Customize Your Windows Desktop with Rainmeter 2.5

If you are not familiar with it, Rainmeter is a great free app for customizing your Windows desktop. The latest version, 2.5, is now available in beta form and comes with a number of changes and enhancements.

The beta is currently being updated every week — on Sunday to be precise. There are changes and fixes in every new version and a changelog can found on the web site.

“The latest version of Rainmeter will see many improvements, both for users of the application and for those creating and editing skins” claims the maker“.

Changes include:

  • Added new Mouse Variables. These are “macro” variables used in the context of a mouse click action to provide the current X and Y position of the mouse cursor relative to the meter or skin in pixels or a percentage.
  • FileView: Added new FileView plugin.
  • Improved cover handling with some players.
  • Mouse scrolling on skins and meters now works without having to click to “focus” the skin window.
  • Added support for two extra mouse buttons in Mouse Actions.
  • Added settings for Editor and Show notification area icon to Settings tab of the Manage window.
Note: If you are a bit put off by trying beta software then version 2.4, which is “stable”, can be downloaded from the web site as well.

Getting Started

Rainmeter, by default, will start with Windows and place an icon in your task area. You can click it to launch the app or right-click to get a list of menu options.

When launched you will be greeted with what appears to be essentially a blank screen. That is because you need to tell the app what you want to put on your desktop. However, by default, the app does place a few options on the right side of your desktop — there is a clock that also includes day and date, system information such as memory usage and disk space and what seems to be a random post from your RSS feed– it claims to be the “latest” entries in your RSS or Atom feed, but I have found that it seems to be more random than that.

Customize

On the left side of the app window, which defaults to “Skins”, you will spot a folder — “Illustro”. Click the arrow to the left to find a lot more information. This is where you will find all of those apps that are displayed on your desktop.

You can enable or disable each item for the desktop by clicking on the folder and then the app. At the top of the window you will see options — Unload, Refresh and Edit.

Some of the more interesting widgets that can be loaded, but are not by default, include a Google search app, network — which enables easier access to other computers in your home, the recycle bin and a few others.

Edit brings up a Notepad window with HTML code which can be edited, but that is a bit more than what we are going to get into here. The “unload” button will remove the particular app from your desktop. Similarly, for apps that are not on your desktop, the button changes to “Load”.

The “Layouts” tab allows the user to make some minor changes to the way the app looks. By default, Rainmeter comes with the “Illustro” skin, but you can find more skins by visiting the web site. From there you can download and install the themes and then manage them from this tab. Options here include “Save as empty layout”, “Exclude unloaded skins” and “Include current wallpaper”. Installed skins are displayed in a box to the right under the heading “Saved Layouts”.

Skins

“Rainmeter comes with a few simple starter skins that provide a good place to start learning how to use and modify Rainmeter. On this page, we offer some recommended full-blown skin suites for Rainmeter. These skins have been designed, tested and are used by the Rainmeter community and we suggest that you install one or more of them to see what Rainmeter can really do. Choose the suite you are interested in to get more details and a link where you can directly install the packages into your Rainmeter. Install as many of these as you like, you can always switch between them”.

If you would like to develop for the app then it can be done in C++ and C# and resources are provided on the web site under the “Develop” heading, which is prominent at the top of the screen.

The web site contains a number of skins to choose from, but it also links to many more sources for skins, such as DevianArt and Lifehacker, among others.

The “Settings” tab is rather sparse compared to many other Windows apps. Options here include changing the default language, the default editor (Notepad), checking for updates, dragging apps, notifications icon area and logging.

Conclusion

Microsoft has, thankfully, always allowed Windows to be easily customizable — users can download and install any software app or utility they want (sometimes to their own detriment). Wallpaper, themes and screensavers can be added and removed and there are an endless amount of utilities, apps and widgets that can change the look and feel of the operating system.

Even in Windows 8 Microsoft, despite removing the famous Start button and menu, has not blocked third-party developers from being able to bring it back, despite the fact that the company could easily do so.

Rainmeter is just one of these customization tools, but it is easy to use and provides an infinite amount of changes that the user can make. It is also free, which is always a bonus.