This time last year, we inaugurated the Tim's Gadgets column by looking at Skyrocket Software's excellent Digital FireworX (review) screen saver and stand alone application. Digital FireworX was and is an impressive screensaver that displays the largest collection of simulated fireworks I have encountered anywhere. But, what if it could get even better?
Frankly, I had my doubts that it could, but I've changed my tune since seeing Skyrocket's latest. Virtual FireworX is a new, Mac OS X Tiger-only release from Skyrocket. Like its predecessor, it features stunning visual effects and great sound effects. Unlike the older product, however, it renders the fireworks on your machine, thus virtually eliminating the load times that were possibly the only negative to Digital FireworX, and making the fireworks look even more stunning then before.
While enabling all of the possible fireworks, 20 in all, would likely give some low-end Mac video cards a run for their money, a slightly more modest selection of fireworks is probably preferable anyway. Each firework is enjoyable enough on its own that it almost seems a shame if you cannot appreciate the beauty of each one individually. You get a choice of realistic large aerial shells, fountains, cones, spinning wheels and even smoke bombs.
The new Virtual FireworX also comes with a widget for those looking to make Tiger's dashboard a bit more interesting. When placed on there, the fireworks started up immediately whenever I called up the dashboard. This might be a nice stress relief feature: if you need a quick break from whatever you are working on, call up Dashboard and watch a few aerial shells burst in the air. Who can avoid smiling when watching fireworks?
As a connoisseur of fireworks, I appreciate Virtual FireworX realistic design, which goes down to the visible packaging of the “ground” fireworks, such as the small cones, and the smoke left behind by the fireworks after they are shot off. If you find yourself needing a fix of fireworks every-so-often throughout the year, like I do, this is definitely a must have for you.
For those who aren't as nutty as the writer of this review, there will still be times when this fireworks display could come in handy, even after Independence Day. The standalone display version, Virtual FireworX Display, can be choreographed — in fact, it comes with a demo that is synchronized with music. You could easily use this, on a PowerBook hooked up to a television, to make a very impressive countdown to the New Year each year, to draw attention to a retail display in a store or perhaps even use it as a grand finale after a big PowerPoint presentation.
The only downside to Virtual FireworX, as compared to Digital FireworX, is the smaller library of different fireworks included. If you want the ultimate collection of different fireworks shooting off on your computer, you should still consider the older, but excellent Digital FireworX.
The possibilities are really endless, and certainly not limited to the Fourth of July. Now, if only Skyrocket can simulate the smell of the fireworks in the next release… (Skyrocket Software, Virtual FireworX and Virtual FireworX Display, free with 5 effects or $5.00 and $10.00, respectively, for all 20 effects)