How To: Make XP Look Like Vista

You DON'T want Vista because (you've read that) it's buggy, has a lot of compatibility issues, and is expensive. But, you DO want (or wish you had) Vista's aero GUI and it's overall look and feel since, admittedly, Vista has a lot of eye candy.

Solution: Assuming you're already running Window's XP with SP2 or greater, there are a handful of programs on the web that allow you to snag all the graphical user interface goodness of Vista's new operating system on your current XP setup: Yahoo Widgets, True Transparency, and, most integral, Inspirat 2 (click for enlarged image of my desktop, below):

Like Microsoft's new Vista operating system, Inspirat 2 looks great with it's:
- aero GUI
- shiny-black taskbar
- Vista-looking start menu
- Vista Icons
- Vista cursors
- Vista sounds
- Vista startup/shutdown screens
- and numerous color themes/layouts accessible through screen properties

Unlike other "transformation packs" you'll find on the net, Inspirat 2 will not bloat your system processes or overload your CPU with much more than it can handle. It was designed to integrate with embedded Windows XP registry files and to only incur minimal memory usage.


Once downloaded, you'll see that the entire package contains 4 main processes (which you can turn on/off with the included Vista Inspirat config application:

1. Rocket Dock: Like the dock in Mac OS X, this looks much the same and can be placed at any edge of the screen. The icons included with the package are from the Vista OS too. It basically serves to streamline
2. Y'z Shadow: Adds shadows to windows and transparency effects to drop-down menus.
3. Transbar: not completely necessary, in my opinion, though it does finish off the "Vista look" by making your taskbar completely transparent. Note: this does not affect individual windows.
4. UberIcon: Animates all icons, Vista-style, once double-clicked.

Finishing Touch

Lastly, to complete the "Vista look" you should download Yahoo widgets (formerly known as Konfabulator ) and True Transparency. Included with the installer file are a bunch of already useful widgets like a calendar and weather. I added the World Clock Pro widget that can correctly sync and display times of major cities all over the world. True Transparency finalizes the entire look and feel by adding--you guessed it--"true transparency" to all windows.

[Download Inspirat2]
[Download Yahoo Widgets]
[Download True Transparency]

Update (December 19th, 2007): Makeuseof lays out an essential list of other alternatives if you'd rather try out other avenues to achieve a Vista look.