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 Post subject: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 2:46 am 
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2016 has already seen five updates to Winstep software (v16.2, v16.3, v16.5, v16.6 and now v16.9), most filled to the brink with exciting new features.

I think it's safe to say that those who brought the software or renewed their upgrade subscriptions in early 2016 more than got their money's worth. :D

Now, except for the lets-not-get-burned-out short three month break between v16.6 and v16.9, normally work on the next release starts as soon as a new version is out the door. This time was no exception.

So, what are the things we are going to see in the next release? I will post them here as I implement them. So far this is what we got:

1. New high-quality Clock and Email voices.

The current male and female clock and email checker voices were originally recorded over 16 years ago. They're in .wav format and are very low quality.

The reason they are low quality is because back then 1.44 MB floppy drives and 56.6 Kbps dial up connections were still very much a thing, and you had to be very careful your setup application didn't become too bloated. The original wav samples (recorded by actual Winstep users) were thus down-sampled as low as they could possibly go, which added a lot of noise (hiss).

And so they have remain largely forgotten by me until I received an email on Winstep support complaining about the (lack of) audio quality in the voice packs.

These days we have some great text-to-speech engines on the web with various voice types, one of which I used to create the voice events for the new battery module. So I resorted to the same engine (and voices) to re-create the clock and email checker voices in MP3 format and much higher quality.

And since I was doing this...

2. The Email Checker module's voice is now able to report more than 59 messages.

The female and male voice packs were originally intended only for the clock module, so they only needed to count up to 59 (e.g.: the time is 12:59 AM, it then rolls to 1:00 AM, not 12:60 AM).

They were also recorded by real Winstep users and it was a somewhat laborious process involving a mic, a sound recorder and sound editing software, so when the Email Module was added I didn't see fit to ask them to record further voice samples for numbers above 50.

And thus from then on the Email Checker would choke if it had to report more than 59 unread messages.

Since I now had the benefit of a proper text-to-speech synthesizer, I could add the missing voice samples myself, and so I did, using the same male and female voices used for the Battery Monitor voice events.

The Email Checker is thus now able to properly speak numbers all the way up to 999,999.

3. Email Checker icon now optionally displays number of unread messages in the icon itself.

Some time ago on this forum a couple of users were discussing the advantages of displaying information on the module icons themselves, since that information can then be seen with a simple quick glance.

I remembered that, and so, by default, when there are unread messages the number of messages is now overlapped to the Email Checker icon. Those who don't like this feature can turn it off in the Email Checker Settings dialog.

I also briefly played with the idea of doing the same for the size of files in the Recycle Bin, but I didn't like how the Trash module looked with that enabled and I didn't think this information was important enough to warrant such a trade-off.

4. Fixed 'This upgrade can only be installed on top of an existing version' Winstep Update Manager error after downloading an update.

Some users got this message when the Winstep Update Manager had just downloaded a new update and was about to install it on their systems.

From what I was able to determine, this is related to Registry Cleaners deleting the Winstep uninstall information from the Windows Registry. Without it not only do you get this error, as no entry appears for the Winstep application in the Control Panel's Programs and Features dialog - leaving users unable to properly uninstall the software should they needed to.

Although not a problem with the Winstep software itself, this issue was becoming common enough that some action needed to be taken. But first I had to understand what was going on, and what was causing it to happen.

I was able to at least understand what was going on with the help of a *very patient* Winstep user suffering from this problem.

The manual fix to this issue is to download the full version of the Winstep software from the Winstep web site and install that on top of the current installation. This restores the uninstall settings in the Registry without touching current user settings for the Winstep application.

So, the solution to this problem was to make the Winstep Update Manager itself automatically download and install the full version, instead of the smaller update pack, whenever it detects that the uninstall section is missing from the Registry.

Moral of the story: do not use Registry Cleaners! They do more harm than good and can corrupt your system in really insidious ways!

5. New option to prevent hidden docks from automatically popping up when applications request attention.

If the dock is set to display running tasks, it will automatically pop up when, for instance, Skype is running and you receive a new Skype message. This is by design so you don't miss application notifications - the Windows taskbar, when set to auto-hide, does exactly the same.

So, although this is a fundamental feature when using Nexus to completely replace the Windows taskbar, if you are running both it can actually become a nuisance, given that the taskbar is already notifying you of this event.

A new option to disable this behavior was thus added to the Activation Settings dialog in the Behavior tab of Preferences/Dock Properties.

6. New 'No Theme' option for desktop modules/Digital Clock desktop module.

When there is no skin in a theme for a particular desktop module, the desktop module assumes the look of its iconic version. Selecting 'No Theme' for a desktop module is thus a way to force a module to look (and have the same style) as its iconic little brother.

This will be particular useful for the Clock module, as it will finally allow users to have a digital clock module on their desktops.

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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 1:56 pm 
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These all sound awesome, especially the Email Checker enhancements. Any chance we might get a calendar docklet/module soon...OR an added setting to allow the digital clock module to launch the calendar application of your choice when clicked?


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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 8:30 pm 
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Dino7405 wrote:
Any chance we might get a calendar docklet/module soon...OR an added setting to allow the digital clock module to launch the calendar application of your choice when clicked?


I think you might actually be in luck. :D

Looking into adding a Calendar module to this version.

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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 10:42 pm 
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winstep wrote:
Looking into adding a Calendar module to this version.


Work has started. If you have any ideas in terms of functionality, now is the right time to speak. :)

Like all the other modules, it's going to have two styles: one classic, like the old iCal icon in OSX, the other a flip-calendar.

Unlike the other desktop modules, which assume the iconic form if the current theme doesn't have a skin for them, the calendar desktop module is actually going to display a full blown calendar anyway, with different default looks that match each of the two different iconic styles.

