Telling the world about the genius of simplicity

Give KDE a Windows 7 Look!

I’m not a fan of Windows, mainly because I dislike the way Microsoft has handled development of it. The Registry, while it was intended to consolidate all of the configuration files of 3.x, has turned into a nightmare, because of the shoddy way software has been written for it; uninstall routines are not comprehensive, removing all the files that the installation put on the computer. Over time, this leads to a slowdown, which can only be remedied by a format and re-install. Which leads to the piracy problem. Microsoft, because of its paranoia concerning its software, elected to employ product keys in the days of Windows 95. While this was a nuisance, it was somewhat tolerable, until XP came along. Then activation was paired with the key. What is so nauseous about this combination is that it can (and has) failed in so many ways, hurting only the legitimate customer (real pirates are not bothered by this; they make cracks for this. Why copy protection has persisted for so long, given its essentially 100% failure record, is and continues to be a mystery to me. Oh, well. Only in the greedy mind could such a scheme make sense, even though its previous forms have not worked).

The preceding paragraph was not meant to be a rant; contrariwise, it serves to help you, the reader, understand that although I do not like Windows, that does not mean that I do not like its looks. I think that Microsoft, for all its faults, designed a kick-ass UI in Windows 7, with 3 new elements to make it stand out from the previous generation (not counting Vista):

1) An icon-only taskbar

2) A new window decoration

3) A new mouse cursor theme

I have found visual and functionally equivalent elements for all 3 of these elements in the open source world. For brevity’s sake, I will only cover how to find the program (or element, as the case may be) and leave it to the reader to find out for himself/herself how to turn all of that into a visually appealing desktop.

1. Although KDE comes with an icon-only task manager, for me it doesn’t come close to the functionality that I have seen in 7. You can download the program, called smooth-tasks, here, and although the webpage says it requires KDE 4.8, that does not mean that it can only run on that version. It runs just fine on current versions of KDE (as of this writing, it is 4.12.1, and you can download it from Alien BOB’s repository here ). The procedure for compiling it is similar to that found in SlackBuilds meant for earlier versions of Slackware (The latest version I could find was 13.37, and you can find it here. ). Be aware, however, that minor modifications will have to be made to make it compile cleanly with the newer version of smooth-tasks. The link given for the SlackBuild will not work with newer versions of KDE (The version of KDE shipped with 13.37 is 4.5.5. A great deal has changed since that time).

2. You will need Compiz for this one. Slackware ships with Compiz by default, but for some strange reason, the user has to supply additional programs that Compiz needs in order for it to work at its fullest potential. You can download the programs here, and after installing them, use the procedure outlined here to implement it properly. (The downloads offered on that webpage are not compiled for Slackware 14.1, and you will run into trouble if you try to use them directly.) As you may or may not already know, Compiz uses Emerald as its window decorator. The Windows 7 decoration does not come with Emerald by default. You can download it here, and import it manually into Emerald. You can adjust the decoration to your liking.

3. Here is the easiest one to implement. You can download the aero cursor theme here. Although the program is under the xfce/ directory, it will work with KDE. Simply download and install it, then select it via KDE’s System Settings panel.

And there you have it. All of Windows 7’s visual appeal with none of the sludge of its internal workings, to say nothing of product keys and activation schemes. Good luck!

And, as always, happy slacking!

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