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    AltDesk 1.8 help

     
     

    Welcome to AltDesk

    Thank you for choosing AltDesk, powerful, flexible and easy to use Virtual Desktop Manager for Windows.
    With AltDesk you'll be able to ease your daily work by managing numerous task more efficiently, than before. Virtual Desktops technology, implemented in AltDesk allows you to work with with a single display nearly as effective as f you used several monitors at once. Unlike competing products, AltDesk uses icons and thumbnails to represent tasks, which makes task management more effective as you can reach any given task in the shortest time. AltDesk doesn't use a lot of screen space, you can even hide its window and manage Desktops with hotkeys. You can also change program's appearance by applying skins, which could be found on our home page
    You won't need to spend your time on configuring AltDesk as it has excellent predefined settings, designed to fit most users' needs. Even in case you'll need to tweak something, you could do it through the friendly configuration menu. The program is friendly for both novices and experienced users, which could use it even more effectively by following our hints, described in this help file.

    AltDesk's main features:

    • Simple yet powerful user interface
    • Hints for even more intuitive configuration
    • Skins for changing program's appearance and behavior
    • Adaptive skins: skins could adopt user references.
    • Transparency effects in Windows 2000, XP and above
    • Ability to set different wallpapers for each Desktop
    • Switching tasks could be done by both Drag and Drop or accessing window's menu
    • Hotkeys for all actions
    • "Boss" key for immediate hiding tasks you don't want others to see.
    • Support for multimonitor systems
    • Autorun for each Desktop
    • Modest resource requirements
    • A build-in window manager
    • Informative tooltips (with thumbnails snapshots of each window) for each task
    • Recovering lost applications
    • Multilingual user interface

    FAQ: frequently asked questions

    • Q:What is AltDesk?
      A: AltDesk is a Virtual Desktop manager (VDM) for Windows, which helps people managing large numbers of tasks more efficiently. Linux and BeOS users can enjoy build-in Virtual Desktop managers, but most Windows users miss this feature.
    • Q:How is AltDesk different from other Virtual Desktop managers?
      A: There're numerous changes. For example AltDesk represents each Virtual Desktop as a set of icons instead of creating Desktop thumbnails or just clickable buttons. This approach is more effective and time saving than other solutions. AltDesk allows you to recover "lost" applications, while other programs don't. AltDesk is easier to use and set up. Actually we've targeted it on users, that not just need another trinket on their Desktops, but value their time.
    • Q:How do I apply skins?
      A: From the version 1.6 skins can be distributed as ASZ files. Just double click the downloaded ASZ file to install it.
      For previous versions you need to install skins manually by extracting skins' archive into "AltDesk/skins" folder. For example, if you have downloaded a file myskin.zip you should extract it into "AltDesk/skins/myskin" folder.
    • Q:Can I make AltDesk skins myself?
      A: Sure. That's why we have included a comprehensive skinning tutorial into this help file.
    • Q: I have lost my serial number, what shall I do?
      A: Just followthis link: http://www.astonshell.com/customer/ .
    • Q: I want feature ***. Will you implement it?
      A: Just post yourideas into our forum and this feature might be implemented in the upcoming version of the program.

    Creating skins

    From this version AltDesk supports both classic and modern style skins. These tutorials will explain you the process of creating skins in both formats.

    Classical skin format

    Classical AltDesk skins can be thought of as sandwiches, each of which contains these layers:
    • Border:elements, displayed on the top of the skin. They can be thought of as decorative gratings, covering the rest of the skin.
    • Icons:icons are placed on the cell background and represent running tasks
    • Cell:background layer, working as a bottom for other layers.
    AltDesk skin levels
    All these elements are combined into a cell. A table combination of cells creates the cell matrix, consisting of several rows and columns of cells.
    AltDesk skin matrix
    Classical skins usually consist of three files:
    • anyname.ini- skin's configuration file
    • main.bmp- cell image file
    • Buttons.bmp- button images
    Note: The files could have different names, according to skin's preferences.
    Let's take a look at the sample skin, Handy-Metallic, created by Dmitry Prosvirnin from Gladiators Software:

    Main.bmp:

    Skin's main image

    Buttons.bmp:

    Skin's buttons image

    Handy-metallic.ini:

