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15 great ways to dress up your Windows PC

Tweak your PC's appearance with these downloads

We've found 15 way to tweak and dress Windows appearance to suit you. These downloads will let you add everything from 3D desktops to a dock, just like Mac OS X.

DeskSpace

One great way to dress up Windows is to give your machine virtual 3D desktops. Each desktop stands completely separate from the others, sports its own look and feel, and has its own applications running in it. DeskSpace lets you create four virtual desktops, and places each one on a side of a virtual 3D cube that you can rotate through space to switch among them.

After you run the program, you press Ctrl-Shift-Alt to put it into action. You can then create your desktops, and switch among them and rotate them in space. You can zoom in and out on the virtual cube, immediately switch to any desktop, shift over to any application on any virtual desktop, and even move windows between desktops. DeskSpace is more than a tool to increase your productivity - it's just plain fun.

Download DeskSpace here $20 (£10) for a 14-day trial

TweakWindow

Are you a Windows XP user who covets Windows Vista's transparent windows? This nifty program gives users of XP and of Windows 2000 all the transparency features of Windows Vista - and more. Although in Vista only window borders are transparent, with TweakWindow you'll be able to make entire windows see-through.

You control the degree of transparency, between opaque (not transparent at all) and completely invisible. You do so, on a program-by-program basis, too, so you can make some program windows opaque while giving others varying degrees of transparency.

You can even turn windows into "ghosts" that stay on top of other windows and let you click through to other windows beneath. The utility also has a nifty "rollup" feature that lets you minimise an entire window into a floating title bar. You control all of this via icons that sit on top of individual windows.

Download TweakWindow shareware for $21 (£10.50) here

TweakWindow

TweakWindow

Crystal XP

Microsoft makes a big deal about Windows Vista's Aero environment, which includes transparent windows, but in truth that transparency effect is less than overwhelming. Only the window borders are transparent, not all windows have transparency, and you can't easily control the effect.

Crystal XP lets you make entire windows transparent and easily change the level of transparency as well. In addition, you can change the transparency for applications individually, something you can't normally do in Vista. And on top of that, the program has a nice extra, a display of your CPU usage (expressed as a percentage). Contrary to its name, this program works only in Windows Vista. It is still in beta, too, so if that seems risky to you, don't download.

Download Crystal XP for free here

Desktop Sidebar

Some Windows XP users might also wish they had Vista's nifty Sidebar, which displays assorted applets that can grab information from the Internet or show other information such as a clock or pictures from your PC. If that sounds like you, suffer Sidebar envy no longer.

This program looks and works much as Windows Vista's feature does, and it comes with many preinstalled applets, including a weather watcher, a clock, a performance monitor, a news grabber, a media player, and a quick-launch pad. From the developer's site you can download many more applets, plus different skins to change Desktop Sidebar's looks.

Desktop Sidebar works with both XP and Vista. Although there's no real reason to use it instead of Vista's built-in Sidebar, having the option is nice. After all, the program is free, so it may be worth a try even for Vista users.

Download Desktop Sidebar here for free

NEXT PAGE: More ways to tweak Windows including turning your desktop into a 3D world and access to deeply hidden Windows customisation features.


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