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cam widgetWebcams are great. Really, there’s no limit to what you can do with one. It might not be as exciting as it used to be, but it’s still one of the most useful ones I own. One thing that I find weird about webcams is their relative lack of flexibility.

How can I see my webcam feed on my desktop no matter what I do? What if I want to make sure I don’t look goofy on a video chat, without having to keep my eyes on the chat client?

Not long ago, I stumbled across CamDesk. This tiny, open-source application provides a really simple solution to the  aforementioned webcam problems. With CamDesk, you get a constant feed from any of your webcams in a customizable window, and can keep track of what’s going on no matter what you’re doing. It can be used for anything from spying on your cats and keeping an eye on your door, to getting a constant feed of yourself while video chatting or recording a video. Brilliant!

Installing CamDesk

CamDesk is an open-source project that is still being developed by several independent developers. As such, it’s brilliant in its simplicity, but just a bit rough around the edges. On paper, CamDesk is available for Windows, Linux, Chrome and Android, but the latter two are very much under development, and even the developers themselves don’t really recommend downloading them.

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If you’re on Linux, you will find installation instructions attached when you download the tarball. By your leave, I will focus on the Windows version for now. In order to install CamDesk for Windows, you’ll need to have .NET Framework 4 installed. This is the only real requirement for installing CamDesk (assuming you have the 1.17MB of hard drive space to spare).

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CamDesk is portable, and there is no installation process. Simply unzip the files and run the EXE. You’re now ready for some webcam fun!

Using CamDesk

If you have more than one webcam connected to your computer, the first thing you’ll have to do is choose which one you want to use for your constant webcam feed. Unfortunately, this cannot be changed from within CamDesk, and there’s no other choice but to restart CamDesk every time you want to change your video source. Seeing that this is a very small and quick app, this shouldn’t cause too many headaches.

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Now that you have your source, you should be seeing your video feed on your desktop. It looks something like this:

ip cam widget

After you fix your hair (which I apparently failed to do), you can start a video chat or a video recording, or simply browse the web with your face on the side, if that’s your thing. You can move the video around by dragging it with your mouse to place it in a less conspicuous place on your desktop. Right click the video to access some more options.

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From here, you can start and stop the video, toggle fullscreen mode, access the preferences and shutdown CamDesk. Each option has its own hotkey, if you prefer using those. Let’s see what the preferences have in store for us.

ip cam desktop widget

This is Bibi, my elderly cat who I was trying to follow around using my other webcam. The preferences windows, while being somewhat visually unappealing, offers some useful options. From here you can pin and unpin the video window, to make it either remain on top or act like any old window. You can also change the dimensions on the video to suit your needs, and change the opacity of the video.

This last option is an interesting one for when you want to keep an eye on yourself or something else while collaborating on a project or sharing your screen, but don’t want the video taking up all that valuable space. For this, you can set the video to be semi-transparent, and not lose focus.

ip cam desktop widget

If you have an external webcam, you can keep your eye peeled on anything you point it to, no matter what you’re doing on your computer. In this way, I could work on this post while making sure I don’t wake up my cat.

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He looks right at home there, doesn’t he? Almost as if he’s part of the post I was reading.

Bottom Line

CamDesk is an awesome little utility that can be used for almost anything you can imagine. These were just some ideas for what you could do with such a tool. What would you use it for? Got any brilliant ideas? Share in the comments so we can do it too!

Image Credit:Webcamera and laptop via Shutterstock

  1. kishore rajendra
    June 4, 2015 at 11:49 am

    I am unable to get the webcam feed. When i run the application and select Integrated webcam, it is stuck at the splash screen showing camdesk image. pls help

  2. Michael
    July 2, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Hello thanks for sharing my application. Due to unemployment, and financial situation development's been longer than usual. Although I'm currently adding a recording capability into CamDesk so when the user is not home, and a robbery occurs they can still monitor their home. You can read more about it here - http://codenstuff.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=54&t=8890&start=10#p69363

    After that is implemented and is running without any bugs, or problems, then preferences window will need to be reconstructed, and then it'll be released. After that we'll be working more on having the user change their cam source inside the application, without hafting to restart CamDesk, as that's been something a lot of people seem to dislike, but does lower file size.

    When I have time, so this could be in the new few weeks I'll be working on updating CamDesk's website so you all can see where we're at so far in development right on the website, without hafting to go to the facebook fanpage.

  3. Bishal Mahat
    June 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    nice widget!!!

  4. NIKKI REYN
    June 18, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Not a good choice if you want for security reasons. I have one that runs through a small tv w/vcr if I want to record and you can see clear at night or day. No set up or configuration required. Just plug into to jacks on tv and it's on. Simple, easy & quick.

    • Yaara Lancet
      June 18, 2012 at 7:57 am

      Yes, obviously this is not the best solution for real security, but it's great for other uses!

  5. Deviant
    June 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Try Yawcam....it's been @ for years and does a great job with lots of cool features! http://www.yawcam.com/

    • Yaara Lancet
      June 16, 2012 at 6:47 am

      Thanks!

  6. Laga Mahesa
    June 15, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Webcams are great, true, but they're wired... how about a guide or article regarding IP cams, compatibility and related apps?

    • Yaara Lancet
      June 16, 2012 at 6:48 am

      Not really my area of expertise, but I will pass it on to the team, maybe someone can write about it. Good idea!

  7. Colin
    June 15, 2012 at 7:48 am

    I just downloaded this for a trial. It works as expected, but it's a sunny day outside and when I point the webcam through the window it is swamped by the sunlight.

    It may be my webcam (Microsoft), but this program is ok for indoors, but no use for external viewing, in my case. You are correct about there is no ability to change cams without restarting - that is a major nuisance as far as I'm concerned, and the developers need to fix this pronto.

    • Yaara Lancet
      June 16, 2012 at 6:46 am

      I also tried pointing my old Logitech webcam outside on a bright day, and it was too bright, but I think it's the webcam, not the app. The app just gives you a webcam feed, if you have a good webcam, you can adjust white balance and such to see better outside.

      As for not being able to switch sources, yep, it's a sorely missing feature. Hope they can fix that soon.

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