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How To: Trick Out Your Desktop with Rainmeter

Introduction

You want to give your computer desktop a little spice, so you change the wallpaper. Perhaps you enabled a desktop-cycling option that's in Windows 7 or add themes or gadgets that work with Windows. All of these things give your computer some personality--but what if you want something more powerful?

Enter Rainmeter (download here), a free utility that adds many operations to your desktop normally reserved for Windows desktop widgets or Web applications. Rainmeter runs what are known as "skins," which are scripting applications that display information and execute applications.

The tasks fall into three categories: system information and monitoring, launchers, and Web content. You have to modify the skins by editing their .INI files, which can occasionally be a challenge since they are often not well written.

The basics of what they offer include information about system memory usage and availability, CPU load, and network traffic. There is also a clock and calendar. Then you can add things like a weather skin, a to-do list that's right in front of you, and perhaps RSS feeds and a simple desktop control for iTunes or WinAMP without having to maximize those apps.

With the advent of wide-screen monitors, there's a lot more empty real estate on our desktops. For example, I don't write with Microsoft Word maximized on my 23" wide-screen monitor, because that would leave a lot of empty white space in MS Word. The Web browser either throws off formatting or also leaves empty space. So I window the application and center it in the screen. This leaves several inches of open space on either side of the monitor, where I have my Rainmeter skins.

I keep my browser, email, and other apps centered and windowed, meaning the edges are empty. That's where the bulk of my Rainmeter skins are. So even as I write this, my full system resources, the calendar, a five-day forecast, and a four-way RSS feed (it brings in feeds from four sources, cycling through each one) are visible at all times.

  • ssddx
    Sample Destop...Mine
    Hah! I see you use ObjectDock Plus! as well. Awsome program.

    This looks interesting; I will have to check it out. Is that circle in the bottom right a working calendar?
    Reply
  • house70
    Hey, tom's, how come we are still getting swamped with spam? Here's an idea: mark as spam any message that has more than 2 links in it and any message that has more than twice the symbol $ in it. That should help out for a while until you come up with even better filters.
    Reply
  • shoelessinsight
    I downloaded Rainmeter after reading this article and have been experimenting with it for a few hours. Though I am having a hard time getting reliable readings of my system temperatures and my current wireless bandwidth, most of the skins are surprisingly easy to customize.

    Thanks for the article! =)
    Reply
  • gdroland
    Awesome article. I've got alot of Rainmeter desktops setup over on DeviantArt.com / With all the files you need to create them on your own computer. Check them out and don't hesitate to ask in the comments if you have questions/difficulties.

    http://gdroland.deviantart.com/
    Reply
  • cosmie
    Which weather skin is being used on the sample desktop?
    Reply
  • ecnovaec
    I love your desktop! can you please tell us what clock/etc you are using??
    Reply
  • tgandy
    Cosmie,

    I use the Felix weather widget. It comes with the Rainmeter install.
    Reply
  • tgandy
    ssddxHah! I see you use ObjectDock Plus! as well. Awsome program.This looks interesting; I will have to check it out. Is that circle in the bottom right a working calendar?
    Yes it is. I've been on the computer at midnight and watched it update the day and date.
    Reply
  • scottman777
    I've also downloaded Rainmeter after reading your article - awesome! Where'd you get that calendar?
    Reply
  • scottman777
    n/m I found it! Thanks for the article!
    Reply