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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
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.
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.
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.
Samurize 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.
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 [No Longer Available]
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.
7. Dream Scene for XP [Broken URL Removed] 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 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.
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.
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 [No Longer Available]
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
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.
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.