ZipGenius X development diary, part 7 – a new visual experience.

ZipGenius X adopts the visual design of WIndows 11
Acrylic Desktop on Dark theme

We are developing ZipGenius since 1997 with a precise guideline: our application can’t be just useful or functional but it also must be nice to look at through a good-looking design.

We have experimented several visual changes during these years but this has led us to try to understand where Windows design language was headed to. It is not a secret that Windows UI made a lot of U-turns and forced developers to try to guess what to do to make applications looking good and aligned to its design language: Windows 7 had a unique and truly recognizable look, maybe the most functional one; Windows 8 went on for flat design, large squares and an absurd idea to transform the Start menu into something good for touchscreens devices but not for desktop or laptops; Windows 10, then, insisted on the “Metro” design (later renamed as “Modern”) by making it better and continuously transforming it month after month, trying to make that design language to cope up with the quick evolution of other operating systems. Finally, Microsoft made the bold move to get rid of “Metro/Modern” design with Windows 11 they have introduced what is called as the “Fluent” design.

Fluent design is the very first attempt to create a coherent User Experience by defining materials, icons design, typography (with a great font face filled with all the icons used in the whole environment), shadows, elevations, sizes and metrics: that is what Google made with the “Material” design and what Apple makes since day 1 with iOS and macOS. Windows was functional but it wasn’t pleasant enough to look at, and all Win32 applications looked almost the same.

The game changed when Microsoft started to suggest that developers should go the UWP (Universal Windows Platform) for new application: while UWP apps are sandboxed and resulted to be too much limited for some cases (as example, they don’t have access to the whole filesystem like Win32 apps had), they improved XAML, the markup language that firstly introduced with WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) framework; XAML is a flexible way to create user interfaces for applications because it relies on a XML-like structure to define where an element should appear, how it must appear and how it behaves upon user interaction.

The couple UWP+XAML looked really solid and reliable but Microsoft wanted to go further and they created WinUI 2, a library of basic UI elements that could be really reused from project to project – much like as the good old Delphi did back in those days. That library was created specifically for UWP applications but it was tightly tied to the operating system code, so that it was not suitable to be used in other kinds of projects.

However, Microsoft wanted to build something that could have been used to create a new batch of truly desktop apps – UWP was originally conceived to make applications that could run both on Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile – so they decoupled the library from the operating systems code and they also included the new Fluent Design elements. In few words: they put the foundation to create new desktop applications for Windows 11 without the restrictions imposed to the sandboxed UWP apps.

And we finally found a way to follow in order to make ZipGenius X nice enough again and coherent to the most modern Microsoft operating system.

Specifically, we adopted the Fluent Design guidelines and its trademarks: Mica, Mica Alt and Acrylic materials are now used to enrich the visual experience offered by ZipGenius X.

Below you can find a preview of the several background options we implemented.

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