Authors: Greg Landweber and Arlo Rose
Greg Landweber and Arlo Rose have done it again! Kaleidoscope, the king of user-interface enhancers, has been updated to version 2.0. This long-awaited release features, among other things, a redesigned Control Panel interface and a completely revamped scheme format to provide users with the best-looking interface possible.
A Quick History Lesson
A few years ago, when the top-of-the-line, most up-to-date computers were running System 7.5, Mac users began to hear rumors about an upcoming release of the Mac OS (code-named “Copland”). This futuristic OS boasted so many features that it seemed sure to put Windows to shame forever. People liked the sleek gray interface, so much that some even wrote programs that would make their computer look just like it. The leader of the pack of Copland-cloners was “Aaron”, an extension that transformed System 7.5’s boring, flat-looking windows into Copland’s high-tech, 3D ones. Well, Aaron caught fire, and soon it grew more features and evolved into a Control Panel called Kaleidoscope. Not only could Kaleidoscope make the Mac OS look like Copland, but it also allowed user-created schemes to replace the standard look. Mac users were happy; Kaleidoscope made the OS look better than their wildest dreams (of the time, that is).
Copland was originally planned to become Mac OS 8, but after major cutbacks in development, the project was cancelled. Its ideas, however, refused to die, and subsequently appeared in what is now the real Mac OS 8. For instance, Mac OS 8’s “platinum appearance” is exactly what Copland was slated to look like. Furthermore, Apple’s next update to the Mac OS (code-named “Allegro”), is almost identical to what Copland was planned to be, feature-for-feature.
Among other improvements, the upcoming Allegro will support themes for appearance. However, unlike Windows 95’s “themes”, which are little more than color and simple size variations, Mac windows will soon follow no rules; their appearance will only be limited by imagination and screen space. Window edges can be jagged and irregular, and the titlebar can be anywhere (even below the window). Features like these on the horizon seemed to question Kaleidoscope’s usefulness down the line. That is, until Kaleidoscope once again provided users with a glimpse into the future of the Mac OS. (For another glimpse into the future, check out Adam Karneboge’s preview of Allegro in this issue, and see some screenshots at ). But that’s enough background about Kaleidoscope … let’s move on to the new features!
One Small Step in Version Number, One Giant Leap for Mac-kind
The biggest, most obvious change in Kaleidoscope is its window engine. The window engine is responsible for reading the information stored in a “scheme” file, and using that data to draw windows, dialogs, buttons, and so on. However, due to the increased flexibility of the scheme engine, the scheme format for creating schemes has become increasingly complex. Users uncomfortable with defining ‘boundsRects’, using ResEdit/Resorcerer (file editors), and other such technical issues will have more trouble creating schemes by themselves than ever. But not to worry, there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of schemes at the Kaleidoscope home page, free to download. The only problem Mac users will face is deciding which schemes to use!
Kaleidoscope also allows schemes to change the “WindowShade sound” (the sound you hear when you double-click the title bar of a window), cursor (aka arrow, or pointer), desktop pattern, utility pattern (the pattern used for Calculator and Find File’s backgrounds), Finder icons (the icons for folders, disks, files, and the Trash), Finder zoom rect (the “zoom” effect when you open a file or folder), and even allow the scroll bars to have double arrows (two arrows at each end). Below is a screenshot of before and after installing Kaleidoscope 2.0.1
Although Kaleidoscope is a very robust solution to modifying your Mac’s interface, it could still stand to see some improvements. For example, although Kaleidoscope allows you to change the System Font, the font used in window title bars must be the same. This means that you can’t use “Geneva” for the window titles and “Chicago” for the System Font, for instance. Along similar lines, you can’t mix and match features. This means then that you can’t use a WindowShade sound from one scheme, a cursor arrow of another scheme, the Finder icons of a different scheme with the window border of some other scheme. Also, in addition to double-arrow scrollbars, perhaps the Control Panel could provide proportional scroll thumbs (the slider). If Kaleidoscope incorporated more features like these, it would easily become the ultimate one-stop user interface tweaker.
From a complete renovation of the Control Panel’s layout, to a brand new window engine, Kaleidoscope 2.0 surpasses all other user interface modifiers. Even while the program was in beta, the schemes posted on the Kaleidoscope website have received tens of thousands of hits. Its revamped scheme engine allows greater flexibility than any other user interface enhancer ever, even though it alienates non-advanced users from creating their own schemes. Despite its few shortcomings, Kaleidoscope remains the best way to customize your Mac’s appearance.