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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:36 am 
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Any chance on the IMAP reading for email? I imagine you only need to be able to read local because it is a copy of the server?
~AND~ Multiple rotating wallpaper selections for a single theme?
~AND~ Skinning of windows you stayed away from. I'd be interested to know why.
the worst you can say is "no" - nothing to lose by asking :)


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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:47 am 
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BassdudeNZ wrote:
Any chance on the IMAP reading for email? I imagine you only need to be able to read local because it is a copy of the server?
~AND~ Multiple rotating wallpaper selections for a single theme?
~AND~ Skinning of windows you stayed away from. I'd be interested to know why.
the worst you can say is "no" - nothing to lose by asking :)


And no is what you'll get, sorry. :P But I will at least explain why:

1. IMAP reading: not even sure what you mean by this. But assuming you mean some way of handling/reading the *actual* email, (e.g.; turn the email checker module into some kind of email client/preview application) that is so far beyond the scope of the module that the answer can only be no.

2. Rotating wallpapers: the OS already does this. No point in re-inventing the wheel, risk conflicts with the OS wallpaper rotation itself, etc, etc...

3. Skinning windows of 3rd party applications: why do you think WindowBlinds, despite being Stardock's cash cow for such a long time, never had any real competitors? Because it is not a trivial thing to do (more kudos to Neil Banfield for pulling it off). Pretty much a nightmare in fact.

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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:05 am 
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very nice additions Jorge. The new voices will be good to hear.
In the calendar module, is there anyway to double click on a date and have a very simple "sticky note" type thing pop up to put appointments, reminders, etc on. The date could then have a little tiny red dot, or the bottom right corner of the date could be colored in. Some kind of visual reminder there's something going on. This doesn't have to be at all fancy.

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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:45 am 
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werewolf wrote:
In the calendar module, is there anyway to double click on a date and have a very simple "sticky note" type thing pop up to put appointments, reminders, etc on. The date could then have a little tiny red dot, or the bottom right corner of the date could be colored in. Some kind of visual reminder there's something going on. This doesn't have to be at all fancy.


Doesn't that overlap a bit with the (relatively) new clock alarms?

Anyway, I think the very first version of the Calendar module is going to be pretty simple in terms of functionality, David (but keep those suggestions coming). You will be able to click it to launch a pre-defined user-specified full calendar application of your choice and that should be pretty much it.

My plans for the module *so far* have more to do with the visual side of it.

Like all the other modules, the calendar module will have two styles: the first (and the default) will be the classic Mac OSX iCal look (like the calendar in the digital clock module, but slanted, see attached). Like the digital clock calendar, it will have a red bar at the top third where the month/day of the week goes.

You will be able to select the color of this bar to match the current theme, and also choose between displaying either the day of the week or the month in that space. The white part will display the current day in large characters.

The second style will be completely different, more of a metallic flip-calendar.

Now, where this module will be very different from the others is in the desktop module version. When a theme has no skin for a particular module (none of the existing themes will have a skin for the calendar, for instance, since it doesn't exist yet), the module assumes the look of their iconic version.

Not so with the calendar, since this would not be very useful. Instead (unless the module is captured into the NextSTART taskbar) the non-skinned default look will be a full blown calendar like the Windows 7 calendar, but with a background bitmap matching whatever style you have currently selected.

I'm also thinking about adding an option defining what happens when you click the iconic version of the module in a dock or Shelf tab: either launch a 3rd party application as explained above, or show a special, temporary, version of the desktop module. A bit like what happens now when you click on the clock module.

If I do this I might as well add an option for the clock module to either display the standard Windows calendar (as it does now) or the Winstep version of the calendar.


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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 3:46 am 
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WOW!!! Jorge, you are on a roll with these enhancements!! Christmas is coming early, LOL! I've been waiting for a calendar module for a while, as well as the addition of a notification badge showing unread email count on the Email Checker icon!


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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 5:30 am 
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Thanks for answering my questions. What i meant was the facility to read the actualy size of the mail file. For example *.pst for Outlook and report its size. It is useful to see so I know when to archive because its not exactly a priority to go and check the size of the file and what it occupies on disk. I apologise if i thought it was as easy as reading POP.

CALENDAR looks GREAT !!!

I would assume an option for skinners to add their own within a theme ?
:)


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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 3:50 pm 
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"Doesn't that overlap a bit with the (relatively) new clock alarms?"

Well not exactly. I'm looking for a visual reminder that there is an event. On a month display, I could see all the events I created and could click on one to see what that event is.

The alarms don't really operate that way.

All the updates are looking great Jorge. Love these apps.

David


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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:17 pm 
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werewolf wrote:
Well not exactly. I'm looking for a visual reminder that there is an event. On a month display, I could see all the events I created and could click on one to see what that event is.

The alarms don't really operate that way.


Well, the problem is that I don't like going half-way. If I start adding event related stuff NOW (not saying I won't do that later) then it's going to take forever to finish the next version, and I would like to finish it this month because it also fixes a couple of issues in v16.9. :)

This said, you just gave me an idea: I could also use the calendar to display visual information regarding clock alarm events (i.e.; days they are scheduled to happen).

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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:58 am 
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In conjunction with what werewolf is saying, it would be nice if it could access one or more of the popular calendars out there (iCloud, Google, Outlook) and display today's items on mouseover.

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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 2:32 pm 
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What Paul said :)


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 Post subject: Re: So, what's next after v16.9?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 2:48 pm 
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vectornut wrote:
In conjunction with what werewolf is saying, it would be nice if it could access one or more of the popular calendars out there (iCloud, Google, Outlook) and display today's items on mouseover.


See, that's where it starts getting complicated. I have no idea if those apps have an external public API to get that information from them.

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