If SkinMasters are the creators, these guys and gals are OUR creators. Without all of these people, there truly would be no customisation community. What are you going to use to customize or help you customize if these people didn't create such amazing things?
I thought it was about time that we all got to know the people behind the applications and what they are all about.
Hello Creators, meet YOUR creators
The first interview in this series is with a man behind one of the most well known applications in the skinning community. If you like customizing your icons, using desklets or media player controllers, then you have very more than likely used this program. The program I am speaking about is of course AveDesk by Andreas Verhoeven.
Here is my discussion I had with Andreas about the man, the program and the future.
Hi Andreas. Let's start with the introduction first ok? Can you tell us a little about yourself? ie name, age, location etc.
My fullname is Andreas Verhoeven, but I´m more known by my nickname ave (which is the first few letters of my name concatenated together). I'm living in the Netherlands - Rotterdam to be more exact - with my girlfriend Nadia. She's a really sweet and pretty spanish-indonesian-dutch girl. One day, we will marry and have kids and get old. At least, I hope so.
At the moment, I'm working around 2 days a week at an internet company called TransIP (www.transip.nl), which is specialized in domain-registrations. My job involves designing and writing software, and playing on the Wii during lunchtime . It's a really nice place to work, with great people.
The other days of the week, I pretend to finish my Masters Degree in Software Engineering or work on my own software, which can be found at www.aveapps.com and www.desktopfx.net.
Wow your a busy guy and it sounds like you have a really nice life. For those who don't know about Avedesk, could you tell us a little about it and what it offers?.
AveDesk is one of the earlier applications that can be used to have widgets on your desktop. Together with Stardocks DesktopX and Serious Samurize it explored and boosted the widgets craze on the Windows platform.
One thing AveDesk is notable for is that it does things often differently from its competitors: desklets, as widgets are called in AveDesk, are most of the time not done in scripting languages, but are written in a more low-level language like C++. This makes it harder for non-programmers to create desklets. However, one of AveDesk strengths is that all desklets can be skinned.
The idea behind it is that there are really only a couple of basic widgets that most people use: a clock, sticky notes, a weather widget, an iTunes remote player, but people like to have them in different appeareances (skins).
This is radically different from other widget applications at the time, where widgets were composed of images and a lot of scripting code.
Another part in AveDesk that was not found in other applications was that it also focused a lot on making your desktop look pretty by having replacements for your desktop icons. This is actually where most people would know AveDesk from and where most people used the application for.
It was fairly simple to create desktop icons with AveDesk that looked exactly like Mac OSXes icons, with big icons, dropshadows, colored labels and all kind of effects, such as mouseover glow.
The main thing in AveDesk has always been eye-candy: AveDesk was the first application on Windows to have video-card
rendered effects. As said before, most people are using AveDesk mainly for the pretty icons and the iTunes remote player.
Especially in Japan and Korea, the iTunes player was and is very popular; there are more than 800 skins for it, most
inovating originating in Japan. A lot of these skins can still be found in Deviantart.
I use Avedesk. I have done for a long time now. Avetunes was probably the first thing I attempted to skin. My skin seemed to work well...if not working at all was my aim but that was back in the day. When did you first get into GUI?.
In 2003 when I saw some concept screenshots and demos of Longhorn. Those totally excited me. Also, Apple stuff looked amazing but way to expensive back then.
Apple prices don't seem to have changed much in 5 years What made you decide to create Avedesk and what was your inspiration behind it?.
In 2002 and 2003, OSX like docks were really getting big on the Windows platform. There was Y'zDock, MobyDock and ObjectDock which both gave XP that magical OSX touch by giving you a near perfect dock clone. A feature found in all these docks was that they supported small add-ons known as docklets. A docklet was a small application that lived inside the dock as an icon and did fancy stuff like giving you the latest weather with a sunny or a rain icon, or show how many unread e-mails you had.
At the time, I was using ObjectDock myself and thus wrote a lot of docklets that I found useful. Many of them can still be found at WinCustomize in the ObjectDok section. A problem between all the different docks was that their docklet-format was different: in other words, you could not use an ObjectDock docklet on Y'zDock, or vice versa.
In the summer of 2003, I tried to make all docklets compatible between all the different docks by coding an application that would "translate" an ObjectDock docklet into an Y'z Dock docklet. When doing that, I ended up with an application which could run docklets freely on the desktop, without having to place them inside a dock.
This idea had some great potential, since it was really easy to have access to your favorite useful docklets on the desktop instead of trapped inside a dock. I quickly ditched the idea of creating a docklet "translator" and focused on creating an application which could run small graphical applications, like docklets, on the desktop.
AveDesk is thus actually a spin-off project from a docklet-translator. This can still be seen in todays AveDesk versions, which still have the possibility to run ObjectDock docklets as widgets on the desktop!
