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Add whatever information you want to your Mac’s desktop, and make it look great. Free app Nerdtool is a piece of software you can use to turn that empty space behind your windows into something functional and beautiful.

We showed you how Geektool lets you show system information in style GeekTool - Display System Information on Mac in Style GeekTool - Display System Information on Mac in Style Read More . Nerdtool is a similar piece of software, but arguably easier to use. It also allows you to directly embed any website on your desktop, something Geektool never did.

If you’ve used Geektool before, you’ll find Nerdtool comfortable. It’s similar, but gives users a lot more room to edit commands:

nerdtool-edit

If you’re yet to try either program, don’t worry: I’ll offer a quick tutorial here which should work for either (though I’ll be using Nerdtool throughout). Being familiar with how the command line works will help a lot, but isn’t necessary.

First take a look at a few elements I added to my desktop:

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geektool-setup

I’ll show you how I did it, and offer a few more tricks.

Time And Date

Nerdtool and Geektool both are primarily used to output the result of terminal commands, so we’re going to start with that. It’s simplest to learn what will and won’t work from the Terminal, so head to Applications and launch that.

I found this old list of common geek view commands to start with, so check that out. I started with the “date” command, which alone will output the current date in a less-than-stunning fashion. Here’s how it looks in the terminal:

terminal-date

Not exactly attractive, is it? “Wed Jan 15 11:17:31 MST 2014”. Happily we can customize the output of the command by adding modifiers. For example, date +"%l:%M" will simply output the current time:

date-command-modified

How did I know which modifiers would work the way I wanted to? Well, IBM offers this great guide to using the “date” command, complete with every possible variant you could use.

Play with this command until you get exactly the output you’re looking for. Then, when you’ve got a command you’re happy with, head to Nerdtool and paste it.

nerdtool-editing-date

The date from my setup uses the command date +"%a %b %e".

nerdtool-time

The time is handled by date +"%l:%M", as seen above. And the smaller AM/PM modifier beside this is a separate command: date +"%p".

Once you’ve created outputs that work, you can customize the font, color and more – play around with this until you like what you see. The real joy of Nerdtool is tweaking until you’ve created exactly what you want, so take your time and enjoy.

Oh, you’re wondering about the calendar I added? That’s actually a lot easier, thanks to the cal command. Go ahead and try it in your Terminal to see how easy it is to use.

cal-command

Adding this to Nerdtool is simple enough, but it’s worth noting that this really only works well with monospaced fonts – that is to say fonts specifically designed so every character is the same width. Courier New and Consolas both work great, if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about.

The Weather

Above my calendar you can see a quick summary of the weather. How does that work? It’s a little more complicated, but I basically used this weather command, which scrapes from Yahoo. It uses curl to grab the weather from an RSS feed:

weather-command-complex

Adding this command isn’t too hard, but what if you want more information? There are many complex commands you can find from around the web for the job, but I recommend tapping Nerdtool’s web capabilities for this. Head to m.wund.com, the mobile version of the best weather site on the web Weather Underground - The Best Weather Site On The Web Weather Underground - The Best Weather Site On The Web Read More , then find your city. Copy the URL, then add a web site using Nerdtool’s menu:

add-web-nerdtool

Scroll to the exact spot you want and you’ll have the forecast embedded on your desktop:

nerdtool-forecast

Adjust the transparency to stop sites from covering up too much of your desktop.

I’m not sure how many people will want the full forecast, but copying the radar image’s direct URL looks pretty cool and has a genuine use for the weather-obsessed.

geektool-radar

You could basically use this to embed any website on your desktop, if you want, though in my experience the mobile version of sites tend to work best. Alternatively, you could simply let a website you find beautiful take over the entirety of your desktop (but you won’t be able to interact with it). Let me know if you have found any sites that work particularly well in the comments below.

Quotes

You’ll notice a random quote at the bottom-left of my screen:

nerdtool-quote

this updates daily, and pulls from BrainyQuote‘s RSS feed. I found this, and a lot of ideas, from the Geeklets section of MacOSXtips.co.uk. The script itself didn’t really work, but a command I found in the comments did.

Work At It, Create

This is all just cracking the surface of what you can add to your desktop. We outlined how to show iCal/Mac Calendar events to your desktop How To Show iCal Tasks & Events On The Desktop [Mac only] How To Show iCal Tasks & Events On The Desktop [Mac only] Read More , using a Geektool alongside iCalBuddy. This also works with Nerdtool.

Experiment and search and you’ll find there’s no end to the amount of useful information you can add to your desktop. My examples are simple, but there’s a lot of capability I’ve not even started showing you. If you needinspiration, search for Nerdtool at Deviantart. You’ll find a lot to work with, and a lot to aspire to.

