Crystal Clear
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Shapeshifter theme, experiment in transparency.   Free
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  • Crystal Clear has been discontinued
  • Developer
    Musings From Mars
Crystal Clear theme for ShapeShifter is an ongoing experiment in transparency for the Mac OS X user interface. By utilizing a customized open-source Cocoa plugin called SetAlphaValue, it's quite possible to enable fully (well, almost fully) transparent toolbars, buttons, and menubars in Mac windows without introducing undue confusion about which window you're working with. For the full background, including a list of usage tips and known issues, please refer to Crystal Clear: Pushing Mac OS X Windows Beyond Translucent from February 2007, or the latest article, Crystal Clear 1.1: More
What's New
Version 1.2:
  • An experimental approach to solving the problem of "extra overlay shine" on most menu extras in the system menubar (statusbar). This approach can eliminate the visual discord created as menu extras overlay their own "toolbar" over the preexisting one. In opaque toolbars, this isn't noticeable, but it's bothersome in any toolbar with alpha transparency. (This part of the update is described in the recent Mars article, "Desperately Seeking Clarity: Wiping the Dirt from My Crystal Clear Menubar."
  • Crystal Clear toolbar elements for Camino.
  • New design for menu selection highlights in Crystal Clear Dark. Similar highlights also appear now in the Finder sidebar.
  • Completion of pushbutton and popup button elements for Carbon apps (such as Photoshop). (The buttons were already complete for Cocoa apps.)
  • New Crystal designs for the bevel buttons (butted and otherwise) that are the bane of my existence when theming Mac OS X. (O! Apple... Please make these go away in Leopard!)
  • Reworking of the large metal buttons.
  • Various other tweaks and fixes, plus a few more menu extras.
  • Added MainMenu menu extra
  • Added YouControl Tunes menu extra
Version 1.2:
  • An experimental approach to solving the problem of "extra overlay shine" on most menu extras in the system menubar (statusbar). This approach can eliminate the visual discord created as menu extras overlay their own "toolbar" over the preexisting one. In opaque toolbars, this isn't noticeable, but it's bothersome in any toolbar with alpha transparency. (This part of the update is more...
Requirements
Intel/PPC, ShapeShifter.

*Previously available here



MacUpdate - Crystal Clear




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Crystal Clear User Discussion (Write a Review)
ver. 1.x:
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burypromote
Paradigmlie commented on 14 Aug 2007
Hey! i love this theme, and i love the alphavalue thing that comes with it.

Suggestion though:

That weird white box that appears on the back of some frames... get rid of that. On some of my apps, it covers up the icon text for the menus... not all, but some. and it makes the finder look funny lol.

thanks!
[Version 1.2]


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+1
eljefe25 commented on 03 May 2007
This theme is awesome. It makes Tiger look so slick. Thanks Leland!
[Version 1.1]


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betunka commented on 02 May 2007
Amazing THEME, congratulations, it's a lot of work, i hope we have an update SOON....amazing job.
[Version 1.1]


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+1
Djinibaby commented on 30 Apr 2007
I like this Theme too, but it does not work with firefox.

I am right?

Is there a workaround? TIA
[Version 1.1]

1 Reply

burypromote
-1

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Musings From Mars (developer) replied on 02 May 2007
Crystal Clear works fine with Firefox, but since Firefox is a Carbon app, it doesn't support full transparency except in the titlebar. If you try Camino instead (also built with the same "engine" as Firefox), you'll see the difference, since Camino uses Mac OS X's native Cocoa application framework... which is a lot more sophisticated than the older Carbon framework.
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Musings From Mars (developer) commented on 25 Apr 2007
Hello again,
First, I wanted to let those of you who are particularly interested in a solution to the "menu extras" problem that I have a solution that's much easier than the one used for PhotoPro. It's still not as seamless as I'd like, and does require a little setup, but only one step, really. If you'd like to try it out, I'd appreciate the help in deciding if it's easy enough to "put out there" as an official part of Crystal Clear.

Second, one thing readers of this listing may not realize (unless you've somehow found time to read through the entire article on Crystal Clear) is that the theme isn't suitable for users who rely on Microsoft Office and Macromedia (Flash, Dreamweaver) products. Those are the main Carbon apps I'm aware of that use some strange background element that Crystal Clear tries to make transparent. Since Carbon apps don't support transparency, the elements show up as black, and in the cases mentioned above, the black backgrounds can make the applications not just ugly, but also hard to use.

This isn't the case with all Carbon apps, mind you. I have no problems with Photoshop CS3, BBEdit, YummyFTP, StyleMaster, iTunes, or many others.

