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Mock OS X: Five ways to make your PC more like a Mac

Hey there, Mac fanboys. Stuck at work, hating your shabby old PC? Stick it to the man with our five favourite ways to make your PC more like a Mac!

As we move further into the 21st century, one issue divides the world more than any other. Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X are different ways of moving data round on a computer, so it's natural that they inspire the sort of ideological conflict not seen since Lenin chucked a stool at Adam Smith down at the Pedagogue's Arms.

To borrow a metaphor from Spartacus, some people like oysters and some people like snails. Except what if there was a way to make your snail do some of the cool things oysters can do, like make pearls? And what if you could make your PC do some of the cool stuff that Macs do so well? Crave is here to show you how.

Oh, and before anybody throws their Start menu out of the pram, the best way to have Mac functions is obviously to buy a Mac. But it's not that simple for roughly 90 per cent of the working population, chained to ancient HP WageSlave 486s in strip-lit spreadsheet farms across the world. For them, this article is a ray of hope. And we're sure there are plenty of people out there who are perfectly happy with Windows, but even they could benefit from the nifty features we have lined up.

All this software is free, although some of them require paid upgrade to access all the features. Bear in mind, though, that they may well use up your memory and make older PCs run noticeably slower, and you download them at your own risk. Click through to see our favourite five ways -- in no particular order -- to make your PC more like a Mac. -Rich Trenholm

Mac feature: Dock
Windows version: Stardock

One of our favourite features of OS X is the dock, a customisable taskbar that you can anchor to any edge of the screen, and even set it to duck out of sight when not in use. This gives you a good chunk of extra screen real estate, otherwise taken up in Windows XP by that horrible excuse for a taskbar.

Stardock ObjectBar brings some of that dock goodness to Windows, giving you easy access to programs, folders and common processes. All this is done with succinct icons and spiffy animations rather than clunky text. ObjectDock is endlessly customisable, and users can add their own 'docklets'.

For an extra $19.95 (£9.50), you can upgrade to ObjectDock Plus and get multiple and tabbed docks.

Mac feature: Exposé
Windows version: MyExposé

Exposé is a Mac feature that knocks Alt+Tab out of the park, allowing you to switch between multiple windows by tiling thumbnails of all your open tasks onscreen at the touch of button. Flicking the mouse to the top left corner of the screen instantly shows all your programs.

Vista offers Flip3D, which adds thumbnails to the Alt+Tab feature, but you still don't get to see all your programs in one go and click straight on your desired task. To create this Exposé effect in Vista -- but not XP -- try MyExposé.

MyExposé replicates the mouse-in-corner tiling goodness from the Mac, laying all your windows out in front of you like a great big productivity smorgasbord.

Mac feature: Dashboard
Windows version: Konfabulator

If Exposé lives in your Mac's top left corner, you've got another three corners for activating the dashboard. This is a layer that pops up over your desktop and holds all your widgets. Small devices for keeping your ale fizzy? No, they're mini-applications that track particular information, such as the time, the weather, your email or whatever you want.

PC users will know them as gadgets. Or widgets. To get gadgets -- or widgets -- going on Windows, simply download Konfabulator. Or is it called Yahoo! Widgets this week?

Konfabulator adds another pop-out dock to your screen, or gives you the option of a Mac-style dashboard layer called heads-up. Then you can add widgets to keep you updated on whatever information you want to display.

Mac feature: Spaces
Windows version: DeskSpace

One of Leopard's headline features is Spaces. Linux fans were quick to point out that the ability to create multiple desktops, separating your groups of applications and tasks, has been available for a while. If you want to emulate this effect on Windows, try DeskSpace.

This allows you to create up to six desktops. This isn't as many as other desktop managers such as VirtuaWin, but DeskSpace has a much flashier spinning-cube effect for the Apple 'wow' factor, as you can see from the manufacturer's screenshot above.

You can use virtual desktops to group together applications in particular batches, such as a home workspace with personal email, IM and music, a work workspace with work email and Excel, and an art space with Photoshop and Comic Life for Windows running.

Mac feature: Look and feel
Windows version: FlyakiteOSX 3.5

Once you've got your cool new features up and running, you might want to round out the Mac experience by adding some of the various Apple-emulating skins, desktops and wallpapers floating about the Web. There are ways to do it in one go. FlyakiteOSX completely restyles your PC from head to toe in Cupertino blue, but only on XP.

Be warned: FlyakiteOSX will monkey with your system files, so it might not be one for work. Before you start, fire up the System Restore program (Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools) and create a system restore point, which will allow you to undo the changes if there's any problems.

But why would you want to? Just look at those traffic-light buttons in the corner of the graphite windows! Look at those blue folders! And all on an HP PC running Windows XP.

For a less permanent overhaul, XP and Vista can both be pimped-out Mac-style with StarDock's WindowBlinds. You don't have to go the full way of the Mac, however, as WindowBlinds makes almost all aspects of your user interface customisable.

Or you could just, y'know, get a Mac...