Star Trek Just Built Your Next Computer (How to Get It)

LCARS KDE Karamba Theme PNG
LCARS KDE Karamba Theme PNG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a joke that's being made everywhere, software giant Apple has recently released OSX Mavericks, ostensibly because they ran out of big cats to name their flagship operating system after.  Apple has long been the master of the incremental release, not because they release more operating system updates (that's actually Microsoft), but because Apple consumers are by definition home users and businesses who have self identified as having a greater purchasing power and discretionary income and, as such, Apple has made every move necessary to convince them of the desire to move up to the latest and greatest Apple OSX release (every ten minutes).

...and it's about desire, isn't it?  Computing does not come into play here, not really.  Take a few stats on the Windows side of the argument: Windows 2000 was and remains compatible with an estimated 90%+ of Windows XP software, yet that revolution in computing, a dubious upgrade to XP's cartoonish blue balloon window themes, still occurred.  Meanwhile, this article is being written on a copy of Windows XP, fully updated and capable of running anything you can throw at it (even at the ripe old age of 12).  Is there software now in 2013 that can't run on Windows XP?  Sure, but I haven't encountered a single bit of it yet and I run and test a lot of software.

So back to Apple.  Is an operating system upgrade a win for a consumer?  Only when software developers create software which will not run on an existing computer system... but since software developers create for whatever system has market share, this is literally never an issue!  All operating system upgrades are big-two (Apple and Microsoft) initiatives.  Operating systems upgrades fulfill a need only created artificially by the companies that sell them and operating system upgrades only occur for end users purchasing new PCs and who are thus forced into the purchase, or for those with an excess of spending power who simply wish to own an object of desire (one of a million related Apple products with the ubiquitous fruit logo glowing away on the back across the airport lounge).

Have we gone too far as a society, allowing these companies to dictate our vision of the future through slick marketing that has little to do with the functionality or efficiency of the main purpose for which the product is sold (office work)?  I say we haven't gone too far enough!  Stop lusting after touchscreen Windows 8 PCs and Mac OS<Insert Dollar Signs Here>; LCARS, the voice activated, touchscreen, shiny, futuristic, operating system has been here lurking in the background for over a decade and it's ready for prime-time.

Features of the LCARS System

  • LCARS systems are green, if negligibly, using less energy to light and display their minimalist futuristic interfaces.  When run as a shell replacement, some LCARS systems have a lighter memory / power footprint than the native OS file system.
  • LCARS is FREE: the most popular releases of LCARS interfaces are free for public use.  Some pay options exist, especially in the realm of cell-phones and tablets where app store reign supreme.
  • LCARS will make you a more efficient worker.  Why?  Simple, LCARS is at its core a minimalist user interface designed to exacting (and I mean exacting) aesthetic standards which puts you in touch with the information that you need to get the job done without a lot of distraction and unnecessary draws on your attention.  LCARS design standards <warning, math. (For instance, did you know that Helvetica Ultra Narrow is the preferred LCARS font and that Windows' "Arial Narrow" is a close, and free, equivalent?)
  • LCARS encourages multiculturalism.  Unlike Microsoft and Apple which are both incredibly Western-Centric, LCARS systems are developed by an international cadre of devoted software-engineers, some of the earliest of which were German.  LCARS will encourage users to take advantage of a culture-neutral workspace and to learn to use an efficient computer system outside of the Microsoft/Apple continuum.
  • LCARS is political, even if it's doesn't know it.  By using LCARS, you send 2 messages: first, that Microsoft and Apple are replaceable (and so they'd better take good care of their customers or face the market's wrath!), and second, that there is a market for clean, efficient, and futuristic interfaces (not so much visually disturbed Mondrian cast-offs that encourage you to buy new "apps" every quarter-hour).
  • Fun Fact: LCARS was one of the first and most pervasive depictions of touchscreen technology in film.  It is a fact that many of the creators of today's Ipad, Kindle, phones, and other touch devices grew up watching LCARS in action on Star Trek the Next Generation and the movies.  One suspects this may have provided some inspiration for their work as adults... (not to mention that Kindle Fire's and Ipads are a dead-on match for some of the Star Trek technologies)

What is LCARS?

First and foremost, LCARS is not a native computer operating system.  LCARS, an acronym for Library Computer Access/Retrieval System is a set of design standards which find their roots in the fictional world of Star Trek and which appeared first in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As a set of design standards, LCARS can be applied to any number of existing computing applications.  That is to say, taking advantage of the forward thinking features of LCARS is not so much about going to a store and purchasing a new PC with the software installed as it is about downloading and installing a replacement interface to your existing operating system on PC / Windows, Apple, Android, or several others.  LCARS interfaces even exist for web-based applications so you wouldn't need to install any software at all.

Ways to Incorporate LCARS Into Your Life

The best thing that you can do if you're ready to make the leap to LCARS is to run the Incremental Release from LCARSx32 as a replacement for your Windows desktop.  LCARSx32 is a free download from and you just run the installer on your Windows system.  The Incremental Release includes warnings about not being fully tested, but frankly it works great and the "Stable Release" on that page is really old.  If you aren't sure about LCARS, it is also definitely recommended to try running it on a second monitor first or consider one of the other options below.
An alternative to LCARSx32 is LCARS24 (which runs on DOS, Windows XP/Vista, and Windows 7, maybe more), you can learn more about that here:
Both these options are easily reversible / uninstallable by the way.
Finally, a Mac / Apple Port for LCARS

Start slow with an LCARS application like PADD (PADD was the name of the tablet devices running LCARS on Star Trek).  PADD comes in a variety of flavors, but if you search for PADD in the app store on your favorite device or perhaps "PADD LCARS" (quotes not needed), something is likely to pop-up.  There are even virtual tricorder softwares that take advantage of a phone's temperature sensors, wifi, bluetooth, and accelerometer to perform scientific functions which we take for granted today, but would have drooled over just 15 years ago.  These apps can help you get the feel for LCARS without much commitment.


  • An astronomical, pun unintended, number of LCARS wallpapers an be found here:

Mac / Apple Options: