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Published on August 11th, 2011 | by Bob

5

>Customize your desktop with a few handy utilities

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Your PC is custom-built, but your desktop and wallpaper are probably pretty darn generic, now aren’t they?

I’d like to share with you a few 3rd party applications which greatly expand upon some of the features in Windows 7, and adds features for Windows XP users which do not exist.
Rainmeter
Rainmeter is a fully customizable framework for community created skins, themes, and widgets.  I’ve been aware of Rainmeter for quite a while, most in part thanks to Lifehacker and their frequent articles on the subject.  Recently they posted a comprehensive guide to creating your own custom HUD with Rainmeter.  As with previous guides I’ve posted, if it ain’t broke, I won’t “fix it” or confuse you by offering other advice.  Do yourself a favor and at least give the article a look.

Rainmeter is both as simple and as complicated as you want it to be.  Upon install, you may find yourself pleased with the default theme, select a few of the built in widgets, and be happy with that.  What I will tell you, though, is that there are multitudes of high-quality (and free) themes available for Rainmeter that can help you make it your own.

Personally, I’ve admired Windows Phone 7’s Metro UI tiles from afar, as a devout Android user.  They’re simple, clear, and can provide a wealth of information.  It just so happens, that one particularly talented Rainmeter developer has created a Windows Phone 7 based skin for Rainmeter, called Omnimo UI.  Some of you may hate it, but here’s the point – to each their own.

Display Fusion Pro

Next, I elected to use Display Fusion Pro mainly to overcome a problem with Windows 7, which spanned my 3360×1050 images improperly across my two monitors, as my right 22″ is set as the main display. Display Fusion was able to properly span the two monitors, and included a couple nice perks, such as a secondary task bar (seen at left in the photos above). The How-To Geek offers a comprehensive article on Display Fusion’s feature suite, which should give you an idea as to whether you’d find it to be a beneficial program or not.

Switcher

Finally, I use an application called Switcher to change how I can interact with my window environment.  Again, Lifehacker has a nice writeup (and demonstration video) for Switcher.  Similar to Expose view on OSX, it allows me to view all of my open windows (basically in thumbnails).  Your mileage may vary in usefulness, but I tend to multi-task to somewhat of an extreme, and Switcher helps my PC keep up.  Pro-tip – make sure you set the shortcut for the view to something completely unrelated to gaming.  Personally, I learned the hard way after setting it to CTRL-(Top right hot corner) without even thinking about it after install and getting booted out of Battlefield Bad Company 2.


bpost

BobBob

One of the founding fathers of KBMOD, and an unfortunate casualty of real life responsibilities. An IT professional by trade, and an elitist by choice.


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  • cheddarchezz

    >Nice write-up. I might have to give Switcher a try.

  • KnightRite

    >Oh wow Rainmeter looks awesome!

  • GamerByt3

    >You might look at a program called UltraMon for people who have multiple monitors. It adds buttons to switch a window from one monitor to the other as well as desktop icon management and a second toolbar either a mirror or a separate bar on the second screen. The trial version is the same as the bought version and if you don't mind 5mins to reinstall it each month you don't need to buy it.

    Windows+Tab is similar to switcher i think.

    You should also look at windows gadgets, there are some out there for video cards, you can see your cpu and gpu temps, loads, fan speeds ect. It's a great tool for gamers imo.

  • bpost

    >Thanks for the tip on UltraMon, I'll take a look.

    The built in Windows Win+Tab is a nice view and function, but I've just become accustomed to the OSX Expose at work, and was happy to find a Windows equivalent.

    I never really cared for the Windows gadgets, and they typically seemed to be resource intensive, but again, to each their own!

    Thanks for the comments.

  • vol1tion

    >Great writeup, Bob. I tried Rainmeter a while back and got lost in all of the manual work I would have to do to get what I wanted. Maybe I'll have to take another look at it now.

    Also, I second DisplayFusion Pro. I've used it for a few years now, and I consider it practically essential for anyone with a multi-monitor setup.

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