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 Post subject: WorkShelf v1.8 Beta Released!
PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 11:13 pm 
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The new beta mainly tackles a serious complaint about Workshelf: the apparent lack of speed when switching to highly populated shelves. There is a very good reason why WorkShelf was a bit slower opening some shelves than most docks out there: it did (and does) things that no other dock can.

For instance, drag & drop an application into, say, ObjectDock. Even if the application has a 48x48 representation of its own icon, ObjectDock will show an enlarged version of the 32x32 icon instead. Now do the same with Workshelf: you will get the correct 48x48 icon (assuming, of course, that you are running WorkShelf with 48x48 icons). This is possible because WorkShelf manages to bypass a Windows limitation in which 48x48 icons always display as enlarged 32x32 versions in applications unless you have changed the default icon size in Display Properties from 32x32 to 48x48. This feature allows WorkShelf to display shelves like the Control Panel shelf with the correct 48x48 icon size, instead of the ugly enlarged 32x32 versions (old versions of WorkShelf could not do this, you will remember the difference if you have been using WorkShelf for long enough). The penalty for this feature, is, of course, speed, since there is a lot of (clever) work being done in the background to bypass this Windows limitation.

Another thing that WorkShelf does that no other dock can currently do is to display the contents of virtual (e.g. My Computer, Control Panel) and physical folders (e.g. C:\). This means it sometimes has to retrieve hundreds or even thousands of files - add this to the time it takes to properly render the icons and you now begin to understand why you sometimes clicked on a shelf and only got a response a second or so later.

The most time consuming process in all of this is still, of course, icon rendering. Fetching application icons is always a time consuming operation, and you can quickly realize how time consuming it is by populating a folder with lots of ico files and then opening that folder in Explorer. You will see Windows first displaying default icons and then, slowly and painfully, rendering the actual icon images one by one.

However, it only does this once. This is because the solution to all of this, and one that Windows employs as well, is called icon caching. If you cache the rendered icons in memory once you've fetched them once, you no longer have to fetch them from disk the next time around (an operation hundreds of times slower).

And this is the solution that WorkShelf also uses in the new v1.80 version. As you access a shelf, all the rendered icons are stored in memory. The next time the same shelf is opened, it displays instantly because WorkShelf no longer has to fetch all those icons from disk.

Another technique WorkShelf v1.80 uses to speed things up further (listen up, competitors ) is icon rendering in the background: suppose you have a shelf with more than one icon row. As soon as Workshelf displays the current visible row, and while you are busy staring at it, it begins, in the background, fetching all those icons that are still not visible in preparation for when you click on the scroll button to access the next row. Chances are that when you do finally click on that scroll button, all the icons in the next row will have already been fetched from disk. Scrolling will then appear nearly instantaneous.

Same thing happens with thumbnail rendering. Open a shelf with lots of links to picture and video files for the first time and you will see Workshelf rendering the thumbnails one by one. Stare at it for a couple of seconds and you will find out that when you scroll to fetch the next icon row all thumbnails for that row have been rendered already. The best is that thumbnails are cached as well, so next time you open that same shelf your thumbnails will appear instantaneously.

As with everything, there is a catch for all this icon caching. And the catch is that each icon cached in memory uses something called a GDI handle. There is an almost unlimited supply of these in NT based systems (NT4, 2000, XP and so on) but GDI handles are a rare comodity on Win9x systems. Exhausting GDI handles in a Win9x system is a sure and quick way to crash your computer. To prevent WorkShelf from doing this, icon caching is turned off when Workshelf detects it is running under Win95, Win98, Win98 SE or Win98 ME. Then again, what are you waiting for to upgrade to Win2000 or XP? Everybody else has done it already!

You can download the new WorkShelf beta from

unzip the file and run setup.exe. Remember to exit WorkShelf first if you are currently running it.

Note that the beta can only be installed on top of a previous WorkShelf v1.70 version! Go download the most recent full version now from the Winstep web site if you haven't done so already!

Enjoy and don't forget to give some feedback on the new beta version, please.

Other features in WorkShelf v1.80 beta include:


Version 1.80 build 303

New Features:

* WorkShelf now permits simultaneous internet connections for
all modules and Internet functions.

* The Email Checker module can now work over SSL connections. This
also means the Email Checker can be used with Gmail accounts if
you enable POP3 on that account.

* The Email Checker module now supports IMAP mail servers.

* The Email Checker tooltip now provides individual information
about each of the mail servers being polled when you are using
the module to monitor more than one email account.

* WorkShelf now uses it's own private clipboard format in drag
& drop operations of WorkShelf objects. This means WorkShelf
drag & drop data cannot be confused by other applications as
drag & drop of straight text anymore.

* The 'Current Network Connections' window of the Net Meter
module is now resizable.

* Icons are now cached on NT/Win2000/XP systems. This means that
shelves now open instantly after you have accessed them once.

* Shelf icons and thumbnails of the currently open shelf that are
not in view are never-the-less rendered on the background so that
they are ready to be displayed when the user scrolls the shelf.

* If system icons change, WorkShelf now automatically refreshes
the currently open shelf so that any icon changes can be

Jorge Coelho
Winstep Xtreme - Xtreme Power! - Winstep Software Technologies

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