XBanner: Making XDM More Attractive

XBanner turns your boring, staid XDM login screen into one of those cool things you'll want to show all your friends (nonchalantly, of course).

XBanner was invented and designed from the beginning to serve one purpose—to beautify the login screen XDM usually generates. This beautification is accomplished by drawing a piece of text in a very large font, then rendering some graphic effect on the text and/or the screen background.

Figure 1. Standard XDM Login Screen

Figure 1 shows a plain login screen as displayed by XDM “straight out of the box”. Linux, which uses plain XDM, has a similar if not identical login screen. Commercial companies, like HP and DEC, supply custom XDMs that generate a nice login screen with the company logo, a background, etc. Figure 2 shows how my home system greets me when I turn it on. Using XBanner, any system can look as special as mine with minimal work on your part.

Figure 2. Author's Login Screen

Summary of Features

The text graphic rendering effects available in XBanner include many interesting things. In this article, I describe a few:

  • StandOut: This effect, combined with a proper selection of colors, gives the text a look resembling that of Motif or MS Windows buttons. Motif adds a few pixels on the left and top of the button in a lighter color than the button and a darker shade to the right and bottom of the button to create a 3D effect. StandOut uses a similar technique on the entire text. Each letter and symbol appears to be three-dimensional like the Motif buttons. The thickness of the letters can be selected.

  • Backlight: This effect draws 1-pixel thick lines around the text, giving it many outlines. If you choose a dark foreground for the text, then have XBanner generate a color gradient for the outlines going from a bright color near the letters to the same color as the background of the screen, the text looks as if it is being illuminated from behind.

  • FatText: With the proper selection of parameters this effect makes your text look fat rather than flat. Some color combinations can actually make the text look as if it has round edges rather than sharp. Also, the FatText color gradient can be instructed to use more than two colors to get other interesting results.

  • FgPlasma: XBanner draws a field of Plasma Clouds, cuts from it a template in the shape of selected text and places it on the screen. In Figure 2, the title “Good Guys Free!” is an example of the FgPlasma rendering effect.

  • FgGrad: This draws a color gradient on the text itself. Instead of a plain vertical bar with serifs, the letter “I” would be striped in different colors.

Drawing the text is only the first of the two prime jobs XBanner was designed to do; it can also render a nice background. Apart from the simple fill-style background, XBanner can generate color gradients on the background using many different patterns. Here are some examples:

  • Fan: This effect draws a nice fan, centered at the middle of the bottom line of the screen. The selected color gradient determines the colors of the fan. See the background of Figure 2 for a sample of the fan effect.

  • TopDown / LeftRight: These create a color gradient going from one side of the screen to the other.

  • BgPix: XBanner has the ability to tile the whole screen with a pixmap (.XPM file) before it draws the selected text.

  • Plasma: PlasmaClouds fill the entire screen. Selecting such colors as White and DeepSkyBlue produces a wonderful sky-like image with genuine-looking white clouds.

  • Ripples: This background style has the appearance of ripples in a pond. This background style, a result of color-cycling (explained below), produces beautiful effects.

Almost any object involving a color-gradient in XBanner can be color-cycled, generating a sense of motion. If you cycle the colors of a Fan background style, the entire fan appears to rotate in one direction. The color gradient of the FgGrad effect can also be cycled, giving a sense of motion to the text. Cycling the PlasmaCloud effects is also a nice idea. You can cycle the background Plasma, the foreground Plasma, or even both! I use color-cycling for my home system login screen, shown in Figure 2. Unfortunately, color-cycling is not available for hard-copy.

The Ripples background style was specifically designed for color-cycling. The ripples' wave-fronts move at different speeds, producing a more realistic look.

Another neat feature of XBanner is the ability to draw a star on the corners of the text, creating a “glinting” effect that appears at random locations at random intervals. You can also place a pixmap or set of pixmaps on the screen, underline any text or effect, and select many other options.