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The Windows Desktop…Quite possibly one of the most consistently viewed items on your computer on a daily basis. (Outside of your Internet Browser of Choice) Many times it sets the tone for who you are. Whether you are into art, family, games, movies or nature, your desktop background can typically identify what you’re into at any given point and time. Sometimes however, having the same static wallpaper can become stagnant and boring. So why not spice it up a little bit?

I have come up with some of the most popular and innovative ways of customizing what we have come to know as, ‘The Windows Desktop’. These include simply rotating your static wallpaper, adding gadgets and widgets, expanding with virtual desktops, and even some advanced customization. I will warn you that some of these will require a somewhat ‘beefy’ machine, so just be aware of that before you go adding some of these resource intensive applications. Most all require either XP or Vista, with a couple even compatible with MAC.

 

Gadgets, Widgets and Customization

1. Yahoo Widgets

Yahoo Widgets, formerly known as Konfabulator, is a Windows or Mac add-on that installs to your local PC and gives you the ability to add many different individual apps or ‘widgets’ that can access anything from weather, to RSS, to your online photo collection. These widgets can then be placed throughout your desktop. With a huge and growing online community, and with thousands already in place, I doubt you won’t find one you won’t like. Yahoo’s widgets platform is one of most popular in the genre, so you may want start here if you like the concept.

2. Google Desktop/Gadgets

Google Desktop originally began as just a Windows add-on that gave you incredibly fast search capability of your entire PC or network. As it has grown, Google has added a sidebar and a huge collection of ‘gadgets’ that you can add to your sidebar, or spread throughout your desktop. Google as well has thousands of gadgets already to choose from, and an online community as well. Not to mention, some gadgets integrate with your Google account quite nicely. The gadgets may not be as pretty as Yahoo’s, but they aren’t that far behind.

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3. Klipfolio

Klipfolio is another great product, similar to the previous two, but they define themselves as specifically directed towards the ‘business’ user. They offer PC monitoring, YouTube Videos, E-Mail Access and much much more, amongst their 4000 ‘Klips’. The business side that they are referring to includes Google Analytics, Wall Street and Help Desk information to name a few. However their business product(s) are not free.

4. Samurize

Samurize Dress Up Your Windows Sidebar with Samurize Dress Up Your Windows Sidebar with Samurize Read More is incredibly advanced Desktop customization tool for the Windows Desktop, that is designed mainly for monitoring in depth information on your PC, but has nearly limitless customization capability. Configuration files can be customized for weather, RSS, E-Mail, or whatever your programming mind desires. The included WYSIWYG editor helps you along the way, but it may take some help from the online community to get into the true power of Samurize.

5. Rainmeter

Rainmeter is a very similar product to Samurize. It includes customization capability and a community of ‘skins’ to choose from. The community may not be as large as Samurize, but it does offer some pretty awesome skins and could be a nice alternative or used in conjunction with Samurize as well.

6. Real Desktop

Real Desktop adds 3D to your Windows Desktop. It let’s you view your desktop icons in a whole new way, and uses an incredible physics engine to do so. A program like this can become very resource intensive, so be forewarned. The product is more eye candy then anything, but some may actually find some great use out of it as well.

 

Desktop Wallpaper

 

7. Dream Scene for XP or Animated Desktop for Vista (or XP)

Dream Scene for XP is exactly what it states. It adds the beauty of Vista Ultimate’s DreamScene to your Windows XP machine. Now you ask, ‘What is Vista’s Dreamscene?’. DreamScene simply changes your Windows wallpaper from static to image to dynamic video. This is specifically designed for XP, so please check out Animated Desktop below if you are a Vista user. See below video, to get an idea what I’m talking about.

Aibek originally wrote 5 Desktop Enhancements you Should Definitely Try 5 Desktop Enhancements you Should Definitely Try Read More about Animated Desktop back in early 2008. It adds the ability to add video to your desktop, just as XP scene and Windows Dreamscene does as well. However Animated Desktop is Vista compatible.

8. Desktoptopia

Desktoptopia is random wallpaper generator for both Windows and MAC, that randomly displays user submitted images to your desktop wallpaper. Easily flip to the next photo, go to the previous, go to the next or pause the current to stay at one you like, for as long as you like. Submit some of your own wallpaper to get your photography name out there. You can even rate the art/photos as well.

9. John’s Background Switcher

John’s Background Switcher is an advanced wallpaper tool, that can really take advantage of multiple images for your background. It can not only randomly select an individual photo from a folder, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, to name a few, but it can also display many images in a tiled or collage format as well.

10. Wallpaper Shifter

Wallpaper shifter is simply your own personal wallpaper generator for your own locally stored images. You point the application at your own directory, at which time it will randomly generate one of the images to your background. Think of it as John’s Background Switcher, but not on steroids.

 

Futuristic Virtual Desktops

11. 360 Desktop

360 Desktop is one of the more original virtual desktops out there. It doesn’t create multiple virtual desktops. It creates one huge virtual desktop, that you can scroll at will. It also includes a gadget and widget platform, similar to what we’ve seen from Google and Yahoo. The video below, gives you a great idea of what I’m talking about.

12. DeskHedron

DeskHedron is one of the few free 3D like Virtual Desktop applications out there. There are many free virtual desktop applications out there, with the same capability, but they lack the cool effects that DeskHedron gives you. Another video below to give you a better idea.