AveDesk had always been inspired by the UI of OSX.
Wow, you ended up creating something better than you hoped huh? How long did it take you to complete Avedesk and did you do it alone? I can only imagine the work that must have been involved..
AveDesk has been in development from summer 2003 to 2007. Coding always came in waves: a couple of weeks of free time to do a lot of coding and then a couple of months no time at all for coding. At some point in time, I got a really nasty knee-injury from a game of soccer, which gave me a couple of months of time to do some real work on it.
The main core of AveDesk has been coded by myself, with occasional important contributions from Herd (www.erduman.de).
The total line count of all source code for AveDesk exceed 500,000 lines.
AveDesk has also been closely linked to Judge's SysStats (sysstats.jools.net/), since it was a major desklet
providing a click-and-drop interface for creating desklets from scratch. SysStats wasn't a real part of AveDesk, but there was a lot of communication between everybody involved. From version 1.3, Phil Caetano has done all the work on the the scripting backend part, called AveScripter.
That knee injury seemed to actually have some good come from it. 500,000 lines of code? DAMN. I hate modding my DA journal code, let alone that kind of code lol. Apart from Avedesk and your new project that our next interview will go into depth over, have you been involved in any other projects?.
I've been creating several GUI related things: I've written a GUI library for creating OSX like applications on Windows, which supported alpha-blended borders on XP long before Windowsblind did the same. Actually, in my(not so) humble opinion, Windowblinds got its inspiration for the alpha-blended borders from my applications,
since they do it on exactly the same way and came with it some months after these applications were on their top of their popularity after an incredible "Aero" skin created by StefanKa (stefanka.deviantart.com/art/Lo….
Over the years, I've written all kind of applications, ranging from a png to ico file converter for Mattahans Gant release to OSX-like skinnable applications.
At the moment, I have a collection of Vista tweaks available on www.aveapps.com, for things as resizing the taskbar thumbnails in Vista or changing the display picture in the startmenu into a 3D animated one or for getting the ability back on Vista to use a background image in Explorer.
At the moment, my pet project is DesktopFX, which is a Dreamscene like animated Desktop background for all versions of Vista and Windows XP (yes it realy does support XP). DesktopFX renders the desktop completely with DirectX and thus enabling all kind of cool features such as snow-flakes behind your icons, a video wallpaper or other cool effects. This application can be found at www.desktopfx.net
Animated backrounds for XP? Now this is something that will be hugely popular. I use Dreams on Vista and having the ability to set a movie as my wallpaper is awesome. People are gonna love animated walls on XP and I would predict that it going to give wallpaper artists new ideas and challenges. I sooo want this program, especially for the icon effects. Don't know about anyone else but i'm grabbing myself a copy . Was there a feature you wanted to add to Avedesk but met restrictions and had to drop it?.
There is a still unfinished AveDesk 2, with a lot of new stuff, including spectaculair video-card rendered effects,
built-in online desklet browser and more stuff I forget. I already lost interest in the project when starting work on this version and around that time (2.5 years ago) I met and fell in love with my current girlfriend. 1+1=2, so that version never got finished anymore. As for technical stuff, I always found a way to work around certain 'impossibilities' in Windows. Windows is actually
a pretty flexible platform to develop on.
I know you don't actually skin or customize your desktop, at least not in the last couple of years anyway, so would I be right in concluding that you prefer making things for people to skin instead of making skins youself?.
That's right. I much more enjoy the creative process of coming up with cool new ideas and realizing them, than to actually use them myself. Except for small periods of excitment, I never eat my own dogfood.
My Vista machines are also completely unthemed: I run Windows Aero with a stock background - kinda boring
I already knew the answer to that one because I already know that you have a new application coming out soon hehe (more on that very very soon people), but do you have any plans for updating or adding anything new to Avedesk?.
Unfortunately, AveDesk is no longer being developed anymore because of the reasons I mentioned before.
BOOOOO, but we will understand . We all know you obviously have a passion for GUI, is there anything else you are a fan of when your not at your computer?.
I'm a big soccer fan, I watch a lot of games and also like to play a good game of football. I also happen to have a (rather
disturbing) passion for hawaiian aloha shirts. I own several colourful shirts directly bought in hawaii. Unfortunately, nor
my girlfriend, nor my friends nor anyone in the world think they are as cool as they actually are
Yes you are right, that is disturbing lol
I think I have taken enough of your time up already, especially since we have more to discuss about your new project but before I let you go, have you got any final words you would like to add for all those reading this?
Stay tuned if you are into Windows (Vista) skinning.
Thank you for taking the time to speak to everyone here and for giving us a little insight into the person behind the program
Stay tuned for more interviews I have already completed with the guys behind Corel, Axilias, RocketDock, Y'Z, Rainlendar and many more. And of course the new SkinMaster Interview