Litestep Work

Litestep Work

Please note that this page is under construction, and will probably change a fair bit until I settle on a layout.

Litestep Overview

Litestep is a Windows shell replacement. That is, it pretends to be explorer.exe not as a file navigator but as the entire Windows environment. It takes over the handling of the desktop, task bar, start menu, system tray, etc.

I have found it very difficult to find a single, common reference for "All Things Litestep". The project and community are fairly spread out and things sometimes change fairly quickly. As with most projects like this, code and features are updated and documentation tends to follow several time periods later, if ever. My experience is that if you are not "in", it is hard to know what is happening, which builds are where, etc.

Still, I rather like the program and I've come to the conclusion that it has for the most part increased my productivity by making my workspace more efficient. It is mostly stable, and so far has not caused any data-losing crashes. The worst is that I've had to reboot, and honestly the normal Windows experience has that issue too... See below for what I have done with Litestep.

My Litestep Environment

Here are some screenshots of what I have done with Litestep, and an explanation as to what is going on. Litestep works by being themed, where a theme is a collection of modules (e.g. a system tray, a task bar...) and skins (i.e. graphics, pictures) used to display those modules.

A common trend is information-display. I am finding that I really, really like having lots of information conveniently available. Having two monitors is delightful in that respect. The battery widget is great, as is the calendar (that you can't quite see in the screenshots). I plan on making more widgets, to put more information on the screen; I will have to strike a delicate balance between useful information and simple clutter.

But anyhow, here are my desktops:

2006-05-01: Dual monitor setup.

Full (2680x1050) (482k) Medium (1400x549) (150k)

This is the result of tweaking my theme over the past few months. This is based off of the ReLuna theme, which is a make-over of the default WindowsXP "Luna" theme -- that default blue one. This has a much nicer and more discreet color of blue, which makes for a less intrusive desktop (IMO).

Along the bottom are shortcut menu buttons, which are sort of like several quick launch menus. In order: (left-click, middle-click, right-click)

  • File manager | Cygwin prompt | Main popup (i.e. start menu)
    This lets me very quickly launch Explorer and Cygwin. It also gives me easy access to my main menu, even though I can also get there by right- clicking anywhere on the desktop.
  • Internet quick-launch | Quick-connect menu | All Internet shortcuts
    The Internet quick-launch menu has my most commonly used net-related applications. These are programs such as Firefox, Thunderbird, SecureCRT, etc. The quick-connect menu is a list of shortcuts to SecureCRT profiles; for instance, I can click on the menu, select "the-haleys.org (david)" and it'll launch SecureCRT connecting to that server. Very convenient since I have a whole list of servers I regularly connect to and it's quite nice to be able to quickly get to them, without launching the application and fiddling with its "Remembered Sessions" window. And finally, the "all shortcuts" menu is for all Internet applications, generally the ones that I use but not frequently enough to be in the quick-launch section.
  • Solitaire | All games
    I waste time playing Solitaire, so why not have a button to launch it? The "all games" button is a menu of all games I have installed, which is at this point in time rather underutilized...
  • Office | Text Editor | All Office
    Similarly to the Internet shortcuts, the Office shortcuts give me quick access to my word processing stuff and my calendar; the "all office" gives me access to, well, all my office-type applications. The text editor shortcut launches VIm, my text editor of choice. (Take that, emacs!)
  • Control panel | Display Properties | System Tools
    The first two should be fairly self-explanatory. It's nice to have really quick access to them. I need to mess around with my screen often enough that I like having easy access to the display properties; every time I move my laptop from home I have to unplug the second monitor. "System tools" is a menu for applications that do system-related things, like setting up my sound card equalizer effects, changing the settings for my keyboard, etc.
  • Audio player | Media player | Media menu
    Shortcuts to Winamp, Windows Media Player and a list of applications to do media- related stuff (e.g. Photoshop).
  • Quick-launch | Misc. Apps
    Quick-launch migrated from my Explorer setup and so has a list of applications that I used frequently. A lot of them have been moved to the other shortcut menus, so I mainly use it as a "misc." section. Which, of course, renders the "misc. apps" menu redundant; there's nothing in it at the moment. I'm trying to figure out what to do with it...

After the shortcut menus is the task bar; fairly standard. Then comes the system tray; again, nothing new here. Finally there is the "command box". The screen icon pops up my virtual window manager screen. For those not familiar with those, it's basically a program (in this case a Litestep module) that lets you have "virtual desktops". You can click onto another desktop, and poof, you have an empty screen. I have 2x2 desktops; generally the bottom-right one is for email and browsing, the upper-right one is for whatever I'm working on (e.g. word processing or programming), the lower-left one is for random stuff like explorer windows, and the upper-left one sort of sits there unless I need extra real estate.

Anyhow, those four arrow buttons are used to navigate between the desktops. I can do that by clicking on the window-manager popup and right-clicking on the desktop I want to go to -- it has little preview windows of the desktops. I can also press WINDOWS+arrow on my keyboard to switch, which is nice. After that is my system clock, which provides more information than the standard Windows clock. It always bothered me that it didn't provide the date without having to display a tooltip...

Also note the battery icon in the lower-left corner. It's something that I wrote myself, using Lua to script the programming logic and the xLabel Litestep module to display the icon. Currently I am borrowing the graphics from Yahoo Widget's battery, but will make my own at some point so that I can release this widget to the general public. It's pretty nifty; it graphically displays the current battery state by draining the filling in the battery, and it changes color depending on how full the battery is (currently just green and red for critical).

Litestep Links

under construction!

litestep.net - appears to be the main community hub; requires a login. (why?!?) Has very partial module lists, and seems mainly to be a theme site.

lsdev.org - main developer's site. Again, fairly partial; as far as I can tell most information goes through the mailing lists and forums.

ls-universe.info - appears to be the most updated source for modules and community news outside of all the bazillion forums. But unfortunately, the folks here appear to be working on a different branch of the Litestep core than the lsdev.org folks, which means that things might split for good in the future, removing module compatibility between the two.