Now, the Macromedia products aren't as big a problem as the Microsoft ones, because you can at least enter them in ShapeShifter's list of excluded apps so they don't get themed. Microsoft Office is a total oddball, however, and doesn't respect the exclusion at all. I've tried and asked around, and as far as I know, it's impossible to exclude them from being themed.

That's it! If you're a user of mostly Cocoa applications, Crystal Clear will be gorgeous and you'll wonder what the fuss is about. :-) If you spend a lot of time in Microsoft Office, you might want to pass this opportunity up. Better yet... switch to apps from some other vendor, preferably one who is developing in Cocoa! (e.g., Pages, Keynote, Mesa, Tables, TextEdit...)

Cheers,
Leland
[Version 1.1]


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+1

+1
thenickaman commented on 24 Apr 2007
I love it and hate it at the same time. The transparency itself looks great, but usability and UI are somewhat hindered. I will be following development closely, but right now overall it looks ugly.

I think the developer is well aware of these limitations, and I am fully aware this is more like an experiment in motion. Transparency can work, but its hard to pull off. Hoping for the best!
[Version 1.1]


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Sadanand Kamath commented on 24 Apr 2007
I used this theme. Its Excellent.
But when you try to open any PDF file in Adobe Acrobat 8.0 it quits.

when you open acrobat 8.0 its menubars are themed properly. Its only when you try to open any PDF file it quits.

Acrobat 7.0 does not launch only with this theme.

Any suggestion is highly appreciaited.
[Version 1.1]

2 Replies

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-1

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Musings From Mars (developer) replied on 24 Apr 2007
I don't have Acrobat on my system, so I can't test it out... However, occasionally I've had to add an application to ShapeShifter's "Exclude List", and I recommend you try that with Acrobat 8. When you do, Acrobat 8 won't be themed, but if the problem is Crystal Clear, you shouldn't have any problem reading PDF files. If you still can't open PDFs, you may need to add Acrobat 8 to the APE global exclude list.

By the way, why do you use Acrobat? I used to be a heavy user of the Adobe product, but there are so many native Mac OS X tools for working with PDF files now that it's no longer necessary to tolerate the heavy resource cost of Acrobat. Preview is much better for light PDF reading/searching/text extraction/etc. Coming in Leopard, Preview will also be able to selectively edit and change fonts in PDF files. Just a thought...
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Sadanand Kamath replied on 24 Apr 2007
Thanks for your reply.
As you mentioned if i put Acrobat 8 in exclude list PDF files can be opened. I had tried this before also. But my question was when Acrobat launches without any problem correctly themed why not toolbars along with PDF page. It quits when you try to open any PDFs.

I work for Prepress Industry where we need to use Acrobat Extensively where by you can edit the PDF in terms of Text and Images, which is possible only in Acrobat and not in Preview.

Suggestion Appreciated.
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-13
Musings From Mars (developer) commented on 24 Apr 2007
To EASER...
Funny you should mention this... After getting the latest version out the door, I was once again turning to the problem of menu "extras" in themes with transparent/translucent menubars. I'm toying with the idea--suggested by another Crystal Clear user--of offering the fix that the developer of PhotoPro did. When I first tried that fix a couple of months ago, I thought it was too difficult to expect users to mess with. I still do, but if you are someone who doesn't reboot very often and are not a heavy user of menu extras (or at least, don't add them to your menubar many times during a session), it might be worth it to fix the look temporarily.

If I did this for Crystal Clear, the fix would involve these steps:
Apply Crystal Clear, or have it run normally at login.
Apply a second theme (the fix) that would eliminate the toolbar entirely. While this theme is in place, you would quit and restart all of the menu extras that do the "double layer" thing.
Next, set ShapeShifter's preferences to NOT restart the Finder/Dock when it applies themes, and then apply Crystal Clear a second time.
Once this is done, restart the Finder.

I'm going to try this myself tomorrow, but if it works as I expect, I would then have no menu extras that were "too shiny". Again, my concern is that this procedure would be necessary every time you log in and out or reboot, and any new menu extras you add after the "fix" would be too "shiny."

Any opinions from users of PhotoPro who've lived with these steps would be appreciated. Obviously, you could set up a trigger to stop and restart all of your normal menu extras (I already have such a trigger using iKey), but there's still the extra steps in ShapeShifter to deal with...

Finally, if any Cocoa developers out there know of a way to tell a given Mac application to suppress its main menu loading, PLEASE let me know. Apps that run as menu extras do this even though they don't need to, and that's the source of the problem.

