|26 Sep 2010||#1|
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Windows 7 Aero Features Extended
AeroSnap, AeroGlass and AeroShake can be adjusted to be more functional, if you want to; but not from Windows. A third party tool like AquaSnap is up for the job of drawing the usability limit a bit yonder. It extends the number of windows snaps, allows you to stretch a window with a click, provides configuration settings for shake feature and can turn a window transparent to any degree you want.
Microsoft made a progress leap with Windows 7 and behind all the glitter and spark there is actually an improved desktop experience. However, as it happens with all things, better solutions fade in.
In this case, simple features like window snapping or shaking a window to get a view at the desktop, which few thought that could be improved because of their simplicity, got blown into new functionality. Preme is one example of how third party tools can add a huge contribution to overall desktop experience in Windows 7.
AquaSnap can be installed on your system just like any other application, or you can use the portable edition which requires only unzipping to a folder of your choice and running the executable (both x86 and x64 are available).
The application has no application window and as soon as it is launched itíll take its place in the system tray. From there you can open up the settings panel and start configuring it. Advanced window snapping options also include the corners of your screen in the game, thus doubling the default options available in Windows 7.
All the windows dragged to the side edges of the screen or the top and bottom ones will be resized to occupy half the desktop area, either horizontally or vertically. Dragging them to the corners will result in a window resized to a quarter of your desktop screen.
Actually, if take a look at the tips in the application you will notice how the windows will be resized. A small thumbnail preview image of how the dragged application window will be fit on the screen is also available the moment you hit the edge during the drag.
One important aspect that needs to be mentioned is that you can change the place where the application should be resized. For instance, drag it to the top right corner and make it snap to the bottom left one. This is part of the customization options available in the program.
Under AquaStretch tab there are options for actions similar to what AquaSnap shelters. The difference consists in the fact that in this case resizing the application windows is done by clicking on their title bar border. The direction of the resize, as well as the edges that trigger it, are defined under stretching options: vertically, diagonally (the corner of the application window) or horizontally; and this can be done holding Shift key pressed or not, depending on what part of the window you want to stretch: bottom, top or both.
AquaShake mode in the program is slightly different from what window shaking does in Windows. The option in AquaSnap has the effect of making the target transparent to whatever level you desire and keep it on top of all desktop elements. More than this, you get to adjust parameters that detect the shake in terms of sensibility, speed and duration on a three-step scale going from low to high.
Activating AquaGlass mode causes all windows to become as transparent as you want when they are dragged on the screen.
One interesting part in the application is the fact that it works on Windows XP and Vista as well and it also mimics the exact same actions of the features in Windows 7. Thus you can benefit from the functionality of Aero in operating systems that do not natively support it.
Each of the aero modes proposed by AquaSnap can be disabled individually if you want to partially rely on what Windows 7 has to offer. Tinkering with the application and testing how its AeroShake feature works showed that there still are some problems with the feature coping with tabbed interfaces.
We experienced some serious issues during our every try when we shook Pidgin to clear the desktop of all the elements. At one point after some shaking the tabbed interface would no longer show all the elements. On a different system it would remain transparent until some more shaking occurred. However, trying to reproduce this with a different tabbed interface showed no anomaly.
Tweaking the aero options provided by the application is and easy job. All the information you need on the settings is accessible to any sort of user.
The portable version of the application requires no installation and the benefits of Windows 7 Aero are extended to Microsoft OSs that do not natively support them.
You are in control of the transparency level of the windows or how they expand when dragged to the desktop edges.
Despite our trouble with shaking Pidginís tabbed interface, this can be considered an isolated case since we could not repeat it with other programs sporting tabs.
Shake mode is not as seamless an effect as in Windows 7 and caused some windows to stay on top although only AeroShake mode was enabled.
In Windows 7, you will no longer be able to drag by the title bar of an application when it is in full screen in order to bring it to its original size or snap it half screen if AquaSnap is enabled.
Overall, AquaSnap does a fine job, and comes in extremely handy, especially if you are not using it on Windows 7. Having such a rich set of options AquaSnap manages to supersede what Windows 7 brings by default.
AeroShake is a bit unstable and prone to giving you unpleasant surprises, but the rest of the features worked fine during our tests.
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