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Last week, MacUser UK reported that Apple is planning on rolling out a beta version of OS X very quietly, and is going to offer it only by mail order. They also reported that the official release probably won't be on the shelves until March 2001. Not knowing the source of their information, nor having any way to confirm or deny it, I'm not going to speculate as to whether or not it's accurate.

But let's assume for a moment that the rumors are true. Suppose Apple doesn't ship OS X until the spring. That doesn't mean you can't go ahead and get that lickable Aqua look on your desktop today. Many applications -- and even entire desktop themes -- feature skins that give you the look and feel of Aqua.

For example, I use SoundJam as my MP3 player. Although there are a lot of great skins out there, the one I typically use is called Aqua Drop.

Soundjam's Aqua look
SoundJam's Aqua Look, coming to a desktop near you.

It's got that great liquid look, a see-through display, and impossibly cool shadows floating behind it. My dock's got an Aqua skin as well. What's more, it came with the dock I use, A-Dock, so there was nothing extra to download or install.

My browser is no different. Sure, it's your garden variety IE 5 browser, but thanks to a few downloads and Lecter, it's also sporting a more Aqua look. Not that you have to have Lecter, you can change skins manually using ResEdit if you're feeling particularly cocky.

Aqua explorer

Mat gives Internet Explorer the Aqua treatment.

But my favorite Aqua add-on has to be my Aqua desktop theme. Sure, it may crash my system every once in a while, but no more than Windows. Okay, okay, yes that sucks and it does keep me from using it. But, it only seems to happen when I'm running a bunch of applications at the same time. Besides, I'm always changing themes and desktop pictures anyway, so it's really just something to use when I want to impress the neighbors.

Mat's Aqua theme

The dock is one part of the Aqua desktop theme.

So, you can wait on OS X for Aqua if you want to. But I'm not.

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