Hack 18 Create Transparent Windows


Make any XP window transparent and control the amount of transparency for each.

One of the cooler new interface features of XP is the ability to use transparent or semitransparent windows, in which the background can show through the current window. But there's a problem with that feature: very few programs take advantage of transparency, and there is no way built into XP for you to make windows transparent. So, to a great extent, the feature is worthless.

However, a number of downloadable programs tap into that XP capability and let you make any window transparent. My favorite is Glass2K (http://www.chime.tv/products/glass2k.shtml), because it's small, it's simple, and above all, it's free. It doesn't muck around with your system by making Registry changes or installing .dlls. It's just run an executable file, and with it you can make any window transparent. When it's running, go to the window you want to make transparent, and press Ctrl-Shift and a number from 0 to 9. 9 makes the window the least transparent, 1 makes it the most transparent, and 0 sets it so that it's solid, with no transparency. You can also right-click on a window, and select the degree of transparency from the program's pop-up menu. The window will keep that degree of transparency as long as you run the program and keep the transparency setting. Figure 2-19 shows the results of making windows transparent with the program.

Figure 2-19. Making any windows transparent with Glass2K

Trans-XP is another downloadable that lets you make windows transparent. It's shareware, and is free to try, but costs $14.95 if you decide to keep it. It's available from http://www.totalidea.com.

The downloadable version limits you to having only three transparent windows.

Another similar program is Actual Transparent Windows. It's also shareware and is free to try, but it costs $19.95 if you decide to keep it. It's available from http://www.actualtools.com.

If you're looking for an all-in-one tool that lets you make countless interface tweaks, including making any window transparent, try Tweak-XP, from http://www.totalidea.com. In addition to giving you transparency, it lets you hide programs on the Start Menu, and create your own folder icons. It also offers a variety of optimization tools, as well as utilities such as a pop-up ad blocker, a Registry cleaner, Zip file repairer and much more. It's shareware and free to try, but you're expected to pay $29.95 if you keep using it.

There's one drawback to using transparent windows: it takes up processing power and RAM, so it may slow down your system. The fewer transparent windows you create, the less processing and RAM are used, so handle transparent windows with care.