    [AltDesk Skin] A required header, describing the main section of AltDesk skin.
    NAME=Handy-metallic Skin name, which would be displayed in Skin Selector.
    TransparentColor=255,0,255 Transparent color in RGB format. All the areas of the skin, painted with this color would appear transparent. We highly recommend you using the common "magic pink" color: 255,0,255.
    Note, that allthe pixels, intended to be transparent musthave exactly the samecolor value, as defined by Transparent Color.
    Main=main.bmp Cell's image file, containing all the images, related to its display.
    CellSize=112,28 Cell's size in "length,height" format.
    ClientRect=6,3,99,22 Cell's client area: describes the rectangular area of the Cell, used to display icons. The format is "X1,Y1,X2,Y2" where X1,Y1 are coordinates of the left-top corner of the client area rectangle and X2,Y2 are its right-bottom corner's coordinates.
    ActiveCell=0,0 Active Cell's image coordinates in "X,Y" format, where X and Y are horizontal and vertical offsets of the active Cell's image relatively to the whole bitmap.
    In our sample skin the active Cell's image is topmoston the main.bmp.
    InactiveCell=0,56 Inactive Cell's image coordinates in "X,Y" format, where X and Y are horizontal and vertical offsets of the inactive Cell's image relatively to the whole bitmap.
    In our sample skin the active Cell's image is the second from the bottomon the main.bmp.
    ActiveBorder=0,28 Active border's image coordinates in "X,Y" format, where X and Y are horizontal and vertical offsets of the active border's image relatively to the whole bitmap.
    In our sample skin the active border's image is the second from the topon the main.bmp.
    InactiveBorder=0,84 Inactive border's image coordinates in "X,Y" format, where X and Y are horizontal and vertical offsets of the inactive border's image relatively to the whole bitmap.
    In our sample skin the inactive border's image is the bottommost on the main.bmp.
    CellDistance=0,0 Distance between individual Cells in the matrix. Given in "horizontal distance, vertical distance" format.
    Buttons=buttons.bmp Buttons' image file, containing all the icons, related to its display.
    BtnSize=48,14 The size of each button in "length, width" format
    BtnDistance=0 Distance between buttons
    BtnOffset=0,0 Buttons' offset in "horizontal offset, vertical offset" format. The offset is given relatively to the cell
    Button1Normal=0,0 Minimize button at normal state. This value is the position of the button's left-top corner relatively to the whole bitmap in "X, Y" format.
    In our sample it's the left-top part of the bitmap.
    Button1Selected=0,28 Minimize button's state when mouse pointer is located on the top of it. This value is the position of the button's left-top corner relatively to the whole bitmap in "X, Y" format.
    In our sample it's the left-middle part of the picture.
    Button1Pressed=0,56 Minimize button's pressed state. This value is the position of the button's left-top corner relatively to the whole bitmap in "X, Y" format.
    In our sample it's the left-bottom part of the bitmap.
    Button2Normal=0,14
    Button2Selected=0,42
    Button2Pressed=0,70
    State values for the Properties button. Position values are given in the same format as above.
    In our sample skin the buttons Properties state buttons are located on the right side of the bitmap.
    BtnPos=7 Preferred button's position in AltDesk pointing format .
     For this skin buttons should be placed on the right. As buttons' height is the same as cell's height, there's no difference between 7 and 8 here...
    Note, that you can select up to 8 preferred positions, separated by comma. For example, "6,5,8". Make sure, that your skin is displayed correctly with each buttons' position.
    [Description] Description section. Everything below is the description, displayed in AltDesk's skin selector.
    Skin "Handy-metallic".
    Author: Dmitry Prosvirnin
    dp-grafx@astonshell.com
    Description text
    * 1=TopLeft; 2=TopRight; 3=LeftTop; 4=LeftBottom; 5=BottomLeft; 6=BottomRight; 7=RightTop; 8=RightBottom.
    Few notes:
    • Many elements have active and inactive states. Active states are displayed when an element is given focus or it's clicked.
    • Borders must have transparent areas, otherwise you won't be able to see icons through them.
    • From version 1.6 AltDesk can handle compressed skins in ASZ format. Just compress your files into a ZIP archive and change archive's extension to ASZ.

