Windows Vista has a very cool looking visual interface. This is because of transparency effects introduced with Aero-Glass. While Aero-Glass looks great, it does have a a major downside; it only works on newer hardware. The main requirement for Aero-Glass is to have a DirectX 9 compatible graphics processor with a Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) driver, Pixel shader 2.0 and a minimum of 128 MB of Video RAM. This leaves older PC’s and laptops unable to activate Aero-Glass, even if the Vista operating system runs well on them to begin with.
If you own an older PC or laptop, there are other ways to obtain transparency effects without using Aero-Glass. Glass2k is a small free application that allows you to obtain full transparency effects without the need for expensive hardware. All you need is a 400+ Mhz CPU, 64+ MB of RAM and a graphic card with 8 MB or more of onboard RAM. It even works on older versions of Windows that don’t support Aero-Glass, like Windows XP, 2000 and 95/98.
Glass2k can work with Aero-Glass on Windows Vista (even the new Windows 7) since the transparency affects the whole window not just the edges.
To start using this free application, begin by pointing your browser to: http://chime.tv/products/glass2k.shtml, then click the Glass2k – Beta Version 0.9.2 link in the Download section of the page.
Save Glass2k.exe to your desktop or download folder and double-click to open it.
The first time you open the application, you’ll be greeted by the settings dialog window. Here you can configure Glass2k’s transparency effects to your preferences.
To open the settings window left click the Glass2k icon on the taskbar, next to the clock. Then from the menu select Settings.
There are two methods to add transparency to your windows.
Begin by locating the Transparency Popup: Right Click option. By default its set to Enabled but I recommend you set it to the key combination of your choice. You can also set it to Disabled if you don’t want to use this option.
Now you can right click plus the key combination on any open window and a dialog box will appear. Here you can select the amount of transparency applied to the window: from 10% – very transparent to 90% – almost opaque. If you want the change to be permanent, click Save and that window will always have that level of transparency. You can undo any change to the window by clicking No Glass-Effect.
Alternatively the degree of transparency can be adjusted for each window separately by using the default [CTRL] + [Shift] +  …  key combination. You can change the default key combination from the Keyboard Shortcuts option.
Glass2k also gives you the option to make the Taskbar transparent. On the Settings window, locate the option Taskbar Transparency. Now move the blue slider to the left to make the taskbar transparent and to the right to bring it back to its original state.
You can check the Auto-Remember every window’s Transparency Settings option if you want to assign each window a different level of transparency.
If you want to use transparency all the time, it would be a good idea to let Glass2k start automatically at Windows startup. To do this, check the Auto-Load Glass2k every time Windows starts option.
After you’ve finished tweaking all the options to your preferences, click Save to exit the application.