New software hits and misses

Three of my favourite software apps launched new or upgraded versions recently. Only one definite hit in this group, unfortunately.

WindowBlinds 5.0. The latest version of the add-on for Windows XP that lets you completely change the look-and-feel of your Windows is just great. The major improvements I can see in this version over the previous version 4.6 are even better integration with the OS than before plus some really nice enhancements to how you customize it. Version 5 is ready to run with Windows Vista when that appears later next year (and it should work with the current beta).

WindowBlinds 5 now offers some of the cool new appearance features that will be in the next version of Windows, things like per-pixel alpha blended support for title bars, borders and controls. This means you can have glassy titlebars and borders, smooth edges, and just spectacular-looking desktops. With WB5 installed, you can then download some very imaginative desktop themes from, which you can customize too.

See the full tech-inclined explanation here for details of what this program can do for you.

  • Verdict: WindowBlinds 5.0 – A resounding Hit.

Firefox 1.5 for Windows. While the latest upgrade to the web browser offers some nice new features – great one: drag-and-drop re-ordering of open tabs – and behind-the-scenes fixes, installing it a few weeks ago has resulted in some of my indispensable Firefox extensions no longer working.

Number one: Spellbound 0.7.3, the spell checker that I find essential for spell-checking what I write in blog post comments and any other web form. The extension itself is ok but it won’t run because none of the Mozilla dictionary libraries it requires in order to work are compatible with Firefox 1.5, which disabled my already-installed libraries. Manually re-installing Spellbound and then installing those libs again makes no difference – it still won’t work.

But, I have discovered a really cool extension that solves my constant issue when doing the FIR podcast of quickly trying to find a tab I want from 20 or so open tabs.

TabSidebar 1.0b4 is really neat as it displays thumbnails of all your open tabs in a vertical sidebar. No more peering at multiple tab titles to figure out which is the one you want to quickly jump to.

  • Verdict: Firefox 1.5 – Miss. Firefox extensions – Hit.

Yahoo! Widget Engine 3.0. Announced yesterday, this is the latest incarnation of the outstanding Konfabulator cross-platform widget app about which I’ve written before. Developer Pixoria was acquired by Yahoo in July who has re-packaged Konfabulator as Yahoo! Widgets and made it available for free (previously you paid about $20).

So I was pretty excited to learn about version 3.0. I still am but I am not going to install it yet. First hurdle – actually getting the right Windows installer was not an easy task. I managed to do that eventually but reading the many posts of pain and anguish in the forum leads me to conclude – stick with Konfabulator 2.1.1 and wait for the bugfix Yahoo! Widget Engine 3.01 (or even 3.1). Pity.

“Yahoo! Widget Engine” doesn’t really trip off the tongue as beautifully as “Konfabulator” does, don’t you think?

  • Verdict: Yahoo! Widget Engine 3.0 – A definite Miss for the time being.

Perhaps I should have titled this post “Too many software misses.”

Do you have any? Hits, preferably?

3 thoughts on “New software hits and misses

  1. Honestly – Firefox 1.5 a miss? Considering how great Firefox 1.0 was I’ve been blown away ever since the first beta release of Firefox 1.5. None of the ten or so extensions I use have broken and the few that hadn’t been updated during the testing phase were easily fixed to work with 1.5 with the help of about:config.
    FF 1.5 is a definite hit, no doubt about it.

  2. Well, Patrick, it misses for me because my essential extensions won’t work. Perhaps a harsh judgement, and it may be the extension developers should address this call. I really have no desire to fiddle with about:config settings.
    I’m a Firefox champion, believe me (I contributed to the NY Times ad earlier this year), but this version 1.5 broke my extensions. Not good!
    Andrew, thanks for that tip. Looks interesting. I’ll try it out.

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