Why you need Rainmeter even in a business setting

The coolest desktop mod application is free and can be quite a source of information.

Rainmeter monitor
▽ib▲ (CC BY 2.0)

There are many desktop information tools to customize your PC, but far and away the most popular is Rainmeter, an open source project run by volunteers who have created a fantastic desktop information resource.

Rainmeter uses "skins" to display information on your Windows desktop. It's not unlike the old widgets Microsoft introduced with Windows Vista, except those were hard coded and fairly basic. Rainmeter skins are basic text files that you can open up and view or change.

Rainmeter falls into three categories: system information, app launcher and information display. The app launchers are the most complicated to configure but still pretty easy to set up. It's the system information and info display aspects you could find most useful.

I use two 24" monitors on my work/personal system, which gives me plenty of screen real estate. A lot of Rainmeter complete sets are designed for a single monitor, but you can also get individual pieces and mix and match to suit your own display.

Monitor two is where most of the skins reside. I put them in the corners and Outlook sits open in the middle between the two groups of skins. (No, I don't run a black background, I just changed it for the sake of this posting.)

monitor Andy Patrizio

The left side features three RSS feeds, all of which load in the browser if you click on the headline. I find myself clicking on news items multiple times per day. There are other customizable RSS feeds but I like this one best.

Below that is an image display that changes pictures every 10 seconds, and underneath that is a weather skin, with data from The Weather Channel.

On the upper right you see eight CPU core meters, and below that the up/down network traffic meters. My system is a quad core Intel processor, so with hyperthreading I needed all 8 meters to monitor activity. It's hard to tell but the skins also report the core temperature, which only works if you are running the system monitoring utility SpeedFan.

This proves helpful if there is a slowdown or strange behavior in my system. I look at the meters and see if one or more are maxed, which would indicate a program running full out and hogging the CPU. It doesn't tell me what app is doing it, I need to go into the Task Manager for that, but it does give me a first warning of strange activity.

Below the CPU meters are the network traffic meters, one for uploads and one for downloads. Again, this is a good way of catching unusual or suspect behavior if there is a massive spike in activity.

To the right of the CPU skins is the C: drive monitor and below that the memory monitor. The C: drive monitor tells me the capacity of the drive and also has a small meter for activity, so spikes in activity are clearly displayed. The memory monitor shows free and used memory and adjusts as I open and close apps.

All of this is courtesy of an app that occupies 48KB of memory on my 16GB system. It is totally unobtrusive and never slows the system down, even with the fair amount of animation from the meters.

Rainmeter skins can be found on Rainmeter.net, the developer site where the compiled program and source code can be found, on DeviantArt, and on Customize.org. You can get anything from basic meters like the one I use (called Blue Vision) or you can get an Iron Man themed desktop that will make for great conversation when people see your desktop.

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