XP = Boring…Mod Your PC!

For some reason, I’ve been on a “mod my PC” kick this week. I think I’ve just grown bored of the XP platform, and I’ve been itching to get that same silky interface vibe that I got when XP was first released. I know, I know – some of you are out there rolling your eyes at all of this, but the fact is, Tahoma with the Clear Type setting was really visually appealing the first time around. I loved it, and simply using my laptop was a pleasure thanks to the crispness and silkiness of the display.

Unfortunately, the novelty has long since worn off, and now I can’t seem to resist the urge to make my display somewhat resemble that of the forthcoming Windows Vista. I hinted at it earlier with my reference to Tahoma and Clear Type, and for me, the number one most satisfying aspect of a user interface is the font in which the content is presented. Coming from the design perspective, I’ve really been struck by interface-related fonts like Mac’s Lucida Grande, as well as its Windows XP counterpart, Lucida Sans Unicode. Some of my recent designs (including this site) feature these Lucida fonts (which one you see depends on which OS you’re running).

In case you don’t already know about it, you can change (or check) your font display setting by right clicking on your desktop and going to “Properties.” Under properties, go to the “Appearance” tab and then click on the “Effects” button, which is located in the lower right portion of the box. Now, the second setting should say “Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts,” and you’ll want to make sure that “ClearType” is displayed in the box (not “Standard”). Voila! Instant gratification.

So anyway, I alluded to Windows Vista earlier, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to see some screenshots of the new OS, hopefully you noticed the awesome font that they’re going to feature on the interface, Segoe UI. In my opinion, the font looks like a second cousin to the Lucida family, albeit a bit more modern and progressive. There’s actually been a healthy amount of debate about the authenticity of the font (which I don’t necessarily question or care about) because it looks nearly identical to a font called Frutiger Next. According to an article I read, in 2003, the Swiss government commissioned this font for use on ALL road signs in that design-happy country, which I think is completely cool. I, for one, would rather see my tax dollars go into that than into Billy Joe Jerkoff’s coffee breaks alongside the interstate with the rest of his road crew, but I guess that’s neither here nor there.

To make a long story short, I love the fluidity of the Frutiger font family, so I tried (unsuccessfully) to snag the Frutiger Next type face. I did, however, manage to snag the original version of Frutiger, which I don’t think you’re supposed to be able to get without a license. Believe it or not, I got the font courtesy of Microsoft, simply because they bundle the font with Microsoft Reader. All ya gotta do is download the reader (the second option), install it, and then un-install it – because you don’t want that piece of crap taking up real estate on your hard drive anyway. Booyah. Instant Frutiger fonts. I think these are a must-have for designers nowadays, but what do I know?

After getting the font, I modded out my XP interface a bit to show the Frutiger font in my menus and such, but the changes weren’t all that remarkable. Don’t get me wrong – I dug ’em, but it still left me wanting for more. I could always go out and buy a Mac, but that’s ridiculous considering that I really just wanted something different to look at. These days, the en vogue thing to do is get a Mac, but I don’t really feel like there’s a huge advantage to having one – certainly nothing I couldn’t live without. One cool thing, however, is that you get a new interface, and I think that’s one of the aspects of Macs that people find so appealing. It’s not that it’s so great – it’s just different than what you’re hit with every day.

This morning, I decided to try out my beta license for Newsvine, and I saw that the second most popular (or “seeded”) article was one that talked about how to turn your PC into a Mac. I didn’t follow their instructions, but I did, however follow a link that was located in the comments of the Newsvine article link. Instead of requiring seven steps to turn your PC into a Mac, this link requires only two – a simple download and subsequent install. It’s called the FlyakiteOSX, and after installing it on my machine amidst a ton of skepticism, I have to admit – it’s extremely cool. I’m in user interface bliss.

The thing that I found most surprising about this XP theme mod (that’s basically what it is) was the fact that I now see forms, menus, and other interface items displayed in what I think is the Lucida Grande font – not Lucida Sans Unicode, which is what I would have expected. My sites are encoded to display Lucida Grande first and Lucida Sans Unicode second, and what I’m looking at now is slightly different than what I was looking at before I installed this theme modification. To be honest, I really like how Lucida Sans Unicode is a little bit fatter than Lucida Grande, but hey – a little bit of a change never hurt anybody.

Actually, I just checked, and the Lucida Grande font (or a Windows-based adaptation thereof) has been installed on my system courtesy of the theme mod. Pretty cool. I sort of miss my Lucida Sans Unicode, but I can always change that by flip-flopping my fonts, because I currently have Lucida Grande listed first in the coding for my sites. I just re-read this paragraph, and it looks as though I was thinking out loud again. Oh well.

Alright, it’s time for me to get back to work, but I hope some of you who are bored out of your gourds with the now-stagnant XP interface will give this a try. Tell me what ya think!