    Modern skin format

    The idea behind the modern skin format is the same as behind the classical one. Skins are also treated as multilayer "sandwiches", but  this time there are more layers.
    Let's count them from top to the bottom:
    • Foreground:decorative layer, which only affects a single Cell. In other words, only one foreground instance per skin matrix is available.
    • Flanks:decorative borders, covering skin matrix
    • Glass:it functions the same way as classical format's border, but could use alpha transparency.
    • Icons
    • Cell:Cell's bacground image, just like in classical format.
    • Background:it behaves the same way as foreground, but located bottommost.
    Note, that some layers could be missing. However, we do recommend using at least these layers: Glass, Cell (icon layer is displayed automatically above the Cell's background). Decorative layers, like flanks, foreground and background could be used depending on your taste.
    Besides, unlike classical ones, modern skins can have up to three different states: horizontal, vertical and matrix. These skin types only differ by their kind of matrix and could generally have different look.
    Let's take a look at the sample skin, Trinity, made by Dmitry Prosvirnin:
    Modern skin matrix
    As you can clearly see, Modern skin formats allows one to create skins, which automatically adapt the matrix type. Now let's try learning some basics about creating skins in modern format. Unlike classical one it's flexible enough to let you make both complex and simple skins, depending on your experience and taste. However, by learning the format's specification you'll understand, that now you can do much more.So, before we start, let us remind you some basics:
    • Modern format skins are multilayer. Generally there're enough layers for any practical purpose.
    • Many elements have active (focused) and inactive states.
    • Unlike in classical format, modern skin format  often implies the usage of a single bitmap per variable. This helps avoiding offset problems.
    • Skins can use 32 bit PNG images with alpha-transparency.
    • Each of four Cell sides (top, bottom, left, right) could have one of these elements: Cell, buttons, flank
    • Modern skins could be adaptive: they can change their look, according to to user's preferences.
    • Modern skins can as well be distributed as ASZ files: just ZIP the skin's folder and change its extension from ZIP to ASZ so they would be easier to install.
    Here's a sample from the Trinity skin. If you have read the previous tutorial (about classical skins) you'll understand it without troubles. We have also commented the skin's INI file so you could look into it for additional comments.
    [AltDesk Skin]
    NAME=Trinity
    ClientRect=10,10,64,64
    AltDesk skin's main section's start. This section describes general matrix usage, where skin matrix is ZxY and both are equal or more, than 2. If no other matrix sections exist, this section's skin applies to any matrix.
    Name and Client rect variables work the same way as in classical skin's format. Just don't forget, that ClientRect is defined relatively to the Cell's main image bitmap
    ActiveBackground=
    InActiveBackground=
    Active and inactive states of the decorative background's layer. Here no decorative background is used.
    BackgroundAlign=0
    BackgroundOffset=-50,-50

    Background's align and offset.
    Align is set in the following format: 0=left top,1=right top, 2=left bottom, 3=right bottom

    ActiveCell=MtxCellon1.png Active cell's image for the matrix:
    Active matrix Cell
    InActiveCell=MtxCelloff1.png Same for inactive state:
    Inactive matrix Cell
    (in our case the background picture is the same for both states, thus we could use the same bitmap)
    CellDistance=-4,-4 Horizontal and vertical distance between the cells in the matrix, just like in classical skins.
    ActiveGlass= Active glass. In our case active cell's icons are not covered by anything.
    InActiveGlass=MtxCelloff2+.png Inactive glass:
    Inactive matrix glass
    Inactive cells' icons are dimmed by the layer.
    LeftFlank =
    LeftFlankOffset = 0,0
    RightFlank =
    RightFlankOffset = 0,0
    TopFlank =
    TopFlankOffset = 0,0
    BottomFlank =
    BottomFlankOffset = 0,0
    Flanks and their offsets. Our matrix state skin has no flanks.
    ActiveForeground=
    InActiveForeground=
    ForegroundAlign=1
    ForegroundOffset=0,0
        
    Foreground layers and their properties: we used no foreground decorations for this skin.
    BtnBacks = BtnBacks.png

    Buttons' backgrounds:
    Buttons' backgrounds.
    (downsampled to 25% of the original size)
    8 button backgrounds for all positions, defined by the skin. If a certain position does not exist, leave the section void.
    Positions are defined in the order of AltDesk positioning format from 1 to 8.
    If you use all 8 backgrounds it's recommended to place each into a square and then rotate around the center of the square instead of setting offsets manually. This way you could avoid positioning problems.

    BtnBacksOffset = -21,46 Each background's offset relatively to the Cell.
    OptButton=btn1.png Options button:
    Options button
    Normal, mouse