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Power Windows


Aaron Light



Greg's Buttons

Greg's Browser

Version 2.4.5 - 17 January 2001 - Fee: $10
Works with Classic apps under Mac OS X!

Download Power Windows 2.4.5 (110K)

What is it?

Power Windows is a small control panel that lets you tap into your Mac's unused processor power to perform amazingly cool effects with windows and menus (so I guess I should really call it "Power Windows and Menus", or maybe "Greg's Power Stuff"). The primary function of Power Windows is to let you drag the entire contents of windows instead of just a dotted outline. The control panel lets you choose between Solid Dragging and Translucent Dragging, and you can even Use Multitasking with solid dragging. Power Windows can also make Finder Windows Fade Open and Closed and Menus Fade Closed, as well as offering Translucent Menus. While this is not exactly a productivity application, you might be able to convince yourself that multitasking during drags and being able to see what's behind menus is sort of useful. But most importantly, Power Windows is just plain fun, and it's great for impressing your friends and coworkers.

For solid dragging, you can set the Screen Update Frequency, which controls how often Power Windows redraws the parts of the screen you cover and uncover when moving the window. The Immediate setting updates the screen each time the window moves, which gives the best results, but requires a fast machine. For slower machines, use one of the intermediate settings. If you want the smoothest possible dragging and do not mind the "giant eraser" effect, use the At End setting, which does not update the screen until you release the mouse. The Use Multitasking option lets background applications redraw windows that were initially covered by the window you are dragging. Without multitasking, Power Windows can redraw only what was already visible when you started dragging. Multitasking requires a fast machine and works best with the Screen Update Frequency set to Immediate. Please note that even with multitasking enabled, the frontmost application cannot update its own windows until after your release the mouse.

For translucent dragging, you can set the Level of Transparency to anything from Solid to Invisible (for Zen dragging without any visual feedback). For large windows, translucent dragging can be very slow, so Power Windows drags only the border instead of the entire window. Use the Switch to Border Dragging slider to set the window size threshold where Power Windows makes this transition. The Always setting always drags only the window border, while the Never setting always drags the entire window. What setting you choose depends on your Mac's speed and your own tolerance for choppy dragging.

When the Finder Windows Fade Open and Closed box is checked, instead of using the usual zoom rectangle animation, your Finder windows gradually fade in and out when you open and close them. This fading effect takes about as long as the zoom rectangles do, but it is much, much cooler. When Finder window fading is turned on, Power Windows automatically switches off the zoom rectangles, since the window fading effect is designed to replace the zoom rectangles, not supplement them. Note that Finder window fading works only with Mac OS 8 and higher, and this check box is disabled under System 7.

The Menus Fade Closed option works similar magic for menus, which gradually fade out when closing, rather than abruptly disappearing. Getting menus to fade open is much more complicated, but I might attempt that in a future version.

What do I need?

Power Windows requires a Power Macintosh or Macintosh with a 68020 processor or better. Window dragging, particularly translucent dragging, is extremely processor intensive, and works best on a fast machine. Also, the translucency and fading effects look best on monitors set to thousands or millions of colors. Power Windows is compatible with all system versions from System 7 through Mac OS 9, although Finder window fading works only with Mac OS 8 or higher. Power Windows also works in the Classic environment under Mac OS X, giving your Classic applications live window dragging and translucent menus just like Carbon and Cocoa applications. Note that under Mac OS X, translucent window dragging and menu fading are partially functional, and the effect shows up only when you drag windows or close menus that overlap windows from Classic applications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why doesn't Finder window fading work with System 7?
The window fading feature is a complex patch that works only when windows are handled a certain way. The Finder draws its windows differently under Mac OS 8 and higher than it does under System 7, and the technique Power Windows uses does not work with System 7.

Why does Translucent Dragging leave the original window behind?
The simple answer is that the Translucent Drag Manager and scroll bar and slider ghost thumbs work the same way, leaving behind the original object and dragging a ghost image, and I want window dragging to act the same. The more complicated answer is that when dragging an object, you need to be able to see what you are dragging. If the window is almost completely transparent, and if the original image is not present, you have no feedback about what is being moved. Also, if you drag the window away from its original position and back again, the screen should appear the same as if you were not dragging the window at all, which is no longer the case if the original image is removed. Finally, consider what happens if you start dragging and move the window just one pixel. If the original window is still present, the screen contents change gradually, but if the original image is removed, the screen changes suddenly and significantly, which can be quite jarring for the user.

Can I use solid dragging but still leave behind the original window image?
Yes. Set Power Windows to use Translucent Dragging, but set the Level of Transparency to Solid.

What about live window resizing?
I have tried implementing live window resizing, but updating the window contents while resizing is just too slow. The Mac OS was not designed for this, and to do so would require special support from the applications themselves. On the other hand, I am considering replacing the usual dotted outline when resizing with a solid or translucent window border. The contents would not change while resizing, but the window border would stretch. Stay tuned...

Can you switch on the Translucent Drag Manager on 68K machines?
Window dragging works via a completely separate mechanism from the Drag Manager (which drags Finder icons and data). Although I already have translucent window dragging code, patching the Drag Manager to use translucent dragging is a significantly different project requiring more hacking than I have time for right now.

What about permanently translucent windows or translucent shadows?
This is not possible with the Mac OS window manager. Its region handling routines require that each screen pixel fall in precisely one window, so you cannot have pixels shared between windows that you need for transparency. The problem is not with drawing one transparent window on top of another, but rather with updating those pixels when the object showing through them changes. To do this, you need a way of updating background windows on demand and a mechanism for mixing them, neither of which can be done using the Mac OS window manager.

