shrum.net /sean/code/vistas
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
Vistas

 Vistas

SysTray utility for systems running multiple monitors to define wallpapers / backgrounds for each display or stretch an image across all diplays in a panoramic.  Tested with XP and Vista.
 

Introduction

Since Windows Vista and higher does not support Active Desktop or any features like it, you're forced (currently) to stare at the same background image across all your displays.  It's not possible to define multiple backgrounds for multiple monitors or stretch a single image across all monitors...until now.  Vistas is a SysTray resident utility that detects multiple monitor setups and attempts to give users the ability to do just this.

Vistas allows you to take images like this one (2560x1024) from DeviantArt.com member grafixeye :

...and display them like this...

...or you can define different backgrounds for each screen like this...

Once you have backgrounds defined, you can right click on any of them to get the context menu popup:

PLEASE NOTE:  While Vistas allows one to define different wallpapers for each monitor (or stretch one across all of them in a panoramic style), it is just another window.  To that effect, these windows end up covering up the standard Microsoft Windows desktop and the shortcuts contained on it.  Please read the Background section below for my reply in this regard.

It's Windows-based, open source (GNU), and solely written, maintained, hosted, and supported by me, Sean Shrum. Source code is written with AutoIT (.au3) and the most recent version can be found via the source link in the navbar above.  If you're just looking for the latest binary build, it can be downloaded from the binary link in the navbar above. Click here to get my list of AutoIT tools.


Background

I run 3 monitors (details here, pictures here).  When I was running Windows XP, I used XP's Active Desktop feature to create multiple 'background' windows that would display different images on each.  With the release of Vista and my migration thereto, I've found that Active Desktop is (at the time of this writing) not available. 

As I had just finished programming my Relocate utility (a SysTray application for repositioning and moving windows across multiple monitors via hotkeys), I had code that allowed me to detect various display info including the number of monitors, their sizes and locations, etc.  Using that code for detecting monitors, I sat down and kicked out Vistas (at first I called it MultiMon, then Backgrounds, finally ending up with Vistas...get it...Vistas for Vista).  While Vistas allows one to define different wallpapers for each monitor (or stretch one across all of them in a panoramic style), it is just another window.  To that effect, these windows end up covering up the standard Microsoft Windows desktop and the shortcuts contained on it.  The Windows Taskbar still will appear above the Vistas background so taskbar functionality remains intact.  As a workaround to this, you can turn on the 'Desktop' toolbar on the taskbar to gain access to the shortcuts on your desktop.

When I started writing Vistas, I wasn't looking to replicate the shell.  I just wanted an easy way to allow me to change the wallpapers of each screen.  Due to this design decision, certain features were omitted, like the presence of desktop shortcuts.  As I personally tend to disable the "Icons on desktop" feature as it just clutters up my screen, I had no need for this functionality.  I opt to use the taskbar and the quick launch toolbar to place my shortcuts on.  I did make an effort to create a right-click context menu for accessing display property dialogs but it's not dynamic (like the Windows desktop context menu) but it gets the job done for me.

Sooner or later (most likely much later), Microsoft will catch on that they need to build in some multi-monitor utility support and will incorporate features like Vistas and Relocate into the Windows shell directly (one can only hope).


Usage

Simply launch Vistas (or put a shortcut in your startup to have it launch every time your system boots up).  Vistas will detect your screen(s) resolution and match it to a saved setting in the registry.  If not match is found, Vistas will inform you that a new resolution has been detected and prompt you for new wallpapers for each screen.


FAQs

Q. Where are all my desktop icons?

While Vistas allows one to define different wallpapers for each monitor (or stretch one across all of them in a panoramic style), it is just another window.  To that effect, these windows end up covering up the standard Microsoft Windows desktop and the shortcuts contained on it.  The Windows Taskbar still will appear above the Vistas background so taskbar functionality remains intact.

Q. Is there another way to get to my desktop icons?

Yes.  You can turn on the 'Desktop' toolbar on the taskbar to gain access to the shortcuts that reside on your desktop.

Q. What file formats does Vistas support?

Jpeg, GIF, and BMP

Q. I tried defining a background and got a grey screen.  What now?

Some files are in a format or size that Vistas has a hard time reading.  Save / shrink these files to either JPG, GIF, or BMP and redefine the background.  I've run into this as well and this worked for me.  To redefine a different background (since the context menu work be working at this point on the monitor in question), use the CTRL+ALT+V hotkey and use the Background Selection dialog and make your adjustments.

Q. I just changed my screen resolution and now the backgrounds don't line up.

For now, simply exit Vistas and restart it.  I may code in some sort of resolution monitoring later if it doesn't eat up to much CPU resources.

Q. What are profiles?

Profiles are saved Vistas settings that can be loaded either via Vistas menus or by double-clicking on them (in Windows Explorer).  This allows you to save your favorite desktop configurations for easy recall later without having to redefine all your screen backgrounds again.

Q. Where do you get your wallpapers from?

I'm a heavy deviant-user...ergo I use Deviantart.com (art, photos, sci-fi, fantasy) for almost all my images as these tend to be art-medium based and sci-fi fantasy.  Flickr.com  is yet another images site but is primarily photo-based.  Ultimately, it doesn't matter where the images come from, just as long as you like it.

Q. Where's a good place to get panoramic images?

On-line photo / art sites are great for this sort of stuff.  As more people start using widescreen / multiple monitors, this will become the next hot commodity.  For now, Deviantart.com suits my need (this link will take you to Deviantart with a search filter for 'widescreen').  If your looking for photo-base material for your panoramics, Flickr.com would be another source (this link will get you to Flickr's panorama pool)


Support

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, etc., please make sure to read my Support & Legal page first.  If you question is not answered after reading that page, feel free to use the Support button / Systray menu in my applications to submit a request.  I welcome all input and hope you find my application helpful.

 
 
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