There are two types of Mac users, those that keep their desktops sparkling clean and those who use their desktops as a digital junk drawer that holds every random scrap of content they come by.
I’m the former type. I like a good, clean desktop, often with an extremely minimal wallpaper graphic. However, I also really like added functionality. GeekTool is one of my favorite apps because it lets me make use of that void of desktop space in an attractive manner.
Today we’ll explore an alternate use of that blank desktop space by taking a brief look at Desktopr, an app that allows you replace or add to your wallpaper with a functioning web page
When you launch Desktopr, the Preferences panel should show you a bunch of built-in options for sites to apply to your desktop. These include social media options like Facebook, news sites and even some fun options like a random Wikipedia page.
For our experiment, I’ll take the custom site route and enter something manually. I really like the simple task management service TeuxDeux and think it would be helpful to have my task list right on my desktop. All I have to do is enter the URL into the field.
For the most part, Desktopr should work just fine on almost every website you can think of. You can set your desktop up to show anything from YouTube videos to your favorite blog feeds.
Desktopr doesn’t just allow you to set one website as your desktop, you can have a whole list of sites. Basically, you craft your list the way you want it and set the duration for each site. Dekstopr will then automatically switch between the options in the list based on your settings.
Additionally, you can switch through the options via the menu bar icon. Just click on it and hit the “Skip to next item” option.
The Web on Your Desktop
With that, you’re all done. As you can see in the image below, my wallpaper has disappeared and in its place is the TeuxDeux website. Pretty cool!
The Desktopr menu bar icon allows you to enable and disable “Browsing Mode,” which determines whether or not you can interact with the web page. With Browsing Mode disabled, the site is locked and clicking on the desktop is just like clicking on your wallpaper: all the icons are fully selectable, etc. However, with Browsing Mode enabled, clicking on the desktop allows you to interact with the site just as if it were in a web browser.
One particularly handy option is the ability to reduce the opacity of the website, which can make for a much less distracting experience that’s easier to look at. In this case, your site will fade and the original desktop image will show through.
A Better Desktop Experience?
For the most part, Desktopr works like a dream. I used it off and on for a couple of weeks without any noticeable bugs. I was initially concerned about how it would all work but the ability to easily flip on browsing mode really makes for a solid experience.
The biggest wall that an app like this hits is really just a conceptual one. It sounds like a cool idea, but when it comes down to it, do you really want a website as your wallpaper? I think the answer will be different for everyone and largely depends on just what you plan on doing with it. If you’re the kind of person who pops open a news site every morning with your cup of coffee, this could be a really practical way to evolve that habit into something effortless.
It’s important to note that in Lion you have not one but several desktops and Desktopr is capable of targeting one specific desktop. So if you only want your morning news on desktop three but would prefer a basic wallpaper everywhere else, that’s perfectly possible.
One thing that I would like to see is the option to not have the site take up the entire desktop space. It would be nice to have some sort of “web clip” feature that was more of a widget-ized portion of a web page.
I’ve seen quite a few desktop hacks over the years, everything from screensavers to videos. Desktopr is definitely one of the more practical attempts to rethink the desktop space. It’s actually quite nice to have one of my desktops devoted to my TeuxDeux list and I can easily think of fifty other sites and services that would work just as well.
If you think the web on your desktop sounds like a decent idea, I recommend checking out Desktopr. At $3.99, it’s super cheap. Further, it’s flexible enough that you can continue to adapt how you use it until you find what works best for you.