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Your desktop is probably the one thing on your Mac which you stare at day in, day out. It is also the most configurable – with the right applications, of course. If you’re bored out of your life with the default wallpapers and screen savers which Apple provides, read on. This article will definitely bring some long awaited excitement to your desktop and will probably lift your mood as well. Sit back and enjoy your desktop. Never thought you’d say those words, huh?

Wallpaper Managers

Why would you want to stare at the same old wallpaper all the time when you have the option to rotate fresh, new beautiful images from respectable repositories? Here are four applications which will do the job.

Pic-a-POD

Pic-a-POD downloads and saves the picture of the day from National Geographic, Astronomy, Earth Science and Wikipedia and you can have it automatically set your desktop’s wallpaper to rotate randomly between the pictures. Besides using only the current day picture, you can go back in time to download any picture of the day and save it. I’d recommend using Pic-a-POD if you really enjoy pictures of nature, space and science. They’re not very artsy but still beautiful and way better than the infamous Mac clown fish wallpaper.

wallpaper manager mac

Pic-a-POD can be used on both Mac OS X and Windows.

Vladstudio Companion

Vladstudio is among one of the many great repositories for desktop wallpapers. Their artwork is eerily gorgeous and you can’t help but go “wow!”. Like Pic-a-POD, it can also be set to randomly change the wallpaper after a certain interval or you could manually change it yourself.

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Vladstudio Companion is available for Mac OS X and Windows.

Desktoptopia

Another great repository for beautiful wallpapers is Desktoptopia and hey, what do you know? They have a background manager too. Desktoptopia makes it very easy to get bewitching wallpapers on your screen. It works very similarly to Vladstudio Companion. Just turn it on and by default, it is set to automatically change your wallpaper every 5 minutes to an invigorating new background.

The wallpapers from Desktoptopia are of a different genre and feels very somewhat disparate from the ones which Vladstudio provides. Depending on your taste, you’ll need to choose between Desktoptopia and Vladstudio Companion. Or you could switch between the both of them.

Desktoptopia is available for Mac OS X but they’ve got a beta version for Windows as well.

DeskLickr

I wrote about DeskLickr in my article about Flickr applications 5 Little Mac Apps That Flickr Will Thank You For 5 Little Mac Apps That Flickr Will Thank You For Read More . Head on over there if you haven’t read it yet. Basically, DeskLickr will pull images from Flickr and sets them as your wallpaper. These pictures are selected by the tags, interestingness and groups which you will have to set to retrieve the pictures you prefer, rather than any random photo of someone’s family dog.

DeskLickr is only available for Mac OS X

Hide Your Desktop Icons

Assuming that you’ve changed your wallpaper to a picturesque background, you’d probably want to enjoy it. How are you suppose to do that if your desktop is cluttered with icons? Some say, a cluttered desktop drastically reduces productivity and concentration.

Camouflage is by far the best application I’ve found which hides everything from the desktop, leaving only the wallpaper for your admiration. Unlike other icon-hiding applications like Desktopple or Desktop Curtain, Camouflage is not affected by Exposé. So, pressing F11 does not reveal your true desktop. With Camouflage and your icons out of the way, you can now thoroughly enjoy the wallpapers from Desktoptopia or Vladstudio.

hide desktop icons

Camouflage runs on Mac OS X only.

Run A Screen Saver As Your Desktop Background

This is purely eye-candy. Setting a screen saver to run as your desktop background will definitely get you and the people around you excited because we’re so used to static wallpapers. A dynamic wallpaper will surely lift a couple of eyebrows. Be aware this is quite graphic-intensive and will require a relatively powerful Mac. Running this on my MacBook 2.4GHz didn’t affect it much performance-wise, although the core temperature did go up a degree or two. With that said, this can still be quite a lot of fun.

There are 3 applications here which will do the job: Screeni, MagicDesktopSwitch and Wallsaver. All of them are equally good but I prefer Wallsaver because it can be set to launch on startup and run automatically. Both Screeni and MagicDesktopSwitch are better only if you want to set the screen saver as the desktop background periodically.

If you want a couple of screen savers to start off, this Matrix screen saver is always a hit; and this old school flip-flop clock and Lego screen savers you might want to take a look at.

Special Treat

I wasn’t going to include this in at first because it isn’t actually an application but I thought that it would also help to “spice” up your regular desktop. DevMode widget turns on Development mode on your Dashboard to allow you to place widgets directly on your desktop! It’s actually possible to do this in Terminal with a specific command but this widget makes it possible for everyone to have their favourite widgets easily accessible on the desktop.

All you need to do is add the widget to Dashboard, and click on it once to turn Development mode on. Click and hold on any widget you want then press F12 (or the Dashboard button on newer keyboards) to close Dashboard and viola! You now have the widget out of Dashboard. You can repeat the process for any widget you want.

If you want to get rid of any widgets which you’ve shifted onto the desktop, press the Option key while hovering your cursor over the widget, you’ll see a ‘close’ icon appear. Click on that and the widget will suck itself right off your desktop.

How would you spice up your desktop? Enjoyed any of the suggestions in this article? Tell us what you’d use to turn a boring desktop into something you’d be pleased to gawk at.

  1. Heather
    November 18, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Desktoptopia rocks. I love it. The designs are amazing.

  2. Rob
    November 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Am I the only person who NEVER looks at my desktop background? If I'm staring at my desktop, it means I'm not using my mac for anything else....

    • Friedbeef
      November 17, 2008 at 6:28 pm

      Rob - I rarely look at my background, but when you minimize, startup and shutdown, a good background makes all the difference :)

    • Jackson
      November 18, 2008 at 3:29 am

      Being productive doesn't mean you have to stare at your WORK 24/7. You know the saying "All work and no play...."

  3. Saving Money Tips
    November 17, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks for the apps, I'm planning on getting a mac soon this list will help me. Would you recommend a laptop though? Mac book pro or what is the best to use these apps for.

    • Jackson
      November 18, 2008 at 3:28 am

      Getting a Mac? Depends on your budget. A MacBook is fine, a MacBook Pro is even better!

  4. Libby
    November 16, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Ravi brings up a very good point: the dashboard dev mode is practically useless on my macbook because the widgets obscure everything.

    The only way to get around this limitation us to use the amnesty widget products.
    This is because the products don't modify dashboard, they emulate it, so they can do things with widgets that aren't possible in the os x dashboard.

    • Jackson
      November 18, 2008 at 3:27 am

      Well, it's very impractical to have so many widgets on your desktop until a point where it covers your entire screen. Let's not go overboard here. I'm talking about have a clock or a weather widget viewable at all times...

  5. Ravi
    November 16, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    One word of warning regarding developer mode dashboard widgets: once you drag them on to your desktop they always stay on top, potentially obscuring your applications. Which can be an annoyance. I have my laptop almost always attached to an external monitor and my workaround is to have all my devmode widgets on my laptops screen which I don't use for application windows.

    Perhaps someone knows a workaround for the "stay on top" behaviour that does not involve buying Amnesty Browser?

    [adding comment again since my first attempt seems to have been eaten up silently. apologies if this is a duplicate]

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