“MACing” your Windows: The GUI

Written by: John Fiore

Categories: Hints & Tips

OSX Windows XPNow that Apple has made a full switch to Intel processors, running Windows on Macs has become more common than most people ever thought it would be. Be it on Parallels or Apple’s Boot Camp there is usually a need to run Windows on your Mac or have a second machine handy. This series of articles is about making Windows a more comfortable environment for a Mac user. Of course not all of the Mac elements will carry over, but we can get pretty close using mostly freeware. These articles are written for Windows XP SP2, however the majority of these programs have versions coming out for Windows Vista in the near future.

In this article we will emulate the most basic elements of the GUI of OS X Tiger. This means ditching the default Luna visual style that is reminiscent of Fisher Price Toys. Please keep in mind that this is only the first step, so not all the features of Tiger’s GUI will carry over quite yet. Please also note that it is possible to use the built in “Visual Style” feature to make your machine look like a Mac with a dll hack. But doing so will only skin the buttons, scroll bars, and the taskbar. For that reason we will not cover that in this article, but for more information on hacking the uxtheme.dll file in Windows XP take a look at this article on Neowin.net.

WindowBlinds ($19.95)

This is the safest and most user friendly method of changing the GUI on your Windows machine. No system files are altered and there is little to no slowdown. There is a freeware version you can try first, but most the features require you purchase the full version. If you’re running this on Apple hardware you will meet the system requirements so there is nothing to worry about. The install is as simple as any other Windows application and even comes with a few visual styles built in.

Once you have that installed, you have a choice of which Tiger visual style you want to download. There is a plethora of them out there, but two of them stand out amongst the crowd. Both are well developed and have multiple options to change the color schemes within the theme. I suggest you take a thorough look at the screenshots for each style before reading on, and that you give them both a shot to see which suits your needs best. When trying each visual style take a good look at the information in the included read-me files as many common questions are answered in them.

Steve Grenier’s Tiger Theme

This is probably the most popular Tiger theme because of all the sub-styles it includes. The buttons on application windows are located left side and the look is emulated almost perfectly. Shadows, spotlight and the menu bar are noticeably missing, but all will be featured in future articles. The button on the top right rolls the window up to take less space while working with multiple applications. After using this for a few hours you may find it painful to be without while using Windows. As with all WindowBlinds themes it is recommended you restart your computer after applying it to avoid problems.

KoL’s Tiger 2 Theme

This theme is less popular as it does not include many sub-styles, however it is widely accepted as the most accurate theme. Outside of the lack of sub-styles this theme includes all the features of Grenier’s take on Tiger. KoL has also managed to create a theme that has a more sharp and responsive feel than most other themes. The seemingly small tweaks like the shut down menu and the more accurate scroll bars make a world of difference in your daily use. If you don’t mind only having a blue and a graphite theme then this is without a doubt the right choice.

The last thing you want to do after applying the theme is move your task bar to the top of your desktop. Right click on the taskbar and make sure “Lock the taskbar” is unchecked. Then drag and drop the taskbar to the top of the screen, and lock it down again. After this you will have completed the first step in emulating the OS X environment. In our next article we will discuss a few applications that emulate the “Dock” and where to get the best looking icons for your applications.

There are 7 comments on “MACing” your Windows: The GUI:

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  1. TheJadeGeek | Nov 22 2006 - 04:43

    flyakite OS X is what I’ve always used on windows. Works pretty good.


    Its a free program that modifies not only the GUI but the dialogs to look like OS X. Also includes Object Dock (from Stardock) and doesn’t require buying or running a trial of any software.

  2. aplardi | Nov 22 2006 - 04:47

    flyakite is alright, but in my experience it causes massive slowdown on some machines, and can leave some system files ruined if the wrong windows update comes out or you need to do a system restore. i’m trying to keep my suggestions as clean to the system as possible. little things like the buttons still being on the right side of the window will not quite emulate the experience, as they are only VS styles using the uxtheme hack i mentioned. if you’re an advanced windows user and have the horsepower, give it a shot. if anyone is able to run this easily on the mac mini’s gma 950 in parallels let me know.

  3. steve | Nov 22 2006 - 04:09

    The link for windowblinds keeps redirecting me to this page.

  4. maccast | Nov 22 2006 - 06:20

    Link fixed. Sorry.

  5. Felipe | Nov 23 2006 - 10:26

    The idea is cool… But windows is so far from Mac OS…

  6. NestMac | Nov 23 2006 - 06:33

    This app. is what I use on my PC, and is then best UI emulator on the bussines. I also use one app. for the dock, but I’m not going to tell until the article is over, maybe next time.

  7. Brett | Nov 25 2006 - 08:13

    When is the next part coming?