Version History

Changes in Version 2.4.5 (17 January 2001)

Menu transparency once again works correctly in Appearance themes.

Translucent window dragging now works correctly with PopChar Pro.

Fixes a glitch drawing transparent menus with Kaleidoscope running.

Changes in Version 2.4.4 (2 January 2001)

Fixes a conflict with the WYSIWYG font menu in Style (a text editor).

Changes in Version 2.4.3 (11 December 2000)

Translucent menus now work better with Kaleidoscope 2.3 or later.

TaskMenuBar no longer interferes with translucent menus.

Changes in Version 2.4.2 (18 October 2000)

Fixes a crash when opening the Power Windows control panel.

Now plays the window dragging sound effect from the current Appearance sound track under Mac OS 8.5 and later.

Adds support for Multiple Users under Mac OS 9.

Changes in Version 2.4.1 (31 May 2000)

Translucent menus now work with Appearance Themes.

Solid dragging now works correctly in SwitchBack.

Fixes a conflict with TitlePop that prevented you from dragging Finder windows to the bottom of the screen to create popup windows.

Changes in Version 2.4 (12 May 2000)

Power Windows now offers translucent menus!

Fixed a glitch fading extremely large menus.

The control panel's logo text now looks better.

Changes in Version 2.3 (28 February 2000)

Added a new option that gradually fades out menus when they close.

Window fading is slightly smoother for large windows and slow Macs.

The control panel no longer shrinks when it is used under System 7.

Fixes problems fading windows on a second monitor if its bit depth is different from the main monitor. For best results, set all monitors to the same bit depth, or if that is not possible, set the main monitor to the highest bit depth.

Changes in Version 2.2 (24 January 2000)

Added a new option that gradually fades Finder windows in and out when you open and close them as an alternative to the standard zoom rectangle animation.

Multitasking during solid drags now allocates less time to background applications. This should make solid window dragging slightly smoother when multitasking is enabled.

Changes in Version 2.1 (3 January 2000)

Solid dragging now supports a limited form of multitasking, which lets background applications redraw windows that were initially covered by the window you are dragging.

Fixes a glitch in translucent dragging where the window would sometimes shift up by one pixel after you release the mouse.

Fixes a minor conflict with Kaleidoscope, which could cause a drawing glitch in the menu bar clock when dragging a Finder window.

Changes in Version 2.0.7 (28 November 1999)

Translucent dragging now works correctly in Sherlock 2.

Changes in Version 2.0.6 (25 September 1999)

PowerWindows now calls the DragHook routine used in some applications.

Updates my e-mail address. I can now be reached at <>.

Changes in Version 2.0.5 (13 January 1999)

Fixes problems dragging windows in StuffIt Deluxe 5.

Fixes problems dragging popup windows on multiple monitor setups.

Changes in Version 2.0.4 (4 October 1998)

Fixes crashes dragging windows when using Solid Dragging and Immediate updating.

Fixes problems creating and dragging popup windows when using Solid Dragging.

Changes in Version 2.0.3 (30 September1998)

Power Windows is now fully compatible with Mac OS 8.5.

Various minor improvements and fixes.

Changes in Version 2.0.2 (1 June 1998)

Fixes a conflict with Poppet when dragging popup windows. This was fixed in Poppet 1.0.1, but not everyone has upgraded to that version yet.

If you drag a Finder window by the side or bottom, dragging it to the bottom of the screen no longer turns it into a popup window.

Changes in Version 2.0.1 (8 April 1998)

Microsoft Office 98 now uses translucent dragging regardless of the Power Windows settings. Word 98 and Microsoft Graph are not compatible with solid dragging, but translucent dragging works fine.

Claris Home Page correctly activates windows if you click on their title bars.

Slightly reduces the delay when initiating a translucent drag.

You can now drag windows all the way to the edge of the screen (except in the Mac OS 8 Finder, which needs special treatment to handle popup windows). The menu bar is still off limits for window dragging.

Fixes a bug that could cause the screen to bleach or saturate with color when dragging a non-standard window.

Changes in Version 2.0 (16 January 1998)

Power Windows is now a control panel, incorporating both the normal and translucent flavors.

Power Windows now works in the Mac OS 8 Finder. Folder windows automatically switch back and forth between normal and popup (tabbed) windows on-the-fly when you drag to or from the bottom of the screen.

Solid dragging no longer leaves behind a ghost window.

Solid dragging works better with video cards, taking advantage of their QuickDraw acceleration and eliminating the slight delay at the start of a drag (that delay is still present with translucent dragging, where it is unavoidable).

Power Windows now draws the portions of the window frame that originated offscreen.

Raised the shareware fee to $10. Registered users of version 1.x can upgrade for $5.

Changes in Version 1.2.1

Fixes conflicts with MiniCAD, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Exchange.

Changes in Version 1.2

Now affects all window dragging, even in applications that do not use the standard window dragging routines.

Changes in Version 1.1

Dragging is significantly smoother on single monitor systems.

Includes "Translucent Power Windows".

Changes in Version 1.0.2

Fixed a conflict with Now Tabs (part of Now Utilities 6).

Changes in Version 1.0.1

Fixed a problem with multiple monitor setups where the main monitor has a lower bit depth than the others.

Copyright © 2001 Gregory D. Landweber, All Rights Reserverd