So, there you have it. Some of the best tools out there to spice up your boring Windows desktop. I know there are plenty more out there, so throw them at us, we’d love to hear about them.

  1. Vishnu
    November 6, 2009 at 9:41 am

    It seems yahoo widgets is a favorite, but I find google to be more simpler than yahoo. May be I have "Google - Phobia"

    Also if some one can tell me the option to set yahoo widget to search widgets from the desktop as in google ( Also given in the screenshot) rather than it opens up the browser to search widgets. it is sometime irritating.

  2. Cheezwhiz
    February 7, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    My personal favorite place for getting wallpapers is

    vladstudio.com

    There are also wallpaper clocks, e-cards, and Photoshop tutorials.

  3. XK140
    February 5, 2009 at 10:42 am

    yahoo widgets is awesome and the fact that it works on mac too is just icing on the cake

  4. Martin Lewis
    January 31, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Cool, but very RAM heavy.

  5. XERO
    January 13, 2009 at 5:03 am

    I liked real desktop but it shot my processor usage to almost 30% all time,but still I was amazed by the featuures it had to offer and my friends gawked at it :)

    nice post and keep it up

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 13, 2009 at 8:59 am

      That's mainly the app I was pointing to when I forewarned that you would need a 'beefy' machine. It's really cool, but it can really slow down your system, if you like the power.

  6. IT Freak
    January 13, 2009 at 1:55 am

    Well, my idea is to keep ur desktop as much simple as possible. I like the black theme wallpaper.

  7. nesta
    January 13, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Oh boy...anybody who thinks this is cool, has been living in their mother's basement too long. It really boggles the mind why people use windows. Please go to an Apple store, and check out what they have to offer. Don't give me the old line, they're more expensive. You get what you pay for. If you want garbage, shop at wal-mart. If you want quality, reliability, functionality, and the biggest reason to use a Mac...no viruses, buy a Mac. This comment has nothing to do with Mac vs pc. It has to do with common sense. I've used both. The Mac platform is the intelligent choice. I'm not calling PC users dumb, Mac is the logical choice. This article is like polishing a turd. It might be shiny, but it's still a turd. Wait a minute, let me take all those comments back. You keep using your virus ridden pc and stay away from the Mac platform. I don't want wal-mart shoppers polluting my platform of choice. Sorry if I offended anybody. Just take a step back and check yourself. I'm not an Apple stock holder. I'm just experienced. You might even start to pull chicks if you get a Mac. But first get an apartment, your mom won't appreciate girls in her basement...

    • Tyler
      March 10, 2009 at 2:01 am

      "I’m not calling PC users dumb"
      "anybody who thinks this is cool, has been living in their mother’s basement too long"

      Your logic is mind-boggling. You want to know what else is mind-boggling? The fact that you Mac fanboys are so completely computer-illiterate to know that you are getting overcharged for the EXACT SAME HARDWARE that is in a "PC."

      And since you're a Mac user, obviously you're going to need a visual aid to see my point. Here's a little help:
      http://i22.photobucket.com/albums/b318/trmccleve/Mac_NoOneGivesAShit.jpg

      All you are overpaying for (besides a logo) is a sub-par operating system that is based off of UNIX. Apple has made billions of dollars making you people think that you are actually better than everyone else, that you are somehow unique individuals who don't buy into the "corporations," even though that is exactly what you are doing!

      "This article is like polishing a turd. It might be shiny, but it’s still a turd."

      Funny. The exact same thing can be said about a Mac.

      PS: The acronym "P.C." stands for personal computer, as in a computer that is privately owned and operated. I hate to break the news to you, but a Mac is a PC. Get a clue you Jobs-fetching moron.

  8. shankar
    January 12, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    I am not computer savy. Is it possible to combine the functions of 'Samurize' in 'Dream Scene for XP' to better use the empty space in between the tool bars.

  9. d00d
    January 12, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Found Circle Dock the other day. I'm a happy RocketDock user though.

    circledock.wikidot.com/

    • nesta
      January 13, 2009 at 12:37 am

      d00d? Wow that's really clever...no it's not! PC people are so lame. Let me guess, your girlfriends name is...bee0tch. Nope, there's no way you have a girlfriend.

      • Joel
        January 13, 2009 at 2:44 am

        oooh! We are a bit tetchy aren't we. Did our boyfriends not kiss us nightie night

  10. ankit
    January 12, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    no deskspace ?

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 12, 2009 at 4:02 pm

      Deskspace is truly awesome, but it's also $25.00. We try to restrict all of our reviews to free(or almost free) products.

  11. unblogger
    January 12, 2009 at 5:23 am

    I think I will try the Wallpaper Shifter and real desktop, thanks :)

  12. Charax
    January 11, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    no Emerge Desktop or BumpTop in there? (admittedly, Bumptop's a resource hog and only a Beta) I've been using Emerge as my default desktop environment with Objectdock for months.

    • codyp
      January 12, 2009 at 12:14 am

      Emerge desktop is a replacement shell.. probably a little advanced for some basic customization and the average user. Also it can severely mess your computer up if you don't know what your doing. Not saying it isn't great, i just dont think it fits in this pool of programs.

      • T.J. Mininday
        January 12, 2009 at 7:45 am

        I'm in agreement with Cody. It only kind of falls into this category. I tried to stick to strictly desktop modification.

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