RainmeterYou may have seen our free Windows 7 themes here on TechNorms, you may have even downloaded them. Collectively, we tend to have an obsession with customizing and personalizing our desktops as much as we do our homes. Give it a bit of character or style that by default it goes without. These themes are pretty basic, though, and offer not a lot more than some coherent colour schemes and a relevant wallpaper.

Enter Rainmeter. A tool, or rather a platform, that allows for far more in-depth customisation that can give you more than just some visual satisfaction, but actually some extra scope for productivity right from your desktop.

What Is Rainmeter?

Well Rainmeter is actually a pretty complex set of tools, but put simply, it’s a platform on which many open-source skins can be built and customised for free. A great library of skins is available, and each can give you something different. They can be mixed and matched to your satisfaction, and once downloaded, you are free to modify them to your own perfect tastes, with a varying degree of complexity.

What Can Be Done?

Rainmeter Example

There’s far too many possibilities to possibly go through in a single article, but just to give you a little flavour of the sort of magic which can be achieved by Rainmeter, i’ll go through a couple of my favourites.

One of my ‘must have’ tools on the Mac is an application called iStat, which effectively gives me live information on what’s going on inside my machine. Such things as cpu and memory usage, hard drive space and network activity can all be monitored from the menubar in a neat interface. Rainmeter is capable of giving you all this information and more straight from your desktop with a customisable look and layout.

hanging_tags_rainmeter_by_partibrejkers

(Image Credit)

One other pivotal use of Rainmeter, if you really want to get the most out of it, is to use it for mail notifications. Most notably GMail, you can customise your skin to give you a live preview of the latest emails to arrive in your inbox. Unfortunately, Rainmeter doesn’t have much interactivity, and rather serves almost as a constantly updating image, but it’s enough to let you know when something needs your attention.

Rainmeter also has the capability to pull information from the web, with sources such as Yahoo providing weather reports for your area and giving a live feed on your desktop in as much detail as you desire when it comes to forecast, temperatures and such. It’s not just restricted to weather either, you can grab clocks, calendars etc, yet most of these come as part of the basic skins you get with the initial Rainmeter download.

The skins can also house icons for your favourite apps, to-do lists, calendar events, social feeds from Facebook and Twitter for example, and even photo galleries. It’s a powerful tool, and one that can go as far, or as minimal as you need or just want to play with.

Why Would You Want To Do It?

Rainmeter Example 2

Cast your mind back to the initial announcements of Windows Phone 7 last year if you can, and you’ll surely remember the phrase ‘glance and go’ coined by Microsoft to highlight how much help it can be to have basic information in front of your eyes, rather than hidden within applications.

Rainmeter offers this similar concept on the desktop, where Microsoft failed to do so in Windows 7. Chances are, if you use your machine for anything more than just browsing the web, you have various places to go to whether locally or on the web in software or websites to check for the latest information. The idea of being able to aggregate a chunk of this info onto your desktop, a space usually occupied by nothing useful or helpful in the slightest, is certainly making good use of spare space.

But ultimately, which ever way I spell it out, it’s a simple concept to grasp. There are various uses of Rainmeter. To make your desktop more beautiful, more informative, and to save you time and effort. The bottom line is, Rainmeter is a great productivity tool potentially, and it’s free, fun and fruitful.

You can download Rainmeter here