Screenscapes - Gets it right
Author: Kevin M. Savetz
Date: September, 1993
Keywords: background backdrop graphics screen fun software program utility review
Text: ''Life is just too short to stare at a dull, boring computer screen.'' Of course it is! What do you want to do about it? A) Turn off the computer and take a walk in the forest. B) Turn off the computer and snuggle a member of the appropriate sex. C) Turn off the computer and take a nap.
Answer: none of the above -- instead, make your computer screen not boring. Enter Screenscapes, by Kiwi Software. Screenscapes replaces your desktop's dull background with snazzy patterns that will liven up your life. Normally, your desktop's background is a repeating 8x8 pattern. Sure, you can tweak it with the control panels, but they're still pretty much uninteresting. Screenscapes does some bit-twiddling magic, and allows the backdrops to be 16x16, 64x64 ... up to 256x256 pixels square. With more area, the artistic possibilities are endless. These are still repeating patterns, only they're bigger and much more funky. ''Is this useful?'' I hear you ask. The answer is Absolutely Not. But, it's fun. Screenscapes can be set to randomly install a new backdrop every time you restart your Mac, or only once a day, or even less often if you don't adapt well to change. If you prefer hand-selecting your backdrops, you may -- or design your own with powerful utilities for creating them. The Screenscapes box says it includes over 400 patterns. I'll say. There were about 650 patterns crammed on three high-density disks. In addition (if 650 patterns isn't quite enough for you), you can import patterns from other programs -- ClickChange, Wallpaper, Desktop Textures, Before Dark, and others. I wish I could show off the patterns -- but until Known Users goes to a full-color glossy format, I'm afraid it just wouldn't do them justice... One of my few compalints about ScreenScapes is that most of the patterns that I've seen aren't very interesting in black & white (1-bit) mode. When in color mode -- from 4 colors to 256 -- all of the backgrounds shine. With so many patterns, there is a wide variety of interesting things to look at. There is a lot of creativity in the backdrops -- both in the variety of images (some are pictures, some are globulous but colorful amobebas, some are simpler textures) and in their names. Pinocchio Punishment (wood shavings), Corporate Commode (marble tile), Double Feature (popcorn), and Let the Chips Fall (chocolate chip cookies) are among the creative selection. Each Screenscape is a minor work of art. None of them are so loud as to distract you from your work. I've set the program to randomly pick a background every day. I wait anxiously to see what the Art Gods will provide each day. Installing the program is simple, but slow to decompress and copy all those files to the hard disk. It was worth the wait just to see so many humorous names of background patterns flash by. Alien Finger Flesh, Egg Carton Prison, Chicken Wire Wasteland, Kidney Naptime, Inchworm Marathon, The Nose Museum, Pressed for Thyme, Blueberry Breakfast, Fish Net Fables, Teal Intestines, Midnight Astroturf, Neon Wardrobe, Michigan Lake Amoebas, Chicken Elbows, Continental Drift, Peanut Butter Amoebas, Marshmallow Rejects... This could do on and on, but suffice to say that the art is as interesting as the names. There are a lot of other utilities that put patterns in the background. Some are free or shareware, and some are commercial. But if you're going to do it, you might as well do it right -- and Screenscapes does. A suite of functions for creating backdrops is what puts Screenscapes ahead of the competition. Even a seasoned non-artist like myself can create an aesthetically-pleasing backdrop out of little more than the muck in the bit bucket. I am sick of programs that force me to add INITs, control panels, and other doohickeys to my Mac. They conflct with each other like nations at war, they take up precious memory and they're unreliable. Screenscapes isn't an extension or a control panel -- another feature that puts it ahead of the compeition. Instead, it puts an item in your Startup Items folder that installs the background -- then the installer quits. A standalone application allows you to change backdrops manually, remove them, or create your own. Oh, but the world isn't a perfect place, and even the best programs have their drawbacks. Here's the bad news: if you install all of the Screenscapes backgrounds, you had better have disk space to spare. All together, they munch about 7.6 megabytes. Ouch! However, it's easy to install only a portion of them, then switch them later for another set. Since you only use one backdrop at a time, a Screenscape doesn't use much RAM at all. A 32x32 pattern uses 1Kilobyte, and a 256x256 pattern uses 64K. Most screenscapes take up only 4K. This isn't a large price to pay for high art, is it? Screenscapes requires a color-capable Macintosh, System 7.0 or later, and at least a couple megs of hard disk space to hold those texture files.
Screenscapes is available from: Kiwi Software, Inc. 6546 Pardall Road Santa Barbara, CA 93117 (805) 685-4031.
Copyright © september, 1993 by Kevin M. Savetz