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. 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:
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:
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 [No longer available] 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:
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:
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.
The date from my setup uses the command
date +"%a %b %e".
The time is handled by
date +"%l:%M", as seen above. And the smaller AM/PM modifier beside this is a separate command:
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.
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.
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:
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, then find your city. Copy the URL, then add a web site using Nerdtool’s menu:
Scroll to the exact spot you want and you’ll have the forecast embedded on your desktop:
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.
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.
You’ll notice a random quote at the bottom-left of my screen:
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, 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.