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Ready for some exercise? Good, because if you use your computer on a regular basis, you're going to need some.
Oh, I don't mean anything too difficult like weight lifting or Olympic-style curling. But you do need strong fingers and hands to navigate your PC's screen. All that typing and twisting and turning of the mouse means that without in-shape limbs and digits, you'll end up with very fatigued forepaws.
After a while, most users get tired of clicking through menus, folders and windows to get at what they need on their screens. For them, the ability to create short-cut icons is a true boon; shortcuts, which sit on your computer's desktop, allow you to quickly access files and programs you use frequently, saving you time and effort. Plus, they're quite decorative, and the little icons are pretty, even artistic, lending a dash of splash to the otherwise dull and dreary.
But it's also easy to overdose on icons. Those pretty pictures become pretty ubiquitous pretty quickly, and you're left with a jungle of pictures on your desktop. True. It's easier to ferret through your desktop icons than navigate menus, but the whole thing has the look and feel of a messy home, whose housekeeper is too lazy to get his act together.
It may seem a small thing, but this dilemma actually exemplifies a quandary facing many of us of a certain age: On the one hand, you get to a point where the innards don't work so well anymore, and you just want to take it easy; on the other hand, if you take it too easy, you end up letting yourself go, and things can get a little ugly.
What to do? Well, I'm not licensed to give out exercise and nutrition information (and I'm certainly no role model when it comes to stuff like that!), but I may have a solution that will let you get at your icons without working too hard, and still keep your computer clean and pretty. The solution comes in the form of a free program called Objectdock (http://www.stardock.com/products/objectdock), which will give your computer a clean, clear, in-shape look.
As a dock - a configurable bar that holds icons for programs, e-mail, your system clock, system commands, etc. - Objectdock can help make sense of your desktop. The program comes with an occurrence of each type of event it can handle, such as a recycle bin, a link to Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word, and a weather gauge that tells you the temperature and atmospheric conditions.
But that's just the floor model; Objectdock can do lots more and is a cinch to configure. I don't use Internet Explorer (gasp!) or even Word, so I replace the links to those programs with links to my preferred browser and word processor, Firefox and OpenOffice - and I threw in a few other programs as well, including e-mail, a dictionary program, and others. Just drag an icon already on your desktop to the dock, which you can place on any edge of your screen, and it will install itself with the proper link and icon.
Objectdock also comes with dozens of its own cute little icons that you can apply to any of the items in your dock, too. And you can download the functional components of the program - called Docklets - from the Objectdock Web site, or even create your own using a utility program.
What is the difference between Objectdock and the Windows toolbar, you may wonder? Objectdock is a lot easier to configure, for one thing. It's meant for something else other than the toolbar, as well - it's there to store your most frequently used desktop icons. That said, you can set Objectdock to replace or even integrate with the toolbar, with icons for open programs, documents and folders being displayed in it as well.
Objectdock is very much like the Macintosh OS X dock, which comes preinstalled on the system. From experience with both, though, I can say that Objectdock has the Mac system beat for ease of use and configurability, as well as the ability to customize it. Mac users kvell when they talk about the desktop dock, and thanks to Objectdock, PC users can, too.
The program is also reminiscent of another icon-type productivity program, called Konfabulator (which I reviewed a few months ago).
Konfabulator's great, and it has hundreds of add on functions (as opposed to the dozens Objectdock has), but I liked Objectdock's organizational philosophy more than Konfabulator's. In fact, Objectdock's got the looks and the moves that will make you fall in love with it at first sight - and the basic version (which has all the functionality you need) is free! Watching Objectdock in action is enough to make you want to get up and exercise, in fact. Everybody ready? One, two, three, four...