Articles from 2007 February
With the recent launch of Windows Vista and its new Aero interface, everyone who knows of it is thinking about transparent/translucent windows. Indeed, folks who are into theming have known of Aero for years, since, well, it’s taken Microsoft years to get it to market.
Mac users have already enjoyed transparency in their applications for years now, though not as part of the window “trim.” (As I discuss briefly later on, Aqua doesn’t actually have much “trim”.) Rather, it’s just something we take for granted in applications like the Dock, Dashboard, and Expose, and QuickTime Player (which pops up throughout Mac OS X to present slideshows, image thumbnail views, and of course full-screen video), as well as in Apple’s growing use of “HUD” displays, which use a transparent black interface.
Then, of course, there are apps like Quicksilver, which has taken advantage of transparency in its Bezel interface for years, and more recently in its amazing, animated Cube interface, Growl, which uses Apple’s bezel framework in several styles, and numerous others like DropCopy (whose whole interface is transparent), QuartzClocks (which lets users adjust the transparency of your chosen clock), and AlarmClock (which again uses the bezel framework to great effect).
Nevertheless, when I first saw Mac themer/designer Ice Specter’s attempts to develop a transparent theme for Mac OS X that would duplicate the look of Aero, I was “hooked on transparency” in a big way. At the time, I didn’t realize that Ruler Aero, Ice Specter’s theme, was emulating the new Windows “look,” but it wouldn’t have mattered in any case. For one thing, as cool as Ruler Aero was, it wasn’t usable enough, and it had this disconcerting blend of transparent toolbars (in metal apps) and opaque ones (in everything else). It was a proof-of-concept, and a terrific one at that.
But from the get-go, what Ruler Aero made me lust after wasn’t Windows Vista Aero-style translucency, but rather totally transparent windows. In addition, I wanted a theme that would give me transparent toolbars in both metal apps like the Finder, QuickTime Player, and Safari and in regular Cocoa apps like Preview, Mail, Activity Monitor, Keynote, and Pages (in other words, in most of the apps I use).
However, after experimenting off and on for a couple of years to achieve the look I had in my head, I had pretty much given up. Every thread I followed in the theming forums concluded that transparency wasn’t possible in a Mac OS X theme except in the few places Ruler Aero had achieved it. I concluded that Apple had designed Mac OS X and Aqua so as to completely thwart all attempts at my transparency nirvana.
Then, quite by accident last month, I stumbled onto a setting in Apple’s Cocoa framework that finally unlocked the secret of transparency for Mac OS X’s toolbars. I’ve now finished applying that setting to a Mac OS X theme that enables totally see-through windows, and I’m calling it “Crystal Clear.”
What could be more logical–or more beautiful–than crystal clear windows on your Mac? Were grey metal windows something we yearned for? Of course not! Windows were made to see through.
Coming soon to a Mac near you… Crystal Clear, a new experiment in alpha transparency for Mac OS X.
Here are some preview shots of a few of my favorites.