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Stardock ObjectDock: The Right Tool for the Job?

By Anthony SullivanI've always enjoyed User Interface customization because it allows you to personalize your interface as well as increase ease of use and productivity.Stardocks ObjectDock has been around for a while as a tool to add additional functionality to your Windows interface.Object Dock is, at it's core, a taskbar replacement intended to give functionality similar to the traditional taskbar in Apple operating systems.You can download ObjectDock from the Tech Republic Software Library.The install is a breeze but ObjectDock doesn't start automatically when the install is complete. You can access it via the menu options shown here.
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Topic: Windows
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By Anthony Sullivan
I've always enjoyed user interface customization because it allows you to personalize your interface as well as increase ease of use and productivity. One tool that has been around for a while to add additional functionality to your Windows interface is Stardock's ObjectDock.
ObjectDock is, at its core, a taskbar replacement intended to give functionality similar to the traditional taskbar in Apple operating systems. You can download ObjectDock from the TechRepublic software library.
The install is a breeze, but ObjectDock doesn't start automatically when the install is complete. You can access it via the menu options shown here.
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When you load ObjectBar for the first time, this is what you will see.
My screen resolution is probably smaller than yours so it may take up less space, but we're gonna clean it up a bit anyway in a few moments.
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When you hover over ObjectBar, the area you are hovering over will magnify.
This is just like the taskbar from an Apple computer. You can configure the amount of magnification as well as turn this feature off in the settings we'll look at later.
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When you right-click on an open area of the ObjectDock, you will see a menu similar to this one.
Unchecking Magnification will turn off the magnification feature.
Selecting Always on top places the ObjectDock on top of all windows. I found this intrusive, so I left it off.
Autohide causes ObjectDock to Autohide and re-appear when you mouse near it. This feature seemed quirky and inconsistent to me.
Lock Dragging is actually useful. It's easy to drag an item off of the bar or move it within the bar on accident if you aren't careful. Checking Lock Dragging will prevent this.
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Using this submenu, you can quickly move the ObjectDock to a particular side or corner of the screen.

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Listed under the Add submenu are all the add items you may choose to add to your ObjectDock.
You can add shortcuts, separators, as well as many of the built-in Windows shortcuts that you would typically see in your Windows taskbar.
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ObjectDock has a remarkable number of settings for such a simple piece of software.
Many of these you'll never need to mess with, while others are very important. We'll cover the important ones here.
- Load ObjectDock at Startup: This is checked by default and should probably remain so unless you want to load it manually every time you reboot.
- Hide the Windows Taskbar: I checked this. You might want to use ObjectDock as just another place to put frequently used items, but it can also be set up to perform all the functions of the Windows taskbar if you like.
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Clicking the Miscellaneous Options button will bring up this screen.
- Prevent Docks set to "Always On Top" or "Always on Bottom" from hiding when WinKey D is pressed: Wow, that is a mouthful. This should remain checked as it can be tricky to get ObjectDock to reappear if you use WinKey D to show desktop.
- When a shortcut is added, point to the target not the shortcut: Keep this checked, otherwise when you drag a shortcut onto the bar and then delete the original shortcut, you will orphan the item in your ObjectDock.
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Depending on how powerful your machine is and the amount of RAM you have handy, you might want to tweak these settings.
ObjectDock seemed to be pretty fast on my computer, but often lagged right after I unlocked or woke up my computer.
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Seeing so many options for troubleshooting makes me wonder if this is really buggy software or really well-written software. Only time will tell.
As you can see, there is a section for Vista features. This is a good indicator that Vista is fully supported with this version.
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I said before that at its core, this product is intended to replace the Windows taskbar.
Depending on how fancy you want to get, you can also change the way ObjectDock looks. On this tab, you can load and create packages that contain custom images for your icons.
You can also backup your dock here.
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ObjectDock has support for widget-like objects called Docklets. They can range from something as mundane as a shortcut, all the way up to Internet-enabled functioning objects that might pull in information such as the local weather.
Listed here are all the docklets currently installed. To add a docklet to your ObjectDock, select the docklet and click Add this Docklet to the Dock.
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On the Appearance tab, you can change additional settings such as icon size and magnification size.
Take note of the WinCustomize.com button at the bottom. This is the Web site where you will find the most themes and packages for ObjectDock.
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On the Positioning tab, you can control where the ObjectDock sits within your work area.
Check out the new Interaction area where you can control how the ObjectDock autohides.
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The effects tab seemed a little redundant at first, but there are some additional options other than the mouseover effects.
You can choose the Swing Effect which I thought was boring. This causes your icons to swing back and forth when you mouse over them.
Choosing No Effect disables the magnification and swing effects.
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The last options tab is the Dock Contents tab. Here you can tell ObjectDock whether or not to show running tasks as well as where to show them.
You can also choose to show minimized tasks as thumbnails. This is a far cry from the Aero effects in Vista, but is still pretty nice for XP users.
That does it for the ObjectDock options. Let's have a look at a docklet.
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One of the default docklets that are added when you install ObjectDock is the weather docklet.
To configure this docklet, simply hover over it, right-click and select Weather Docklet Properties.
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Here you can configure the docklets properties. In the case of the weather docklet, we can change the zip code, units and behavior.
Upon adding your zip code and clicking Update you will see an icon representing your local weather as well as further information when you hover over the icon.
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Here is what my ObjectDock looked like after I had configured it completely.
I hid the Windows taskbar in order to save space and reduce the redundant functionality of the ObjectDock.
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Here you can see that I have loaded the Omea News Reader and minimized it. It now shows in my taskbar area of the ObjectDock.

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Stardocks ObjectDock seems to work as advertised, but is it really necessary?
In short, no, it certainly isn't. It adds a lot of flash to the user interface but really doesn't bring a lot of needed functionality. It also doesn't seem to work well on older machines.
That said, it is a really cool application that can help you personalize your workspace and, if used properly, can even increase your productivity with the use of the docklets applications. The target audience for this application is going to be power users, who generally have powerful machines, so the performance hit shouldn't be noticeable.
ObjectDock performs as it should and delivers on its promises.
ObjectDock is the Right Tool for the Job.

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