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Submitted on
February 14, 2012
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After taking a look at the screenshots displayed either in my gallery or in :iconblackboxdesktop: 's galleries, a lot of Deviants are asking me what is Blackbox and how (and why) should they use it. And it's a good thing they show interest, because after a period of hibernation, due to many factors (mostly developers dropping out) Blackbox is back with a vengeance.
Well, Blackbox is a shell for Windows or a window manager for Linux, the styles (themes) being interchangeable between the two platforms, something unique in computing. In this essay I will only talk about the Windows flavor, since it's much more flexible than its Linux counterpart.
What is a shell? Well, it's the dressing over a cake, the clothing over a body, the greenery covering a bush. Every operating system has a shell. The Windows' native shell is Explorer, which is not only a file browser, like most of you may think. Delete Explorer and Windows crash. It's a fine shell, especially in the case of Windows 7, but it's heavy, slow, with very few options.
Over the years a lot of alternative shells have been developed to make for Explorer's (and, thus, Windows') shortcomings. Litestep, Blackbox, Serenade, Talisman, Aston, WinStep, DesktopX, are just a few. Some of them, like Blackbox and Litestep, are free, while some others, like Aston and DesktopX, are commercial programs.
Blackbox is unique among them, in that it offers very specialized and rare options. Here is just a few of the many things this shell can do:

1) Colors and textures change on the fly with each style (theme) switch. No need to look around for third party apps that "look well" with or match each specific theme.
2) Windows decorations are embedded in Blackbox' modus operandi  and also offer colors and textures that change with each theme switch – again, no need to look around for third party (and often expensive) apps.
3) Blackbox comes with a plethora of plugins (think of them as widgets, although they are much more than that) that are also part of the change theme/change everything philosophy. Some are so powerful that let you create docks, wharfs, audio players, wallpaper viewers, system meters and a lot more within a few minutes. No programming experience required!
4) Blackbox' desktop is alive. You just drop things on it and they become wallpaper or whatever.
5) Blackbox is the lightest shell there is. This means more speed, more power.
6) Themeing is relatively easy and anyone can create their own styles using a simple text editor like Notepad (although Blackbox does have its own editor, BBNote) and a color picker. Again, no programming or Photoshopping required – although you CAN use graphic files in your elements, if you so wish.
7) Blackbox creates its own backgrounds, if it senses you haven't picked any. Or, you can create wallpapers of any texture and color using its build-in mechanisms. Piece of cake.
8) Blackbox themes can include 3dcc configurations in the style file, which means all window colors change with each theme switch to match the rest of the elements, without the need to call up individual 3dcc files.

You can get the latest (and best) Blackbox build from blackboxzero.net I suggest to download the nightly build; it's quite stable under 7 or XP and includes the latest improvements. Or, you can download any of my latest themes that include full packages with instructions.
If you need more info, I suggest you read my tutorials:
pitkon.deviantart.com/journal/… tutorial part I - the shell
pitkon.deviantart.com/journal/… tutorial part II - the plugins
pitkon.deviantart.com/journal/… tutorial part III - the styles
They are pretty much outdated by now (I MUST find time to bring them up to date... lol) but they will give you a general idea.
And, of course, feel free to ask if you need help or instructions :)

A BLACKBOX MANUAL IS IN THE WORKS! desktop-art.info/forum/index.p…
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:iconwolfsorcerer:
WolfSorcerer Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Should try this, since I always customized Windows in some way. Win7 is so resources hungry...and limited! Admit I was a bit scared off by the instructions in the time XP reigned. Hope to recover from my nerdy nature (only computers wise :lol:). Thanks for the efforts in putting this up! :D
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:iconpitkon:
pitkon Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012   Interface Designer
Thank YOU for the kind words, Sergio! Feel free to ask for instructions anytime :) And it's great to see you again. Sorry for my late reply, but I was away till now...
Reply
:iconwolfsorcerer:
WolfSorcerer Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You are very welcome! :)
No worries about your reply. Was several days away from the site myself, focused on other stuff, and everything piled up.
Thanks! :thanks:
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:iconpitkon:
pitkon Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012   Interface Designer
You are very welcome :)
Reply
:iconreznorock:
Reznorock Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
man I havent used BB in ages..... Always love your work though.
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:iconpitkon:
pitkon Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2012   Interface Designer
Maybe you should start using it again? Thanks for the kind words - and it's so good seeing you again, my friend :) Start authoring styles, OK? :D
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:iconreznorock:
Reznorock Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Authoring styles?

Yea ive been considering checking out blackbox again, last time I used it I was running an xp system, now I have a windows 7 and a vista system. had some trouble with it now and then on XP.
Reply
:iconpitkon:
pitkon Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2012   Interface Designer
Blackbox works flawlessly well on XP, has some issues with 7 unless you know what you are doing. Note me if you need instructions :)
Reply
:iconsudokai:
SudoKai Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2012  Student Digital Artist
pitkon that is what has me shying away from it now i refuse to go back to XP and using Win 7 ultimate has its issues with BB =(
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:iconpitkon:
pitkon Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2012   Interface Designer
Blackbox doesn't care if you use XP or 7, you could be using Windows 95... lol. It changes looks and the way things work, so what's under the hood doesn't matter. But I do understand your reluctance. On the other hand, I am using on one of my puters Blackbox over Win 7 Ultimate with no issues whatsoever. What issues did YOU encounter? I bet we could tackle them...
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