Quick access to a reliable forecast is important for reasons beyond simply having some fall-back material during lulls in everyday conversation. Knowing what the weather has in store for your location can guide wardrobe decisions and help you decide on whether that picnic should be postponed to a drier day.
There are plenty of websites that offer accurate forecasts, and even Google can give you a quick-look at your location’s weather with a simple search query. Living Earth HD for Mac aims to keep you up-to-date on weather conditions without having to open your browser. Is it ready to replace your local weatherman?
Upon launching the app, you’ll be asked to input your current location. You can do this manually by typing your city’s name, or you can use the auto-location function to find your city. I opted for the latter, and found that it worked quickly and it correctly found where I was. You can also choose to add additional cities.
What makes Living Earth somewhat unique from competing apps is that is combines a menubar icon and drop-down with a full display of the planet’s weather on your desktop or as a screensaver. As a menubar app, you get the temperature (set in either Fahrenheit or Celsius) and an icon that summarizes your current conditions. These icons include sunny, sunny with clouds, rain, snow, haze, and a handful of others.
Activating the menubar’s drop-down window reveals a wealth of information. At the top, you are shown a spinning globe with real-time cloud cover. The image looks fantastic, and the data it uses is very accurate. Next is your list of saved cities. Clicking on one of them centers the globe on that location and gives you more detailed weather information. You’ll get sunrise and sunset, humidity, wind, and a week’s worth of daily forecasts. Click on a given day and you can choose from three different charts that map the hourly temperature, humidity and wind.
If you choose to use the wallpaper feature, your desktop shows a large view of your location, along with the time and current conditions. The graphics are sharp and the visuals are a beautiful option for your wallpaper.
The simplest yet most welcome feature is the iCloud option that syncs your cities across multiple devices. The developers also have a universal iOS version of Living Earth that shares a similar interface. Frequent travelers who like to keep an updated list of cities available their Mac, iPhone and iPad will appreciate this feature, especially considering that it can double as a world clock.
The settings pane for Living Earth offers a ton of customization options. You can set keyboard shortcuts that start the screensaver, add cities, and activate the menubar drop-down. You can choose from four wind speed units, including MPH, KPH, Meters per second, and Knots.
Power-users with multiple displays are given the option to display a mirrored image of the globe, your default background, or a plain black screen that matches the background behind the image of the earth. These options are available for both the desktop and screensaver.
The screensaver activation can be set to occur at various intervals between three minutes and two hours. You can choose to have the earth rotate on its axis, to randomly jump to various cities around the world, or to just jump between your saved cities. You also have a slider for these transitions, allowing the earth to either spin extremely fast or crawl along at a snails pace.
Perhaps the only major disappointment regarding Living Earth’s featureset stems from comparisons to the iOS version. On mobile devices, the app allows you to view the map with several different filters for various weather conditions, including humidity, min and max temperature, as well as the ability to find tropical storms and hurricanes with a single tap. The absence of those options on the Mac version stands as a glaring omission.
I was slightly concerned when I first started using the real-time desktop display that it would hog system resources. A quick glance at my Mac’s Activity Monitor relieved those worries.
Comparison to Similar Apps
When it comes to weather apps on iOS and Mac, sometimes it feels like I’ve tried them all. None that I’ve used on any device has been perfect, as each struggles to balance a wealth of information in an easy-to-use interface. The app that Living Earth replaced for me was Clear Day, which has a similar functionality but places more emphasis on presenting advanced weather data.
Clear Day has some beautiful animations, but ultimately those began to feel trivial when compared with the real-time cloud cover that Living Earth shows. While Living Earth won me over with it’s visuals, I do wish it had a similar alert function as Clear Day. When a bad storm is approaching, Clear Day can send desktop alerts warning you and brings up National Weather Service advisories.
Taken individually, none of the features that Living Earth offers are particularly unique or innovative. But as a sum of its parts, the app performs enough roles to justify a spot on both your menubar and your desktop. At $7 dollars, it might feel like a cost that isn’t low enough to lure you away from one of the myriad of free options you have in your internet browser. While it lacks the robust data of elite weather apps like Seasonality Core, I think it offers enough of an upgrade from free options like Degrees to justify its cost.
However, I think potential users shouldn’t look at this as a menubar app that comes with a neat desktop display and screensaver. This is primarily a great-looking real-time desktop display and screensaver that adds an accurate, feature rich menubar weather forecast. Off all of the apps I use on a daily basis, Living Earth is undoubtedly responsible for the most rubbernecking from passersby.
Not the most innovative weather app, but perhaps the app that pulls everything together the best, with a nice display, menubar features, and a weather screensaver.8
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