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RISC OS gets transparent windows

Published: 21st Nov 2006, 19:42:37 | Permalink | Printable

I can see right through you

Never accuse RISC OS of lacking its share of bling and desktop gimmicks. A new module released this month has given the Window Manager a thorough polish - to the point of making windows entirely transparent.

Now punters will be able to admire their desktop wallpaper in all its splendid glory without having to move applications out of the way. And never again will a RISC OS user have to feel embarrassed when their GNU/Linux using pals show off their fancy translucent desktops.

Click for larger image of the new Ghostly module in action.

In fact, the software cheats by rendering areas of the desktop wallpaper below each window as their respective backgrounds. The wallpaper is tinted to give the effect of looking through the windows as though they were translucent. The code uses a Window Manager filter, and steps in when the operating system has finished drawing the window outline and background. Before the icons and other graphics on top of the window are drawn, the module quickly renders the translucent background, and then allows the foreground to be plotted on top.

Developer David Llewellyn-Jones said: "As you can see, this is really just a trick. It doesn't actually make the windows transparent at all. But whilst it's not perfect - it doesn't allow you to see the windows beneath another window, for example - the effect can be quite deceptive nonetheless. As it happens, this is a trick used by a number of Linux distributions to achieve a similar transparency effect."

He also recommended using a fast RISC OS machine in a screen mode with plenty of colours and textured window backgrounds turned off while using the transparency.

The 'desktop silly' was published in the Star Info section of this month's Qercus magazine, and is available for download from the link below.

RISC OS Now issue 2 cover• Speaking of magazines, RISC OS Now editor Louie Smith revealed the front cover of the next issue of her magazine to ROUGOL punters last night - hot off the colour laser printer. The next edition is set to include part two of an ArtWorks tutorial, which explains how the fishy front cover design was produced; gift ideas for geeks; more programming tutorials; and an interview with Oregano UK's Richard Brown.

Louie wouldn't reveal any bombshells from her chat with Richard or say if he had plans to surprise us with the release of Oregano 3 - we understand there's been no movement as yet on getting the web browser onto RISC OS, anyway.


Download Ghostly - read the instructions before use

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Neat little application.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 21/11/06 8:01PM
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One word to describe this gimmick : fun :)

 is a RISC OS UserEasyKees on 21/11/06 11:10PM
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Is this good, or is Bill Gates losing his edge? (Edge = market of gimmicks?)

I was not sure at first if the transparent feature would be "hard on the eyes" to see the contents in the window or screen background, or useful to be able to see the foreground and the background? It certainly is different and I have not seen that idea before.

I wonder if the % of transparency can be adjusted to suit personal likes?

How would the transparency look when two or more window overlap each other?

Steve. :-)


 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 22/11/06 6:46AM
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Woohoo! Tons of fun. I hope that somebody does look into implementing true transparency though; it is really useful when copying between windows. Implementing this would probably need hardware acceleration I suspect?

Sawadee: I find transparency to be useful when not overused; if you go too far it can get annoying. As you say, ability to change the % of transparency becomes almost vital when being used for productivity. I don't really like Vista's implementation - pretty useless really.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 22/11/06 7:34AM
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timephonix: Yes, its ok for a bit of fun, but we don't need true transparency for windows, its not a solution to any problem, but a sticking plaster for bad design in the first place. When copying what sort of things? In a drag and drop environment like RISC OS we don't have applications still designed to run essentially full screen cluttered with toolbars reducing internal work area to nothing when the window is made smaller, our applications are designed to be full usable at different sizes so there is no need overlap windows to perform copying.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 22/11/06 9:07AM
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I'm surprised everyone is focussing on the fun side of this application - it looks useful to me. I frequently have lots of windows open at the same time and it can be hard to keep track of where each window is. The ability to see a window through the one on top of it looks very helpful (assuming it will show windows in this way, which isn't made clear).

 is a RISC OS Usercables on 22/11/06 9:11AM
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cables: it is made clear:

"It doesn't actually make the windows transparent at all. But whilst it's not perfect - it doesn't allow you to see the windows beneath another window, for example [...]"

 is a RISC OS UserJaffa on 22/11/06 9:19AM
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In reply to Cables:

4th paragraph; 'it's not perfect, it doesn't allow windows to be seen beneath another window'

If that isn't clear enough (the text, the window isn't :-) ) I don't know

 is a RISC OS Usernico on 22/11/06 9:20AM
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You would find in practice that is a very unsatisfactory work around to a problem which has a much better solution. If you have lots of windows open get a multiple desktop manager, such as 7th Software's !MoreDesk, or even my old !Workspace.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 22/11/06 9:21AM
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I think the bit in the article where David is quoted as saying "it doesn't allow you to see the windows beneath another window, for example" suggests quite strongly that you can't. So unless your desktop wallpaper has vital information plastered across it, the software is definitely fun rather than really useful. But it *is* fun, and rather cute :) More seriously, it's also a really good example of what can be achieved by taking advantage of RISC OS's sensible modular design.

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 22/11/06 9:31AM
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When I drag a sprite to the icon it only fills the middle of the screen and the icon bar is still the same. Using an Iyonix.

 is a RISC OS UserHairy on 22/11/06 9:35AM
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Amusing it very definately is, but it can't cope with tiled backdrop images.

Fun though, and definately one I'll hang on to.

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 23/11/06 3:57PM
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In reply to Jaffa (and others):

Well spotted - I missed that.

 is a RISC OS Usercables on 23/11/06 6:28PM
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Very Nice :@)

Actually if used correctly transparent windows are a fantastic idea.

for little apps (like socket stats) which are useful to have around, but don't nessicarily need to bee in full view.

Controll over which windows used a 'background' would be fantastic like the Wimp2 patch.

I found this out after messing with the NVidia drivers on my Dell D800 at work.

Each window which appeared could have background or total transparency. Very usefull for the 'lauch bar' I created from dragging explorer windows with shortcuts in to the edge of the screen

:@) cant wait to test it!

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 23/11/06 6:51PM
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In reply to Druck: This is a great fun bit of inventive coding. Lighten up.

Anyway years ago we used to have lots of funky gadgets like this one - animated switchers etc... Which reminds me years ago I wrote a silly that would shrink a window down to nothing when it was closed. It worked by checking for a window closing, then would grab a sprite of the window (including furniture) just before it shut. it would then open a new transprent window (with no furniture) the same size as the sprite, then shrink the size of the transparent window towards the centre, whilst scalling the sprite to the same size. The result was that when you shut a window it didn't just close, but shrink into the background. It was quite cool, but tooooo slow on an A310. Perhaps David would fancy having a go at this on modern hardware, it might even work now!

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 23/11/06 11:49PM
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"the software is definitely fun rather than really useful. But it is fun, and rather cute. More seriously, it's also a really good example of what can be achieved by taking advantage of RISC OS's sensible modular design."

That's what we thought. If anyone has a similar (fun or serious) piece of coding we will be happy to consider that for publication in StarInfo in Qercus. Copies of Qercus 278, containing the original article from David, will be on sale at the Midlands Show on Saturday - or by post from me.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 24/11/06 3:04PM
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druck: OK, I agree, with RO's very good window management and drag'n'drop implementation, true transparency is less useful. But I enjoy the ability to leave a window semi-transparent to see small applications and to copy text between windows without having to shuffle through the order or resize window. IMO it would just add to the arsenal of WIMP usability.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 25/11/06 7:15AM
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cor what fun :-)

also shows you how many sprites are expecting a grey background to blend into...

Or praps thats a RO5 thing... ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserROHC on 25/11/06 9:30AM
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Applications running on RISC OS 3.7 onwards can use the background blending ability of the font manager to work with any type of background. However font rendering is considerably slower when utilising this, so most are written to assume the default grey of the wimp. Or rather these days, the standard window background tile sprite, which is sufficiently flat colour wise not to show up blending issues.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 30/11/06 9:04AM
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