ObjectDock rocks

Jealous of that slick Mac interface? Check out ObjectDock, a free utility that replaces the Windows taskbar with a colorful, animated, Mac-style dock with loads of options.

Power Downloader and I have talked about how useful RocketDock can be, and it is still is. But another excellent program dock to check out is ObjectDock, from Stardock. Besides providing a skinable and extensively customizable Mac-style dock, the free ObjectDock lets users replace the Windows taskbar completely.

ObjectDock can replace the Windows taskbar, and includes a Start menu link. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Colorful and animated, ObjectDock is so customizable it's impressive. Not only can you choose your own icons to represent programs and documents, set the dock size and location, and configure icon behavior, but you can also set the dock to run faster and take up more RAM, or sacrifice the gloss for other programs.

In replacing the Windows taskbar, users can insert a Start menu button that launches the menu right from the dock, as well as inserting a clock icon using the built-in docklets. Other docklets include prebuilt links to your default Web browser, document editor, music player, e-mail client, and other application essentials. The only docklet I found lacking was one for the task manager, but that's easy enough to create by hand.

The simplest way I found to add a program to the dock was to send a shortcut for a program to the desktop, and then drag-and-drop directly onto the dock. Once added, it was easy to configure the specific icon for the application via the context menu and dock entry properties.

Users also have two choices as to how to indicate that a program is in use. You can have open programs appear minimized on the dock, or have an indicator hover over the dock icon. A huge mess of options makes the 30 included dock skins go a long way, from adjusting the transparency to importing icon and dock themes.

When hiding the Windows taskbar, ObjectDock still lacks an adequate replacement for showing programs that live in the system tray. If you're otherwise dissatisfied with the Windows taskbar, though, or just want to spice up your desktop, ObjectDock is a cool port to call home.