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PlusPak! for OS/2- by Jon Cochran


Have you ever felt it? You know that feeling you get when you walk by a Windows 95 or NT 4.0 machine and see how nice and crisp their icons look? It's a feeling which produces a few pangs in most OS/2 users, but quickly goes away. Mostly.

If you are one of those few who must have your sculpted icons, Stardock has a product for you. The first PlusPak! for OS/2, Themes, is a collection of icon schemes suitable for just about anyone's taste.

Installation

Installation of this product is rather straightforward, the installation program consisting of a REXX script (instead of a nice Presentation Manager based installation). In its defense though, the install is painless. One word of warning: make sure to reboot after you install.

Some early purchasers of PlusPak! experienced problems installing the program but Stardock was quick to release a Fixkit. This Fixkit and some common problems and their solutions can be found on Stardock's FAQ page.

Up and Running

Once you get the PlusPak! up and running, you can select from a folder filled with different icon schemes. Clicking on one of the schemes produces a dialog (GIF, 3.2k) with different options for applying the scheme (background bitmaps, custom icons and positions, fonts, etc.). (I suspect most people will probably only apply the custom icons and bitmaps, and leave their icons where they are, but for those who wish to be reorganized, the option is there.)

Once you apply an icon scheme, you'll find the vast majority of the icons on your Desktop have a slick, colorful look to them. A few of the more obscure icons won't be changed (mostly icons the Stardock would not have known you had on your system). All in all though, your system will be much more eye-pleasing.

The program also will attempt to make an Undo Scheme for you. On my machine, this didn't work either time I attempted it, and once it put my system into a rather nasty Desktop cycling loop. Again, Stardock has addressed this problem and it appears to be fixed so users purchasing PlusPak! in the future should not be bothered by it.

This Undo Scheme also does double duty as a great and convenient way to store your Desktop in case of disaster or to easily share it with other users. You can actually create as many of your own schemes as you like, not just the one Undo Scheme. This process is as simple as dragging the provided "Icon Scheme" template to the Desktop, right clicking and selecting "Scheme->Extract from Desktop". In a matter of moments you'll have an file containing all the parts of your Desktop you chose to save that you can send to friends via floppy disk, network, BBS or the Internet.

The Schemes

So what do they look like? The real work that Stardock put into PlusPak!: Themes is the labour required to draw the hundreds of icons included in the product. While there are a lot of icons, they basically fall into two different categories, with many colors available for each category. These two categories are "Office", (GIF, 21.7k) and "2000" (GIF, 21.5k). Users have their choice in each category of "Candy", "Copper", "Dolphin", "Forest", "Grape", "Lemon" and "Warp" and "Object Desktop", (GIF, 23.2k) which only comes in the "2000" variety. These are all just color variations so don't expect to see unique icons in each one.

There are also "Mini Schemes", (GIF, 4k) in PlusPak!: Themes. These are schemes which only replace a few of the Desktop icons. They are: "Ancient Egypt", "Classic", (GIF, 12k) "Golden Age" and "Santa Fe".

All the icons look great, even at 640x480 resolution. It might have been nice to see more unique icons in the product but there are plenty there and they are a great improvement over the standard Warp offerings.

As an added bonus, when you apply one of the schemes to your Desktop, it only replaces icons for objects if you those objects are using standard icons. If you modify some of your Desktop objects, PlusPak! will not overwrite your changes when applying its schemes. This is a nice touch.

Conclusions

At US$24.95, PlusPak!: Themes from Stardock Systems, appeals strongly to those with Windows envy. If the rest of the PlusPak! series remains at the same cost, Stardock may find they've got a good thing on their hands.
 * PlusPak! for OS/2
by Stardock Systems, Inc.
MSRP: US$24.95
Jon Cochran is a full time student at Rider University majoring in History/Secondary Education. He hopes (or at least his parents do) to graduate soon.

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