Download: Nerdtool (Free)

Have fun tweaking, and show off your work (and share your commands!) in the comments below.

  1. Ernesto
    May 27, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Hi, the brainy quotes command is not working anymore for me. Regards.

  2. itsmeeeee
    March 11, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    how do u remove a qtz thingy screen off of my desktop

    • Justin Pot
      March 11, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      Just uncheck it in Nerdtool, it'll turn off.

  3. Jamie
    December 19, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Do you know if this works with Yosemite?

    • Alex Omer
      July 22, 2015 at 6:12 am

      Yes, Jamie At First This Didnt Work For Me But I Just Updated To The Latest Java Tried Again And Boom It Fixed Itself and First It Might Be A Bit Glitchy But It Fixes Itself and Works Nice I Also Added A Live Wall Paper Using This

  4. Aaron P
    May 4, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Hey, with the Brainy Quotes one, it shows "Share as Image" right above the quote. Is there a way to remove that?

    • Justin P
      May 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      This script keeps breaking, but if you head to the comments of the script page I linked to you'll find updated links. Here's one currently working for me:

      http://pastebin.com/W8NkgB4Z

  5. Sergio
    January 27, 2014 at 12:33 am

    I can't thank you enough for this post! I've been trying to put a calendar in my desktop since I bought my mac and just couldn't get an easy and good looking way to do it.

    However, can I ask how did you highlight the current day in it with another colour (like you did on yours with red)? I've been trying over and over and simply can't get it.

    Thanks beforehand!

    • Justin P
      January 28, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      Oh man, I forgot to include that link in my article! Here's the site I found that on:

      http://micwiki.com/doku.php?id=guides:macosx:geektool

      Remember to enable the "colorize output" option, or you'll see some gibberish code instead of a red day. You can also change the color, so play around with that.

    • Sergio
      January 30, 2014 at 11:51 am

      Now sir, you officially rock

    • Kim
      May 18, 2015 at 6:35 am

      Simpler way:

      cal -m | grep -C6 --color "$(date +%e)"

  6. 3l3phant
    January 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    OK, I'm guessing I'm not nerdy enough, but how do I actually get the stuff to appear on the screen? I've got the weather underground URL at an Item under the Default group, but how do I get the output on the desktop? And once I do that, is it possible to have it on all of the desktops?

  7. Darrin McDougald
    January 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    FWIW, Here is a more detailed / longer forecast weather shell command:

    curl --silent -o /Users//curweather.txt http://xml.weather.yahoo.com/forecastrss?p=&u=f && grep -A 15 -E '(Conditions for )' /Users//curweather.txt | egrep -v '(img src|geo|link|yweather|description|pubDate|Current)' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///'

    Output looks like this:

    Conditions for at 8:52 am EST
    Fair, 36 F
    Forecast:
    Fri - Partly Cloudy. High: 46 Low: 24
    Sat - Partly Cloudy. High: 61 Low: 33
    Sun - Partly Cloudy. High: 61 Low: 44
    Mon - Showers. High: 66 Low: 35
    Tue - Showers. High: 45 Low: 25

    • Justin P
      January 28, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      Okay, so I can't get this working myself. A problem with our comment system messing with the code, you think?

    • James M
      January 31, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      I used angle brackets in my post and I didn't see that the comment system stripped or interpreted them as HTML tags... Here it is again with the variable bits in CAPS

      curl --silent -o /Users/darrinmcdougald/curweather.txt http://xml.weather.yahoo.com/forecastrss?p=USGA0589&u=f && grep -A 15 -E '(Conditions for Valdosta)' /Users/USERNAME/curweather.txt | egrep -v '(img src|geo|link|yweather|description|pubDate|Current)' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///' | sed -e 's///'

    • James M
      January 31, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      Negative. It still stripps out thigs in the sed statements.
      here are the tags I edited out:
      ALL encapsulated in angle brackets (greater-than / less-than symbols)
      You have to backtick ( ) all special characters like / and the angle brackets.
      title
      /title
      b
      /b
      br
      BR
      BR /

    • Justin P
      January 31, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Yeah, WordPress really can't handle code well – and that's what our site is built on. Maybe you can stick the code on http://pastebin.com/ and link it here?

    • James M
      February 2, 2014 at 12:59 am

      Good end-run! I have created a public pastebin with the data:
      http://pastebin.com/KSgwiM8T

      Let me know how that works for you

      -Darrin

    • Justin P
      February 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Yep, works wonderfully! Just a note for anyone who tries it: editing in TextEdit messed this up for me, kept adding smartquotes. Terrible. Use a dedicated text editor such as TextWrangler instead.

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