Combining Linux & Mac OS X – sort of

So I’ve finally taken the plunge. I gave in to the habit of tweaking the UI of Vista on my notebook so as to become more productive, suit my workflow and please my personal preferences.

No, I did not download one of those transformation packs to make Vista look and behave almost exactly like Mac OS X. I’ve grown tired of living in a dream and have decided that if I wanted to use something like Mac OS X, I’d get the real one. Albeit, someday, in the distant future. lol

What I did was simple. The Taskbar was moved on top of the screen, just like in OS X and Ubuntu. This way, I don’t have to strain my hand every time I scroll down when switching between running apps I’ve minimized and the same goes for my neck and eyes. I’ve only used OS X twice in my entire life, so it was in using Ubuntu Linux that I’ve come to appreciate the more natural look of the menus popping down from the top instead of from below.

Next, I’ve downloaded and installed ObjectDock. It’s a free and open-source application that works like the Dock in OS X. At present, it contains all the shortcuts to the applications that I use regularly. Firefox, WinAmp, FileZilla, NotePad++, Evernote, Photoshop and Flickr Uploader. Yes, since last week, Windows Live Writer is also included as well. What about Microsoft Word and Excel? Good question. I hardly use those nowadays that why I’ve become accustomed to launching them from the Start Menu or Vista’s nifty Search function.

Tweaked Vista UI

As you can see from the screen-shot of my new desktop, which sports the WordCamp Philippines wallpaper, Vista’s Sidebar is missing. It’s because I’ve decided not to use it anymore. John Clyman from PC Magazine was right, using the Sidebar was really a personal preference and so I’ve decided that since I never really needed Sidebar, it’s much better to regain the screen space it once occupied.

The goodies

The immediate benefit is that I now have a much more organized, cleaner and less-cluttered desktop. Everything I need are just a few clicks away and I can keep an eye on the apps that I’m currently running. Plus, I get more eye-candy from ObjectDock instead of Vista’s Aero which is more demanding system resources.

Second, performance has increased significantly. Since Sidebar is no longer being used, my notebook’s startup time decreased dramatically. Plus, apps that I run are more responsive because they have more system RAM to work on. Proof of this is that I was able to run five Firefox windows each with not less than three active tabs, and close all of it after a whole day’s worth of web browsing without Firefox crashing. In between, Photoshop, EverNote and PowerPoint were ran at different times during the session.

Third, I was able to increase my output by some significant margin. Sidebar with its Notes, Calendar and Slideshow gadgets turned out to be more of a distraction that kept me from focusing on my work. Instead WinAmp has taken its place on the screen serving my daily dose of my favorite music from The Bee Gees, Bamboo and The Eraserheads. Tunes that help keep my creative mood and juices going and going and going.

Lastly, for now, I’ve learned to use keyboard shortcuts to get around the desktop instead of using the trackpad which gives my hand some extra strain. The only time I use the trackpad is when launching apps from ObjectDock, navigating in Windows Explorer and doing some quick editing in Photoshop. If ever there’s a need for an application from the Start menu, I just press the Start menu key, search for the app and hit Enter to launch it.

Too bad, I can’t get Lauchy to work on my notebook the first time I’ve installed it. Ah but that’s for another post. So far, I’m happy with the new setup. I’m not really after making Vista look and behave like Mac OS X just to get more eye-candy or impress my friends. All I wanted was to get things done, the way I wanted it done.

So did you changed Vista’s default UI too? Do share your stories, tips and tricks.

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