neowin.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=529816&hl=smartflip
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