Cheers,
Leland
[Version 1.1]

1 Reply

burypromote

+281
easer replied on 24 Apr 2007
That does sound a bit cumbersome. And I am rather dependent on menu extras. Again, I recognize that this problem is not your fault; you've explained pretty clearly on your website that there really is no happy way around this. I for one would settle for a simple, all-black menubar and just have transparent windows. Overall, though, I do think you created a really interesting theme. It's nice to know people are still creating these, and with some imagination.
burypromote

+281
easer commented on 23 Apr 2007
I've followed the progress of this theme for quite awhile. I have no doubt that this author put a lot of work and research into this. And the effect is interesting. For me, it suffers from one shortcoming, which is that menubar items from 3rd party programs often do not cooperate with the overall aesthetic effect. This is not the author's fault but, rather, a tendency on the part of 3rd party authors to put their own menubar background into their programs. (I believe I'm explaining that correctly.) Alas, this makes the theme aesthetically unappealing to me. I wonder if the author could reach a compromise wherein there could be an option within the theme to have a solid menubar. Granted, it would not provide 100% transparency, but I would be happy with just having this effect with my windows.
[Version 1.1]

1 Reply

burypromote

-13
Musings From Mars (developer) replied on 24 Apr 2007
Funny you should mention this... After getting the latest version out the door, I was once again turning to the problem of menu "extras" in themes with transparent/translucent menubars. I'm toying with the idea--suggested by another Crystal Clear user--of offering the fix that the developer of PhotoPro did. When I first tried that fix a couple of months ago, I thought it was too difficult to expect users to mess with. I still do, but if you are someone who doesn't reboot very often and are not a heavy user of menu extras (or at least, don't add them to your menubar many times during a session), it might be worth it to fix the look temporarily.

If I did this for Crystal Clear, the fix would involve these steps:
Apply Crystal Clear, or have it run normally at login.
Apply a second theme (the fix) that would eliminate the toolbar entirely. While this theme is in place, you would quit and restart all of the menu extras that do the "double layer" thing.
Next, set ShapeShifter's preferences to NOT restart the Finder/Dock when it applies themes, and then apply Crystal Clear a second time.
Once this is done, restart the Finder.

I'm going to try this myself tomorrow, but if it works as I expect, I would then have no menu extras that were "too shiny". Again, my concern is that this procedure would be necessary every time you log in and out or reboot, and any new menu extras you add after the "fix" would be too "shiny."

Any opinions from users of PhotoPro who've lived with these steps would be appreciated. Obviously, you could set up a trigger to stop and restart all of your normal menu extras (I already have such a trigger using iKey), but there's still the extra steps in ShapeShifter to deal with...

Finally, if any Cocoa developers out there know of a way to tell a given Mac application to suppress its main menu loading, PLEASE let me know. Apps that run as menu extras do this even though they don't need to, and that's the source of the problem.

Cheers,
Leland
burypromote
travlcas had trouble on 10 May 2007
How do you get rid of this utility/program?
[Version 1.1]

1 Reply

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+1
eljefe25 commented on 12 May 2007
Uninstall it through the ShapeShifter preference pane.
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Downloads:13,555
Version Downloads:11,464
Type:Utilities : ShapeShifter
License:Free
Date:11 Jun 2007
Platform:PPC 32 / Intel 32 / OS X
Price:Free0.00
Overall (Version 1.x):
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Crystal Clear theme for ShapeShifter is an ongoing experiment in transparency for the Mac OS X user interface. By utilizing a customized open-source Cocoa plugin called SetAlphaValue, it's quite possible to enable fully (well, almost fully) transparent toolbars, buttons, and menubars in Mac windows without introducing undue confusion about which window you're working with. For the full background, including a list of usage tips and known issues, please refer to Crystal Clear: Pushing Mac OS X Windows Beyond Translucent from February 2007, or the latest article, Crystal Clear 1.1: More Refinements, Plus 109 New 'Crystal Albook' Icons.

Crystal Clear includes modified elements for the following applications: Automator, DevonThink Pro, FontBook, iCal, iTunes, Mail, Preview, QuickTime Player, Safari, System Preferences, ThemePark, and Yummy FTP.

SetAlphaValue - Also in the folder is a custom installation package for SetAlphaValue, which is needed to enable full transparency in many Mac OS X application windows. Simply doubleclick on the SetAlphaValue4CC.pkg file, and you will be guided through the steps necessary to install this software. (Note: If you have previously installed SetAlphaValue, you don't need to reinstall it. The version bundled with Crystal Clear 1.1 is the same as that in version 1.0.)



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